New Visa Restrictions for Pregnant Women

March 11, 2020

The Trump administration has issued new visa guidelines that apply to pregnant women entering the United States. The White House said the new rules are necessary to correct a “glaring immigration loophole” that it claims is being used for the birth tourism industry. Anyone born in the United States is automatically granted citizenship and traveling to the U.S. to give birth is not illegal. However, the State Department described the birth tourism industry as “profiting off treating U.S. citizenship as a commodity, sometimes through potentially criminal acts.” There was no evidence cited that birth tourism is a growing problem.

New Guidelines

Under the new guidelines, any foreign traveler applying for a visa for business, pleasure, tourism, or medical visits who is deemed by consular officers to be traveling to the U.S. for the purpose of giving birth will have to prove they have the money to pay for transportation and medical treatment.

Critics immediately said the guidelines discriminate against women and put embassy employees in the position of policing the reproductive states of visa applicants. Currently there are no instructions for consular officers to question women about pregnancy during visa interviews. It is unclear if officers will be allowed to turn women away based on visual cues. There is no official data on how many foreign women travel to the U.S. with the specific intention of giving birth.

Business of Birth Tourism

There are companies that advertise their services to facilitate giving birth on U.S. soil. Charging fees of up to $80,000, they provide hotel rooms and medical care for women traveling to the U.S. to have their babies. The services are particularly popular with Russian and Chinese women. Previously, there were attempts to crack down on the practice, usually by arresting the operators of birth tourism agencies on charges of tax evasion or visa fraud.

The White House said that birth tourism threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and that the new rules will protect public safety, national security, and the integrity of our immigration system. Since coming into office, Trump has taken a hard line on immigration and has repeatedly said that birth tourism gives foreign parents a way to gain U.S. citizenship. He has said that he could end the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States by executive order.

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