The White House has said the new rule would “combat endemic abuses” of citizenship laws. The US is one of a handful of countries that has unconditional birthright citizenship.
The US government announced on Thursday that it will no longer issue temporary tourist visas or medical visas to pregnant women, in an effort to prevent what it called “birth tourism.” The US and Canada are considered to be the only developed countries with universal birthright citizenship, a status that has sometimes been used as destinations for expecting families from other nations seeking a second passport for their child.
“Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice,” White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”
People traveling to the US on temporary visas to receive other medical treatments will not be affected. The rule change is set to take effect on Friday, though the White House did not provide details on how it will implement the regulation.
In November, a Japanese woman complained that she was forced to take a pregnancy test before boarding a flight to visit her parents on the island of Saipan, a US territory in the Pacific that is considered to be a popular “birth tourism” destination.
Rule to affect pregnant women at US-Mexico border
The new rule is meant to bar wealthy families from countries like Russia and China from coming to the US to give birth. While exact numbers are difficult to determine, couples seeking to circumvent China’s one-child and now two-child policy have been coming to the US to have babies for decades.
A visa ban will also affect pregnant women at the US-Mexico border, who used to be considered as part of a “vulnerable” group, such as small children, and were usually allowed to cross the border without issue. The Trump administration began turning pregnant women away ahead of the White House’s announcement on the new rules.
The US joins countries like the UK, Germany, France, New Zealand, and Australia in introducing laws to curb “birth tourism.”
Ending unconditional birthright citizenship in the US is complicated because it is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, adopted in 1868 to grant citizenship to freed slaves.