New Visa Policy Makes It Hard for Pregnant People to Visit United States

By Shani Saxon Jan 23, 2020

Pregnant people will soon find it much more difficult to obtain a visa to visit the United States. The Trump administration published new guidelines in the Federal Register on January 23 aimed at curbing what officials refer to as “birth tourism,” The Associated Press reports. The intention is to block anyone from giving birth in the United States specifically so their child can become a citizen. 

The AP reports:

Applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the U.S. 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.”

It currently isn’t illegal to travel to the United States in order to give birth. In fact, as The AP notes, many people sign contracts with American doctors and hospitals before arriving, and they are often honest about their intentions on their visa applications.

The new guidelines announced by the U.S. Department of State would make giving birth an invalid reason for visiting the U.S. The agency “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. 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,” the new rules state, according to The AP. The new guidelines will take effect on Friday (January 24). 

Trump administration insiders admit that the task at hand won’t be easy to execute. And critics of the new rule worry that pregnant travelers will face serious risks. Per The AP:

Regulating tourist visas for pregnant women is one way to get at the issue, but it raises questions about 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 may be just by looking at her.

Consular officers right now aren’t told to ask during visa interviews whether 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.

There are currently no available statistics about how many pregnant people travel to the U.S so their children can gain citizenship. "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 AP reports.