The State Department on Thursday unveiled new rules that could make it more difficult for pregnant foreign nationals to travel to the United States using tourist visas, citing security concerns.
The rules, which will become effective on Friday, are an attempt to crack down on “birth tourism,” or the practice of giving birth in the United States in order to obtain U.S. citizenship for a child. They apply to B visas, or those issued to nonimmigrants.
“The final rule addresses concerns about the attendant risks of this activity to national security and law enforcement, including criminal activity associated with the birth tourism industry, as reflected in federal prosecutions of individuals and entities involved in that industry,” the department said.
The Trump administration has sought to limit immigration to the United States, and President Donald Trump has been particularly critical of birthright citizenship, or the right of those born in America to citizenship. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.”
There are no official figures documenting how many foreigners travel to the U.S. specifically to give birth, though the State Department cited reporting from U.S. embassies and consulates it said documented an increase in the trend.
The Center for Immigration Studies, a conservative group that advocates for stricter immigration laws, estimated last year that there were 33,000 births to women in the country temporarily on tourist visas between the second half of 2016 and the first half of 2017.
It’s not clear how consular officials will determine whether individuals seeking to travel to the U.S. are pregnant. The rule calls for officials to reject the visa applications of individuals whose “primary purpose” is obtaining U.S. citizenship for a child by giving birth.
The new rules also tighten the restrictions on traveling to the U.S. to seek medical treatment.
The department said it will deny visas to those seeking medical treatment if they are unable to establish “to the satisfaction of a consular officer” that there exists a legitimate medical reason for treatment and that a practitioner or facility in the U.S. has agreed to provide it.
The visa applicant must also prove that he or she “has the means and intent” to pay for the medical treatment and related expenses, according to the new rules.
— CNBC’s Yelena Dzhanova contributed to this report.