Effective January 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of State has issued a rule, and amended existing Regulations, regarding issuance of visitor visas to women who are pregnant. The rule amends the current Regulations regarding the issuance of visitor visas as they apply to women who are pregnant, or the consular officer believes to be pregnant, at the time they apply for visitor visas.

The rule mandates that U.S. consular officers presume that a woman applying for a visitor visa, who the consular officer has reason to believe will give birth during her stay in the United States, is traveling here for the primary purpose of obtaining U.S. citizenship for the child. It requires that consular officers deny visitor visas to this category of women.

Thus, if a pregnant woman, or a woman who a consular officer believes to be pregnant, applies for a visitor visa to come to the United States, this rule requires that the consular officer presume that the primary purpose of her travel to the United States is to obtain U.S. citizenship for her child, and requires the officer deny the visa on this sole basis unless the woman can prove otherwise.

This new rule also adds a provision to the existing Regulations regarding persons seeking medical treatment in the United States and orders that consular officers deny visitor visas to such persons unless they are able to establish, among other things, that the U.S. medical practitioner or facility has agreed to provide the treatment. This could mean that a person who is seeking medical consultations in the U.S. for a disease that cannot be treated in his or her home country may be denied a visa if the doctors with whom consultations are scheduled do not provide documentation stating that they have agreed to provide treatment. If a person is seeking an initial consultation with a medical professional here, this may not be possible, as the doctor presumably cannot state that he or she has agreed to provide treatment if the doctor has never met the potential patient.

This new rule was published without permitting notice or comment from the public prior to its becoming effective, and is effective immediately. While the presumptions of ineligibility are rebuttable, the new rule requires consular officers to assume this impermissible intent unless the person can disprove the officer's assumptions. The rule will undoubtedly detrimentally affect persons coming to the United States to seek medical treatment and women who are pregnant and wish to vacation in the United States.

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