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Birth tourist

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. The main reason for birth tourism is to obtain citizenship for the child in a country with birthright citizenship (jus soli). Other reasons include access to public schooling, healthcare, sponsorship for the parents in the future,[1] or even circumvention of China’s two-child policy. Popular destinations include the United States and Canada. Another target for 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.

No European country presently grants unconditional birthright citizenship; however, most countries in the Americas, e.g., the United States, Canada, 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]


  • 1 Today
    • 1.1 North America
      • 1.1.1 United States
        • Worldwide taxation of U.S. citizens and permanent residents
        • Fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship
      • 1.1.2 Canada
      • 1.1.3 Mexico
      • 1.1.4 Birth (and abortion and other medical) tourism among the United States, Canada, and Mexico
    • 1.2 South America
      • 1.2.1 Argentina
      • 1.2.2 Brazil
      • 1.2.3 Chile
      • 1.2.4 Paraguay
    • 1.3 Hong Kong
  • 2 In the past (stopped by changes in laws)
    • 2.1 Malta
    • 2.2 India
    • 2.3 Ireland
    • 2.4 Dominican Republic
  • 3 Encouraged by jus-soli countries (in the past)
  • 4 Birth- and pregnancy tourism to non-jus-soli countries
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References


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).

United States[edit]
Main article: Birthright citizenship in the United States of America

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. (A person born in American Samoa becomes a non-citizen US national). The parent(s) and child are still subject to de jure and de facto deportation, respectively.[2] However, once they reach 21 years of age, American-born children, as birthright citizens, are able to sponsor their foreign families’ U.S. citizenship and residency.[3]

There are no statistics about which countries have citizens who participate in birth tourism in the United States. 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.[4] The Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative think tank, estimated in 2012 that there were approximately 40,000 annual births to parents in the United States as birth tourists.[5][6] The Center also estimated in 2012 that total births to temporary immigrants in the United States (e.g., tourists, students, guest workers) could be as high as 200,000.[7]

Russian birth tourism to Florida to ‘maternity hotels’ in the 2010s is documented.[3][8][9] Birth tourism packages complete with lodging and medical care delivered in Russian begin at $20,000, and go as high as $84,700 for an apartment in Miami’s Trump Tower II complete with a “gold-tiled bathtub and chauffeured Cadillac Escalade.”[9]

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.[10] 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. There were 282 of these births in 2012.[11]

As of 2015[update], Los Angeles is considered a center of the maternity tourism industry, which caters mostly to wealthy Asian women;[12] authorities in the city there closed 14 maternity tourism “hotels” in 2013.[13] The industry is difficult to close down since it is not illegal for a pregnant woman to travel to the U.S.[13]

On March 3, 2015 Federal Agents in Los Angeles conducted a series of raids on 3 “multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses” expected to produce the “biggest federal criminal case ever against the booming ‘anchor baby’ industry”, according to the Wall Street Journal.[13][14]

Numerous “maternity businesses” advise 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.[15] 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.[16][17] Some mothers will refuse to pay the bill for the medical care received during their hospital stay.[18]

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.[19] 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.[13][14] Congressional representatives such as Phil Gingrey, who have tried to put an end to birth tourism, said these people are “gaming the system”.[20] 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 permanent residents[edit]

Systems of taxation on personal income  No income tax on individuals  Territorial  Residential  Citizenship-based (United States and Eritrea)

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.[21]
Eritrea does not grant unconditional birthright citizenship; at least one parent must be a citizen for a child to be granted automatic citizenship. Eritreans that hold citizenship from another country must be Eritrean citizens from birth and receive permission to hold citizenship from another country.[22]

A U.S.-born person is, as a citizen, automatically subject to U.S. taxation. This is true even if both parents are non-U.S. citizens, their child holds multiple citizenships, and the family leaves the U.S. right after the child’s birth and never return again. Children born to U.S. citizens living abroad are also automatically subject to U.S. taxation, even if he/she never enters the U.S.

U.S. permanent residents are also subject to worldwide taxation. Worldwide taxation is often cited as a reason for U.S. citizens or permanent residents to relinquish their citizenship or residency status.[21]

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

In 2015, the fee for renunciation of U.S. citizenship was raised by 422%. It went from US$450 to $2,350 and is the highest fee for the renunciation of a citizenship worldwide.[23]

Main article: Canadian nationality law

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,[24] and as of 2012[update] continues to debate the issue[25] but has not yet changed this part of Canadian law.

Some expectant Chinese parents who have already had one child travel to Canada to give birth in order to circumvent China’s one-child policy,[26] 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;[27] on average this was $3760/year in 2013.[28]


Mexicans who are citizens by birth are individuals that were born in Mexican territory regardless of parents’ nationality or immigration status in Mexico. Individuals born on Mexican merchant or Navy ships or Mexican-registered aircraft, regardless of parents’ nationality, are still considered Mexican citizens. Only naturalized Mexicans can lose their Mexican citizenship.

Birth (and abortion and other medical) tourism among 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. These children (sometimes called “border babies”) are usually 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 restrictive laws sometimes engage in abortion tourism, either to the U.S. states with more liberal laws or to Canada.

In Mexico, as 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[clarification needed] 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, or rape. In Brazil, abortion is restricted to cases of maternal life, mental health, health, rape, or fetal defects. In Chile, abortion was forbidden completely, even if the pregnant woman’s life is in danger until 2017. Current law allows abortion in Chile only if the mother’s life is in danger, if the fetus is inviable and in rape cases.

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, 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. 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. Foreigners may be able to obtain a Brazilian citizenship by expressing their interest to live in Brazil. [29]


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.


Any person born in Paraguay territory acquires Paraguayan citizenship at birth. The only exception applies to children of persons in the service of a foreign government (like foreign diplomats)

Hong Kong[edit]

Main articles: Right of abode in Hong Kong and Birth tourism in Hong Kong

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. The 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] Attempts to restrict benefits from such births have been struck down by the territory’s courts.[31] 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]

In the past (stopped by changes in laws)[edit]


Malta changed the principle of citizenship to jus sanguinis on 1 August 1989 in a move that also relaxed restrictions against multiple citizenships: 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 allows a form of “overseas citizenship”, but no real dual citizenship.


Main article: Twenty-seventh Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland

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.[33] 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 abnormalities 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 it a retroactive decision but only a reaffirmation of a clause that has been present in every revision of the Dominican constitution as far back as 1929.

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   Legal only altruistically   Allowed between relatives up to second degree of consanguinity   Banned   Unregulated or 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 and embryos, or 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 return to their home countries to give birth to their children (“pregnancy tourism”).

See also[edit]

  • Anchor baby
  • Economic results of migration
  • Multiple citizenship


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