Birthright citizenship has at times been a controversial topic when discussed in the context of immigration. This is because critics argue that allowing children born in the United States to automatically become citizens encourages illegal immigration. However, birthright citizenship is guaranteed under the United States constitution and cannot be changed without a constitutional amendment.
What does this mean for foreign citizens who are in the country, legally or illegally, when they give birth? Generally, the immigration status of the mother and father of a child born in the United States does not change the minute the child is born and acquires automatic citizenship. In some cases, the child may also automatically acquire the citizenship of the parents’ country upon birth, but this does not mean that the child is not also an American.
Parents cannot renounce American citizenship on behalf of their children. Therefore, a parent who does not wish for his or her child to gain automatic citizenship should not give birth to the child in the United States. There are many benefits to citizenship, so it is rare for a parent to want to renounce the child’s American citizenship.
This is part of the reason that there is a booming business in what is known as birth tourism. This term is used to describe travel to the United States, generally on tourist visas, by foreign women who are pregnant with the goal of having their children in the country. Once the child is born, the parents return to their country of origin and raise their children there.
When the child grows up, he can apply for lawful permanent resident status for his parents if he so chooses. In addition, the child can access other opportunities that would be difficult for a foreigner to get, for example, a better chance at admission to a university, employment in the country, or owning property.
Pregnant women traveling to the United States for the sole purpose of giving birth here may run into some issues gaining a visa and being allowed into the country. Immigration officials may require evidence that the woman does not intend to stay permanently within the country, if she is applying for a nonimmigrant visa. The parents may also be expected to prove that they will be able to pay for the cost of the delivery and any other medical complications that may arise. This is because immigration officials do not want the mother and child to be dependent on government resources.
It is important to remember that even if the consulate or embassy in your home country approves a visa, the border patrol agent at the border could still deny you entry into the country. It is therefore best to have a backup plan.
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If you are an American citizen seeking to sponsor an application for lawful permanent residence on behalf of your parents or siblings, contact us for assistance with the process, and to learn more about what information you will be required to provide in the application. Contact our multi-lingual staff to speak to an experienced immigration attorney from Strassburg, Gilmore & Wei, LLP, in Pasadena, California.