Thu | Feb 27, 2020

US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

Published:Thursday | January 23, 2020 | 1:48 PM
In this September 2017 file photo, a flag is waved outside the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Thursday imposed new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have US citizenship.

Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the US to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it — not just because they want their child to have a passport.

“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

“It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”

The practice of travelling to the US to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion.

And women are often honest about their intentions when applying for visas and even show signed contracts with doctors and hospitals.

The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining US citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules, which were published Thursday in the Federal Register and take effect Friday.

While the new rules deal specifically with birth tourism aimed at wealthy immigrants coming largely from China and Russia, the Trump administration also has turned away pregnant women coming over the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a broader immigration crackdown.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been restricting all forms of immigration, but Trump has been particularly plagued by the issue of birthright citizenship — anyone born in the US is considered a citizen, under the Constitution.

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