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US imposes visa rules for pregnant women on ‘birth tourism’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is imposing new visa rules aimed at restricting “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the United States to give birth so their children can have U.S. citizenship. The regulations, which take effect Friday, address one of President Donald Trump’s main political priorities.

The regulations seek to chip away at the number of foreigners who take advantage of the constitutional provision granting“birthright citizenship” to anyone born in the United States, a particular peeve of Trump’s. Under the new rules, pregnant applicants will be denied a tourist visa unless they can prove they must come to the U.S. to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it or have another compelling reason — not just because they want their child to have an American passport.

Officials said that consular officers will not be asking all female visa applicants of child-bearing age whether they are pregnant or intend to get pregnant. Rather, they said consular officers would ask the question only if they had reason to believe the applicant is pregnant and likely or planning to give birth in the U.S.

Visual cues such as appearing to be pregnant or listing “medical treatment” as a reason for wanting to travel to the United States might trigger such questioning, the officials said. Even if a woman is found to be pregnant and likely to deliver her child in the United States, she could still be granted a visa if she was able to demonstrate a valid reason for the travel such a visiting an ailing relative or attending a business meeting or conference, they said.

Officials said the rule will not apply to foreign travelers coming from any of the 39 mainly European and Asian countries enrolled in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of those countries to come the U.S. without a visa for temporary stays. The rule will only apply to applicants for so-called “B” class visas that permit short-term stays for business or pleasure.

“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. “It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.”

The practice of traveling to the U.S. to give birth is fundamentally legal, although there are scattered cases of authorities arresting operators of birth tourism agencies for visa fraud or tax evasion.

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