The Trump administration on Friday began implementing a new policy making it hard for pregnant foreign women to travel to the United States so their children could become U.S. citizens, a practice known as “birth tourism”.
The new rules went into effect on Friday, CNN reported quoting a State Department cable sent on Wednesday to American embassies around the world.
In a statement, the White House said the State Department “will no longer issue temporary visitor (B-1/B-2) visas to aliens seeking to enter the United States for ‘birth tourism.'”
Visitors to the US will be denied temporary visas if it’s found that the “primary purpose” of travel is for obtaining US citizenship for a child by giving birth in the United States, according to an amended State Department regulation published Friday.
A State Department official confirmed the new policy in a briefing call with reporters on Thursday and clarified that the rule does not apply to the 39 countries — most of which are in Europe — that are part of the Visa Waiver Program.
CNN reported that “during that call, the official struggled to explain the specific ways that the new rule would be enforced and its actual effectiveness”.
It said: “According to the official on the call and the diplomatic cable, consular officers were told they can’t directly ask a woman if they are pregnant.
“You must not ask a visa applicant whether they are pregnant unless you have a specific articulable reason to believe they may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States. “You should document any such reason in your case notes,” reads the cable.
“You must not, as a matter of course, ask all female applicants (or any specific sub-sets of applicants) whether they are pregnant or intend to become pregnant.
“The State Department official said that the “specific articulable reason” for bringing the topic up could be if the applicant says they will be traveling for a medical procedure — which is one of the options already on the application.
“That would be the trigger for much of this questioning of applicants,” they said.
According to CNN, “the official did not deny that the officers could use visual cues as part of that reasoning and would not directly say, despite repeated questions, if a consular official could ask a woman if she was pregnant if she looked pregnant.
“They said officers are not allowed to require a pregnancy test. Although the White House statement said the rule change was “necessary to enhance public safety, national security, and the integrity of our immigration system,” the official could not describe a specific example of a past national security threat that arose as a result of “birth tourism.”
“Instead, they emphasized that the change was “closing a loophole that creates a vulnerability.”