I just learned about the idea of birth tourism, thanks to another question on this site. In almost all of North and South America one can gain citizenship through being born in the country. It is also possible in some other countries around the world.

On the other hand, in most of Europe and Asia, you inherit your citizenship from your parents, so birth tourism is not possible.

As far as I'm aware, most governments in the Americas have substantial bureaucratic obstacles for adults who want to gain citizenship, so why do they make it so easy for children?

  • 8
    There’s a lot of personal opinion in this question which may make some people think your purpose it to push your opinion, rather than get an answer. If you are interested in an answer, your question would be improved by removing the commentary
    – divibisan
    Jul 19 '19 at 16:04
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    Citizenship also has obligations in addition to benefits, especially in the US where nonresident citizens are liable to report their worldwide income to the IRS. Furthermore, the idea that citizenship should be predicated on contributions to the economy is dangerous. Does it mean that the child of a destitute mother should be stateless? Finally, the parents will have contributed to the economy when they brought in their foreign money and spent it in the US during the child's birth.
    – phoog
    Jul 19 '19 at 16:24
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    After giving it some thought, I decided to vote to leave open. This question borders on being opinion based, but I still can see where it would be a legitimate question, especially given @phoog's comment which shows it might be answerable.
    – RWW
    Jul 19 '19 at 16:29
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    The short answer is unhcr.org/uk/un-conventions-on-statelessness.html - it is not automatic that a child born outside the country of their parents has the same nationality as their parents, so without the citizenship of their birthplace they may not have one at all. It is also extremely bad to create situations in which a child and parents are separated by deportation, deporting newborn babies unaccompanied, etc
    – pjc50
    Jul 19 '19 at 20:41
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    Birth tourism is not naturalization. I could answer this question for why the US allows it. But I'm not willing to reopen unless the question is made more neutral. If you would like help making it more neutral, I'm game to make an edit. But I don't want to do that unless it's what you want me to do.
    – Brythan
    Jul 23 '19 at 3:46

Birth tourism is a consequence of jus soli, also called birthright citizenship. Historically there were two opposite conceptions of "nation", leading to two opposite ideas of citizenship:

  • Jus sanguinis ("right by blood"): the nation is made of an ethnically homogeneous group of people who inherit citizenship from their ancestors. This conception assumes some form of "natural right" of the people who were there in the first place.
  • Jus soli ("right by place"): the nation is made of the people who live in the country for a sufficiently long time. This conception relates to the idea that nationality is a more cultural concept, people can discover and adhere to the values of the nation independently from their origins.

I would assume that the South and North America countries adopted jus soli because in principle the only people who could claim the land from their ancestors are Native Americans, so that would exclude the vast majority of the current population.


in most of Europe and Asia, you inherit your citizenship from your parents

This is a bit misleading because the three biggest countries in Europe (Germany, France and UK) also apply jus soli. However:

In an effort to discourage birth tourism, Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom have modified their citizenship laws at different times, mostly by granting citizenship by birth only if at least one parent is a citizen of the country or a legal permanent resident who has lived in the country for several years.

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