Each year, thousands of Russian women fly to the US to give birth for citizenship reasons. Russian agencies have made a lucrative business out of this. But for how much longer? Juri Rescheto reports from Moscow.
For years, Russian agencies have been wooing wealthy mothers-to-be from Russia to give birth in Florida. Not so much for the gorgeous weather, beautiful beaches and palm trees, but because any person born on American soil automatically gets US citizenship – an appealing prospect for prospective Russian parents.
Russian birth tourism has been thriving for years. Promotional videos circulating on the internet claim that each day, up to eight pregnant Russians board US-bound planes to give birth abroad. There are more than 10 such birth agencies on the market today. Anton Yatchmenev works for one of them. The company, aptly named Miami Care, has 10 employees: a lawyer, a doctor, interpreters and a range of Miami-based consultants. Yatchmenev is located in Moscow, counseling married couples who want to use the agency's special services. Sometimes, he jokingly told DW, he also deals with the women's secret lovers when their husbands need to be kept in the dark.
A lucrative business
"We offer a whole host of services; everything is specifically tailored to our customers' desires and their financial means," Yatchmenev explains. He refers to his line of work as a form of "global tourism" that is also a highly lucrative business – especially since 2016, when Russia overcame its financial crisis and an increasing number of consumers had the means to buy such services.
Miami Care sends up to 200 Russian mothers-to-be to Florida each year. Customers can expect an elaborate package deal that leaves nothing to be desired: all logistical matters are taken care of, accommodation is provided, and medical and legal counseling as well as Russian-language assistance is ensured. A one-stop shop to attain US citizenship for your offspring, so to speak. Yatchmenev admits his company's services don't come cheap. "I mean, how many Russians can afford to spend 30,000 US dollars (€26,500) in three months," he says. Adding that of those who can, more than half hail from Moscow, while the others mainly come from northern Russia, where much money is made in the oil business.
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Miami's 'Little Russia'
Most mothers-to-be fly to Miami, which boasts reasonable costs of living and a sizable Russian expat community. "Every second mother pushing a pram through Miami is Russian," says Yatchmenev. Many Russian pop stars, and their American-born offspring, call Miami their home as well. "All these are good arguments to trust our agency," he says.
No official figures exist as to how many children are actually born in the US to Russian mothers. The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) estimates that each year, 36,000 foreign mothers give birth to children on US soil. It is likely that the numbers are rising given the ongoing baby boom, as Yatchmenev highlights.
Is he worried his agency could go out of business now that US President Donald Trump has suggested ending birthright citizenship? "Not at all," he confidently asserts. "On the contrary, we have been flooded with calls from prospective clients in the past 48 hours." He says Trump's plan is great for business because now anyone who had remotely considered using his agency will be hell bent on giving birth in Miami. "Trump's plans are actually great advertising for our services," he concludes.