The Trump administration is planning to introduce new visa restrictions aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” whereby women travel to the U.S. to give birth so that their children automatically become U.S. citizens, according to officials.
The new rules would make it harder for pregnant women to travel on a tourist visa. In one draft of the regulations, pregnant women would have to convince a consular officer that they have another legitimate reason to come to the U.S. before obtaining the visa.
The State Department planned to publicize the rules Thursday, according to two officials with knowledge of the plans who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The practice of so-called “birth tourism” is a lucrative industry in the United States and abroad.
The practice of so-called “birth tourism” is a lucrative industry in the United States and abroad. (iStock)
A spokesperson said the rules are “intended to address the national security and law enforcement risks associated with birth tourism, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry.”
It remains unclear how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with, and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she could be just by looking at her.
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Consular officers right now aren’t told to ask during visa interviews whether or not a woman is pregnant or intends to become so. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.
Birth tourism is a lucrative business in both the U.S. and abroad. American companies take out advertisements and charge up to $80,000 to facilitate the practice, offering hotel rooms and medical care. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S.
President Trump has railed against the practice and threatened to end it, though members of his administration have said ending birthright citizenship — which is guaranteed under the Constitution — is not so easy to do.
There are no figures on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth. The Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated that in 2012, about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the U.S., then left the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.