5 min read

What is Birth Tourism?

birth tourism

Birth tourism is the practice of parents traveling to a new country to give birth, specifically one in the Western Hemisphere where the legal practice of jus soli or ‘right of soil’ means that any child born in that country automatically becomes a citizen. Assuming they are from a country that practices jus sanguinis or ‘right of blood, their child will have dual citizenship.

There are many reasons why someone might want to engage in birth tourism. Citizenship in Canada and the USA, being relatively prosperous nations, is highly coveted, so some engage in birth tourism to ensure that their child will have that valuable citizenship. Conversely, some people travel from Canada and the USA to Mexico or South America to engage in birth tourism.

Americans might engage in birth tourism to save money on birthing expenses and individuals from both countries may find value in providing their child with a Latin American passport. In certain countries, like Brazil, being the parent of a Brazilian child can be a way to hasten naturalization procedures for the parents.

Having a second passport can be very valuable. Even if you possess a particular passport, like one from Canada or the United States, that allows for visa-free travel to most of the countries in the world, there are advantages to other less powerful passports.

For example, countries within the “Southern Common Market” or MERCOSUR as it is more commonly known have significant advantages when it comes to establishing residency or citizenship in fellow MERCOSUR nations. The MERCOSUR trading bloc includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Bolivia, although Bolivia is still in the process of joining and Venezuela is temporarily suspended.

Another reason why a Canadian or American might want to possess a Latin American passport is so they can work remotely getting paid in dollars in a low-cost living country.

There is nothing illegal about the controversial practice of birth tourism, although officials in the United States have cracked down on it to some degree, and politicians in both USA and Canada have proposed laws to discourage or put an end to the practice. Opponents of birth tourism say that it is a way to jump the queue and unfair to immigrants who pursue residency through the proper channels.

Conversely, others say that concerns over birth tourism are overblown and that many foreign births in Canada occur through happenstance instead of careful planning.

Is the legal tradition of ‘jus soli’ just an archaic tradition left over from the days when international travel took months in cramped and dangerous conditions? Or is the whole problem of birth tourism just something blown up out of proportion by the media?

Every parent wants what is best for their child and in the 21st century that could mean a second passport with all the opportunities and advantages dual citizenship can confer. So long as we have borders and birthright citizenship, we will have birth tourism.

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Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land, and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and Director at Expat Money™, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets – How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money.

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