Chinese birth tourism biz thrives despite US charges

By Zhang Hui Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/21 21:08:40

An obstetrician conducts an ultrasound check on a pregnant woman. Photo: CFP

Chinese birth tourism agencies that help pregnant Chinese women give birth in the US have not seen their business affected following the US' first federal charges against those engaged in the birth tourism business in late January. 

However, Chinese maternity centers and birth tourism agencies now suggest their pregnant customers to be honest about their conditions and the reason for giving birth in visa interviews and US customs checks, as suspects charged in the case allegedly coached pregnant Chinese women to conceal their conditions to trick US customs officers. 

A total of 19 suspects were accused of links to three "birth houses" operating in Southern California that catered to women from China and were dismantled by federal agents in March 2015, Reuters reported.

Benjamin, a manager of a US medical platform recommending US obstetricians and gynaecologists to pregnant women from China, told the Global Times that the case has not affected and will not affect the birth tourism business in the US, but will help legitimize it. 

Benjamin is a Chinese person who has been in the business for seven years in Irvine, California, which is among the most popular destinations for pregnant Chinese women to give birth in.

"Several years ago, only the super wealthy Chinese could afford to come to the US to give birth. But the business is now more affordable," he said.

On China's social media platforms, various tourism consultation companies and maternity centers promote their business with photos and videos showing their pregnant customers' life in the US. Those companies charge between $35,000 to $80,000 for a package of services, including visa applications, accommodations and interpreters in the US. 

"We help around 50 such women going to the US to deliver each year," said a salesperson surnamed Feng from one such company based in Beijing. 

She warned the Global Times reporter, posing as a client, that a customer has to settle their medical bills in the US, which include hospital and doctor's fees, as some had returned to China without paying their bills.

Many Chinese women go to the US to give birth for their children to acquire US citizenship. 

A 29-year-old woman who just returned to her hometown in Zhejiang Province after going to Irvine to give birth told the Global Times that she contacted a maternity center and spent around $70,000 for the delivery. 

She said such a business helps boost the US economy, but that there's a downside. 

She said on condition of anonymity that many maternity centers in the US hire employees without a proper contract, and the employees could quit and join another maternity center without taking responsibility for their misconduct. 

The Chinese government still considers the children Chinese nationals. The Chinese Nationality Law states that a person born abroad who has at least one Chinese national parent shall have a Chinese nationality. 

In such a case, they have to apply for a travel certification when entering China, and they cannot enjoy civil rights as US citizens in China, Liu Guofu, an expert on immigration law at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times, adding that they also pose a challenge to government management. 

A travel certification is issued to people, including Chinese nationals, under the age of 18 who were born outside China, according to information posted on the website of the Chinese Embassy in the United States. 

For those children who born in the US, they will be required to choose nationality once they reach 18, as China does not recognize dual citizenship.
Newspaper headline: Chinese birth tourism biz thrives

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