Nationality law of the People's Republic of China
- 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.
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
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.
A person can apply for naturalization as a Chinese national if he or she meets one of the following criteria:
- Is a near relative of Chinese nationals;
- Has "settled" in China (no amount of time is specified to be considered as "settled"); or
- Has other "legitimate reasons". (The term "legitimate reasons" is not further defined in the Nationality Law.)
Similar to Japan's nationality laws, Chinese nationality law does not require non-Chinese nationals to become Chinese permanent residents before naturalization, and in addition, those who naturalize in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, must renounce their foreign nationalities (Article 8).
Naturalizing as a Chinese national is rare. During the Fifth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China (2000), only 941 naturalized citizens not belonging to any of China's recognized 56 indigenous ethnic groups (which includes Koreans, Vietnamese, and Russians) were counted in China's mainland. 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.
Loss of nationality
Chinese nationality is automatically lost when the person has settled abroad and voluntarily applies and receives the nationality of another country (Article 9). The term "settled" has the same definition as above.
- Foreign-national relatives;
- Settled abroad; or
- Other legitimate reasons. (The term "legitimate reasons" is not further defined.)
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.
Chinese nationality law is unclear on whether the involuntary acquisition of another country's nationality can cause the loss of Chinese nationality. An example would be a Chinese woman marries a man from a country observing jus matrimonii (e.g. Iran), in which case she automatically becomes an Iranian national 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 nationality, so it's also unknown whether a Chinese national residing in China (i.e., no permanent residencies in any foreign countries) who obtains economic citizenship in another country loses Chinese nationality.
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.
The People's Republic of China does not recognize dual nationality with any other country (Article 3), however many overseas Chinese say that this article is poorly enforced, and that China only considers Chinese citizens to be only Chinese, but does not actually restrict them from holding other passports. The Nationality Law itself does not have any provisions restricting Chinese nationals from holding foreign passports, although naturalizing in a foreign country while settling abroad can cause the loss of Chinese nationality (see "Loss of nationality" above)
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 naturalizes in another country (see "Loss of nationality" above), and the stipulation that a foreigner who naturalizes in China cannot retain their foreign nationality (see "Naturalization" 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 additional nationalities at birth through jus soli, if born in a jus soli country; or from their other parent (if only one parent was a Chinese national) through jus sanguinis; or both. Article 5 is applicable to children holding Chinese Travel Documents, mostly 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. 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.
However, one does not have Chinese nationality if their parents (with Chinese nationality) themselves settle permanently outside China (see "Nationality by birth" above). 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
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.
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, 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).
|July 1997 to
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. 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. 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.) 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.
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.
The National Household Registration System, also known as hukou, serves as the de facto citizenship for Chinese nationals residing in Mainland China. Despite Article 33 of the Constitution declared all nationals to be citizens of the PRC, there are still a number of Chinese nationals without hukou, rendering them nationals without citizenship.
Under the Nationality Law, any person born to a Chinese national parent in China (including Hong Kong and Macao) is a Chinese national at birth as per Article 4. However, due to the strict enforcement of the controversial One-Child Policy in Mainland China, some children, whose births were in violations of the local birth-planning policies (e.g. born as the second or third child to the parents), did not have their births registered despite Article 7 of the Household Registration Ordinance requires the birth of a child to be registered within one month from the date of birth. As their births were not registered, they are not eligible for hukou. The reason for not registering is either because their parents chose to avoid the unaffordable fines (two to six times of the parents' combined annual income) imposed by the National Population and Family Planning Commission in the region, or because officials in the local NPFPC had refused the child's registration because of the officials' fear of possible disciplinary actions taken against them for not enforcing the birth control rigorously in the region. As a direct result from the lack of hukou, these children are denied basic rights to citizens, including social welfare, education, and treatments in hospitals. They also cannot obtain Chinese ID cards, which are critical for travelling inside Mainland China, opening bank accounts, applying for jobs, and getting Chinese passports. The number of people without hukou was estimated at 13 million in 2011, or one percent of the total population at that time.
A similar status, National without household registration, also exists in Republic of China. The main differences are that NWOHRs exist in the legal concepts of the ROC, are usually residents of other countries than Taiwan, and have official identification documents issued by Government of Republic of China (usually Taiwanese passports); while Chinese nationals without hukou are not mentioned in any legal documents in China, all reside in Mainland China, and are not eligible for any official identification documents. However, Chinese nationals without hukou are not subject to any immigration controls nor legal restrictions on employments (as they are not mentioned in any legal documents and cannot obtain passports), unlike NWOHRs, who can only remain in Taiwan for a limited period of time with special visas and cannot take up employments without the consent from the ROC Government.
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- People's Republic of China passport
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