Birth tourism

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Countries by Birthright citizenship.
  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 free schooling, free medical, citizenship for child and parents and circumvention of 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 mainland Chinese citizens travel to give birth to gain right of abode for their children.

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 countries in the Americas, e.g., the United States, Canada, Cuba, 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]

Birth tourism today[edit]

North America[edit]

The United States, Canada, and Mexico all grant unconditional birthright citizenship and allow dual citizenship. The United States taxes its citizens and green card holders worldwide, even if they have never lived in the country. In Mexico, only naturalized citizens can lose their Mexican citizenship again (e.g., by naturalizing in another country). Military service is also mandatory there.

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 get U.S. nationality without citizenship 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. Politically-conservative lawyer and author, A.J. Delgado wrote in his article for the National Review, that an average of 60 women travel 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.[2] The Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that favors limits on immigration, estimates that there are approximately 40,000 annual births to parents in the United States as birth tourists.[3] However, total births to temporary immigrants in the United States (e.g., tourists, students, guestworkers) could be as high as 200,000.[4]

One option for mainland Chinese mothers to give birth is Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands, where the cost is cheaper and travel does not require a U.S. visa.[5] More than 70% of the newborns in Saipan have birth tourist 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.[6]

Numerous "maternity businesses" advocate pregnant mothers to hide their pregnancies from officials and even commit visa fraud––lying to customs agents about their true purpose in the U.S.[7] 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.[8] Some mothers will even refuse to pay the bill for the medical care received during their hospital stay.[9]

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

Fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship[edit]

In 2015, the fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship was raised by 422% from US$450 to $2,350 and is the highest fee for the renunciation of a citizenship worldwide.[14]


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,[15] and as of 2012 continues to debate the issue[16] 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,[17] 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;[18] on average this was $3760/year in 2013.[19]


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. Only naturalized Mexicans can lose their Mexican citizenship.

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

In the Canada–US 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 legal restrictions on 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]

Most South American countries grant unconditional birthright citizenship and allow dual citizenship, but their strict abortion laws make them risky birth-tourism destinations in case of complications during the pregnancy. 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. In Chile, abortion is forbidden completely, even if the pregnant woman's life is in danger.

Some countries do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship or only if the citizenship was acquired by birth there to non-citizen parents. In Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay, voting is compulsory for citizens. In Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, and Venezuela, military service is mandatory.


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. Argentine citizens cannot renounce their Argentine citizenship.


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). It is said Brazilian citizens cannot renounce their Brazilian citizenship, but it is possible to renounce it through a requirement made in the Brazilian consulate if they already have acquired another citizenship voluntarily.


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.

Hong Kong[edit]

As a non-sovereign territory, Hong Kong does not have its own citizenship; the status akin to citizenship in Hong Kong is the right of abode, also known as permanent residence. Hong Kong permanent residents regardless of citizenship are accorded all rights normally associated with citizenship, with few exceptions such as the right to a HKSAR passport and the eligibility to be elected as the Chief Executive which are only available to Chinese citizens with right of abode in Hong Kong.

According to the Basic Law of Hong Kong, Chinese citizens born in Hong Kong have the right of abode in the territory. 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.[20] 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.[21] This has resulted in backlash from some circles in Hong Kong to increased potential stress on the territory's social welfare net and education system.[22] Attempts to restrict benefits from such births have been struck down by the territory's courts.[21] A portion 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]

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[citation needed], 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.[23] Until 2004, Ireland was the last European country to grant unconditional 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- and pregnancy tourism to non-jus-soli countries[edit]

Legal regulation of surrogacy in the world:
  Both gainful and altruistic forms are legal
  No legal regulation but is made
  Legal only altruistically
  Allowed between relatives up to second degree of consanguinity
  Unregulated / uncertain situation

Some women engage in birth tourism not to give their children a foreign citizenship, but because the other country has a better or cheaper medical system or allows procedures 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 legal problems for the babies in the home country of their future 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 it is not her own baby, and if the foreign surrogate mother is married, her husband is regarded as the legal father.

Many women travel abroad only for some procedures forbidden in their home countries, but then give birth to their children in their home countries ("pregnancy tourism").

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b A.J. Delgado, "Instant Citizens," National Review, May 2, 2015.
  2. ^ Medina, Jennifer (March 28, 2011). "Officials Close 'Maternity Tourism' House in California". The New York Times. 
  3. ^;
  4. ^
  5. ^ South China morning post. Mainland mums look West after Hong Kong backlash. 7 Feb 2012.
  6. ^ "Rise in number of Chinese 'birth tourists' to Saipan". 13 February 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2014. 
  7. ^ Abby Phillip, "Inside the Shadowy World of Birth Tourism at 'Maternity Hotels'," The Washington Post, Mar. 5, 2015.
  8. ^ Matt Sheehan, "Born in the USA: Why Chinese 'Birth Tourism' is Booming in California," The World Post, May 14, 2015.
  9. ^ "Born In The USA: Why Chinese 'Birth Tourism' Is Booming In California". Huffington Post. 1 May 2015. 
  10. ^ page 1, World Journal, October 18, 2014
  11. ^ Jordan, Miriam (3 March 2015). "Federal Agents Raid Alleged 'Maternity Tourism' Businesses Catering to Chinese". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Kim, Victoria (3 March 2015). "Alleged Chinese 'maternity tourism' operations raided in California". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "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. 
  14. ^ Wood, Robert W. (October 23, 2015). "U.S. Has World's Highest Fee To Renounce Citizenship". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-04-01. 
  15. ^ Thomas Alexander Aleinikoff; Douglas B. Klusmeyer (2002). Citizenship policies for an age of migration. Carnegie Endowment. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-87003-187-8. 
  16. ^ Prithi Yelaja (March 5, 2012). "'Birth tourism' may change citizenship rules". CBC News. 
  17. ^ "Chinese 'birth tourists' having babies in Canada". CBC News. 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2013-01-19. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Habib, Marlene (11 September 2013). "University tuition rising to record levels in Canada". CBC News. 
  20. ^ 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 
  21. ^ a b "Mamas without borders". The Economist. August 19, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Hong Kong Maternity Tourism". Sinosplice. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  23. ^ 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.