Trump administration to crack down on birth tourism

The US is one of 35 countries worldwide that recognises birthright citizenship

Cathy Adams
Thursday 23 January 2020 11:11 GMT
The Trump administration is to crack down on birth tourism
The Trump administration is to crack down on birth tourism (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

New visa rules to restrict people travelling to the US to give birth are to be introduced by the US State Department.

So-called “birth tourists” to the US will be treated like foreigners arriving for medical treatment, reports Associated Press, citing State Department guidance. Visa applicants will have to prove they are arriving in the US for medical treatment and have the means to pay for it.

The US is one of 35 countries worldwide that recognises birthright citizenship.

It’s believed the new rules will be unveiled today and implemented on Friday.

It is not illegal for expectant mothers to travel to the US specifically to give birth, as long as they can cover all costs and they don’t lie about the purpose of travel.

Those who have pre-arranged giving birth in the US should be provided with all relevant documents needed to enter the US from their hospital or birthing centre (eg proof of payment and a letter from the doctor).

However, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may ask women to prove they have enough money to cover the cost should there be any complications with the birth.

It costs, on average, $10,808 (£8,320) to give birth in the US – provided there are no complications. This can rise to $30,000 (£23,090) when including pre and post-natal care.

Although there are no official figures for the number of women who travel to the US to give birth, the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that in 2012 around 36,000 foreign women gave birth in the US before leaving.

The draft rule is “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry,” a State Department spokesperson said.

It follows a case of a female traveller to the Pacific island of Saipan, a commonwealth of the US, who was forced to take a pregnancy test before she was allowed to board a flight.

Midori Nishida, a 25-year-old from Japan, was flying from Hong Kong to the Pacific island of Saipan with Hong Kong Express Airways when the unusual request was made.

After telling crew she was not pregnant, Ms Nishida was taken to the toilet by Hong Kong Express staff, who made her urinate onto a strip test before they would let her on the plane.

The result was negative and Ms Nishida was subsequently allowed to board, but she told the Wall Street Journal that the experience was “very humiliating and frustrating”.

The airline reportedly said the test was required to ensure “US immigration laws were not being undermined”.

”We would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been affected by this,” Hong Kong Express Airways said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.

“We have immediately suspended the practice while we review it.”

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