Nationality law of the People's Republic of China

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For other uses, see Chinese nationality.

The Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China (simplified Chinese: 中华人民共和国国籍法; traditional Chinese: 中華人民共和國國籍法; pinyin: Zhōnghuá Rénmín Gònghéguó guójí fǎ) regulates nationality of the People's Republic of China. Such nationality is obtained by birth when at least one parent is of Chinese nationality or by naturalisation.

All persons holding nationality of the People's Republic of China are citizens of the People's Republic of China.[1]

The law was adopted at the Third Session of the Fifth National People's Congress and promulgated by Order No. 8 of the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress and effective as of September 10, 1980.

Nationality by birth[edit]

Chinese nationality law operates mainly on the basis of jus sanguinis ("right of blood"). On 1 October 1949, most people of Chinese nationality acquired nationality of the People's Republic.[2]

According to the Nationality Law, a person can acquire a Chinese nationality if he or she meets one of the following requirements:

  • Is born in China and at least one parent holding Chinese nationality.
  • Is born outside China and at least one parent has Chinese nationality, so long as the Chinese-national parent(s) have not settled in a foreign country.
  • Is born in China and both parents are settled in China with statelessness or uncertain nationality.

The term "settled" is usually taken to mean that the Chinese national parent has permanent residency in another country. A person born outside China to parent(s) with Chinese nationality, does not have Chinese nationality if a foreign nationality is acquired at birth and one of the Chinese national parents (or both) has gained that country's permanent residency.

Children born of Chinese-foreign marriages on territories controlled by People's Republic of China are considered to be Chinese nationals by the government of the People's Republic of China, as per Article 4 of the Chinese nationality law. This can create problems when the Chinese-national parent gives birth to, or fathers, a child with a non-Chinese-national parent in mainland China without the prior approval from the National Population and Family Planning Commission. In this case, the child is not eligible for Chinese Hukou, and subsequently cannot qualify for a Chinese passport. Furthermore, the said child's foreign citizenship acquired through jus sanguinis is not recognized by Chinese authorities as per Article 3 of Chinese nationality law, so he or she cannot use the non-Chinese travel document to exit and enter the country. Therefore the child's parents must secure an Exit-Entry Permit from the Chinese government in order for the child to exit and enter China mainland.[3]


Naturalisation is possible, but rare. During the Fifth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China (2000), only 941 naturalised citizens not belonging to any of China's recognised 56 indigenous ethnic groups (which includes Koreans, Vietnamese, and Russians)[4] were counted in China's mainland.[5] More foreigners have applied for naturalisation to Chinese nationality since Hong Kong has reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Among Hong Kong residents from 1997 to 2012, 3,411 Pakistanis, 3,399 Indonesians, 2,487 Indians, 1,115 Vietnamese, and 387 Filipinos have been naturalised.[6]

Foreigners who naturalise in China cannot retain foreign nationality (Article 8).[7]

Loss of nationality[edit]

A Chinese national who has settled abroad and voluntarily applies for and acquires another country's nationality automatically forfeits Chinese nationality (Article 9).[7]

Chinese nationals may renounce their Chinese nationality upon approval if they have foreign-national relatives, if they have settled abroad, or have other legitimate reasons (Article 10).[7]

An application can be filed either domestically with a city or county public security bureau's exit-entry administration or with a PRC embassy or Consulate abroad. The time period for processing an application is not specified by rules, and it can take up to one year. [8]

Chinese nationality law is unclear on whether the involuntary acquisition of another country's nationality can cause the loss of Chinese citizenship. An example would be a Chinese woman marries a man from a country observing jus matrimonii (e.g. Iran), in which case she automatically acquires her husband's citizenship upon marriage. Also, Article 9 explicitly states that only Chinese nationals residing abroad who voluntarily acquires another country's citizenship shall be deemed as forfeiture of Chinese citizenship, so it's also unknown whether a Chinese national residing in China who obtains economic citizenship in another country loses Chinese citizenship.

Visa requirements[edit]

Visa-free travel for ordinary PRC citizens

Visa requirements for Chinese citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of the People's Republic of China. In 2014, Chinese citizens have visa-free or visa on arrival access to 45 countries and territories, ranking the Chinese passport 83rd in the world according to the Visa Restrictions Index.

Dual nationality[edit]

The People's Republic of China does not recognise dual nationality with any other country (Article 3).[7]

Although it is generally difficult to have de facto dual nationality of China and another country, due to the provisions for loss of Chinese nationality when a Chinese national naturalises in another country (see "Loss of nationality" above), and the stipulation that a foreigner who naturalises in China cannot retain their foreign nationality (see "Naturalisation" above), the number of dual nationals have, nevertheless, increased in recent years. This is mainly because birth tourism has become popular among Chinese nationals residing in China, who travel to countries observing jus soli to ensure their offspring acquires the birth country's nationality. Cases involving dual nationality is covered, although not explicitly stated, under the Nationality Law, which ensures the possibility for a person to have dual nationality of China and another country at birth in some circumstances. For example:

  • If they were born in China, to one Chinese-national parent, they are a Chinese national at birth (Article 4). If their other parent is a non-Chinese-national, they may acquire another nationality at birth by jus sanguinis from that parent.
  • If they were born outside China, to one or two Chinese-national parents who have not settled abroad, they are a Chinese national at birth (Article 5). They may acquire another nationality at birth by jus soli if they were born in a jus soli country or they may acquire another nationality from their other parent (if only one parent was a Chinese national) through jus sanguinis. Article 5's application is mostly to children of birth tourists, and serves as the legal basis of these children's Chinese nationality.

If a person concurrently holds Chinese nationality and foreign nationality, he or she will be treated solely as a Chinese national when the person is physically present on Chinese soil (including Hong Kong and Macao), as per Article 3.[7] The basis of the loss and renunciation of Chinese nationality for dual citizenship holders is the same with sole Chinese citizenship holders per Article 9 and Article 10.[7]

However, one does not have Chinese nationality if their parents (with Chinese nationality) themselves settle permanently outside China. This means in general, most second generation overseas Chinese ("ABC", "BBC" or "CBC") and most South East Asian nationals with Chinese ethnicity are not Chinese nationals.

In general, Hong Kong and Macau citizens with Chinese ethnicity are Chinese nationals, regardless if they have dual nationality or not (see below).

Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

The People's Republic of China considers both Hong Kong and Macau to have always been its territories, and people born in either territory before or after their transfer of sovereignty to China are regarded as "born in China". Those who are of ethnic Chinese origin are Chinese nationals before and after the handovers.

Hong Kong[edit]

For Hong Kong residents, an interpretation of the Nationality Law was adopted at the Nineteenth Session of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People's Congress on May 15, 1996,[9] a year prior to the Hong Kong handover and came into effect on July 1, 1997. The explanations concerning the implementation of the nationality of Hong Kong residents is that Hong Kong residents of Chinese descent are Chinese nationals, whether or not they have acquired the right of abode in foreign countries. In effect this means foreign nationalities under the respective foreign laws; the reason for referring to the foreign "right of abode" instead of foreign nationality is avoid making an exception to, or breaching, the basic principle of Chinese Nationality Law of non-recognition of dual nationality, and also because China regards foreign control of Hong Kong to have been illegitimate, and thus refuses to recognise the foreign nationality conferred upon many Chinese people in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong residents of Chinese nationality do not lose their Chinese nationality automatically upon acquiring foreign one(s), in spite of the apparent wording of Article 9. Such Chinese nationals who also have foreign nationality may declare a change of nationality at Hong Kong's Immigration Department, and upon approval, would no longer be considered Chinese nationals. The British Dependent Territories citizen and British Nationals (Overseas) passports held by people of Chinese descent born in China (including Hong Kong) are not recognised by the Chinese government as such. British Citizen passports held by Chinese Hong Kong residents under the British Nationality Selection Scheme (British Nationality (Hong Kong) Act 1990) are also not recognised by the Chinese government as such. Furthermore, Hong Kong Chinese nationals who hold such passport or have a right of abode in countries outside the People's Republic of China are not entitled to British (or any other nation's) consular protection inside the People's Republic of China (including Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China).

Collected statistics on naturalisation in Hong Kong
Years ↓ Applications Notes
Acceptances ↓
July 1997 to
April 2005
4,372 3,786 [10]
2006 1,840 [11]
2007 1,541 [11]
2008 1,295 71% [11][12]
2009 [11][12]
2010 729 [12]

The Immigration Department is authorised to naturalise foreign or stateless people as Chinese nationals in Hong Kong. In the first year after the handover, there were only 152 applications for naturalisation; the majority of applicants were Chinese Indonesians.[13] Some residents of South Asian descent, faced with the prospect of their children being stateless, have been naturalised as well. However, in the early years after the handover South Asians claimed that the Hong Kong government discouraged them from naturalisation. It took until December 2002 to see the first case of successful naturalisation application by an ethnic minority resident with no Chinese relatives, a Sindhi girl, soon followed by a Pakistani man. The Immigration Department denied that there had been any change in policy, but South Asian organisations believed there had been a definite change of attitude inside the government towards naturalisation.[14][15] From the handover to April 2005, a total of 4,372 people applied for naturalisation. Of the 3,999 applications processed by that date, 3,786 (95%) were successful. Most applicants were Indonesians (1,735), Pakistanis (833), Indians (552), or Vietnamese (547). (These numbers refer to former nationality; the government did not collect statistics on their ethnic background.)[10] From 2008 to 2010, another 4,099 applications for naturalisation were received, of which 71% were approved; eight-tenths of the applicants were nationals of South Asian countries.[12]


Similar implementation for Macau was adopted at the Sixth Session of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress on December 29, 1998. Unlike the UK, Portugal did not have an overseas nationality, which means that residents of Macau had the same right to Portuguese nationality as those in Portugal. Unique provisions includes clarification for individuals of both Chinese and Portuguese descent, who may choose either Chinese or Portuguese nationality without losing right to abode. Negotiations between China and Portugal over Macau were considerably smoother than those between the United Kingdom and China over Hong Kong, and in the former a pragmatic practical agreement was understood making double nationality possible "de facto" for Chinese and Portuguese nationals with a previous or ongoing relation to Macau.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Constitution of the People's Republic of China[1], Article 33.
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ "China’s Middle Class Chafes Against Maze of Red Tape". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  4. ^ See the regulations as quoted e.g. here: 外国人加入中国籍,其居民身份证或护照上的民族一栏应填写什么?
  5. ^ 第五次人口普查数据(2000年). 表1—6. 省、自治区、直辖市分性别、民族的人口 ( Fifth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China (2000). Table 1-6: Population of provinces, autonomous regions, and minicipalities by ethnicity. (Chinese)
  6. ^ Carney, John (2012-12-16). "Figures reveal thousands from ethnic minorities have won naturalisation". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2012-12-19. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f "Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China". Immigration Department, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 
  8. ^ For a list of documentary requirements for renunciation, see
  9. ^ "Explanations of some questions by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress concerning the implementation of the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region". Immigration Department, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. 
  10. ^ a b "Applications for naturalisation as Chinese nationals". 2005-05-18. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  11. ^ a b c d McKenzie, Hamish (2010-04-14), "Expat or immigrant", TimeOut Hong Kong, retrieved 2011-12-05 
  12. ^ a b c d "本港去年729人入中國籍", Ming Pao, 2011-01-12, retrieved 2011-12-06 
  13. ^ Schloss, Glenn (1998-08-31). "Indonesians behind bulk of applications for citizenship in Hong Kong". South China Morning Post. 
  14. ^ Shamdasani, Ravina (2002-12-02). "HK-born to Indian parents, but Vekha is now Chinese; Nationality and a passport granted to girl in the first case of its kind". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2011-05-28. 
  15. ^ Shamdasani, Ravina (2002-12-15). "First Hong Kong Pakistani gets Chinese nationality". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2011-05-28.