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The Trump administration is moving to crack down on pregnant women visiting the U.S. for the purpose of giving birth so their children can be American citizens – a practice known as “birth tourism” – with a newly announced change to visa regulations.
As of Jan. 24, the State Department will cease granting B-1 and B-2 temporary visitor visas to those looking to enter the U.S. for this purpose, the Trump administration announced Thursday.
“This rule change is necessary to enhance public safety, national security, and the integrity of our immigration system,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement. “The birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity, as reflected in Federal prosecutions.”
A State Department official told Fox News that U.S. consular officials in foreign countries will deny visas if they have reason to believe the applicant’s primary purpose is giving birth in the U.S. so their child will have U.S. citizenship. The new rules would force visa applicants to prove they have a legitimate reason to travel to the U.S. while pregnant.
It remains unclear how officers would determine whether a woman is pregnant to begin with, and whether a woman could get turned away by border officers who suspect she could be just by looking at her.
Consular officers right now aren’t told to ask during visa interviews whether or not a woman is pregnant or intends to be. But they would have to determine whether a visa applicant would be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth.
The State Department said in a statement to Fox News Wednesday that the regulatory changes are “to provide that a temporary visit for pleasure does not include birth tourism,” which has spawned a lucrative business in the U.S., with some American companies charging as much as $80,000 to cover expenses such as staying accommodations and medical bills for mothers coming from abroad to give birth. Many of the women travel from Russia and China to give birth in the U.S.
The U.S. has been cracking down on the practice since before President Trump took office, but Trump has pushed to clamp down on birthright citizenship, which gives anyone born in the U.S. citizenship.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz, Vandana Rambaran, Rich Edson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.