Thursday, January 23, 2020
Continuing the thread (and here) on travel restrictions for pregnant passengers: The State Department has told US embassies across the world to deny visas to people they suspect are coming to the US to give birth, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Vox. The cable, sent Wednesday afternoon, says that the new policy goes into effect on Friday, January 24.
The policy would create a barrier for pregnant people seeking a short term visa from a consulate abroad, such as the B visas that is which offered for tourists, business travelers, and people seeking urgent medical care. According to the cable, a US consular officer can’t ask a visa applicant if they are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. However, “if you have reason to believe the applicant will give birth during their stay in the United States, you are required to presume that giving birth for the purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship is the applicant’s primary purpose of travel,” the cable reads. The presumption can be overcome if if the passenger demonstrates “a different and permissible primary purpose of travel.”
The cable also says that a visa applicant “seeking medical treatment in the United States must demonstrate to the consular officer’s satisfaction that they have both the means and the intent to pay for all treatment-related costs.”
The apparent goal is to clamp down on foreigners giving birth to children in the US who become American citizens by birth. Immigration advocates and medical experts worry that the broad discretion given to consular officers could prove dangerous to pregnant people seeking medical care. The government does not track how many pregnant travelers come to the US on B visas, but 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the new guidance would likely affect roughly 10,000 people annually.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on the cable, drafted by a staffer who works on consular affairs. The State Department didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment about these concerns.