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Chinese Citizenship: How-to, Pros & Cons
Originally posted on Mar 02, 2016 By Trey Archer ,eChinacities.com; original title “How to Become a Chinese Citizen”
During the past century, the general trend in immigration has been Chinese people moving to the West. Today, that trend still holds, but in the world of globalization, we’re starting to see the tides reverse slightly. Last year, more than 4,000 people renounced their US citizenship, while hundreds of Brits, Canadians and Australians are surrendering ties with their home country too. Starting a business overseas, avoiding tax (as is the case for many US nationals), falling in love, and/or just looking for a new beginning are just some of the many factors leading to this drift.
To be frank, the overwhelming majority of people renouncing their citizenship don’t become Chinese citizens, and the Chinese government only grants a few hundred naturalized passports per year. So, if you truly want to become Chinese, your chances are slim. However, that’s not to say it’s impossible. If you brush up on your Mandarin, learn a bit of Chinese history, follow the rules and (most importantly) try, try, try; it’s completely legal and possible to become a citizen of the People’s Republic.
Article 7 of the Nationality Law of the People’s Republic of China states that foreigners can become Chinese citizens if they:
1.) Have close Chinese national relatives
This is self-explanatory: If you’re ABC, BBC, or whatever [add nationality here] + born Chinese, you have a case to become a Chinese citizen.
2.) Have settled in a part of China
Again, this isn’t rocket science. If you have lived in China for an extended period of time, own a house, work, are married… you get the point… you can become Chinese.
3.) Have other legitimate reasons for citizenship
This one is a bit vague. If you, for example, invested large sums of money in China for “the good of the people” or started a profitable business, you’ve increased your chances of getting accepted. It also goes without saying that if you have the right guanxi, you’re one step closer to getting that burgundy passport. If you become a member of the CCP, your chances go way up.
Pros of becoming Chinese
Believe it or not, there are actually some pros to becoming a Chinese citizen. For starters, you’ll get major kudos from Chinese people. Think about it, you get mega props for barely being able to say ni hao in broken Mandarin. If you look foreign but are Chinese inside AND have Chinese citizenship, you will be worshipped by many.
Another factor is that it’s easier access to China, particularly Tibet and other provinces that frequently become off limits (like Xinjiang). If you have business, family or any other kind of ties to these regions, andyou need to go often, you may want to consider making the change.
Becoming a Chinese citizen also gives you more opportunity within China. Many jobs are reserved for locals, and the Chinese government is constantly trying to transfer jobs that foreigners previously held to locals.
Furthermore, Chinese citizens employed in the PRC are entitled to social welfare benefits, like medical, housing, pension, unemployment insurance, etc. If your future has China written all over it, well, you know the drill.
Cons of becoming Chinese
There are indeed many cons to add to this list. The biggest one is there’s virtually no going back. Dual citizenship is not allowed by the PRC, so if you become a citizen, you’re going to have to throw away your old passport. If you want it back, depending on which country you’re from, it could be extremely difficult (if not impossible).
While it may be easier to travel inside of China, it’s the opposite internationally. Chinese citizens need visas to virtually every country on this planet. You’ll even need a special visa for Hong Kong (which is technically part of China!) if you plan on staying for more than a week.
Lastly, you’ll never truly be Chinese, period. Yes, as mentioned in Pros, you will receive lots of praises for becoming Chinese, but Chinese people will still truly never see you as Chinese. No matter how perfect your Mandarin is, how long you’ve lived here, or how many Chinese dynasties you can name, the only way to truly be Chinese is to have it in your DNA. Mark Kitto, a Sino-loving Brit who became famous when he wrote “You’ll never be Chinese,” reviews his failed attempt to assimilate and become a true Chinese person.
Don’t worry, it’s not all or nothing. If you can’t decide on which side to stand, there are other options. One popular loophole is the spouse visa. If you’re married to a Chinese person, you’re allowed to stay in China for up to a year. And once that year is up, it’s easy to renew. Unfortunately, this is not a work visa. It’s technically reserved for spending time with family.
Working visas, or Z visas, are what 99% of foreigners living in China have to keep them here legally. You retain your home country’s passport and your company does most of the paperwork, and you’re allowed to work, live, enter and leave China freely.
If you love China in small doses, or just need to spend a few months in the country here and there, the tourist visa is the way to go. Your time limit will depend on your nationality, it varies across the board, but the average is a three-month stay before you’ll have to exit the country. Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan classify as technically “leaving the country,” making visa runs quite easy. For Americans, the PRC granted 10-year tourist visas, allowing holders of it to enter and exit China as much as they please within a 10-year period.