Birth tourism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Birth tourism is travel to another country for the purpose of giving birth in that country. 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 at birth instead of citizenship.

To stop birth tourism, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have modified their jus soli laws at different times, granting citizenship by birth only when at least one parent is a citizen of the country or a legal permanent resident who has lived in the country for several years. However, the United States, Canada and Mexico grants unconditional citizenship by birth.

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]

In March 2015, Federal agents conducted raids on a series of large-scale maternity tourism operations bringing thousands of Chinese women intent on giving their children American citizenship.[2][3]

This practice is believed to be popular among women in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.[4] 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, and can cost thousands of dollars for a company to arrange the travel.[5] 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.[6] US birthright citizenship allows the child to avoid South Korea’s two-year compulsory military service.[7]

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.[8] 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."[9] 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.[10] Congress representatives such as Phil Gingrey have tried to put an end to birth tourism, who said these people are "gaming the system".[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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. [14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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."[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

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."[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] However, total births to temporary immigrants in the United States (e.g. tourists, students, guestworkers) could be as high as 200,000.[25]


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,[26] and as of 2012 continues to debate the issue[27] 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,[28] 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;[29] on average this was $3760/year in 2013.[30]

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] Attempts to restrict benefits from such births have been struck down by the territory's courts.[32] 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]


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.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. ^ Korean mums want 'born in USA' babies. Los Angeles Times
  5. ^ Barbara Demick, "Korean Moms Want 'Born in USA' Babies," L.A. Times, May 2002.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^
  8. ^ Keith B. Richburg, "For Many Pregnant Chinese, a U.S. Passport For Baby Remains a Powerful Lure," Wash. Post, July 18, 2010.
  9. ^ Id.
  10. ^ South China morning post. Mainland mums look West after Hong Kong backlash. 7 Feb 2012.
  11. ^ "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. 
  12. ^ "Rise in number of Chinese 'birth tourists' to Saipan". 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  13. ^ page 1, World Journal, October 18, 2014
  14. ^ Abby Phillip, "Inside the Shadowy World of Birth Tourism at 'Maternity Hotels'," The Washington Post, Mar. 5, 2015.
  15. ^ Matt Sheehan, "Born in the USA: Why Chinese 'Birth Tourism' is Booming in California," The World Post, May 14, 2015.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Işıl Eğrikavuk, "Birth Tourism in US on the Rise for Turkish Parents," Hürriyet Daily News, Mar. 12, 2010.
  18. ^ Id. See also, "Birthright Citizenship in the United States: A Global Comparison," Center for Immigration Studies, August 2010.
  19. ^ Mariana Alvarado, "Hospital Lures Mexican Moms; Tucson Medical Center 'Birth Package' Raises Questions," Ariz. Daily Star, June 21, 2009.
  20. ^ "About Us".
  21. ^ Davidson Iriekpen, "Citizenship Rights: American Agitations Threaten a Nigerian Practice," This Day (Nigeria), Aug. 16, 2010.
  22. ^ A.J. Delgado, "Instant Citizens," National Review, May 2, 2015.
  23. ^ Medina, Jennifer (March 28, 2011). "Officials Close ‘Maternity Tourism' House in California". The New York Times. 
  24. ^;
  25. ^
  26. ^ Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff; Douglas B. Klusmeyer (2002). Citizenship policies for an age of migration. Carnegie Endowment. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-87003-187-8. 
  27. ^ Prithi Yelaja (March 5, 2012). "'Birth tourism' may change citizenship rules". CBC News. 
  28. ^ "Chinese 'birth tourists' having babies in Canada". CBC News. 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ 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 
  32. ^ a b "Mamas without borders". The Economist. August 19, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Hong Kong Maternity Tourism". Sinosplice. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  34. ^ 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.