The U.S. 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 U.S. passports for their babies. Although the foreign couple can’t acquire U.S. nationality themselves, once their American-born offspring turn 21 they can theoretically sponsor their parents for future U.S. citizenship. Another perk: these American-born kids can take advantage of the U.S. education system, even paying lower in-state fees for public universities, depending on where they were delivered. (California is a popular birth-tourism destination because of its well-known university system.)
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.