U.S. Imposes New Visa Rules For Pregnant Women

The new State Department rules are designed to curb “birth tourism” as part of the Trump administration's broader crackdown on immigration.

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The State Department revealed new visa rules on Thursday that could affect pregnant women traveling to the U.S. The rules are designed to restrict so-called “birth tourism,” which applies to women giving birth in the U.S. so their children can have citizenship.

Applicants will be denied tourist visas if consular officers determine their visit is designed primarily to give birth and obtain citizenship for their child, according to the rules that take effect Friday. The rules apply to B visas, which are used by nonimmigrants seeking to travel for pleasure, medical reasons, or to visit friends and family.

The restrictions fit into the Trump administration’s broader crackdown on immigration. President Donald Trump has been widely critical of “birthright citizenship,” or the Constitutional right to citizenship for anyone born in the U.S.

The act of traveling to the U.S. to give birth is “fundamentally legal,” according to the Associated Press, though authorities have arrested birth tourism operators for visa fraud or tax evasion in the past.

The State Department “does not believe that visiting the United States for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child, by giving birth in the United States — an activity commonly referred to as ‘birth tourism’ — is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature,” according to the new rules.

Critics of the policy reportedly say it could put pregnant women at risk, and consular officers shouldn’t be entitled to ask a woman traveling whether she is pregnant or intends to become pregnant.

There isn’t official data on how many people travel to the U.S. to give birth. In its rules, the State Department cites trends reported by U.S. embassies and consulates “whose stated primary purpose of travel is to give birth in the United States.”

“Birth tourism poses risks to national security,” writes assistant secretary for consular affairs Carl Risch in the Department’s rules. “The birth tourism industry is also rife with criminal activity, including international criminal schemes, as reflected in federal prosecutions of individuals and entities involved in that industry.

The new rules also affect people who are traveling to the U.S. to seek medical treatment. Those who are traveling to seek medical treatment must “establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer” that they have the means and intent to pay for the treatment and incidental expenses, including transportation and other costs of living.