Raising a Child In Chengdu: Nationality

This is the most recent in a series about having children in China. For a complete list of all of the articles in this series and others, please go here.

There was never a question that my son (I call him Little Man) would have American citizenship. Sure, the good ole’ USA is taking its knocks around the world, but that’s nothing new. An American passport still allows you access to pretty much any country in the world and the American government has a good track record of taking care of its own. Seeing as my wife is Chinese, Little Man also has the option to become a Chinese citizen. We never really considered this as the option, but only within the context of possible dual citizenship, even though it’s illegal for a Chinese citizen to hold another passport.

Illegal, but like most things Chinese, not impossible.

For Americans born abroad, the process is simple: go to your nearest Consulate and fill out an Application for a Passport and show them your baby’s birth certificate. The Consulate will give you a Birth Abroad certificate and within a few days, hand out a spanking new US Passport, good for five years. After that, there are a few technicalities, but your passport is perfectly legal and the Americans will completely forget about you until you come to renew a passport or get tossed in jail in Kunming.

Exit Visa and Chinese Visa

Such an exit visa is required. Click for larger

Because your baby is born abroad, he must receive an exit visa from the Chinese PSB and then travel anywhere and return on a regular Chinese visa. Only passports issued inside the US can be empty upon arrival in another country. The exit visa is a very simple document, obtained with a birth certificate, the parents identification and 20 yuan (pictured at right). The main difference I noticed between the Chinese exit visa process and the American passport process is amount of paperwork involved. Both sides are pretty efficient, but the Chinese require a bit more. Lets take a look:

American Passport

  1. Application Form
  2. Birth Certificate/Report of Birth Abroad
  3. Photos
  4. $250

Chinese Exit Visa

  1. My passport
  2. Wife’s ID card
  3. Wife’s hukou book
  4. Birth certificate
  5. My permit to live in China
  6. Photos
  7. 20 yuan
  8. Application form
  9. Baby’s Passport

We went to Hong Kong and got Little Man a six-month visa in 48 hours. No problems.

Is Dual-Citizenship plausible?

the Household Register "Hukou" book

To become a Chinese citizen, you must register a new hukou. This, again, requires a lot of paperwork and perhaps a few run-arounds, but in the end is not really a difficult thing to do. The paperwork needed includes: Baby’s Birth Certificate, Permission to Give Birth Certificate, Hukou Registration Book (this is obtained at the same office where you get the Permission to Give Birth Certificate), and both parents IDs. Take them to your local police office — not the yokel hut, but the closest real deal cop HQ — and wait a week or two for your brand new hukou book to show up.

Now, if the Chinese find out that you have an American passport, they will strip you of your Chinese hukou and possibly fine you. I personally know two Chinese born in Australia, with Australian passports, who have registered a hukou in their hometowns. Their parents are rich, gramps was in the government at some point, so it was no problem to get the hukou taken care of. We all know the name of the game: duplicity.

All I have to do is take the documents to the relevant authorities and omit the fact that he is already an American citizen. Now, the Chinese might be able to check against travel records and documents to make sure I am not up to any funny business, but 1) I don’t think the local hukou office will go that far and 2) my son has a Chinese name with which we would (if we decide to) register a hukou and an English name for his American passport, so, they couldn’t find him anyway. (Note: English names are to long for the entry software hospitals use here for birth certificates. Also, when you go to get your American passport, they are aware of this issue and allow you to write your baby’s name in the application form, so in effect, there are two different people, according to the paperwork.)

Unfortunately, I have friends in low places and my pockets got holes, so I have to consider the benefits and risks before I go and register the hukou. The benefits, basically, involve a bit of government insurance cash and a hedge bet that China will become a superpower with living standards on par with San Francisco and my descendants will want to take advantage of that dusty Chinese passport sneaky ole grampa got for them way back in 2010.

As for the benefits, the insurance is paltry by international standards, but helps here in China: The infant insurance costs 40 yuan per year and it covers hospital visits and most medical costs until the baby is 16 years old. Once in the system, there are several other government subsidized insurance policies that cost anywhere from 60 yuan to 120 yuan and cover anywhere from 15,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan in medical costs.

The risks are actually unclear, given China’s renowned bureaucratic flexibility, but they are sure to include a fine and most likely deportation for both me and my son. I might be able to cry my way out of it, but do you really stake the future of your family on a risk-benefit analysis that includes a few thousand yuan insurance and a shaky bet against a hefty fine and deportation? I think not.

Remains highly coveted

I don’t really think a Chinese passport will be more desirable than a US passport anytime soon, no matter what happens. But I have to admit, what matters to me most are not the risks or benefits, but the fact that my son has the right to Chinese citizenship. Just because the government refuses to recognize a globalized world and a globalizing China, my son has to choose between two parts that make up his whole? I think not.

What do you think? Should I get dual citizenship? Is it worth it? Is there a risk I am not aware of?

85 thoughts on “Raising a Child In Chengdu: Nationality”

  1. One other line of possible benefits for Chinese citizenship that I did not go into: as a Chinese citizen, buying property and doing business here is easier.

  2. The bottom line is: It is ILLEGAL and one WILL get into serious trouble once it is discovered. And sooner or later it will be.

    What then? And: do we really want that for our childs born here? Do you know what that could mean? It is not all about enjoying the nice fruits in China but duties and obligations comes with it. We all know what that means: Marching and Hail the party in primary schools and much more…

    As long as there are no favorable laws concerning dual-citizenship in China (Do not expect that to happen in the forseeable future…), the whole discussion about pro’s and con’s, advantages, and this and that and those “what if”-scenarios and so on and so far is simply fruitless and a waste of time.

    • Do you have any evidence to support your argument that it will be discovered and that there are serious consequences? From my experience of people/children with dual citizenship it’s just ignored by the government. One of those things that’s illegal but unless it’s blatant is just forgotten about.

      Children face risks and brainwashing everywhere. If they aren’t hailing the party in China, then they will be pledging allegiance to the flag every day in America. It’s how YOU raise your child that matters.

  3. As far as I remember, the U.S. does not allow duel citizenship. Am I wrong? Either way, I would personally take the risk. Its simply too great of an advantage for the child, but if I felt I had to choose it would be the American citizenship over the Chinese. I’m not sure my girlfriend would agree though.

    • not true. official US policy is that the state dept recognizes dual citizenship exists, but does not encourage it. a foreign national gaining US citizenship swears an oath renouncing all other citizenships, but there is no actual requirement to give them up. US-born citizens can apply for any citizenship they please without penalty.

  4. I think the answer to your question lies in where you plan to raise your child. It’s not practical to raise a baby in China as a foreign national. What about schools? Hospital bills? Visas? You can’t keep going to HK, and I have heard some very troubling things about babies from mixed marriages being denied visas after a year or two. What about security for the mother and family? Is your wife happy that her baby has to rely on China issuing a visa every few months/years?

    Does you know of someone who has had dual citizenship and been discovered? I know both parents who have got dual citizenship for their child, and adults who have dual citizenship who are living happily in China. When leaving China they do so on their Chinese passport. They then have the option of travelling on from their destination on the foreign passport.

    • actually the HK visa run is not for a re-curring visa, but for the Exit Visa which validates a US Passport issued abroad. His visa is a dependent visa, which does not require us to leave the country, is multiple-entry and can be extended indefinitely. Obviously, things can change here, but as of now that is the status quo.

      Hospital bills are paid for by our insurance+us and there are some very good hospitals here as well as very cheap ones depending on what we need.

      I only know of people who have the dual and have not been discovered 😉

  5. nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing Chengdu Living posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed!

  6. I think this issue is really interesting, thanks for sharing this topic. I will take a few minutes here to throw in my two cents.
    I have to agree with John in the end. Where do you plan to raise your child long term? I am Canadian and so is my husband. We had a baby 6 months ago whole living in Vietnam. The process to get him a birth certificate and then a Canadian passport was very painful and long. Might I add we have to wait 15 months to get his Canadian Citizenship Card. We have now just moved to China. You can imagine the nightmare of obtaining a Vietnam exit visa and then trying to get visa’s to China. Like John mentioned, I do not want to spend the rest of my life running around renewing visa’s, filling paper work, etc, etc…
    As a family we will try to enjoy our time in China for the next two years, however our long term plan is to raise our son in Canada.
    I do agree though with you that your son should be legally entitled to dual citizenship. But I do not think it is worth the risk of trying to obtain this now. Maybe later in a few years your son will be able to apply for his Chinese citizenship. Just make sure to keep very good and organized original and copies of his paperwork. As I am sure you are already aware.
    Good luck!

    • wow, that is amazing that the Canadian govt made you go through that. I didn’t expect to hear that about our friendly neighbor. The US Passport abroad process was very very quick, very efficient and I think i spent all of 1 week from start to finish.

      We are basically keeping our paperwork together and seeing what else we can learn before we do anything. he has the US passport, so all is good no matter what as far as we are concerned.

  7. A baby born in China, to a Chinese parent, is Chinese. Good luck getting the authorities to accept the US passport when trouble happens.

    I know a British man who did the same thing, registered a passport, etc. When push came to shove, the authorities pointed out that the child was born in China, had lived in China his whole life, and had a Chinese parent. The British passport was tossed out the window and the matter was dealt with as if the child were Chinese (which he is).

    He ended up kidnapping his own child off the street and taking the train to Beijing to appeal for help from a personage no less than the British Foreign Secretary herself, who happened to be in town. He got a journalist to take up his case. The British embassy denied him entrance. When questioned by the journalist, the Foreign Secretary washed her hands of the whole affair. She said “In this case, both parents and the child all live in China. The child was born here, and has always lived here. And that is not therefore an issue in which the British Government has any particular standing.” So good luck with the “my kid is an American” gambit, because it’s not going to work.

    As for raising your child in China, that is really not recommended. As soon as he gets to school age you’re going to want him home, for obvious reasons.

    • Sadly returning home for many foreigners married to Chinese women having babies is not an option. For others it will cause more grief to the child than being raised in China. Obtaining visas for the mother, ripping the child away from his friends and Chinese family, finding new jobs, selling property and belongings. The financial drain of such a move would be huge. Is the child really better off being raised in the poorer areas of Manchester England or American deep south over here in Chengdu. There are a huge amount of factors that contribute to the decision. It’s simply not as easy as the child will be better of abroad.

      • Who’s talking about Manchester? And if that’s the best comparison you can make…yeesh. And the comparison to the poorer areas of the Deep South sounds pretty iffy to me – do you have some sort of problem with places where the majority of the population is African-American?

        I’m talking about the education system. It’s nothing less than horrific how they treat children.

        • I was simply giving examples of areas with poor education where parents might feel it’s preferable to send their child to a good school in Chengdu.

          I find your African-American comment offensive, as you are basically without reason calling me a racist.

          Not all schools and teachers here are horrific. There are many good teachers, and some good schools.

    • again, this seems like a very extreme case. The PSB in Chengdu was totally cool with my son, played with him and gave me advice on a few things before they handed over the Exit Visa that I needed to validate his US Passport. And for the British to step away because the kid was born in China to a Chinese mother and a British father sounds cruel.

      Not all the details of that case are clear. How long were they here before they decided to become British? Where in China were they living (makes a huge difference)? Was the mother for/against British citizenship?

      • Cruel? This is reality. I repeat: if the child is born in China to a Chinese parent and lives his entire life in China, then he is Chinese, period. His father’s attempt at paperwork is irrelevant. Ignore these words of wisdom at your peril.

        The days of the USA sending in gunboats to rescue American citizens in peril went out with the sock hop. The job of the consulate in Chengdu is government-to-government relations. Citizen services are an unwanted chore – ask any State Department employee worldwide. I am *not* making this up.

        • My child was born in China, to a Chinese mama and so far has lived all of his life in China (4 months). He has a US Passport.

          What does “his entire life in China” mean? Did the child live here until he was 20-something and the father never thought to take care of the paperwork? Was the father absent for most of his life? Are both parents Chinese and the father just has a British passport he got through immigration?

          Did the journalist you mention ever write a story, can we read it? Why did the Foreign Secretary intervene in the first place, why did she back off and where did you get her quote from?

          I don’t think you are making this up, but only when you can answer most of these questions and present a clear version of why he had to allegedly kidnap his kid, does it become reality. Otherwise its just rumor.

          • I can appreciate that you are disturbed by these revelations and are responding with denial. Better to find out now with a cold splash of water to the face, than later when it will really hurt.

            Try this link and read the comments, some good firsthand info there.

            Some good quotes:
            “Even if you give up her Chinese citizenship, the US passport will always state the country of birth, which China can use to detain her.”
            “Yep – I’ll say that again REFUSED TO RECOGNIZE THE PASSPORT!!!”
            “it could easily happen to any one of us with a Chinese wife and (plans for) kids. Scary.”

            Poster Vern has some good links as well.

            That’s why I will have my babies in the States, then there will be absolutely no question as to baby’s nationality. Anyone born in America is an American citizen, period. Bonus of competent medical care, as well.

          • yeah i read that post and the comments.

            Harland, you are scaremongering.

            If you take care of business in the beginning, then you will not have issues like kidnapping or people running off with your kid. I’ll let the world know now, anyone try and run off with my kid is getting stabbed.

          • Violence is not the answer. Violence is never the answer.

            Anyway, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. It seemed there were a lot of misconceptions here and I’ve done my best to clear them up. Given the high failure rate of foreign-Chinese marriages it’s best to be forewarned about these sorts of things. That US passport won’t mean a thing, because it doesn’t have that swing. This has become a reality.

          • there are no misconceptions here:

            if you have an american passport and get an exit visa from the local PSB and leave china, then come back, you are an american citizen going through the same visa process as any other foreigner.

            If you do not do this and then have major major issues with your wife, then you might face the types of problems you mention.

            Abducting your child has much more to do with your own personal relationship then the governments of China or any other nation.

            If you fear that your wife might do this someday, then get the exit visa, go to HK and come back. Then he is a US citizen.

          • having said that, Harland, thanks. I know i said “scaremongering” up there and I apologize. anything can happen and all Harland wanted to do was forewarn all of us of possible issues in the future.

          • hi sascha,

            from your post your child is technically a chinese citizen correct?! so what are the steps you do or going to do incase you want to bring your baby back to US? we all know that china doesn’t accept dual citizenship? so how are you gonna exit china and fly back to US.

        • Hi Harland, you are actually talking about choosing a wife.
          Either side of the divorced parents will give all their efforts to keep the child, that’s not about goverment or law.
          Also you can always find some your own way to explain the law, sometimes the law can be used to protect assholes.
          It’s better choose a right wife and treat her right than assume she’s gonna steal your( also her) baby. Then the problems you mentioned will be no problem.

    • Christ, reading this guy’s comments has got me seriously riled up. Let me point out a few things.
      1. If you have a British parent you have the right to claim British citizenship, end of story. If there is a problem it would be with the parents not agreeing on the issue – in which case the child could claim British citizenship on his/her 18th birthday. These are absolutely the facts in this matter.
      2. Your insistence that “…is Chinese” displays a backwards, xenophobic attitude towards nationality which doesn’t belong in the 21st century.
      3. You’ve just about managed to hit that THE MOTHER OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T WANT THE KID TO LEAVE CHINA. That’s the one vital point in your entire story, and that’s why it has no relevance to what other people are discussing here.

  8. There are some pretty nasty teachers out there that I’ve had experience with, this is about the only thing that worries me. I think the international schools descent enough, you child will still be learning like a Chinese though.

    • 3 of the 4 international schools I am aware of in Chengdu are staffed with American or British teachers with teaching diplomas. The pupils there are taught using western teaching methods. It’s a very expensive option though compared with the Chinese alternative.

  9. Thanks for all the comments ladies and gentleman. I’ll try and address them all.

    First off, The USA does not have an issue with dual citizenship. If you however, give up your American citizenship for another passport (ie have a Chinese hukou, which requires you by Chinese law to be single-citizenship) then you might have issues if the US authorities figure it out. Both my brother, sister and my friend Charlie have dual German American citizenship.

    It is def. possible in China to obtain dual citizenship. And for those of you who have lived here for a while, not only is it possible, it is possible to do so with the knowledge of the PSB, depending on your relationship with the PSB.

    How will you get caught? If you for example, leave China on an American passport and return on an American passport and then turn up a month later with a Chinese hukou *same name) then the liklehood of getting caught is very high. But if the names are not the same on the passport/hukou, then how will you be caught? By whom? Only if you happen to drop your US passport while using your hukou at the PSB …

    Living in China is not as horrible as it may sound from a few peoples’ points of view, but I agree that the education system here is very poor. My child will not be going to a Chinese state run school. Having said that, it is entirely possible that he goes to a school in China or is schooled in China.

    returning home with my wife and son is not going to be sad, torturous or damaging. I have family in both countries and they love us. I have friends in both countries and they love us too. Global living for the global family 😉

    • Thanks for the original post and replies Sascha. As usual they are polite and very informative, a pleasure to read 🙂

  10. One advantage – or disadvantage – is that only a Chinese citizen kid will be able to go to a Chinese state school (without having to jump through some hoops and pay even more than already).
    International schools are expensive, China’s education has its troubling sides for sure, but still, it seems a point to consider. Like with so much of China, who knows how education will develop. I’d certainly want a child to be strongly rooted in the Chinese heritage and language and think that I can take care of further interests and critical thinking.
    Western education has its downsides, too…

    I’ve been following a discussion of German mixed couples, and there the problem seems to be that you will not get a German visa into your Chinese passport since you have a German passport, but you can’t easily switch passports in the middle of the border control: border control should not let you through if you don’t have a valid visa for you destination country, and you can’t show them your foreign passport or there is the issue of not having a China visa in there. That seems to be how most troubles are now arising. It truly is a joke that dual citizenship is often not recognized, though…

    • While renewing my US passport once, the clerk (who was about 19 years old) reponded with total confusion and non compliance when I answered yes, I hold another passport. You’d think that someone who works in a US consulate abroad would have figured out that there are hundreds of thousands of US dual citizens.

    • Yes, We got him an American passport and made it legal and binding by leaving China and returning with a visa.

      And this is a Census year in China and in years such as these, many people who have “hidden” their second and third children finally bring them out to the light and get their hukou taken care of, paying whatever fine there is, because in China word is in Census years the gov is a little more lenient with hukous …

  11. Sascha,

    First of all, great articles. As an expectant father living near Chengdu, I enjoy reading your writing and gaining some insight of what I can expect. One question or concern that I have is about the exit visa/hukou registration. I have read from several places on the internet that in order to receive an exit visa you will need to have a small piece of paper that is connected to your child’s birth certificate. When you visit the local PSB they will detach this piece of paper and provide you with the exit visa. But I have also read that in order to register your child on a hukou you will also need this same piece of paper and they also take it before registering your child as a Chinese citizen. Therefore, getting an American passport is no problem, the problem begins when you either A)receive the exit visa first and then try to register your child as a Chinese citizen, or B) (and in my opinion much scarier) register your child as a Chinese citizen and then attempt to secure an exit visa for your child. Have you heard anything about this? and if so, how do you get around this problem?

    • hi collin,

      when we went to get the exit visa, we went to the Exit Entry office in Chengdu (Wen Wu Lu I believe) and gave him our son’s passport, our passports and our marriage certificate as well as his birth certificate. They gave us the exit visa in a matter of minutes and all was taken care of. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal and when we did it it had noting to do with his hukou.

      Now, I undertand your fears, if you have an exit visa that means he is american, how can you get a hukou and vice versa …

      what we experienced was perhaps lucky, perhaps standard. We got the exit visa and thereby got his passport in order (via a trip to HK where he got another visa to enter China)

      then friends of ours went to get a hukou and the hukou was actually a very simple affair as well. Our friends provided the marriage certificate and the birth certificate and the pictures and such and in a few days they had a hukou for their child, who also happens to hold a foreign passport. In fact, on the birth certificate was a foreign name, which the hukou registration office asked our friends to change to a chinese name. that was done by the hospital in a few minutes.

      on our friend’s child’s hukou, there are two boxes for ethnicity. One box has the nationality of the father, the other has Han Chinese. It seemed to our friends to be remarkably simple and devoid of the risks of losing nationality that everyone talks about.

      Again, they might have been lucky, the system might be flawed, or people just don’t care that much about this issue. But as far as our friends can tell, the exit visa and hukou registration (done in completely different offices) have no influence on each other.

      good luck 😉

  12. I’m from a EU-country and my embassy insisted that if there would be both an English and a Chinese name on the medical birth certificate (MBC), that the Pinyin of the Chinese name would be included in his English name in EU documents. I didn’t like the idea of our son having some additional X’s and Y’s as initials, so I let the hospital put only an English name on the MBC.

    Now the problem is, the Chinese police station (PSB) refuses to give him a hukou, ONLY because there is only an English name on the MBC and no Chinese name. We cannot find any written rule against English names. We figure, if he’s born from a Chinese parent, born in China, he’s entitled to Chinese nationality.

    We suspect the hukou database cannot handle the English name, so that’s it’s actually an IT/software issue, which the police officer doesn’t know how to solve other than send us away with this excuse.

    Anyone have any experience or advice?


    • Hey Flip:

      It is an IT issue my man and that’s funny if it weren’t serious. We had the asme experience and the hospital changed the name for us to Chinese and the PSB accepted it and everything was gravy.

      Here is my advice: go back to the hospital where your baby was born and ask them to change the name on his MBC to his Chinese name. They will understand, i’m pretty sure.

      IF they agree to do it, then you should be able to get your hukou.

      Of course, you should make sure that your EU passport etc is all good for your son before you do this. Its a risk, don’t have any illusions about that. If you mess around with the MBC in order to get dual citizenship, you risk having the EU country — at some point in your child’s life — asking about the MBC and maybe causing some problems. I consider it to be a small risk, because I have never ever had to use my birth certificate for anything. I use passport and ID that are based off of the MBC.

      So, think it through, but in my experience, the hospital will change the name to Chinese only if asked to do so. Maybe cajoling will be needed.

      good luck!

  13. Hi Sascha,

    Thanks for you quick response! The police station indeed told us to go back to the hospital, but I thought they were just trying to send me from pillar to post. Since the birth, we moved to the other side of China, so going back to the hospital is not an easy trip for me. I will try calling them first to check what they need. I hope they don’t need to see my wife and kid in person…

    Regarding the registration in the EU, this is mostly finished already. I’m also in the process of registering the birth in my home country, which will then be able to issue birth certificates which have legal status (at least in EU), so I don’t expect to ever need the original MBC again. Anyway, I will try to have the hospital put in both an English and a Chinese name this time, that shouldn’t be a big problem right? They also offered to do that at birth, but I had to refuse that as explained in my previous post.

    Cajoling.. isn’t that necessary for getting anything done in this country anyway 😉


        • Hello Sascha and others,

          I write again to let you know we finally managed to get our son’s hukou, and here is how:
          – He was born in a small hospital in a small town near a big city in China. Because we didn’t live there anymore, we called this hospital by telephone. They said they were not allowed to give out new MBC’s. The only thing she could do was add the Chinese name in handwriting and put a stamp on it. She referred us to a bigger hospital in the same town for getting a new MBC. The big hospital first refused to do it and said there was another field on the hukou for, like, ‘nicknames’ which the police should use. As the police was pretty clear about being unable to register our son, we insisted and then the big hospital said they could do it, but we would have to take the changed MBC to the ministry of public health (wei sheng ju) ourselves to register the change and this would take one or two weeks. This seemed like they were trying to push some of their work to us. Furthermore, they wanted to see a written confirmation by the PSB that they couldn’t use the English name for the hukou. So, we wrote a confirmation and called the big hospital again to check if they agreed with the text of the confirmation letter to be signed/stamped by the police (PSB). This time the woman had changed her mind, because she now said that the letter was ok, but that she wouldn’t give out a new MBC and we had to go to the head nurse of the small hospital (where the baby was born). She said the head nurse could call her in case of questions. So we called the head nurse in the small hospital to confirm, it seemed that she had talked with the woman in the big hospital. So we went to the PSB again (always go to the PSB where the hukou is registerd, in our case a very busy office with waiting time at least 2 hours every single visit). The police officer told us a handwritten addition would be ok, on both the main, green part and the white strip. Both changes had to be stamped with the same hospital stamp as on the bottom right of the MBC. The police stamped the confirmation letter we wrote for the hospital. This letter, that we wrote ourselves, stated that due to IT issues, no English name could be added to the hukou, kindly requesting the hospital to add a Chinese name.

          – The I took the airplane to the small hospital where the baby was born, taking the confirmation letter stamped by the PSB, original and copies of hukou, my wife’s ID card, my passport and MBC. Just copies of the ID and hukou were enough for this nurse, by the way.

          – Because we had already called, the head nurse knew what had to be done. She hand-wrote the Chinese name on the MBC twice (main/green part and white strip) with the same hospital stamp on both. Furthermore, she wrote a confirmation below the police confirmation and had it stamped with the same hospital stamp, as well as with some other important stamp (with a star in the middle) that she had to go get from some big office upstairs. It was done in 20 minutes and I took the airplane back.

          – Ok, then before we could go to the police station, we first had to update the birth permission book. In our case, this was a small green book, which gave my wife permission to give birth. This is all related to the one-child-policy. She had to go to some small community government near her hukou address. There, they asked her for a proof that she had a UID (Intrauterine device, birth control) placed. She said she didn’t want that. Then they asked her to sonography (echoscopy) to confirm that she was not pregnant again. She agreed to this (I was not present). They put a stamp in her green book that she was found not to be pregnant that day and told her she had to come do this check every 3 months (it’s unclear to me what would be the repercussion in case of no-show, but it might be someone knocking our door, seeing the experience of others mentioned here). Then our son’s Chinese name was added to her green book as her first child. She got some stamped form stating that we would use condoms as birth-control. Also, she got another letter confirming our son’s birth stamped by two different offices with the big stamps with a star in the middle. Finally, she was sent home with three packs of free condoms…

          – Then we went to the police station for the fifth time. We took:
          1. Hukou
          2. Medical Birth Certificate with English name and handwritten Chinese name with extra hospital stamps
          3. Handwritten confirmation letter from hospital about the English/Chinese name (I don’t know if this was really necessary, but we gave it anyway because it explained the situation and had some nice stamps on it.)
          4. Confirmation letter from small community government.
          5. Form stating we use condoms for birth-control.
          6. My wife’s ID card
          7. My passport
          8. The birth-permission book
          (see below for 9. and 10.)
          Everything original and copy!

          After another 3(!) hours of waiting, the police officer told us that because the hukou was on my wife’s father’s name, she wanted to see a letter from him, agreeing to this addition to the hukou, as well as original and copy of his ID card. This got me very angry, because they had seen all the stuff for 5 times already and only now mentioned this. But she made the hukou and said we could pick it up the next morning with the requested confirmation without waiting in line.

          So remember, also take (original and copy!):
          9. ID card of the hukou’s ‘leader’ (in our case: my wife’s father)
          10. Confirmation letter from him.

          With all 10 items completed, we finally got the hukou the next day. I was surprised that it mentioned my home country as ‘ancestral ground’, but was told by some people this is not important.

          – Finally we went to request a Chinese passport at the Entry/Exit Administration, with hukou and ID card of my wife. No problem so far, they accepted the application and the passport should arrive in 2 weeks.

          Some general advice:
          – Everywhere you go, take everything you have. (They will ask you to provide exactly the documents you never would have thought they needed).
          – Always carry two copies of everything.
          – Copy all pages, even the empty ones, in one go on the same copy machine on the same paper.

          Hope this helps, good luck everybody!

  14. This is one of the most informative and meaningful blogs that I came across regarding the subject, kudos to you guys and gals!

    I have a question on my own. Does “exit/entry permit” applies if:
    – child is born abroad to EU father / PRC mother?
    – kid has foreign passport in China on work (dad’s obviously) visa: multiple/annual

    All in all: what is the trigger event for requiring exit/entry permit? Baby born in China? Or one of parents being China national? Child being in China without visa? (I can only imagine this can legally happen if he/she was either born in China or being China national through parents decision)

    My overall experience says that most of the time common sense works, even when dealing with bureaucracy. Just need to know which things to arrange in advance, when, how and to whom inquire (and NOT to!) and which set of rules and documents to bring when going to/from or dealing with particular issue.

    Having a mixed family means managing certain inconveniences, but also enjoying certain flexibility. Arrange things in a practical way and one can mitigate former and enjoy the latter. And don’t be shy to inquire the same questions at different offices, then same offices, but different people. You’ll get different, confusing answers, but in my opinion this will give you a choice. Call/e-mail/ask in person, play tough / soft / stupid / smart / anonymous depending on circumstances and you normally can get what you want in line with the rules. You’ll almost certainly be in conflict with some other rules, but that’s what rules are for: finding those which suit you, not breaking your head against those which don’t.

  15. Matt, as far as I know the trigger is “being considered Chinese”. You are considered Chinese when you are born INSIDE China to at least one parent. Born outside China, without a Chinese passport would, as far as I understand it, mean you are just considered a foreigner.

  16. Wow, that’s quick, thanks, Thijs! I was confused by this on British and Australian embassy pages:

    “According to Chinese visa regulations, foreign babies cannot exit China until they obtain a one-time Exit Visa/Permit”

    I am starting to follow what does “foreign baby” mean.

    I’m curious how does it work? E.g.:
    – Sammy is born in China to mixed couple, gets his daddy’s nationality, e.g. UK and their passport too.
    – Matty is born outside of China to mixed couple, gets his daddy’s nationality, and UK passport. Parents bring Matty to China then
    – then parents bring Sammy and Dean outside of China, both have UK passports.

    Whilst creating the case I realized what’s the answer to my question, but just to confirm: is the absence of “entry stamp” (and visa too) what will make the customs officer asking for Exit Permit?

    • Hi Matt

      first off,l thanks Flip for the monster comment above, i urge everyone to read it because that’s basically what its like doing things in China.

      as for exit/entry and nationality

      If your baby is born inside of China and has a foreign passport, you will have to get an exit stamp from the PSB in order to leave. After you have that stamp, you are “officially” a foreigner. This is because you cannot leave/enter a foreign country on a blank passport.

      this is a completely different thing from actual nationality issues ie Dual citizenship and/or just Chinese citizenship.

      “Dual” is something that does not officially exist, but there are many many unofficial examples of children born to mixed parents with both Foreign Passport and Chinese Hukou. Gray area.

      Chinese nationality, ie the Chinese parent enforcing custody through the baby’s nationality as a Chinese, because baby was born in China. This too, is actually illegal and as long as the foreign parent can and does desire custody, taking the baby away and having the authorities shelter him as a Chinese citizen is illegal. There are many unofficial examples of this happening (see Harland’s comment above). Again, gray area.

      good luck 😉

  17. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  18. I have a different story but wondering if anyone can help me out.

    The basics are as follows;
    My Wife is Chinese
    I am Australian
    My Child is Australian and born in Australia
    We recently moved to China and my wife wants a divorce and has consulted a lawyer to remove the Australian Citizenship and give Chinese citizenship.
    Both my and my child’s visa end in about 20 days.

    My question is, is it possible for my wife to change the citizenship without my permission and without the passport?

    • my advice would be to get on a plane with your son and never come back.

      If that is impossible, then get your hands on you child asap. If that is not possible then you might be in trouble, because there is no justice in China and although I don’t know the story, if she has your child and is talking to a lawyer, your chances of keeping your child grow slimmer.

      She can not “change” the Australian gov’t’s decision whatsoever. China can do whatever it wants, in the eyes of the Aussie government, your child is Aussie until he/she decides not to be.I would check on this with your embassy though, to be sure.

      but, she can get you kicked out or basically make your life hell. Like I said, she will not fight fair so take your child and run to Aussie where the rules are on your side.

      good luck

    • I agree with Sascha: the Chinese government considers your kid as Chinese afaik (because he was born to a Chinese mother; unless you already actively gave up the Chinese nationality). I don’t think they can do anything as remove the Australian nationality though. Revoking something like that always requires consent from both parents. I would suggest going to Hong Kong first, and from there book a flight to Australia.

  19. My daughter will never be considered Chinese, she was born in Australia and has been in China for a total of a week, I am planning to give the passport to a friend and wait for the visa to run out and then get out of dodge, I still have my daughter and her birth certificate, so technically my wife can’t do anything, however I am not this silly and I know that she will play dirty.
    I hope to resolve this matter and the marriage though haha.

    • no don’t do that. do not let the visa run out, because that will give the officials a reason to give you problems. I am telling you, get you and your daughter out of China asap and deal with this issue from another country, preferably your own.

    • Afaik the question if your daughter will be considered Chinese or not, depends on the vague notion of how much time she spend abroad. I do believe that the Chinese government can claim Chinese citizenship, though it’s less clear when the child was born abroad and has only been in China very shortly. That being said, I would never let the visa expire. Just go to HK for a couple of days around the time your visas expire? Perhaps she’ll like Disneyland there 🙂

    • Help Needed, lots of people have fallen in to this kind of trap. You think because she has an Australian passport and Birth certificate that you are safe. The problem is the Chinese government believes that a child born to a Chinese national either in China or abroad is Chinese. It would just be a matter of red tape for your wife to officially claim her Chinese citizenship. You say your daughter will never be considered Chinese.

      Try and save your marriage, or at least create a legal agreement with your wife. If things go south get out with your daughter BEFORE the visa expires.

  20. Great site. I have a question and would very much appreciate your opinion. I am American and live in the USA with my Chinese wife. We were married 4 years ago in Chongqing. We have a 2 year old son born in the USA with a US passport. We want to send him (with my wife) to spend some time in Chongqing and begin pre-school. I want my son to get a good education and know Chinese and American culture. In your opinion, would you rather have your son in his younger years get an education in China or USA?

    • Very few people if given the choice between school in the US or school in China would pick the latter. Both systems have serious flaws, but the consensus seems to be that Chinese system produces people incapable of critical or lateral thinking, lacking in decision making skills and all too willing to obey. The American system seems to produce willful students with few real skills. Chinese students seem too naiive whereas American students seem to know way too much about sex drugs and rock and roll way too early.

      A lot of parents here in China are chosing alternative routes, such as private schools, international schools and even charter schools like Waldorf. I myself am considering boarding schools along the Summerhill model, or private traditional Chinese schools. The problem is a lot of these schools may lack solvency, government approval and certain certificates degrees. But my view is that the chinese and american systems as they are both obsolete and therefore not enough for my kids. I would look outside of the system for options. Let me know what you think

    • Mike,
      We are both American citizens, as is our daughter who is adopted from China. We chose to live in Beijing for a year in large part so that she could attend kindergarten in China when she was 3-4 years old. We returned for 2 months later so that she could finish the last few weeks of kindergarten with her classmates before they began primary school. We hope that we might be able to return for another year when she is in 3rd or 4th grade to attend the local Chinese school.

      My husband works at Tsinghua when we are in Beijing, so the schools that our daughter attends are exceptional by Chinese (or arguably any) standards, but even if we had access to somewhat lower quality schools, I think I would highly recommend giving your child at least some of their early education in China. The skills that Chinese schools do not teach can be modeled at home and will be taught at school in later years in the US.

      • That’s interesting. have friends who have their three kids in Chinese schools and they can read and write (and speak) Chinese very well and they are learning a LOT of math …

        but one of the boys said “i have no friends here … they’re all trash … they look like friends … but they’re actually human trash”

        He’s seven years old. I was shocked. His dad’s response was to brush it off as crazy kid speak, but i would never do that. My boy says he has no friends cuz the kids are trash, I’m gonna DO SOMETHING about it.

  21. We own a home in Wanzhou, Chongqing and Grandma also lives there. So living wouldn’t be an issue. I just hate the American education system but don’t know much about Chinese education. I’ve read a lot of material about it and realize there are pros and cons to both. My wife has pointed out pros and cons to both also. I know it boils down to what we think is best, but I like the opportunity my son faces. That’s why I’m looking for experienced opinions. Thanks.

  22. Great Blog…I’m glad I found it. Please see below and any help would be appreciated.

    My Chinese girlfriend and I (American) have just found out that we will have a bundle of joy come August. We are very happy but are planning could have been better. Here is our situation and my questions. I accepted a long term expat assignment in China that instead of lasting 3-5 years ended in only 3 months. During my time in Dalian I met a fantastic Chinese woman and we started a serious relationship. Unfortunately I had to move back to the States and start another project. I flew back over for Christmas and we got engaged…we also have started the K1 visa process (long and tedious).

    My questions: Since we are unsure of the K1 visa timeline (6-9 months) there is a very good chance we will have the baby here in China. My fiancee is under the impression that without being married in China before the birth the baby will have no birth record from the hospital and/or government. My plan is to immediately apply for US citizenship but I’m still checking on embassy requirements. Do we need to be married? What is the process for getting citizenship? Would love to hear from someone that has went through this before. Has anyone had experience having a child in Hong Kong (mainland China spouse)?
    Thanks… Bill

    • Chinese hospitals require a couple be married in order to issue a birth certificate and in some cases even to give birth. Some hospitals will waive it, but getting married in China is a 20 minute procedure at the local marriage office and will save you a lot of problems with institutions here and maybe even at home.

      The US citizenship is a completely different and separate affair and is basically a “birth abroad” signing process and as long as you are the father on the birth certificate, is quick and easy.

      I would advise you to get married in China, according to Chinese law, have the baby, get the birth certificate, report a birth abroad to the consulate near you, snag the US passport for the baby and then carry on with the K1

      Congrats and good luck 😉

      • Sascha
        The K1 visa is to marry your fiancee in the US. The visa basically allows your fiancee to come to the US and within 90 days you must get married or she will need to return to China. We have started the process and if we get married we would need to start over again with a “K3” visa which is for a spouse. In order to get the US passport for the baby we need a birth certificate…there lies my problem.

  23. Like I said, you can get married in China in roughly 3 days of paperwork shuffling and that marriage certificate is enough to get your baby’s passport. I did that exact thing.

    Married in China, according to Chinese law … just as valid as any other marriage certificate.

  24. Sascha
    I fully understand that getting married erases all of my problems..except for the K1 visa. K1 visa (fiancee) process is a 6-9 month where as a K3 (spouse) is 12-16 month process. I would like to get my new family here to the States as fast as possible. For this to happen we need a birth certificate from the hospital to take to the US Consulate in Shenyang. I’m still trying to find out if a BC is issued to a non-married woman. Thanks for your patience.

  25. aha. well in that case the official answer as I know it is no, unmarried women are not given BC because you have to be married to get the Permission to Give Birth cert. AN option would be to pay extra and give birth in a foreign hospital in Beijing or Tianjin .. .or just speak with the people in charge … lots of things are flexible. good luck

    • Hi Sascha, great post. I actually love Chengdu and have several interests that I’m always with a bag ready to move to there.
      This post of yours developed quite a debate and I’ve learned a few things that could help me in the future.
      I’m especially concerned that once in Chine I will not be able to afford to pay private schools for him. They seem to be very expensive those in Chengdu where we will possibly move one day.
      My wife is Chinese and I’m both British and Italian.

      I landed on this page as my son was recently born. Born in the UK and I’m waiting for my turn to register him at the local council.
      I really want him to have the Chinese citizenship and possibly have also the British or Italian one. I’m Italian and British.
      When we called the Chinese consulate in London we were told that we need to present a paper countersigned by the British and Italian authorities where we declare our child will not take other citizenship. I still have to find out the details of such paper and will inquiry again but I also have other concerns.
      In case I give my son British nationality he/we will get caught when travelling in and out of China. At the exit from China they will ask on the basis of what document he can enter the UK and they will not let us leave with only his Chinese passport.
      Similarly can happen if my wife decides to take the British citizenship.
      One way around it would be to declare my child Chinese to the British authorities so they give him an indefinite leave to remain. After that I should apply for the Italian citizenship for him and get a passport.
      I’m not yet too sure how the declaration asked by the Chinese authorities will really be binding. How can they really check that I don’t get those paper signed and after 5 minutes I change my mind and apply for the British and/or Italian citizenship for them?
      I know you guys might not have an answer but based on the situation I’m really confused and frustrated.
      We are planning to stay in the UK for a while but we are also very keen to come back to China.
      I personally think that when at my age, my son will want/wish/actually live in China. I want him to have the biggest number of doors open for him.
      Thank you for reading this far and I will welcome any help.

      • SjMVG,
        I’m interested how you resolved what to do?
        I’m a British woman living in China with a Chinese husband, currently expecting. I’m trying to decide whether i can feasibly go jome to give birth?

  26. Great comments. I need alive on how to get a British passport for my one year old daughter. My wife is Chinese ( harbin) I’m British we live in Guangzhou where my daughter was born, can I apply at the guangzhou embassy or do I need to do it where my wife’s hoku is located? How long does the process take?

  27. Hi There.

    I have a few questions I hope someone can help me with. I need to get my child out of China. My child was registered on the Hukou without my knowledge. Now the Hukou will not be handed over by my parents in law so that I can apply for the exit stamp. Eventually when I do get this dam book sent from hell to torment me…I would like to apply for the exit stamp. So here are my questions, I’m sorry if they appear dumb.

    Why do we “have” to take the child’s passport to Hong Kong? Why can’t I apply for an exit stamp here? (I live in Shanghai).

    Have the rules/requirements changed? What do I need for an exit stamp?

    When I get to my home country, what documentation do I need to apply for the Child’s first visa?

    Do I need the certificate of renunciation? How do I get that?

    I’m at my wits-end. I often wonder if my parents in law are somehow evil. I’m basically being held hostage by my parents in law because I’m not going to leave my child here and go back home without him. I already have his foreign passport and foreign birth certificate. Also, if this situation goes south and we have to pay a fine for having him on the hukou for so long, who will pay for it? I’m not responsible for this mess.

    • @TakenHostage: If you really want to give up the Chinese hukou and nationality, just waive the foreign passport around in China. Chinese law says dual citizenship is not allowed (not even at birth), so in the end China will revoke his Chinese nationality and your parents-in-law will forever hate you for being the dumb laowei who ruined all the child’s chances in China.

      So forget about giving up the hukou. It seems to me you’re on the right track. Your in-laws are just doing their part of the child getting dual citizenship. Having the hukou, the child can get a Chinese passport.

      If you want to travel with the child back to your home country, I think you have two options.

      The first option is to get out of China on his Chinese passport, and get in the foreign country on his foreign passport. However, the Chinese passport will then lack all the visas and stamps that you would normally expect to see in the Chinese passport after traveling to a foreign country. This can raise questions from Chinese authorities, who might suspect the child to have a foreign nationality, which is not allowed (Article 3, Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China). This might again lead to losing the Chinese nationality and hukou and getting your in-laws angry. You could consider traveling through a third country to which Chinese citizens can travel visa-free, then switch passports somewhere from there, although I don’t know what questions you might run into then, from the airlines, the third country and/or your home country.

      The second option, is to just never use his foreign passport for traveling. Just keep it somewhere safe, only to be used in major emergencies. Your child is Chinese, everywhere in the world, even in your home country. This means getting the child a visa or residence permit for the foreign country in his Chinese passport. For this, you need the cooperation of your country’s embassies, who of course might remember they just issued a passport to your child. So ask beforehand if they are willing to issue a visa on his Chinese passport. If they are, they will still want to see all the same documents, like legalized notary translations, tickets with proof of return trip, etc. etc. etc. that any other Chinese citizen would need to provide for getting a visa to your home country.

  28. Hi everyone. This is the most complete post on the issue of multicultural parents and their children in China.
    Our baby is less than one month old, and I’m already fretting the process ahead as far as passports and nationality are concerned. Is there anyone here who has done this recently? (end 2016 /early 2017)

    Thanks Sascha for the post. I hope to get some responses about any changes in the process of any new hurdles, or any and all dangers/obstacles to getting both an American passport/nationality and to get our child registered in the family hukou.


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