Enrolling Binational Children in Beijing International Schools: Immigration Law Issues

The school year has just begun in Beijing. But for children of binational couples, it’s not too early to start thinking about immigration-related requirements for enrolling in Beijing international schools next year. In some cases, a child may need to renounce Chinese citizenship in order to become eligible for enrollment.

An “international school” [1] is one that is foreign-owned and approved by the Ministry of Education to enroll the children of “foreign personnel holding residence permits in China.”[2] Significantly, “the children of Chinese citizens” are not eligible for enrollment.[3] And the Ministry of Education’s rules don’t address whether children of binational couples are eligible, so that is left to be addressed by local Beijing authorities, as explained below.

A list of international schools can be found at http://www.jsj.edu.cn/index.php/default/news/index/24 .

Who Automatically Acquires PRC Citizenship at Birth?

This chart shows which children automatically become Chinese citizens at birth according to the Nationality Law[4]:

Place of Child’s BirthCitizenship of ParentsCitizenship of Child
ChinaOne or both is ChineseChinese
Both parents are:
(a) stateless or uncertain nationality; and
(b) have settled (定居) in China.
Neither is ChineseForeign
Abroad(a) One or both parents is Chinese and has settled (定居) abroad; and
(b) the child has acquired foreign citizenship at birth.[5]
(a) At least one parent is Chinese; and
(b) Either:(1) no Chinese parent has settled abroad; or
(2) the child has not acquired foreign citizenship at birth.

Dual Nationality Not Recognized

Under the Nationality Law, the PRC government does not recognize dual nationality.[6] For a child who automatically acquires Chinese nationality at birth, merely obtaining a foreign passport does not impact the PRC government’s view that the child is Chinese. So, generally, no PRC visa or residence permit will be issued because that would be tantamount to treating the child as a foreigner. And no Chinese passport will be issued because that would implicitly recognize dual nationality. Instead, to facilitate travel in and out of China of Chinese citizens holding foreign passports, the public security bureau will issue an Exit and Entry Permit (出入境通行证), and PRC embassies and consulates abroad will issue Travel Documents (旅行证).

Beijing Education Commission Rules

Unfortunately, the Beijing Education Commission’s regarding the immigration requirements for enrollment in international schools are not publicly available. In practice, a child needs a residence permit issued by the Beijing public security bureau (PSB) or evidence that he or she has applied to renounce Chinese nationality.

One of these combinations of parents’ and child’s immigration status is required for admission in Beijing international schools[7]:
Parents’ Immigration StatusChild’s Immigration Status
1. Both foreign passport holders, one of whom has a residence permit for work issued by the Beijing PSBForeign passport with residence permit for private affairs issued by the Beijing PSB[8]
2. One foreign passport holder with residence permit for work issued by the Beijing PSB One PRC national parentForeign passport with residence permit for private affairs[9] issued by Beijing PSB
3. One foreign passport holder with residence permit for family reunion[10] One PRC national parent with a Beijing hukouForeign passport with residence permit family reunion issued by the Beijing PSB
4. Situation #2 or 3 abovePRC national whose application to renounce Chinese nationality is currently pending, as evidenced by a receipt issued by the PSB[11]

Renouncing Chinese Citizenship

For children of binational couples, the decision to apply for renunciation of PRC citizenship can turn on many factors besides eligibility for enrollment in international school.[12] If renunciation is the right answer for your child, an application can be made by the parents to the PSB or to a PRC embassy or consulate abroad.[13] The process can be lengthy. Once renunciation is complete, the child may apply to the Beijing PSB for a residence permit for private affairs or family reunion, thus qualifying for enrollment in a Beijing international school.

An earlier version of this article appears in the Sept. 2014 edition of the American Chamber of Commerce-China’s Business Now magazine.


  1. Other types of elementary/secondary schools in Beijing include public schools operated by the government, private schools owned by Chinese citizens or entities, and schools for the children of diplomatic personnel.
  2. Ministry of Education, Interim Regulations for the Administration of Schools Established for the Children of Foreign Personnel (国家教育委员会关于开办外籍人员子女学校的暂行管理办法), Ed. Comm’n Foreign Affairs Doc. No. 130 [1995], arts. 2, 8, issued Apr. 5, 1995, at https://lawandborder.com/international-school-regulations/.
  3. Interim Regulations, art. 8.
  4. Nationality Law (国籍法), enacted by the NPC, promulgated by Order No. 8 of the Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, effective Sept. 10, 1980.
  5. For example, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, any child born in the U.S. (except for children of certain diplomats) automatically acquires U.S. citizenship.
  6. Art. 3.
  7. Due to space constraints, this article does not address eligibility for enrollment where the parents hold permanent residence (i.e., green card) status abroad, or are from Hong Kong, Macau, or Taiwan.
  8. A residence permit for private affairs (“私人事务类居留证”) is issued to the child under 18 years old of foreign nationals residing in China for purposes of work, study, etc. The child will typically have entered China with an S1 visa.
  9. A residence permit for private affairs (“私人事务类居留证”) is issued to the child under 18 years old of foreign nationals residing in China for purposes of work, study, etc. The child will typically have entered China with an S1 visa.
  10. A residence permit for family reunion (“团聚类居留证件”) is issued to spouses and children of PRC citizens and PRC permanent residents. The individual will typically have entered China with a Q1 visa.
  11. Enrollment is issued on a one-year conditional basis, and is renewable if the renunciation application is still pending the following school year.
  12. See Gary Chodorow, Choosing Between U.S. and Chinese Citizenship: Pros and Cons (Apr. 20, 2014), https://lawandborder.com/advantages-of-us-naturalization-versus-keeping-chinese-citizenship/.
  13. Nationality Law, art. 10. For more, see Gary Chodorow, Applying to Renounce Chinese Citizenship (June 10, 2014), https://lawandborder.com/renunciation-chinese-citizenship/.


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