What to Know About “Birth Tourism”

Over the past year, 379 foreign nationals were born at Richmond Hospital in Canada to non-Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This is part of an industry known as “birth tourism”, in which a pregnant woman enters Canada to give birth to a child who will then automatically be given citizenship. They typically travel to Canada as a tourist, and either book hospital rooms, rent apartments, or “baby houses” for the birth. These numbers have been growing in recent years, and hospital officials have found that 98% of these births were to Chinese nationals. Xi An, the founder of the Vancouver Post-natal Care Association and owner of the Richmond-based Icy Consulting firm, attributes the growth in birth tourism to a petition raised against it last year in Richmond. This petition gained media coverage and while before birth tourism had been an underground practice with questionable legality, it became clear to interested parents that the government “seem[ed] to be OK with it” (Wood & Xiong, Richmond News).

The idea behind this practice is that once the baby reaches the age of 18, he or she can make the decision to be either a Canadian citizen or a citizen of the country in which they reside. In the case of China, for example, the child would have to get a long-term visiting visa to return to China and apply for a Chinese ID. They would renew this visa every two years and renew their Canadian passport every 5 years. Once the child does turn 18, they will be eligible to sponsor their parents to Canada if they so choose and if they meet all requirements—another benefit for those involved.

While this process provides a great deal of opportunity to foreign parents and their Canadian born children, both the Liberal Canadian government and the Conservatives agree that birth tourism is a problem. Though they have differing opinions on what should be done, overall they see it as an abuse of the immigration system. They hope to convey the message that, if this continues, there will be consequences. Some have advocated for an end to place of birth citizenship rights (a right only provided by the US and Canada), but this has been dismissed. While there is no law stating birth tourism is illegal, immigration consultant Ken Wong sees this “loophole as a threat to the immigration system’s integrity” (Wood &  Xiong). One of the main ways this practice could be stopped, however, is to prove that when the woman enters Canada, she is not declaring her true intention. This kind of misrepresentation is illegal, and though proving it can be difficult, it may become a course of action taken at the border as reason for inadmissibility.

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