Film triggers discussion on giving birth abroad

Updated: 2013-04-11 18:56


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SHANGHAI- "Finding Mr. Right," a Chinese film that details a mother's journey to the United States to give birth in order to ensure US citizenship for her child, has not only scored big at the box office, but also exposed a growing trend among Chinese mothers-to-be.

"It is the first time for the phenomenon to be represented in film, indicating that the number of such mothers has grown so large that they can no longer be ignored," said Anna Wu, a consultant who helps expectant mothers travel to the US to give birth.

"Giving birth abroad is no longer a privilege reserved for the wealthy," Wu said, adding that an increasing number of middle-class women are considering giving birth outside of China in order to earn their children citizenship in the country of their choice.

A woman surnamed Liu said the film reminded her of her own experience giving birth abroad.

Liu said she was initially concerned about being unable to communicate with her caretakers in the US, but found upon arriving in California that there were multiple facilities designed to take care of pregnant Chinese women.

Liu said she went to the US to give birth in order to give her future second child the choice to be a US citizen.

The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution states that anyone born in the US is a US citizen and can obtain access to public education and vote, among other rights. After the child reaches the age of 21, his or her parents are permitted to apply for green cards and emigrate.

Xie Li recently returned from the US with his wife, who gave birth to their second child in the US

Xie cited China's restrictive urban household registration and family planning policies, as well as its poor air and water quality, as reasons to give his child the option of becoming a US citizen.

"Having a child in the US will give him an extra choice in life," said Xie, who added that having a child in the US is much easier than immigrating.

Going to the US to give birth, as well as returning to China with the child, usually proves to be relatively easy.

Xie estimated that the total cost for his child will be around $50,000, including airfare, medical costs and accommodation fees. He said he believes the costs are affordable.

However, a Shanghai resident surnamed Wu who gave birth to her own child in the US has encountered problems following her son's birth.

Because her 15-month-old son has a US passport, the law does not allow him to be registered in his mother's area of residence, which means he will not be automatically admitted to Chinese public schools in the area. Wu will have to register him as a foreigner and pay an extra fee accordingly.

His access to public health care will also be problematic, as China's public health care system is tied to urban household registration. Wu's son is not allowed to register as a Shanghai resident, which will make it more difficult for him to obtain local education and health care.

The family must return to the US regularly - once every two years - until the child is 18 in order to maintain his US nationality. Dual nationality is prohibited under Chinese law.

The US Embassy in China said that if a child obtains urban household registration in China, he or she will be considered to have given up their US nationality.

Zhang Youde, dean of the social science department at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said the phenomenon could lead to the loss of China's "elite."

"US citizenship has attracted some Chinese parents due to advantages related to education and welfare, similar to Chinese who made great efforts to obtain urban residence in times past," Zhang said.

Others have chosen to give birth abroad in order to sidestep China's one-child policy, exposing a loophole that allows the wealthy to ignore the law while still impacting society, Zhang said.

However, Wang Daben, an associate professor at the population research institute of East China Normal University, said the choice should be left up to the individual.

"There is no need for China's government to interfere. It is up to the US government to decide whether to control the phenomenon or not," Wang said, adding that there have been some calls in the US to make changes to the country's immigration policies.

"Human nature shows that people are most likely to choose the option that maximizes self-interest," Zhang said, adding that efforts must be made to change China's social environment in order to reduce the number of Chinese births that occur overseas.

Children born in the US to parents of a differing nationality are given until the age of 18 to choose their nationality.