Birth tourism: Chinese flock to the US to have babies
Lured by US citizenship for their children, thousands of Chinese women give birth annually in the States, supporting a thriving birth-tourism industry.
Jiang Wenjun was getting ready to go to America. His wife, due to give birth to their son any day, was already there. Like any expectant parents, the Shanghai couple agonized over how best to prepare for the arrival and upbringing of their firstborn child. American citizenship, they decided, was one of the finest gifts they could bestow. America is the strongest country in the world, says Jiang, whose son was born just days after he eventually arrived in California this month. We want our child to have the best future.
The US is one of the few nations where simply being born on its soil confers citizenship on a newborn. That policy has spawned a birth-tourism industry, in which pregnant foreigners flock to American hospitals to secure US passports for their babies. Although the foreign couple can t acquire US nationality themselves, once their American-born offspring turn 21 they can theoretically sponsor their parents for future US citizenship. Another perk: these American-born kids can take advantage of the US education system, even paying lower in-state fees for public universities, depending on where they were delivered.
More rich Chinese than ever are sending their families and money abroad. One study of Chinese millionaires found that half had either emigrated or were thinking of doing so. Boston Consulting Group estimates that Chinese have some $450 billion stockpiled overseas. What s driving the exodus? Some wealthy citizens are spooked about the impact of an anticorruption campaign on their murkily sourced income. Others worry about the long-term risks of raising their kids in a polluted environment with dirty air, water and food. The pressure-cooker atmosphere of Chinese schools makes overseas schooling attractive. And even though China s draconian one-child policy is being loosened, some couples feel it s easier to give birth overseas and circumvent meddling by Chinese family-planning bureaucrats.
All of which has led to a proliferation of so-called anchor babies. At least 10,000 such Chinese babies were born in America last year, according to an estimate by an online platform dedicated to monitoring and rating confinement centers for Chinese women giving birth in the States. Naturally, a thriving business catering to these tiny foreign passport holders has developed. The Jia Mei Canadian and American Baby Counseling Services Center, with offices across China, charges between $30,000 and $40,000 to women who want to deliver babies in the States. The fee includes a plane ticket, accommodation in Los Angeles or Chicago in a two- or three-bedroom apartment or house, plus all the citizenship paperwork for the newborn. Women spend two months in the US before delivery and one month postpartum. Nannies, drivers and a chef will be shared among three women, promises Jia Mei. Of course, Chinese-speaking doctors will be on call.
Last month, Jia Mei, which has been in business for seven years, helped eight clients give birth in the US and another six in Canada, according to an employee surnamed Lu. The agency s extensive website features pictures of cheerful blond kids though it s not clear how the average Chinese couple will produce such a child. A 24-hour online hotline allows clients in the US or China to write in with any question they might have. The agency even offers a primer on how the US welfare system works and recommends the best organic beauty products for pregnant Chinese staying in the States.
Jiang and his wife, the Shanghai couple, didn t use an agency. An English-speaking sales manager, his wife simply procured a business visa to the US something she had successfully done before and set up camp in Rowland Heights, Calif. The L.A. County community, among others, has become notorious for a proliferation of maternity hotels for privileged expectant mothers from China. Jiang s wife has hired a nanny for her son and expects to return to Shanghai with the newborn in a month s time, after the US passport paperwork is completed.
China doesn t allow for dual citizenship, so American-born babies will have to procure Chinese residency through sometimes shady means. There are other catches. Eventually, young Americans, even those living abroad, are supposed to file tax returns and possibly pay taxes, something that s not widely known among many Chinese parents. Jia Mei s website, for instance, doesn t mention this potential financial obligation.
Jiang, 31, doesn t expect his son to return to America until he s in junior high school and can profit from the relative freedom of the US education system. But his wife has so enjoyed her time in California that she s considering adjusting their timetable. My wife thinks the air in L.A. is very good, and the food safety is good, he says. The weird thing is that many products are actually cheaper in America than in China. Maybe it makes sense for my son to live there sooner rather than later.
With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing
姜文君正准备赶赴美国。他即将临盆的妻子已经在那里等候他了。和其他准父母一样，这对上海夫妇也在犯愁，如何才能给他们第一个孩子提供最好的降生和成长环境。他们认为，美国国籍是他们能够给予子女的最好的礼物。 美国是世界上最强大的国家， 姜先生说，他到达加州后没几天儿子便出生了， 我想要我的孩子有最好的未来。
所有这些导致了所谓 锚孩子 的数量激增。据一家专门监控评估在美月子中心的网络平台估计，去年一年在美国出生的中国婴儿达到一万名，这些月子中心专为中国孕妇在美产子开设，自然而然，这一服务于能拿到美国护照的小婴儿的生意不断壮大。加美生子咨询服务中心就是这样一家机构，其分支遍布中国各地，服务费高达3-4万美金。这一费用包括一张机票，在洛杉矶或是芝加哥的两或三居的住所，以及所有用于新生儿落户的文件。孕妇可从临盆前两个月住到产后一个月。该机构承诺，三个孕妇可共用保姆，司机以及厨师，而且有说中文的医生随时等待接诊。
姜先生和她妻子并不是通过机构去的美国。他妻子是一名销售经理，会说英语，她仅拿了商务签证去的美国 她曾经这样做过 并在加州的罗兰岗安营扎寨。洛杉矶县社区是出了名的能为中国待产孕妇提供 月子宾馆 的地方。姜为妻子雇了个保姆，并期待一个月内在婴儿所有美国护照手续完成后就带着新生儿回上海。
姜今年31岁，他希望等到儿子上初中时再回美国，到时候享受美国相对自由的教育。然而他妻子非常喜欢加州的生活，并考虑更改此前的计划。 我妻子认为洛杉矶的空气质量非常好，食品安全也让人满意， 他说， 而且非常奇怪，许多商品都比国内便宜。也许应该让我儿子尽早在美国定居。