We’ve gotten a few interesting responses in the comments section of my recent blog post about the bureaucratic mess that many dual-nationality, foreign/Chinese families are facing when it comes to ensuring that their children have the proper visa/residency status in China. Since then we also received a letter from another reader who is facing a similar situation and was kind enough to allow us to share – I’ve posted his letter and my response below (Disclaimer: I am most definitely not a legal expert and the viewpoints and suggestions I present are not necessarily consistent with actual policy so take them all with a grain of salt).
My company is talking about moving me back to the USA – perhaps as early as March. My wife’s hukou is in a [city down south] but outside of the city by several hours. Our two month old son holds a USA passport now because we thought that was easiest and best but he is not on my wifes Hukou. His birth certificate was also issued in English as the hospital told us that was the correct thing to do if we want him to hold the USA passport. We first started trying to get him a Chinese Visa so he could stay here but that was denied because we were told to renounce his Chinese citizenship first. To do that we were told we needed to return to the location of my wife’s hukou and present all the paperwork and it might take about 9 months to complete. At that time he would qualify for a visa based on my work visa. We never started this process.
What I’m thinking now might be best is to get the one time exit/entry passbook so we can just get him to the USA. I’m told this needs to be done in my wife’s hometown though, but just the same, at least we can get him out of the country with us. While in the USA, we could then apply for him to receive a Chinese visa from the Chinese embassy in the USA before he returns next time.
Does this logic seem to hold up to your experiences and what you know?
And my response:
Sorry to hear about your troubles – I can of course relate – the visa issue is a real mess right now.
Unfortunately I don’t have any first-hand experience with what you’re facing since my wife has a Beijing hukou.
What I can say is that it does indeed seem that the process is more complicated for bi-national families where one spouse is from outside of Beijing vs families of Beijing hukou holders. Each municipality seems to have its own take on the rules and how (strictly) they are applied – chalk it up to "bureaucracy with Chinese characteristics." I hope that increasing media attention will improve this situation but for now I’m afraid this is what we all have to deal with.
Every family with a waidi spouse I’ve ever spoken with has reported similar experiences (i.e. having to go to the spouse’s hometown to get paperwork processed) so in these regards your situation is consistent with what I’ve seen. This is a big problem of China’s problematic hukou system and until some fundamental hukou reforms are enacted, I’m afraid I know of no way to get around this (e.g. having to go to your wife’s hometown).
Aside from the hassle of going back to your wife’s hometown, it does seem like the passbook route is the most expedient and relatively hassle-free of your options – If I were in your situation, it would be the one I’d go for. I imagine that once in the US you can get your son a family visa quite easily, but bear in mind that I’m not a legal expert in these matters so best to inquire directly with the Chinese embassy or consulate in the US about this.
You might also ask the PSB while you’re down there if they could simply issue your son a family visa there (do go prepared with all the proper documentation – i.e. birth certificate, marriage certificates, hukou, shenfenzheng, passport etc.), but again, I don’t know how they operate and they could very easily turn you down, but it’s probably worth a try. I’ve heard that this might be possible in Beijing for Beijing hukou holders but it all seems really subjective (even as far as which officer you’re dealing with) – hence the confusion of this entire situation.
… I’ve been getting conflicting info myself every time I call the Beijing PSB and it remains to be seen what we will have to do for our own son – my hope is that as suggested above, I can simply take him to the PSB here with the paperwork and get his family visa issued here, but if that fails, I will likely do the same as you’ve pointed out – take him out of the country with a passbook and get his visa issued in the US.
As always additional comments and experiences from other readers dealing with similar circumstances are most welcome.