Birth tourism

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Countries by Birthright citizenhip.
  Unconditional birthright citizenship for persons born in the country
  Birthright citizenship with restrictions
  Birthright citizenship abolished

Birth tourism is travel to another country for the purpose of giving birth in that country. "Anchor baby" is another related term which can have negative connotations. Reasons for the practice include access to the destination country's healthcare system, circumvention of Communist China's one-child policy and in countries that recognize jus soli birthright citizenship for the child. The United States and Canada are popular destinations for birth tourism. Another target of birth tourism is Hong Kong, where the right of abode is awarded to Chinese citizens at birth instead of citizenship.

To discourage birth tourism, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have modified their citizenship laws at different times, granting citizenship by birth only if at least one parent is a citizen of the country or a legal permanent resident who has lived in the country for several years. Germany has never granted unconditional birthright citizenship, but has traditionally used jus sanguinis, so, by giving up the requirement of at least one citizen parent, Germany has softened rather than tightened its citizenship laws; however, unlike their children born and grown up in Germany, non-EU- and non-Swiss-citizen parents born and grown up abroad usually cannot have dual citizenship themselves. See also German nationality law.

No European country presently grants unconditional birthright citizenship; however, most American countries, e.g. the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil do so. In Africa, Lesotho and Tanzania grant unconditional birthright citizenship,[citation needed] and so do in the Asian-Pacific region Fiji, Pakistan, and Tuvalu,[citation needed] but these countries seem to be unattractive for birth tourism.[citation needed]

Birth tourism today[edit]

North America[edit]

United States[edit]

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees U.S. citizenship to those born in the United States, provided the person is "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States. Congress has further extended birthright citizenship to all inhabited U.S. territories except American Samoa. (People born in American Samoa still get U.S. nationality at birth.) Once they reach 21 years of age, as a birthright citizen, American-born children are able to sponsor their foreign families' U.S. citizenship and residency.[1]

There are no statistics about which countries have citizens who participate in birth tourism in the United States, but there are reports about arrests made and raids conducted. In March 2015, Federal agents conducted raids on a series of large-scale maternity tourism operations bringing thousands of mainland Chinese women intent on giving their children American citizenship.[2][3]

In California, three mainland 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.[4] 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."[5] Other options exist where mainlanders can deliver babies in Saipan, U.S. Northern Mariana Islands, where the cost is 70,000 yuan and does not require any U.S. citizenship.[6] Congress representatives such as Phil Gingrey have tried to put an end to birth tourism, who said these people are "gaming the system".[7] More than 70% of the newborns in Saipan have birth tourism PRC parents who take advantage of the 45-day visa-free visitation rules of the territory and the Covenant of the Northern Mariana Islands to ensure that their children can have American citizenship.[8] On October 18, 2014, the North American Chinese language daily, World Journal reported that for several weeks the immigration authorities at LAX had been closely questioning pregnant Chinese women arriving there from China, and in many cases denying them entry to the United States and repatriating them within 12 hours, often on the same airplane on which they had flown to the United States.[9]

And, while Zhou claims to not encourage expecting mothers to break the law, numerous "maternity businesses" do advocate hiding their pregnancies from officials and even committing visa fraud––lying to customs agents about their true purpose in the U.S.[10] Once they give birth, several 'birth tourism' agencies aid the mothers in defrauding the U.S. hospital, taking advantage of discounts reserved for impoverished, American mothers.[11] Some mothers will even refuse to pay the bill for the medical care received during their hospital stay. In one instance, as detailed in Matt Sheehan's investigative article for The World Post, a family merely paid a fraction of their nearly $29,000 hospital bill, but spent thousands of dollars at shops for Louis Vuitton and Rolex before attempting to return to China.[12]

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."[13] 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.[14]

It was reported in 2009 that The Tucson Medical Center (TMC) was planning on offering a "birth package" to expectant mothers. 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.[15] 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.[16]

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."[17]

According to politically-conservative lawyer and author, A.J. Delgado's article for the National Review, there is reportedly an average of 60 women traveling from Russia to Florida to give birth in a single 'maternity hotel' every month.[1] 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.[18] 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.[19] However, total births to temporary immigrants in the United States (e.g. tourists, students, guestworkers) could be as high as 200,000.[20]

In August 2015, the issue was discussed among U.S. presidential candidates, including Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.

Worldwide taxation of U.S. citizens and Green-Card holders[edit]
Systems of taxation on personal income
  No income tax on individuals
  Citizenship-based (currently the U.S. [also used for U.S. Green-Card holders] and Eritrea only.)

The United States and Eritrea are currently the only two countries in the world to tax their citizens worldwide, even if they have never lived in the country and were born to citizens living abroad. (Eritrea does not grant unconditional birthright citizenship, and Eritreans wanting to take another citizenship need a permission to keep their Eritrean citizenship if they do not want to lose it.)

A baby born in the U.S. is, as a citizen, automatically subject to U.S. taxation, even if both parents are foreigners, so the baby has multiple citizenship, and the baby and the parents leave the U.S. right after birth and never return again. The same is true for a baby born to U.S. citizens living abroad, even if he/she never enters the U.S.
Green-Card holders are also subject to worldwide taxation. To some people, this worldwide taxation was/is a reason for giving up their U.S. citizenship or their Green Card.


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,[21] and as of 2012 continues to debate the issue[22] 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,[23] additionally acquiring Canadian citizenship for the child and applying for a passport before returning to China.

A Québec birth certificate entitles a student enrolled in that province to pay university tuition at the lower in-province rate;[24] on average this was $3760/year in 2013.[25]


Mexicans citizens by birth are persons born in Mexican territory regardless of parents' nationality or immigration status in Mexico or individuals born on Mexican merchant- or Navy ships or Mexican-registered aircraft, regardless of parents' nationality.

Birth (and abortion and other medical) tourism between the United States, Canada, and Mexico[edit]

In the U.S.-Canadian border region, the way to a hospital in the neighboring country is sometimes shorter than to a hospital in the patient's own country. So, Canadian women sometimes give birth to their children in U.S. hospitals, and U.S. women in Canadian hospitals. Babies born like that ("border babies") are dual citizens of both the country of their parents and their birth country.

Canada has entered the medical tourism field. In comparison to U.S. health costs, medical tourism patients can save 30 to 60 percent on health costs in Canada.

Mexican women sometimes engage in birth tourism to the United States or Canada to give their children U:S. or Canadian citizenship.

While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few countries without leagal restrictions an abortion. Regulations and accessibility vary between provinces.
In the United States, different States have different abortion laws, so that women in States with severe laws sometimes see themselves forced to engage in abortion tourism, either to U.S. States with more liberal laws or to Canada.
In Mexico, like in the United States, abortion laws vary regionally, so Mexican women may sometimes engage in abortion tourism.

South America[edit]


Any person born in Argentine territory acquires Argentine citizenship at birth, excepting children of persons in the service of a foreign government (e.g. foreign diplomats). This can be also applied to people born in the Falkland Islands, a disputed territory between Argentina and the United Kingdom-


A person born in Brazil acquires Brazilian citizenship at birth. The only exception applies to children of persons in the service of a foreign government (such as a foreign diplomats).


Any person born in Chile acquires Chilean citizenship at birth. The only two exceptions apply to children of persons in the service of a foreign government (like foreign diplomats) and to the children of foreigners who do not reside in the country. However, these children can apply to acquire Chilean nationality.

Note that Chile is one of the few countries that forbid abortion completely, even if the pregnant woman's life is in danger, so it is a risky destination for birth tourism.
In Argentina, abortion is restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, and/or rape.
In Brazil, abortion is restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, and/or fetal defects.

Hong Kong[edit]

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.[26] 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.[27] 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.[28] Attempts to restrict benefits from such births have been struck down by the territory's courts.[27] 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.[citation needed]
Hong Kong allows dual citizenship for citizens by birth, but foreigners wanting to naturalize must renounce their old citizenship.

Birth tourism in the past (stopped by changes of laws)[edit]


Malta changed the principle of citizenship to jus sanguinis on 1 August 1989 in a move that also relaxed restrictions against multiple citizenship: It joined the European Union on 1 May 2004.


Because of an enormous population, India abolished jus soli on 3 December 2004. Jus soli had already been progressively weakened in India since 1987.
India currently allows a form of "overseas citizenship," but no real dual citizenship.


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.[29] Until 2004, Ireland was the last European country to grant unconditonal birthright citizenship.

Dominican Republic[edit]

The constitutional court of the Dominican Republic reaffirmed in TC 168-13 that children born in the Republic from individuals that were "in-transit" are excluded from Dominican citizenship as per the Dominican Republic's constitution. The "in-transit" clause includes those individuals residing in the country without legal documentation, or with expired documentation. TC 168-13 also required the civil registry to be cleaned from anomalies going as far back as 1929 when the "in-transit" clause was first put in place in the constitution. The Dominican government does not consider this a retroactive decision, only a mere reaffirmation of a clause that has been present in every revision of the Dominican constitution as far back as 1929.

Birth tourism encouraged by jus-soli countries (in the past)[edit]

In former times, some countries (Latin American countries and Canada) advertised their policy of unconditional birthright citizenship to become more attractive for immigrants. Despite wide acceptance of dual citizenship, industrialized countries[citation needed] now try to protect themselves from birth tourism and uncontrollable immigration waves.[citation needed]

Birth tourism to non-jus-soli countries[edit]

Some women engage in birth tourism not to give their children a foreign citizenship, but because the other country has a better medical system or allows practices that are forbidden in the women's home countries (e.g. in-vitro fertilization, special tests on fetuses/embryos, surrogacy). But this may lead to problems for the babies in the home country of their parents. For example, Germany, like 14 other EU countries, forbids surrogacy, and a baby born abroad to a foreign surrogate mother has no right to German citizenship. According to German law, the woman who gives birth to a baby is its legal mother, even if the baby is not her own one, and if the foreign surrogate mother is married, her husband is regarded as the legal father.

Adoption tourism[edit]

Some people engage in adoption tourism to adopt a foreign child. Once the adoption is valid, the child gets the citizenship of his/her new legal parents and may lose his/her old citizenship.

Abortion tourism[edit]

International status of abortion law, United Nations 2013 report.[30]
Legal on request
Restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors
Restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, and/or fetal defects
Restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, and/or rape
Restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, and/or health
Illegal with no exceptions
Varies by subnation or subdivision
No information[dated info]

Some women engage in abortion tourism, because they see themselves forced to end their pregnancy for some reason, but the laws of their home countries do not recognize that reason.

Some countries (Chile, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Malta, Nicaragua, Vatican City) forbid abortion completely, even if the pregnant's woman life is in danger.

  • Malta is the only country in the European Union to prohibit abortion entirely (de jure). However, as with other European nations, de-facto procedures differ from the exact letter of the law. If a woman's life is threatened by a pregnancy, abortive procedures have been performed within Maltese territory without repercussions. Such has also occurred in cases of incest and rape. In a recent case, for example, the police department were notified by officials at Mater Dei Hospital that a gynecologist and university professor had performed a chemical abortion to prevent the mother suffering a cancer relapse, which the hormonal changes common to a pregnancy were sure to cause. No action was taken on behalf of the police department, which retain the jurisdiction to press charges for criminal offences as they see fit.
  • In Ireland abortion is illegal with the exception of cases where a woman's life is endangered by the continuation of her pregnancy. Many Irish women travel to the United Kingdom to have an abortion.
  • Poland is a country with a strict abortion law, and where it is also difficult to have a legal abortion on request. Abortion is allowed only in cases of risk to the life or health of the woman, when the pregnancy is a result of a criminal act (the criminal act has to be confirmed by a prosecutor), or when the fetus is seriously malformed. A doctor who performs an abortion which is deemed to not have a legal basis is subject to criminal prosecution, and, out of fear of prosecution, doctors avoid abortions, except in the most extreme circumstances. Many Polish women travel to Germany to have an abortion.
  • In Finland, Iceland, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom, abortion is restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, fetal defects, and/or socioeconomic factors.
  • In Japan, abortion is available to women in limited circumstances, including endangerment of their health or economic hardship. Chapter XXIX of the Penal Code of Japan makes abortion de jure illegal in the country, but exceptions to the law are broad enough that it is widely accepted and practiced. Meanwhile, the Maternal Health Protection Law allows approved doctors to practice abortion with the consent of the mother and her spouse, if the pregnancy has resulted from rape, or if the continuation of the pregnancy may severely endanger the maternal health because of physical reasons or economic reasons. Anyone trying to practice abortion without the consent of the woman will also be punished, including the doctors. No abortifacient has been approved in Japan, and it is the only industrialized country to forbid contraceptive pills. Approved doctors, however, can choose to use imported abortifacient under the same terms above. Any other people who abort the fetus using abortifacient will be also punished. Emergency contraceptive pills were approved by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan in 2011.
  • In New Zealand, abortion is restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, and/or fetal defects.

In some countries (e.g. Austalia, Mexico, United States), abortion laws vary from region to region, while some other countries (e.g. Canada) have no legal restrictions on abortion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b A.J. Delgado, "Instant Citizens," National Review, May 2, 2015.
  2. ^ Jordan, Miriam (3 March 2015). "Federal Agents Raid Alleged ‘Maternity Tourism’ Businesses Catering to Chinese". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Kim, Victoria (3 March 2015). "Alleged Chinese 'maternity tourism' operations raided in California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Keith B. Richburg, "For Many Pregnant Chinese, a U.S. Passport For Baby Remains a Powerful Lure," Wash. Post, July 18, 2010.
  5. ^ Id.
  6. ^ South China morning post. Mainland mums look West after Hong Kong backlash. 7 Feb 2012.
  7. ^ "Rock Center with Brian Williams - Born in the U.S.A.: Birth tourists get instant U.S. citizenship for their newborns". 2011-10-28. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  8. ^ "Rise in number of Chinese 'birth tourists' to Saipan". 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  9. ^ page 1, World Journal, October 18, 2014
  10. ^ Abby Phillip, "Inside the Shadowy World of Birth Tourism at 'Maternity Hotels'," The Washington Post, Mar. 5, 2015.
  11. ^ Matt Sheehan, "Born in the USA: Why Chinese 'Birth Tourism' is Booming in California," The World Post, May 14, 2015.
  12. ^ "Born In The USA: Why Chinese 'Birth Tourism' Is Booming In California". Huffington Post. 1 May 2015. 
  13. ^ Işıl Eğrikavuk, "Birth Tourism in US on the Rise for Turkish Parents," Hürriyet Daily News, Mar. 12, 2010.
  14. ^ Id. See also, "Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison," Center for Immigration Studies, August 2010.
  15. ^ Mariana Alvarado, "Hospital Lures Mexican Moms; Tucson Medical Center 'Birth Package' Raises Questions," Ariz. Daily Star, June 21, 2009.
  16. ^ "About Us".
  17. ^ Davidson Iriekpen, "Citizenship Rights: American Agitations Threaten a Nigerian Practice," This Day (Nigeria), Aug. 16, 2010.
  18. ^ Medina, Jennifer (March 28, 2011). "Officials Close ‘Maternity Tourism' House in California". The New York Times. 
  19. ^;
  20. ^
  21. ^ Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff; Douglas B. Klusmeyer (2002). Citizenship policies for an age of migration. Carnegie Endowment. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-87003-187-8. 
  22. ^ Prithi Yelaja (March 5, 2012). "'Birth tourism' may change citizenship rules". CBC News. 
  23. ^ "Chinese 'birth tourists' having babies in Canada". CBC News. 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ Habib, Marlene (11 September 2013). "University tuition rising to record levels in Canada". CBC News. 
  26. ^ Chen, Albert H. Y. (2011), "The Rule of Law under 'One Country, Two Systems': The Case of Hong Kong 1997–2010" (PDF), National Taiwan University Law Review 6 (1): 269–299, retrieved 2011-10-04 
  27. ^ a b "Mamas without borders". The Economist. August 19, 2010. 
  28. ^ "Hong Kong Maternity Tourism". Sinosplice. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ World Abortion Policies 2013