A whole underground industry of “tourist maternity wards” on the West Coast is thriving, thanks to a frenzy in China for “Born in the USA” babies. Chinese women come into the U.S. on tourist visas and stay in the fancy townhomes waiting out the final months of their pregnancies. Their babies are born in nearby hospital, U.S. citizenship is granted. The pair fly back and the kid — and, by extension, the family — is set for life.
Not so fast.
While Born in the USA babies might make the neighbors envious and bestow a kind of social status on the family, it makes getting an education more difficult and travel abroad circuitous and expensive.
Time magazine looked into birth tourism and found that between the birth and the child’s 21st birthday — at which point the parents can apply for green cards and everyone can live and work in the U.S. — life for an American Chinese kid is kind of a hassle.
From here’s what one mother learned after she brought her American baby back to China:
Because her son has a U.S. passport, the law does not allow him to be registered in his mother’s local area, which means that he will not be automatically admitted to Chinese schools. Song will have to register him as a foreigner, and pay an extra fee. His access to education and health care also faces a lot of constraints.
She’ll have to get him a fake hukou (the Chinese registration system), in order to take advantage of these Chinese-only benefits. But with a fake hukou, in order to travel to the U.S. as an American citizen, the child first has to go to Hong Kong to get a visa to fly to the U.S. The child then enters the country on the U.S. passport.
In China, double nationality is not recognized. As for the U.S., once a child has a hukou, it’s assumed American citizenship has been given up.
There are no laws against foreigners giving birth in the U.S. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is what allows for all babies born here to become citizens. But being born here and leaving can limit access to some of the benefits of being a U.S. citizen, according to the article.
… if one does not work in America or pay taxes after the age of 15, one can only enjoy very limited access to U.S. welfare benefits. “The system doesn’t totally exclude people who don’t pay taxes here, but those who do not pay as much tax as Americans do cannot expect the same benefits. But each state has different regulations,” says Mr. Yang, a Chinese born man who works in New Jersey and has a green card.
Like one father with a child born in the USA told reporters, parents have to be prepared for the downsides before trying to get an American in the family.
Think Chinese laws are discouraging families from trying? Does this trend in China (and elsewhere) bother you?
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