This article is dedicated to Joud, newborn son of Ikky’s good friend Helmi.

In this article, we will address two situations – one in which a baby is born to two foreign parents and the other where one parent is Chinese.

  • Babies born to two foreign parents

If a baby is born in China to two foreign parents, the baby will not be considered a Chinese national as China does not recognize citizenship by birth. The baby must take one parent’s nationality. Below are the steps to be followed in order to do so:

1.  Obtain your baby’s birth certificate from the hospital where he or she was born.

2.  Register your baby at the local police station to get a temporary registration form based on the birth certificate within 24 hours from the issuance of the birth certificate.

3.  Register your baby at your (or your partner’s) embassy or consulate and apply for a passport for the baby. Most embassies will give you two choices: either add the baby to your passport or have the baby have his/her own passport.

4.  Once the baby is added to your passport or has his or her own passport he or she will need a new temporary certificate from the local police station.

5.  As the baby is a foreign national then he or she will also be required to have a visa or residence permit to live in and enter/exit China. This needs to be applied within 30 days of the baby’s birth or you risk facing a fine.

The 30-day deadline is a good general rule because it applies throughout the country, although some places such as Tianjin extends this to 60 days.

To obtain the baby’s visa or residence permit, there are two possible scenarios:

a) If the baby is already registered on your passport or the baby has his/her passport, take the baby’s birth certificate, the baby’s passport (if applicable), your passport, and both of your Certificates for Temporary Residence from the local police station to the local Exit-Entry Administration Office of the Public Security Bureau to apply for the visa or residence permit.

b) If the procedure is still underway at the embassy (some applications take over a month or so to process) then ask your embassy if they can provide you proof that registration is ongoing. Take the proof with the other documents mentioned in part (a) to apply the visa or residence permit. Again, it is very important not to miss the 30 day deadline to apply.

If the procedure takes bit longer than the thirty days, you might be issued a temporary residence permit (valid for around 1~2 months) on a piece of paper but you will have to apply for the actual residence permit as soon as the baby’s passport is issued.

6. Once your baby has a passport (or is registered on yours) along with a visa or residence permit then the baby will be able to live in China, legally, and you will be able to take him or her outside China.

7. Do not forget you will need to register your baby again at the local police station for a new certificate whenever there are changes in the process or his or her status (e.g. he or she obtains a residence permit or it is renewed, etc).

2)   Babies born to one Chinese and one foreign parent

Based on Article 4 of China Nationality Law, if one parent is Chinese and the child is born in China, then the child automatically assumes Chinese nationality and would take the Chinese parent’s Hukou (household registration). The baby cannot be considered both Chinese and a foreigner (from China’s nationality point of view) as China does not recognize dual nationality whether for adults or children.

The baby cannot become Chinese if born outside of China.

The parents have a one time right to decide the nationality of the child.

If Chinese nationality is desired, then you should apply for these documents in the following order:

–  Hukou update using the baby’s birth certificate and ID card of the Chinese parent

–   Chinese passport for international travel using the updated Hukou, ID card of the Chinese parent and a 2-inch passport photo (if desired)

A Chinese passport is not required if you plan that to give your child foreign nationality.

If a foreign nationality is desired, larger cities will be easier to handle such requests because of having dealt with many more cases. Smaller places may give more problems because of having a lack of such experience by local authorities; however, the documents need to be processed where the Chinese parent’s Hukou is located.

Before we discuss the steps for obtaining a foreign nationality for your child, if this is desired, it is important to mention that you should offer the hospital both a non-Chinese name in alphabetic characters and a name in Chinese characters for your child for the birth certificate and these names do not have to relate to each other.

It is suggested that you give your child both a Chinese and a foreign name on the birth certificate, even if you choose for him or her to have Chinese nationality, in case regulations change in the future, or he or she chooses to change his or her nationality in the future.


This option of both names is only offered to situations where one parent is Chinese, and the other parent is foreign. If both are Chinese then only a Chinese name is allowed, and if both are foreign, then only a foreign name is allowed. The reasons why providing both names are important is as follows:


– A Chinese name in Chinese characters is required for the child to be added to the Hukou

– A non-Chinese name in alphabetic characters will be required for your child to obtain a foreign passport


In both situations, proving two names for your child when both are not on the birth certificate makes the situation more complicated.

Update: the option of allowing writing of both a Chinese and foreign name on the birth certificate has been removed and is no longer available for foreign-Chinese couples so the parents need to decide in advance which name to put on the birth certificate.

If just a foreign name is provided on the birth certificate, then there will be additional work because a non-Chinese name cannot be added to a Chinese Hukou.

If just a Chinese name is provided, then equally there will be additional work for obtaining a foreign passport for your child since the birth certificate is required.

If the foreign nationality is to be selected for the child, then you need to follow these steps:

1. Apply to renounce the Chinese nationality

2. Obtain a Chinese exit-entry permit (出入境通行证), if applicable

3. Apply for the baby to have a foreign passport or have the baby listed on the foreign parent’s passport, if not done already

4. Apply for the baby’s Chinese visa in order to be able to travel in and out of China

Keep in mind that if the child loses the Chinese nationality then the following circumstances needs to be taken into account:

–  He or she would not be able to attend local public schools as a foreigner

– Lose the right of abode in China and hence would be required to have the appropriate visas to stay in China

– A work visa is suggested for children to attend international school. Rates are significantly more expensive if a foreign parent does not hold a work visa

Now that being said, here is the documented procedure to apply for renunciation of Chinese nationality for the baby:

1. Fill in the “Application to Renounce PRC Citizenship” form (退出中华人民共和国国籍申请表)

2. Submit a written statement that you are voluntarily renouncing the PRC citizenship for the baby (both parents need to sign off on behalf of the baby)

3. Provide the following documents to support the application at the Public Security Bureau Entry and Exit Division of the Chinese parent’s Hukou location.

– Original and a copy of the Hukou

– Original and a copy of the ID card (if issued)

– Original and copy of the PRC passport (if issued)

There is no pre-determined period for the application to be completed though it has been reported in some cities like Shanghai to take about 6 months.

Once the Chinese nationality renunciation is completed then you can apply for the foreign passport for the baby and subsequent visa/residence permit or have the baby registered on the foreign parent’s passport. The steps for this process is mentioned in the previous section.

If the process of renouncing Chinese citizenship is on-going and you need to travel with the child meanwhile, you may request an exit-entry permit from the Public Security Bureau of the Hukou location.

Usually this permit will be valid for three months and valid for one exit and one re-admission to China. The processing time usually takes between seven and ten days, but varies by location. Alternatively, you can wait until the renunciation process is over and then take the child overseas.

Here are the documents required to obtain the exit-entry permit, but this should be considered a general checklist as the exact documents vary by location.

1. Copy and original of baby’s birth certificate;

2. Copy and original of baby’s foreign passport;

3. Passport of the foreign parent, ID card and Hukou of the Chinese parent;

4. Parents’ marriage certificate;

5. “Visa application form” completed with three two-inch photos of the baby;

6. if the foreign passport has been issued then you will also need to provide the temporary certificate from the local police.

Another possibility preferred by parents who are not planning to leave China soon and will be settling in for a while, is to keep the Chinese nationality for the baby.

No matter the decision of the parents, after the child is an adult (at 18 years of age) he or she can decide to change it once if he or she wishes. The child does not have to decide at 18 – he or she could leave it the same for many years before changing it, if desired.

About the Authors:

Ikbal (known by the nickname “Ikky”) is an R&D Manager working in Shanghai. He has been living in China for over 11 years.

Julian runs a company that works with individuals and organizations doing business between the US, China, and Africa. He has been based in China for a number of years.


8 thoughts on “Nationality of Children Born in China

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