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Hukou for mixed kids
One of the most important decisions that parents of mixed children need to make is whether or not to get a hukou for their child. Basically you have two options, with a third (illegal) one also very common. First of all, you can apply for the nationality of the foreign parent and try to renounce the Chinese nationality. Secondly it's possible to give the child only the Chinese nationality and thus get a hukou. Finally it's possible, but illegal, to get both nationalities. Illegal under Chinese law, but legal under Dutch law. So what to do? Let's explore the advantages and disadvantages:

What is a Hukou anyway?

A Hukou is like a Chinese ID card. There are two forms: an
agricultural and a city hukou. When you live in a big city (as most expats will do), you do not want an agricultural Hukou for your kid. It's like a 2nd class Chinese citizen. Your kid's hukou is determined by the Chinese parent's (usually mother) Hukou. So if your wife has a good city-Hukou (for example Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing), then the child can get that 'good' Hukou which will ensure good health-care and education opportunities. Read more on Wikipedia about the Hukou system . The Hukou system might change in the future and it's already relaxed in some big cities, but it's still important to consider what kind of Hukou your kid can get, if you determine the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

Advantages of getting a Hukou

  • your child will benefit (from day 0) from Chinese social insurance (medical care)
  • it will be able to go to Chinese schools, which are much cheaper than foreign schools
  • Mother gets 1 month extra pregnancy holiday after delivering the baby (if she signs a one child certificate, agreeing you will not get another kid)
  • your child is totally Chinese, has less restrictions in China compared to foreigners (for example in buying houses)

Disadvantages of getting a Hukou
  • within China the child will be considered Chinese, even if you get a foreign passport as well. Thus no protection from foreign consulates/embassies
  • you have to sign some papers about the one-child policy; saying you will not get any more children. You can not register a 2nd child with a Hukou, which means they will have different nationalities
  • it's illegal to apply for foreign nationality. It could lead to a fine or losing the Chinese nationality (not sure how big a deal this is)
  • you need to think of a Chinese name and the baby will carry the last name of the Chinese parent (mother).  A name also determines the expectations others will have of him or her when they just read the name, so I think it's important to consider.
  • need to go through the (grueling) Chinese entry-exam for university
  • need a visa to visit your motherland, and most other countries in the world

Advantages of getting a foreign Nationality
  • much easier to travel to other countries
  • if you live in your motherland, it has access to all the social benefits
  • protection from your government
  • somehow many Chinese believe that a foreign passport is 'better'

Disadvantages of getting a foreign Nationality
  • you will need an entry/exit permit to leave China, as long as the child is still considered as a Chinese by the Chinese government (which seems to be until the nationality-renunciation procedure has completed successfully)
  • cannot officially be combined with a hukou
  • need a visa to stay in China (though a dependent-visa should be issued which can be extended indefinitely)
  • everything is more expensive (school, insurance, visa). Perhaps foreigners with a Foreign Expert Certificate can get their child cheaper in a Chinese school though.

Any advice?
I know mixed couples that gave their child only a Hukou, only a foreign nationality or did both. So it's impossible to say what is right or wrong for you. If you and your partner have decided you want to live the rest of your life in China, then it makes more sense to get a Hukou. If you decide that the Chinese education system is not something you want to put your kids through, you might want to return when the child is for example 2 to 5 years old. In that case a foreign passport makes more sense. If you haven't decided yet, you might first go for a Hukou, but pay attention to your national legislation to determine if the child still can obtain the foreign nationality later in life (for example before 18 years old).

If you decide to do the illegal thing (Hukou + Passport), you will need to keep the foreign passport hidden from the Chinese authorities at any time. One often heard trick is to leave China (via Hong Kong) on the Chinese passport and then enter the motherland on the foreign passport. I'm not sure how this exactly works out with stamps and visas though.

Related posts:
Health insurance newborn baby China
Financial benefits one child
One-child policy for mixed couples

If you have more advantages/disadvantages, please let me know via the comments. I will add them to the list!
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Fernando Cantu  - It wasn't a hard choice   | |2011-01-31 14:36:49
Hi Again Thijs.

In our case it wasn't a complex choice, of course that me as the foreigner on the relationship felt overwhelmed with all these pros and cons at the beginning, however it all narrowed down when I thought about the place where we will settle down which is here in China.

Once we realized of that the decision was simple, why shall we give our baby another nationality if we are going to be living here probably for the rest of our lives? we can enjoy the "benefits" that the Hukou and the Chinese nationality can bring. As per the visa requirements there is no much difference for me since I'm Mexican and I need visas for many places too, as long as my daughter can obtain a Mexican visa without problems (I don't see why she couldn't get it if she is my my daughter) then I'm happy.

I hope this comment can help you take the decission

Thijs   | |2011-01-31 16:33:24
Hi Fernando, thanks for your reply! We're not sure yet what we want to do in the future. From all the horror stories I hear in the news about Mexican violence, I can easily understand you want to stay in China!
GC  - One child policy?   | |2011-08-10 03:18:10
Hi Thijs,
Congratulations for your Baby Boy!
In this post you mentioned that "you have to sign some papers about the one-child policy; saying you will not get any more children." I was told that if one of the parent is foreigner then you are allowed to have 2 children and still have same benefits. Is it not the case? Can you please clarify what you meant?
From your latest posts it seems you have settled for the Dutch nationality for your baby and are giving up the Chinese nationality? May I know what was the main reason for this decision?

Thijs     | |2011-08-10 10:32:15
Hi GC, unfortunately the one-child policy also applies to us. In fact it just applies to all Chinese citizens. So because my wife is Chinese, it also applies. It is definitely not true that mixed couples can just have 2 children because one of the parents is a foreigner. That being said, the enforcement of the one-child policy and any punishments might be different, but that depends on the region where you live, the direction of the wind and how early your local PSB-officer got out of bed that morning

Yes, we settled for the Dutch nationality. Even though we now live in China and plan to do so in the near future, we are not sure about our long-term plans. A Dutch passport gives much more freedom. The advantages of a Chinese citizenship seemed very small to us; especially because I hold a Foreign Expert Certificate which entitles us to some benefits. Chinese pension-rights are too low to consider and general healthcare is also not worth it. In the end we prefer the freedom of the Dutch nationality, even though the West is in decline.

If you ask Chinese, 99% would not even consider the Chinese nationality (but that's largely based on a too positive image of the West).

3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 January 2011 )
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