If you’re having (or discussing having) a baby with your Chinese partner – your child’s citizenship is an important issue to broach as early as possible. If your child is born in China and you’re planning on living in China for some time, you’ll need to make some important decisions fairly early on.
The Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China states:
* [Article 3] “The People’s Republic of China does not recognize dual nationality for any Chinese national.”
* [Article 4] “Any person born in China whose parents are both Chinese nationals or one of whose parents is a Chinese national shall have Chinese nationality.”
* [Article 5] “Any person born abroad … one of whose parents is a Chinese national shall have Chinese nationality. But a person … one of whose parents is a Chinese national and has settled abroad, and who has acquired foreign nationality at birth shall not have Chinese nationality.
As mentioned above, China does not recognise dual citizenship, so as much as you’ve heard of people getting their kid a Chinese and foreign passport – it’s not a legal thing to do and could lead to legal and travel problems in the future. However, pursuing foreign citizenship and accepting Chinese citizenship by default, i.e. applying for a foreign passport, but not registering the child on the hukou (Chinese household registration booklet) or applying for a Chinese passport, is accepted in China until the child turns 18.
If you want to choose Chinese citizenship:
- put your child’s name in Chinese on the birth certificate (if in China) – it will be simpler to add them to the hukou with a Chinese name
- register your child on the Chinese parent’s or grandparents’ hukou
- your child will need to apply for and travel on a Chinese passport (they’ll need to apply for a visa in their Chinese passport to enter the foreign parent’s country. Some countries may not allow someone who is eligible for citizenship to apply for a visa, so check with your embassy.)
- your child can attend a public school in their hukou area in China (in a non-hukou area you’ll have to see if your child is eligible to apply to a public school), or any private/international schools which accept Chinese citizens in China
- your child will be eligible to get a shenfenzheng (Chinese ID card)
- your child is eligible to sit the gaokao (Chinese university entrance exam)
If you want to choose foreign citizenship: (even though your child will be considered Chinese at birth due to having one Chinese parent and being born in China, or being born abroad to a Chinese parent without permanent residence in that country)
- put your child’s name in the language of citizenship you will choose (I believe only letters from the 26-letter ISO basic Latin alphabet or Chinese characters can be selected) – many, but not all countries, will require you to use the name on the birth certificate for all official documents (US is one known exception to this)
- if your child is born in China, you’ll need to apply for citizenship from your embassy or consulate in China
- apply for foreign passport
- your child should not be added to the hukou
- your child won’t be eligible to get a shenfenzheng (Chinese ID card)
- your child is most likely not eligible to sit the gaokao
Choosing Foreign Citizenship
You then have 2 different options:
- allow your child to stay in a legal grey area where they are considered Chinese in China, and non-Chinese as soon as they leave Mainland China – this is legally ok until the age of 18 (Option 1 below).
- renounce Chinese citizenship on behalf of your child.
Here’s the breakdown of what these 2 options entail:
Option 1: Foreign Child in Legal Grey Area – Chinese in China, non-Chinese everywhere else:
- Chinese visa – your child will not be able to apply for a Chinese visa if they are considered Chinese (according to the laws above).
- if in China – you’ll need to apply for an Entry-Exit document (出入境通行证). This allows your child one exit out of China and one entry within 3 months of the date of issue. Since it takes 7 days to apply for and lasts for only one trip, it’s worth applying for a travel document (below) once you are outside of Mainland China. When booking a plane ticket, you use the foreign passport details, then just show the entry-exit book at customs when leaving/re-entering China.
- in Shenzhen – you may be able to apply for a multiple-entry year-long entry-exit document for your child
- outside Mainland China – you can apply for a travel document (旅行证) to allow your child to travel in and out of China. The document is valid for 2 years and unlimited entries/exits. When booking a plane ticket, you use the foreign passport details, then just show the travel document at customs when leaving/re-entering China.
- schooling – you’ll have to ask the Education Bureau in your province for advice on which public school your child can attend. International schools often require a particular type of Chinese visa in the child’s foreign passport to allow them to attend the school, so schooling choices in Mainland China may be limited, it’s possible they may only be able to enrol at a migrant school. You’ll need to check with the Education Bureau in your province about which schools your child may apply to since it differs widely from one province to another
- by age 18 the child needs to choose which citizenship to keep.
Option 2: 100% Foreigner 🙂
- In order to be considered a “foreigner” in China when your child has acquired Chinese citizenship at birth (according to the Nationality Laws quoted above) – you will need to renounce Chinese citizenship on behalf of your child
- One of the main benefits of doing this is potentially easier travel since the child will not need to apply for an entry-exit document or travel document, they will simply travel in and out of China on their foreign passport (very handy if you suddenly need to travel out of China with your child)
- The child will need to apply for a Chinese visa – there are various types available, but a good one while they are younger is the Q visa which is usually valid for a number of years.
- You will still need to check with any schools if they require a certain type of visa for enrolment – some schools can only accept students on a certain type of visa.
I’ll go into detail about the steps involved in renouncing Chinese citizenship in a future post.
For many Chinese partners, asking them to allow your child to renounce Chinese citizenship can be quite a big deal for patriotic, emotional, financial and other reasons. So it’s a good idea to talk about these issues early on with a full understanding of the consequences.
Do you have any feedback/corrections or personal experiences? Please share in the comments below and I’ll update this post as needed.