Why Some Expats Remove Citizenship for Their Kids Born in China

Source: Goodmen Project, Ryan McLaughlin

When we applied over two years ago to renounce our sons Chinese citizenship, we had assumed it would take a few months and that would be that.

That is never that when it comes to Chinese bureaucracy, or any bureaucracy for that matter. For most parents of mixed-nationality kids in China, I suspect citizenship renunciation is an unnecessary step. This is particularly true if youre planning long-term residency, your child is fully registered in the hukou system, and if you are living in or near your Chinese spouses hukou region.

Living outside of these things though, as we do, is tres mafan. Not being in the hukou system, means our son cannot get a Chinese passport. He can however get a temporary travel permit that allows him to leave China, and then he can travel elsewhere on his wonderful [look-look-stamp] Canadian passport. However, the temporary travel permit can only be applied for in the hukou region of his Chinese mother a jaunt of 2,000 km from where we live (note: there has been some headway in changes to this policy, and so it may actually be possible to apply outside the hukou area now).

This is all to explain why we even bothered. It was meant to be a 6 month process that would prevent us from needing to travel 2,000 km out of our way every time we wanted to take a trip outside the PRC. What it turned into was a bit more of a headache.

After two years, an occasional hey, whats going on? phone call, and frequently forgetting all about it; we received word the application had been processed our son was no longer a citizen of the Peoples Republic of China. After getting the official looking certificate stating the renunciation, we promptly headed to the local PSB office to apply for a visa for our now Canadian-only son a process that should be simple, as his mother is Chinese and thus he is entirely eligible for a long-term Q1 Visa/residence permit.

Some provinces dont allow or process citizenship renunciation, and so the desk PSB officer had never seen anything like this before. After screwing up his face at the document and conferring with his senior officer, he explained that because my sons passport didnt have an entry stamp into China (as he could not have, being that he was viewed as Chinese, and thus couldnt enter China as a Canadian using a Canadian passport) he couldnt issue us a standard visa.

Instead he gave us a 6 month Visa-Thats-Not-A-Visa (which I believe is technically called an FU Visa its not, dont go asking for that) and told us that we would have to leave China, get a new visa, and return with an entry stamp before they could process the appropriate visa.

After triple-checking with multiple levels in the PSB officer hierarchy in Haikou and confirming that we could in fact do this in Hong Kong, and that we wouldnt be required to travel all the way to Canada to get it done in my sons home country, we made plans to head to the HKSAR. Despite the HK Visa Run being as commonplace as contempt in China expat circles, I had never taken part in one. A bit of research netted me that the usual way of handling visas in Hong Kong was through a visa agency. You could head to the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Peoples Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CMFAPRCHKSAR for short) yourself and save a few bucks, but agencies could take care of it faster than you could even say, Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Peoples Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

I e-mailed a few agencies, and the ones that got back to me were a bit unsure about our FU Visa, and seemed to feel sure wed need to head to Canada to get it done. But, with all the confidence that a China PSB officer can instill in me, we headed to Hong Kong regardless. As we had some other stuff to do in Guangzhou, we flew into CAN and then took the train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong. I cant recommend this route enough. I know you can take the bus to the border, and then do the walk-across, but why? With the train you handle all your customs/immigration stuff just as you would with a flight and then you get to sit in a spacious seat with a nice view for the whole ride right deep into the SAR all for ~150RMB.

I suspect that agencies handling China visas are the only thing in Hong Kong that outnumber 7-11s, and so I wasnt wanting for choice. I decided to go with the slightly pricier CTS, as it is PRC government-run and Id hoped they would be a little bit better at handling our special circumstances. I was happy to find that getting off the train at Hung Hom station, there was a CTS branch waiting for me. My hopes were quickly dashed though when the agent reviewed our documents and informed me that Id need to head to the Chinese embassy in my home country to get it done. She did, however, suggest I head down to the CMFAPRCHKSAR first thing in the morning as a last-ditch effort.

Most of what Id read about the China Commissioners Office indicated that there were long waits in lines, and it was a muddled blah of bureaucracy. In hindsight, some of that may have been visa agency sales pitching. So after a nice night chilling on the awesome Lamma Island with a friend, we headed to the Commissioners Office first thing in the morning. By this point I had pretty much resigned myself that this was an annoying formality and that Id be buying tickets to Canada by noon. Dreading the awkwardness of dealing with Chinese bureaucracy and needless line waiting for not, I had strongly considered just outright skipping the step and grabbing a flight. Im glad ration overruled emotion, and I stuck with it.