How to Obtain Chinese Citizenship

How to Obtain Chinese Citizenship

Is it easy to obtain citizenship in China for foreigners? China, being a vast and relatively restrictive country, has specific criteria for granting citizenship. While they are quite eager to invite foreign specialists to work in the country, they have stringent requirements for acquiring Chinese citizenship. Therefore, if your goal is to live in China, obtaining a residency permit is typically the more accessible option. To learn more about the requirements set by the People's Republic of China (PRC) for both citizenship and residency, continue reading.

The instances where China grants citizenship to foreigners are extremely rare. While it is not prohibited by law, statistics indicate that obtaining a Chinese passport as a citizen of another country is nearly impossible. In a country with a population of nearly 1.5 billion people, there are only slightly over 16,500 registered naturalised citizens. To provide some perspective, the United States issues a similar number of passports, if not more, to new American citizens in just a single week.

Another factor indicating China's reluctance to grant passports is the lack of information available on the government's official website, particularly in its English version, regarding the process of becoming a Chinese citizen. The website primarily provides guidance on obtaining a residency permit in China, with limited details on how to get citizenship of China.

Whether Chinese citizenship questions are governed by any law? Nationality and citizenship matters in China are governed by a law passed in 1980, which outlines the fundamental principles and requirements without providing extensive details.

Who Gets Chinese Citizenship Automatically?

How to become a citizen in China? Chinese citizenship is automatically granted only by descent. According to China citizenship law, children who have at least one parent with a Chinese passport become Chinese citizens automatically, regardless of whether the parents are residing in China or abroad. Additionally, a child born abroad to a family where at least one parent is of Chinese descent will also be recognized as a Chinese citizen (unless they acquire a different citizenship).

Children born within the territory of China, whose parents do not hold any citizenship, will become Chinese citizens if their family resides in China officially.

How to get Chinese citizenship jus soli? Children of foreign citizens, even if they are born in China and their parents have been residing in the country for an extended period, are not eligible for Chinese citizenship. China does not provide birthright citizenship (jus soli).

Photo: Jennifer Chen (Unsplash)

Does China Recognize Dual Citizenship?

How to get China citizenship and save foreign one? Is it possible? No, China does not allow dual citizenship. Any foreigner who is approved for China naturalization will be required to renounce their previous citizenship. Similarly, if a Chinese citizen voluntarily obtains the passport of another country, their Chinese citizenship is automatically revoked.

It is possible to renounce Chinese citizenship. This option is primarily available to individuals who have foreign relatives or who reside outside of China. However, state employees and military personnel are legally prohibited from renouncing their citizenship.

Can I Restore My Lost Chinese Citizenship?

How to get a Chinese citizenship if I had it before? Is it possible? Yes, individuals who previously held a Chinese passport have the possibility to restore their citizenship, subject to the approval of the Ministry of Public Security, which handles naturalisation matters. However, it is important to note that in order to restore Chinese citizenship, you will be required to renounce any other citizenship you hold.

Where Do I File an Application for Citizenship?

How to become a citizen of China? Those who wish to obtain Chinese citizenship while residing in China should submit their applications to the local office of the Ministry of Public Security in the municipality or county where they are registered. If you are outside of China, you will need to submit your application to the designated departments in diplomatic missions and consulates.

How to gain Chinese citizenship for child? The legal age in China is 18. If a child or teenager under the age of 18 is eligible to receive Chinese citizenship, their parents or legal representatives can submit an application on their behalf.

On What Grounds Can Foreigners Obtain Chinese Citizenship?

To be eligible for Chinese citizenship, a foreigner must agree to abide by the Constitution and other laws of the country, as well as meet one of the three requirements outlined in the law. So, how to become a Chinese citizen? Chinese government grants a passport to individuals who meet any of the following criteria:

  • have Chinese citizens among close relatives,
  • live legally in China,
  • have other reasons for receiving chinese citizenship.

This general definition implies that each case will be carefully evaluated on an individual basis. However, one disadvantage is that the candidates are not informed about the specific selection criteria in greater detail.

It is reasonable to assume that spouses of Chinese citizens, as well as residents with a permanent residency permit who have already established their lives in the country, may be eligible to receive citizenship in China. However, the challenge lies in the fact that while residency in China is deemed a sufficient basis for obtaining citizenship, the specific duration of residency required remains unclear.

Photo: Hanson Lu (Unsplash)

How to Receive Resident Status in China?

How to obtain Chinese permanent residency, not a citizenship? You can obtain a residential status in China, which can later serve as a basis for acquiring citizenship if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • Make an investment in the country's economy ranging from $500,000 to $2,000,000 (the specific amount depends on the economic sector and region),
  • work for a minimum of four years in a position no lower than deputy director at a factory or as a fellow researcher in an institute, higher educational establishment, or a high-tech enterprise,
  • have made or have the capacity to make a significant contribution to the country's development,
  • are married to someone who has received a residency permit based on one of the previously mentioned grounds,
  • have entered a marriage with a citizen or a resident of China (in this case, you need to be married for five years and live in China for five years in a row),
  • are under 18 years of age, unmarried, and came to China to live with your parents,
  • are over 60 years of age and came to China to live with relatives who have lived in China for five years.

What Documents Do I Need to Receive Resident Status?

Together with the permanent residency application, you need to submit the following documents:

  • a passport or any other identification document,
  • a health certificate issued by an accredited medical establishment,
  • a certificate of a clean police record,
  • four recent colour photographs 50x50 mm, facing forward, no headwear,
  • other documents confirming your right to receive a residential status. This includes proof of income, tax statements, proof of employment, birth certificates, and marriage certificates.

How Long Is the Application Processed?

The Ministry of Public Security must make a decision on whether to grant you a residential status within six months from the day of application.

Children under 18 are granted residency for a period of 5 years, while individuals over 18 are granted residency for 10 years. As a resident, you are required to live in China for a minimum of three months each year, unless there are exceptional circumstances. It is important to renew your residency no later than one month before the current one expires.

How Much Does It Cost?

To apply for residency in China, there is an administrative fee of 1,500 yuan ($215) that needs to be paid. Additionally, if your application is approved, there is an additional fee of 300 yuan ($45) for the issuance of the residency certificate. Please note that at the time of writing this article, the exchange rate was approximately 1,800 yuan to $260.

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In a Nutshell

All in all, how to become a China citizen? China is known to be one of the countries with stringent requirements for obtaining citizenship, making it a challenging process. Moreover, the country strictly prohibits dual citizenship, which can pose challenges for individuals seeking international mobility after acquiring Chinese citizenship. As a result, residency may be a more feasible and convenient option for foreigners residing in China. This article provides information how to become a citizen of China or obtain its permanent residency permit, for you making a right decision in your own situation. 

Cover photo: Rafik Wahba (Unsplash)

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