What is Birth Tourism?

In the globalized era, we often hear about “birth tourism,” but what is birth tourism, exactly?

Birth tourism refers to the practice of traveling to a foreign country with the intention of delivering a child there.

This is done so the newborn acquire citizenship or residency rights in the country of birth, a process often motivated by a myriad of reasons that we will unravel in this article.

The prevalence of birth tourism globally is surprisingly high, making it a topic of great intrigue and discussion.

What is Birth Tourism?

In the broadest sense, birth tourism is the practice of traveling to another country with the express purpose of giving birth there.

This act is motivated by the automatic right of citizenship or permanent residency that some countries confer upon anyone born within their borders, a policy known as jus soli or right of the soil.

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Birth tourists are typically parents-to-be who desire a better life for their unborn children.

By securing birth in a foreign country, they aim to provide their children with the advantages of dual citizenship, which might include access to superior healthcare, education, job opportunities, and a potentially more stable political environment.

The History and Emergence of Birth Tourism

Delving into history, birth tourism seems to be a relatively modern occurrence born out of the mobility allowed by globalization.

Its popularity surged with the advent of affordable and accessible international travel.

Predominantly, nations like the United States, Canada, and several European countries have seen a significant influx of birth tourists, largely due to their attractive birthright citizenship laws.

The Reasons Behind Birth Tourism

So, why do people pursue birth tourism? Simply put, the pursuit of a better life and future prospects is a significant factor.

Some parents believe that securing dual citizenship for their child can open doors to superior healthcare, education, and job opportunities.

Let’s consider the story of a Chinese couple, the Lius, who decided to travel to the US for the birth of their child.

For them, this decision was driven by the desire to secure an American passport for their child, enabling him access to a wide range of opportunities.

We have listed down 5 of the most popular destinations for birth tourism.

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United States

The United States is a prominent destination for birth tourism, mainly owing to its birthright citizenship policy, which promises an American passport to every child born within its borders.

Popular states for birth tourism include California and Florida, recognized for their world-class healthcare facilities and favorable weather.

Services catered specifically to birth tourists, such as ‘maternity hotels’, offer comprehensive packages that handle medical appointments and even sightseeing, making the journey for expecting parents more comfortable and hassle-free.


Canada is another sought-after destination for birth tourism.

The country offers automatic citizenship to children born on Canadian soil.

This, combined with Canada’s reputation for high-quality healthcare and a robust social welfare system, makes it an attractive option for many.

Cities like Vancouver and Toronto, known for their multicultural environments, serve as popular hubs, offering comfort and community for birth tourists during their stay.


Ireland holds a unique position in Europe as one of the few countries in the region that still offer birthright citizenship.

This policy, coupled with the nation’s high living standards and excellent healthcare facilities, draws many birth tourists to its shores each year.


Portugal is another European nation that’s a popular choice for birth tourism.

The country offers a fast track to citizenship for children born to foreign parents who reside in Portugal.

This provision has been an attractive prospect for many birth tourists looking for added security and opportunity for their children.

Hong Kong

Formerly, Hong Kong was a popular destination for Mainland Chinese parents due to its superior healthcare system and the opportunity to circumnavigate China’s one-child policy.

However, in 2013, the government clamped down on this trend due to the significant strain on resources it caused.

Birth tourism sparks a lively debate regarding its legal and ethical implications.

Many countries uphold jus soli, or the right to citizenship by birth, which inadvertently encourages birth tourism.

The United States, for instance, has a long-standing tradition of granting citizenship to anyone born on American soil, regardless of the parent’s nationality.

However, this policy has its detractors, who argue it can be exploited and creates a backdoor for immigration.

Ethically, the debate is even more complex. Some argue it is a legitimate use of global mobility.

In contrast, others maintain it amounts to citizenship shopping, undermining national sovereignty.

Balancing these concerns with maintaining openness and respect for international human rights proves to be a delicate act.

The Impact of Birth Tourism on Host Countries

Turning our attention to host countries, one may wonder about the impact of birth tourism on these nations.

Economically, birth tourism can contribute significantly, as these tourists typically pay for healthcare services out-of-pocket, often at premium prices.

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Yet, it also strains healthcare resources, potentially affecting the accessibility and quality of healthcare for local residents.

Additionally, there can be long-term implications as these ‘citizens by birth’ may later choose to return and claim benefits or services.

The Impact of Birth Tourism on Home Countries

Conversely, home countries can experience a different set of implications.

A potential outcome could be a brain drain, with future generations opting to reside and contribute to their birth country instead.

Moreover, the social repercussions of families splitting across international borders cannot be overlooked.

For instance, children may grow up culturally disconnected from their home country.

Case Studies

Let’s glance at a couple of case studies from a global perspective.

In the United States, Florida has become a hotspot for Russian birth tourists, attracted by its sunny weather and proximity to the homeland.

In response, local hospitals have adapted, offering birth packages tailored to these tourists, indicating a flexible response to the trend.

In contrast, Hong Kong faced such a surge of birth tourists from Mainland China that it had to implement stringent restrictions in 2013 to protect its healthcare system, demonstrating a more defensive approach.

The Future of Birth Tourism

Forecasting the future of birth tourism is no simple task, given its dependency on evolving global dynamics and policies.

Global events like the COVID-19 pandemic have significantly impacted international travel, affecting the trend.

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In the future, countries may rethink their jus soli laws or impose stricter regulations on birth tourism.

Meanwhile, global inequalities will likely continue to fuel the desire for dual citizenship, keeping the practice alive.

Wrapping Up

In a nutshell, understanding what is birth tourism, opens a Pandora’s box of intricate issues related to law, ethics, and globalization.

It exists in the balance between the pursuit of better opportunities and the strain on resources.

Its future, albeit uncertain, remains a topic of immense interest.

It beckons nations worldwide to review their policies, not only for their benefit but also considering the global impact.

After all, in this interconnected world, the ripple effects of local decisions can extend far and wide, impacting the lives of individuals and the collective fate of nations.

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