||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with North America and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (October 2012)|
Birth tourism is travel to another country for childbirth. Reasons for the practice include access to the destination country's healthcare system, and in countries that recognize birthright citizenship, gaining citizenship for the child.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees U.S. citizenship to those born on its territory, provided the person is "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States.
This practice is believed to be popular among women in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. According to Edward Chang, a scholar of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Riverside, the practice is popular among the elite and wealthy circles of South Korea. Temporary homes for these mothers are often located in residential neighborhoods, which neighbors allege decrease the quality of life in the neighborhood, primarily due to increases in traffic and other business-like effects. "It's easy. If you register the birth, it's automatic that your baby can get an American passport," said Kim Jeong Yeon, a South Korean woman who traveled to the United States on a tourist visa while six months pregnant. Like many other women, Kim spent thousands of dollars to have a company arrange the travel. "If they could afford it, all my friends would go to the United States to have their babies," she said. Under a 2009 South Korean law, a child born abroad as a result of birth tourism must choose by age 22 to retain either Korean citizenship or foreign citizenship.
In California, three Chinese-owned "baby care centers" offer expectant mothers a place to give birth to an American citizen for a fee of $14,750, which includes shopping and sightseeing trips. "We don't encourage moms to break the law — just to take advantage of it," explains Robert Zhou, the agency's owner. Zhou says that he and his wife have helped up to 600 women give birth in the United States within the last five years. In fact, they started the business after traveling to the United States to have a child of their own. Zhou explains that the number of agencies like his has soared in the past five years. Zhou believes that a cheaper education is often a motivating factor, and his pitch to prospective clients includes the notion that public education in the United States is "free." One of his clients, Christina Chuo, explains that her parents "paid a huge amount of money for their education" in the United States because they were foreign students; having an American citizen child permits her child to acquire the same education at a lower tuition. She also noted that she and her husband were not interested in permanently immigrating to the United States, "except, perhaps, when they retire." Other options exist where mainlanders can deliver babies in Saipan, U.S. commonwealth, where the cost is 70,000 yuan and does not require any U.S. citizenship. Congress representatives such as Phil Gingrey have tried to put an end to birth tourism, who said these people are "gaming the system".
Birth tourism from Turkey is also reportedly popular. According to Selin Burcuoglu, a Turkish woman who traveled to the United States to give birth last year, the process was easy: "We found a company on the Internet and decided to go to Austin for our child's birth. It was incredibly professional. They organized everything for me. I had no problem adjusting and I had an excellent birth. I don’t want her to deal with visa issues — American citizenship has so many advantages." Birth tourism can be a lucrative business for immigrants who facilitate the travel and birthing process for their former countrymen. Turkish doctors, hotel owners, and immigrant families in the United States have reportedly arranged the U.S. birth of 12,000 Turkish children since 2003. The Turkish-owned Marmara Hotel group offers a "birth tourism package" that includes accommodations at their Manhattan branch. "We hosted 15 families last year," said Nur Ercan Mağden, head manager of The Marmara Manhattan, adding that the cost was $45,000 each.
The Tucson Medical Center (TMC) in Arizona offers a "birth package" to expectant mothers, and actively recruits in Mexico. Expectant mothers can schedule a Caesarean or simply arrive a few weeks before their due date. The cost reportedly ranges from $2,300 to $4,600, and includes a hospital stay, exams, and a massage. Additional children trigger a surcharge of $500. Similarly, "birth packages" marketed towards Mexican tourists and tourists abroad are also available in El Paso, TX. This recent generation of international obstetric services offer tourists low rates and a decreased amount of time required in the United States for their delivery.
The Nigerian media is also focused on birth tourism in the United States and recently published an article titled, "American Agitations Threaten a Nigerian Practice." The practice referred to is that of Nigerians traveling to the United States to have a child — a practice that, according to the newspaper, is "spreading so fast that it is close to becoming an obsession."
Being U.S. citizens, these children do not have to meet the stricter international student rules to enter U.S. universities and colleges. In addition, when they turn 21, they become eligible to petition for a grant of permanent residency for their parents through family reunification. Some prospective mothers misrepresent their intentions of coming to the United States, a violation of U.S. immigration law. However, it is not illegal for a woman to come to the U.S. to give birth.
The Center for Health Care Statistics estimates that there were 7,462 births to foreign residents in the United States in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That is a small fraction of the roughly 4.3 million total births that year. Once these children turn 21, they are eligible to petition for their parents to join them as residents. The Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank which favors limits on immigration, estimates that there are approximately 40,000 annual births to parents in the United States as birth tourists. However, total births to temporary immigrants in the United States (e.g. tourists, students, guestworkers) could be as high as 200,000.
Canada's citizenship law has, since 1947, generally conferred Canadian citizenship at birth to anyone born in Canada, regardless of the citizenship or immigration status of the parents. The only exception is for children born in Canada to representatives of foreign governments or international organizations. The Canadian government has considered limiting jus soli citizenship, and as of 2012[update] continues to debate the issue but has not yet changed this part of Canadian law.
Some expectant Chinese parents who have already had one child travel to Canada in order to give birth in order to circumvent China's one-child policy, additionally acquiring Canadian citizenship for the child and applying for a passport before returning to China.
According to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong have the right of abode in the territory; i.e. all the citizenship rights accorded to residents of Hong Kong. A 2001 court case Director of Immigration v. Chong Fung Yuen affirmed that this right extends to the children of mainland Chinese parents who themselves are not residents of Hong Kong. As a result, there has been an influx of mainland mothers giving birth in Hong Kong in order to obtain right of abode for the child. In 2009, 36% of babies born in Hong Kong were born to parents originating from Mainland China. This has resulted in backlash from some circles in Hong Kong of increase and potential stress on the territory's social welfare net and education system. Attempts to restrict benefits from such births have been struck down by the territory's courts. Segments of the Hong Kong population has reacted negatively to the phenomenon, which has exacerbated social and cultural tensions between Hong Kong and mainland China. The situation came to a boiling point in early 2012, with Hong Kongers taking to the street to protest the influx of birth tourism from mainland China.
Irish nationality law included birth citizenship until the 27th Amendment was passed by referendum in 2004. The amendment was preceded by media reports of heavily pregnant women claiming political asylum, who expected that, even if their application was rejected, they would be allowed to remain in the country if their new baby was a citizen.
- Korean moms want 'born in USA' babies 2002 LA Times
- Barbara Demick, "Korean Moms Want 'Born in USA' Babies," L.A. Times, May 2002.
- Keith B. Richburg, "For Many Pregnant Chinese, a U.S. Passport For Baby Remains a Powerful Lure," Wash. Post, July 18, 2010. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/17/AR2010071701402.html
- South China morning post. Mainland mums look West after Hong Kong backlash. 7 Feb 2012.
- "Rock Center with Brian Williams - Born in the U.S.A.: Birth tourists get instant U.S. citizenship for their newborns". Rockcenter.msnbc.msn.com. 2011-10-28. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
- Işıl Eğrikavuk, "Birth Tourism in US on the Rise for Turkish Parents," Hürriyet Daily News, Mar. 12, 2010. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=birth-tourism-to-the-usa-explodes-2010-03-12
- Id. See also, "Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison," Center for Immigration Studies, August 2010. http://www.cis.org/birthright-citizenship
- Mariana Alvarado, "Hospital Lures Mexican Moms; Tucson Medical Center 'Birth Package' Raises Questions," Ariz. Daily Star, June 21, 2009. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/article_9dd9a46b-a189-5629-835b-03029d25bbe7.html
- "About Us". http://www.doctoresparati.com/home.html
- Davidson Iriekpen, "Citizenship Rights: American Agitations Threaten a Nigerian Practice," This Day (Nigeria), Aug. 16, 2010. http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=180829
- Keith B. Richburg, For many pregnant Chinese, a U.S. passport for baby remains a powerful lure, The Washington Post, Sunday, July 18, 2010.
- Medina, Jennifer (March 28, 2011). "Officials Close ‘Maternity Tourism' House in California". The New York Times.
- http://blog.nj.com/njv_paul_mulshine/2011/01/post_62.html; http://www.cis.org/birthright-citizenship
- Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff; Douglas B. Klusmeyer (2002). Citizenship policies for an age of migration. Carnegie Endowment. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-87003-187-8.
- Prithi Yelaja (March 5, 2012). "'Birth tourism' may change citizenship rules". CBC News.
- "Chinese 'birth tourists' having babies in Canada". CBC News. 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2013-01-19.
- Chen, Albert H. Y. (2011), "The Rule of Law under 'One Country, Two Systems': The Case of Hong Kong 1997–2010", National Taiwan University Law Review 6 (1): 269–299, retrieved 2011-10-04
- "Mamas without borders". The Economist. August 19, 2010.
- "Hong Kong Maternity Tourism". Sinosplice. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15.
- Mancini, J. M.; Graham Finlay (September 2008). ""Citizenship Matters": Lessons from the Irish Citizenship Referendum". American Quarterly 60 (3): 575–599. doi:10.1353/aq.0.0034. ISSN 1080-6490.