The US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on birth tourism so that they are not forced into pregnancy involuntarily. The US is one of the largest contributors to people having babies in the world. It also has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies, and the highest rate of infanticide in the world. All these factors have had a devastating effect on the health and social infrastructure of the country. The health and social infrastructure system of the country is in dire need of immediate attention. The US authorities are trying to make changes in their policies regarding birth tourism by making it hard for pregnant women to access visas to leave the country for childbirths abroad.
The US legislation on birth tourism states that women who give birth outside the country will be refused entry to the country. This goes against international and US law and has resulted in a lot of women being forced into dangerous situations. For example, in March 2021, an American tourist was shot and killed while in Mexico by a cross-border shooting between rival drug gangs. The government has launched a number of policies to prevent women from travelling out of the country to give birth. These include strengthening controls at Mexican border points and encouraging women to go through safe sex programs before getting married.
The US government believes that the introduction of visa rules for women on birth could reduce the rate of illegal migration into the US. If women had easy access to the required visa forms, many of them would have stayed put and not travelled out of the country to give birth. As it is, many women do leave the country to get pregnant. In such a scenario, tightening the visa norms will discourage women from travelling outside the country for their births.
The rules on pregnant women are currently in a testing period, and the Department of Homeland Security is likely to tweak them before they are implemented fully. While no formal announcement has been made, the current rules that apply to spouses are likely to continue. For example, the spouse applying for the visa must have valid work permits. The main reason behind this is that if the spouse’s visa application is rejected, the spouse will be forced to leave the United States immediately and cannot get another visa for five years. While the policy is intended to reduce illegal migration, it will also indirectly help curb human trafficking.
A study by the Migration Policy Institute at the University of New York estimated that 4.6 percent of the women born in the US but eligible for US birth tourism were illegally accessed via Mexico border crossings between 2021. The majority of these women (nearly 80 percent) were US citizens who overstayed their visa or did not apply for one at all. Undoubtedly, a relaxation of visa requirements for pregnant women will help reduce the rate of overstaying and allow many more women the opportunity to enjoy birth tourism in Mexico.
The Obama administration continues to face criticism from congressional Republicans and some within the United States immigration community. One argument against relaxed rules on visas for pregnancy is that it is a waste of government money given that the United States only spends about four percent of its Gross Domestic Product on immigration. Another worry among American citizens is that the rules are so strict that it could deny US citizens the opportunity to visit another country whose government shares the same values as we do. Finally, some worry that the rules could create a de facto ban on travel to Mexico among US citizens. These concerns are all legitimate.