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I am a 38-year-old who has lived in the US since I was 2 years old. I was born in China to Chinese National parents. My parents and I immigrated to the US when was a small child. My parents were naturalized before I became an adult, and thus I gained US citizenship automatically through derived citizenship (INA 320). I've since obtained a US passport, and have traveled back to China using the US passport several times, applying for and receiving a Chinese visa. I've always read that since China doesn't recognize dual citizenship, once I become a US citizen, I lose my Chinese citizenship.

Recently, I was reading the actual wording of the Chinese Nationality Law, and realized that maybe under the actual wording of the law, I may technically still be a Chinese national under Chinese law. Specifically, Article 9 says:

Any Chinese national who has settled abroad and who has been naturalized as a foreign national or has acquired foreign nationality of his own free will shall automatically lose Chinese nationality.

Since I acquired US citizenship automatically through derived citizenship when my parents naturalized, I myself did not technically go through the process of naturalization, nor was my acquisition of US citizenship done of my own free will.

I also know that Article 3 of the Chinese Nationality Law says:

The People's Republic of China does not recognize dual nationality for any Chinese national.

I assume that just means that if I am in China, they will not recognize that I am also a US national, but does not actually mean I lose my Chinese nationality.

I have heard that practically, China treats people who have entered on foreign passports as having given up the Chinese nationality, but in this case, the text of the law seems to imply that I haven't actually lost my Chinese nationality.

Does that mean that maybe I get a Chinese passport? I know mine from when I was a child expired a long time ago, but can I just go to the consulate and apply for a new one?

I did some searching online, and I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned this as a path to holding both US and Chinese citizenship, as I'm sure Chinese national children gaining derived US citizenship from their parents after they move to the US as a minor is pretty common. Does anyone have any real-world experience with how China treats automatic acquisition of US citizenship through INA 320 under the Chinese nationality law?

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    Germany has a similar provision causing its citizens who naturalize elsewhere to lose German nationality and has ruled that automatic acquisition of US citizenship through INA 320 does not trigger this loss because it's not voluntary. It's possible that China has a similar approach. (It's also possible that you've lost Chinese nationality through some other provision of Chinese law.) From a practical standpoint, you can ask the consulate; whether it's a good idea isn't on topic here, nor are requests for legal advice, but someone ought to be able to give a general description of Chinese law.
    – phoog
    Feb 8 at 9:23
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    As to "not recognize," it could mean different things. People often say that the US "doesn't recognize" dual nationality, but in fact the US attitude is more like the one you assume for China: they don't deny that dual nationality exists, but they don't generally treat dual nationals differently. Different countries approach this differently in various contexts (for example, in whether a dual national can use the other country's passport to enter and in the consequences for doing so).
    – phoog
    Feb 8 at 9:28
  • "I myself did not technically go through the process of naturalization" — are you sure? You do not need to have led yourself through the process, you well could have been led through it, which you have been by your parents.
    – Greendrake
    Feb 8 at 9:40
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    @Greendrake a child in this circumstances receives no certificate of naturalization, nor is such a child mentioned on the parent's certificate of naturalization. INA 320 also applies regardless of whether the parent is naturalized or is already a US citizen. The child acquires US citizenship automatically, without the need for any application or administrative procedure, as soon as the conditions specified in INA 320 are met.
    – phoog
    Feb 8 at 12:06
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    Since this question has received a close vote as a request for legal advice, you might consider rewriting it so as to ask (either in general terms or using a "fictional" or "hypothetical" background) how China treats the automatic acquisition of US citizenship via INA 320 under Art. 9 of the Chinese nationality law.
    – phoog
    Feb 8 at 12:18

1 Answer 1

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Does anyone have any real-world experience with how China treats automatic acquisition of US citizenship through INA 320 under the Chinese nationality law?

While not exactly the same, there are many children who have both nationalities are that recognized as special cases by the Chinese government, i.e. conflict of nationality, often as a result of jus soli laws (e.g. the recently newsworthy Eileen Gu) (but jus sanguins can also apply if one of the parents is not Chinese and transmits another nationality).

China is still developing its administrative legal system and things are more practicalities than legalities.

Although recognized as Chinese national and having the same rights as children with only Chinese nationality in China (e.g. education, household registration), a child in this case does not benefit from a Chinese passport. The consulates or immigration authorities only issue a travel document to such persons, until they reach 18 years of age. Once they become adult, a passport would only be issued upon the presentation of the renunciation of the other nationality (unless no renunciation process is available).

Now, if this person is living in China when they become adult and they do not want to travel abroad, they do not have to renounce the other citizenship to e.g. renew their national ID card, register for social insurance or seek employment.

Even if you obtained another nationality voluntarily, resumption of Chinese nationality is also an option available that in practice is routinely granted (barring criminal histories etc.).

The Chinese consulate would not issue you a passport, but may issue you a travel document if you present a renunciation of your U.S. citizenship. They may process it as if you never lost the Chinese nationality, or they may consider it a case of resumption.

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  • This isn't relevant to the question, as the question is about the interpretation of Article 9 of the PRC nationality law (on voluntary acquisition of foreign nationality), whereas the case of people born with dual nationality doesn't involve Article 9.
    – user102008
    Feb 12 at 17:44
  • "The consulates or immigration authorities only issue a travel document to such persons, until they reach 18 years of age." Do you have an official source saying that they do not issue travel documents to such persons after 18?
    – user102008
    Feb 12 at 17:57
  • @user102008 the main point of the answer is the practicality: even if art. 9 doesn't apply, i.e. double nationality is kept, the treatment wouldn't be different from those born with dual nationality, i.e. no way to obtain a Chinese passport without renunciation of other nationalities. There is no straightforward way to obtain judicial review of government decisions if they deem you a foreigner.
    – xngtng
    Feb 12 at 18:01
  • @user102008 you won't find any instructions on applying for one except for children. ch.china-embassy.org/ls_fw_s/lxzj/201901/t20190102_3389894.htm the people eligible for travel document under nationality conflicts category are children only.
    – xngtng
    Feb 12 at 18:04
  • @user102008 and it's a such common scenerio for which a lot of discussions and practical experience exists on Chinese forums. e.g. uscardforum.com/t/topic/48022 An exit permit is issued for exit China, neither a passport nor proper travel document.
    – xngtng
    Feb 12 at 18:09

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