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New US Rule to End ‘Birth Tourism’

FILE - Federal agents enter an apartment complex where authorities say a birth tourism business charged pregnant women between $40,000 and $100,000 for lodging, food and transportation, in Irvine, Calif., March 3, 2015.
New US Rule to End ‘Birth Tourism’
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The U.S. government has published new visa rules aimed at restricting what officials are calling “birth tourism.”

"Birth tourism" is when women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have a U.S. passport.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the State Department does not believe that such a visit “is a legitimate activity for pleasure or of a recreational nature.”

Under the new rules, U.S. officials can deny a tourist visa if they believe a woman is coming to the country mainly to give birth. Visitors will have to prove they have a medical need. And they must prove that they have the money to pay for medical treatment, including living and transportation costs.

The measures take effect Friday.

The practice of traveling to the United States to give birth is actually legal. Some women even show signed agreements with doctors and hospitals when asking for a tourist visa. However, U.S. officials have arrested operators of birth tourism businesses for visa fraud or avoiding tax payment.

Under the U.S. Constitution, anyone born in the country is considered a citizen. But President Donald Trump wants to end the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil.

His administration’s new visa rule is a way to deal with the issue. But it raises questions about how U.S. consular officers would know whether a woman is pregnant or how they could turn her away because they suspect she is pregnant.

Consular officers do not have the right to ask during visa interviews whether a woman is pregnant or plans to become so. But they would still have to decide whether a visa applicant would be coming to the United States only to give birth.

The State Department says “an entire ‘birth tourism’ industry” has developed to help pregnant women giving birth in the U.S.

Companies charge up to $80,000 to set up visa, travel, hotel and medical care for pregnant women. Many come from Russia and China to give birth in U.S. hospitals.

The Center for Immigration Studies supports stronger U.S. immigration laws. It estimated that in 2012 about 36,000 foreign-born women gave birth in the United States and then left the country.

I'm Anne Ball.

The Associated Press reported this story. Hai Do adapted the report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

tourism - n. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

legitimate - adj. permitted under the rules or laws

practice - n. something that is done often or regularly

fraud - n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable

interview - n. a meeting in order to ask questions and get information