More than 10,000 Russian women have traveled to Argentina to give birth since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, according to the Argentian migration minister.
Children born in Argentina automatically gain citizenship, while their parents become eligible to apply for citizenship.
On Friday Argentina’s Migration Minister Florencia Carignano said that more than 5,000 Russian women — most of them in the last trimester of their pregnancy — arrived in Argentina to give birth in the last three months alone.
“We’re delighted that they come and build their lives in Argentina,” Carignano said, “but the problem is they arrive, have their children, register them as Argentinian, and then leave to never come back.”
Russians tourists can travel to Argentina without a visa and are allowed to stay in the country for up to 90 days.
Some Russians are reported to be paying alleged Argentinian criminal organizations anything from $20,000 to $35,000 for a travel package that includes flights, short-term stay, medical procedures, and access to a translator.
The deals also include streamlined residency and citizenship applications, Argentinian outlet Clarín reported.
Argentina has responded to this recent wave of Russian travel by heightening checks at airports. On Friday six pregnant Russian women were temporarily detained over irregularities with their paperwork. One of those detained said they were being held in “inhuman” conditions.
Argentinian prosecutors have also started cracking down on local crime syndicates profiting from what appears to be an organized travel-for-citizenship program. Last week, several members of a group that allegedly sold packages were arrested in Buenos Aires.
According to the Henley Passport Index, Argentina offers the world’s 20th most powerful passport, giving its holders visa-free entry to 171 countries, including the European Union. Russia’s passport grants holders entry to less than half that number, according to El País.
Last September, the EU rescinded a 2007 travel deal that eased tourist visas for Russians.
The View From Uruguay
Argentina isn’t the only Latin American country embroiled in controversy over facilitating second nationalities to Russians. Last year, Uruguay’s attorney general opened an investigation into close aides of President Luis Lacalle Pou after it was revealed that his bodyguard was involved in a scheme to sell dozens of fake passports to Russians seeking to skirt sanctions.
The View From Cyprus
Moneyed Russians have also exploited so-called “golden passport” schemes, where an individual can buy a passport in exchange for a large investment in the issuing country, in other regions.
Earlier this year, a 60 Minutes investigation revealed that Russian tycoons were avoiding sanctions by investing more than 2 million euros on Cypriot real estate. Nearly half of the “golden passports” sold by Cyprus — an EU member — have been bought by Russians.