WASHINGTON >> The State Department today gave visa officers more power to block pregnant women abroad from visiting the United States and directed them to stop “birth tourism” — trips designed to obtain citizenship for their children.
The administration is using the new rule, which takes effect Friday, to push consular officers abroad to reject women they believe are entering the United States specifically to gain citizenship for their child by giving birth. The visas covered by the new rule are issued to those seeking to visit for pleasure, for medical treatment or to see friends and family.
Conservatives have long railed against what they call “anchor babies” born on U.S. soil and used by their parents to bring in other family members. President Donald Trump has also criticized the constitutional provision that grants citizenship to most babies born on U.S. soil.
It is not clear whether such “birth tourism” is a significant phenomenon or that “anchor babies” do lead to substantial immigration, but many conservatives believe both issues are real and serious. The Trump administration has repeatedly moved to allay conservative immigration concerns.
“Birth tourism poses risks to national security,” Carl Risch, assistant secretary for consular affairs at the State Department, wrote in the final rule. “The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes.”
The rule raises the burden of proof for pregnant women applying for tourist visas by outlining in writing that giving birth in the country “is an impermissible basis” for visiting the United States. Even if the women say they are entering the country for medical treatment, an applicant would need to prove she has enough money to pay for such treatment to the satisfaction of the officer. The woman will also need to prove the medical care being sought was not available in her home country.
The new policy does not change guidance granted to airport officers working for the Department of Homeland Security, meaning visa eligibility changes would occur outside the United States.
It is also not clear how effective the new rule will be. Some visas allow foreigners to visit the United States multiple times over the course of as many as 10 years, so an applicant could be granted a visa, get pregnant years later and still be permitted to visit the country.