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Your Questions Answered

Chinese Family in the USA With the Father Born in Hong Kong – Can They All Get the Right of Abode & HKSAR Passports?

March 4th, 2013

Posted by / in Long Stay & PR, Your Question Answered / 8 responses



I was born in China and have HKID with “***”.
I got US green card around 1990.
I married a US citizen (Chinese born in China) in 1991.

My older son was born in 1996 in the US.
I became a US citizen in 1997.
My younger children were born in the US in 2002 & 2004.
I changed my smart PHKID and HKSAR passport in 2010.

We all now live in the US.
Will my children qualify for PHKID?
Will my wife qualify for PHKID?
Is it legal to have both HKSAR and US passport?


This truly is a complex area of Hong Kong immigration law.

In order to secure permanent Hong Kong identity cards (PHKIDs), you must establish that your children and wife are ‘permanent residents’ of Hong Kong.

A permanent resident of the HKSAR is defined under paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Immigration Ordinance.

Here are the relevant sections:

2       A person who is within one of the following categories is a permanent resident of the HKSAR…

(a)   A Chinese citizen born in Hong Kong.

(b)   A Chinese citizen who has ordinary resided in Hong Kong for a continuous period of not less than 7 years.

(c)    A person of Chinese nationality born outside of Hong Kong to a parent who, at the time of birth of that person, was a Chinese citizen falling within Category (a) or (b).

(d)   …

“Chinese citizen” is defined under paragraph 1(1) of the Schedule 1 to the Immigration Ordinance.

“Chinese citizen” means a person of Chinese nationality under the Nationality Law of the PRC as implemented in the HKSAR pursuant to Article 18 of and Annex III to the Basic Law and interpreted in accordance with the Explanations of Some Question by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress Concerning the Implementation of the Nationality Law of the PRC (‘CNL’) in the HKSAR adopted at the 19th meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress at the 8th National People’s Congress on 15 May, 1996.

Article 5 of the CNL stipulates that:

“Any person born abroad who parents are Chinese nationals or one of whose parent is a Chinese national shall have Chinese nationality. But a person who parents are both Chinese nationals and have both settled abroad, or one of whose parents is a Chinese national and has settled abroad, and who has acquired foreign nationality at birth shall not have Chinese nationality.”

So, the initial test in considering whether your children are permanent residents of Hong Kong for the purposes of getting PHKIDs Cards is whether they were Chinese nationals at the time of their birth.

Whether they are Chinese nationals or not therefore hinges on if you, their father (who are a Chinese national), were settled abroad at the time of their birth.

If they are deemed Chinese nationals at the time of their birth, the second test of ‘acquiring foreign nationality at birth’ comes into play.

From the information you have provided to me it appears that:

1 – You, their father, are a Chinese national.

2 – At the time of the birth of your children you were settled abroad in the USA.

3 – Consequently, by operation of Chinese nationality law, your children are not Chinese nationals.

4 – Indeed, they acquired US nationality at the time of their birth.

5 – Consequently, as your children are not Chinese nationals they cannot be deemed permanent residents of Hong Kong by virtue of their relationship to you.

6 – Meaning, their application for PHKIDs ‘by descent’ is unlikely to be successful.

7 – Your wife is a Chinese national – but was not born in Hong Kong.

8 – For her to become a permanent resident of the HKSAR she will have to:

(a)   Secure a dependant visa sponsored by you and live continuously and ordinarily in Hong Kong for not less than 7 years and then claim the Right of Abode under section 2(b) above.

(b)  However, as a US citizen there are complex issues in relation to her choosing her US citizenship over Chinese nationality for the purposes of her long term residency in Hong Kong (requiring choice of preferred nationality).

(c)   If she becomes a permanent resident of Hong Kong and elects to favour her Chinese nationality she will be able to go on to secure a HKSAR passport.

(d)  If she elects to favour her US citizenship, she will not.

(e)  Ostensibly, she would have to relinquish her US citizenship to go on to acquire a HKSAR passport as it is not lawful under Chinese nationality law to be a dual citizen.

9 – For your children to secure the PHKIDs, they will have to adopt the same process as your wife, too (but acquiring the Right of Abode by virtue of being qualifying long-stay foreign nationals).

10 – However as they were not born on Chinese soil and you, their father, were settled abroad at the time of their birth (and they acquired US citizenship at the time of their birth) they will not be able to acquire Chinese nationality ‘by descent’.

11 – Instead, they will have to naturalize as Chinese citizens under Chinese nationality law, giving up their US citizenship in the process, in order to acquire HKSAR passports.

More Stuff to May Find Useful or Interesting

Help!! All my family are permanent residents of Hong Kong and I’m stuck as a visitor due to my time spent studying abroad – is there any way forward?

How can a foreign national permanent resudent of Hong Kong get a HKSAR passport?

How does the right of abode downgrade to the right to land and what are the immigration implications of this?

I worked in Hong Kong for 4 years – then left for 2 – and have a valid visa in my passport – can I still work and then apply for PR?

Does my child get the right of abode  if she wasn’t born in Hong Kong  but I have the right to land?


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The Hong Kong Visa Geeza (a.k.a Stephen Barnes) is a co-founder of the Hong Kong Visa Centre and author of the Hong Kong Visa Handbook. A law graduate of the London School of Economics, Stephen has been practicing Hong Kong immigration since 1993 and is widely acknowledged as the leading authority on business immigration matters here for the last 24 years.

  • Fil

    2 Dec 2022 am31 2:01am

    Hi regarding your statement below:

    11 – Instead, they will have to naturalize as Chinese citizens under Chinese nationality law, giving up their US citizenship in the process, in order to acquire HKSAR passports.

    If I relinquish foreign citizen to get chinese in order to be qualified for hk passport, what to do?

    • The Visa Geeza

      2 Dec 2022 am31 9:21am

      You go through the Chinese naturalization process. A huge topic way beyond the scope of this website.

  • JJ Hou

    14 May 2022 am31 4:37am

    is there an attorney in HK that you can recommend?
    I was born in the USA to a HK Passport Holder (HK Citizen) prior to the return of HK to China and its SAR status (1971).
    I applied for a HK passport, permanent residency and PRC return card in 2017 and was granted *** status for Right to Abode.
    I mainly have been living in HK, but have also returned to the USA to help ailing parents.
    I have since had 2 children with a USA national, and am “stuck” in the USA due to covid19 restrictions including a fear of infection for infants who cannot be immunized.

    I would like to return to HK once the pandemic is over with my children and for them to receive HK citizenship, *** right to abode, and a return visit card to the PRC proper.

    I believe I need attorney help to get this done as COVID 19 has prolonged my stay in the USA, and my children have been granted USA citizenship as part of being born on USA soil and to a USA National.

    THe other question is whether they will be granted dual citizenship till they are of an age to make that choice themselves, or will they be required to relinquish USA citizenship.

    • The Visa Geeza

      1 Jun 2022 pm30 2:30pm


      If your children acquired US nationality at birth in the US then they cannot make a claim for Chinese nationality (you cannot be a dual national under Chinese nationality law).

      Please email rutleg at hkvisacentre dot com if you need our professional assistance.

  • TT

    21 Apr 2022 am30 2:29am

    My question is: what immigration form I should fill out to apply a green card for my American born daughter(minor) to stay in Hong Kong permanently?

    I am a permanent resident of Hong Kong with new smart ID card.

  • James MCcament

    2 Dec 2017 pm31 7:14pm

    Really wonderful and informative post! I am fortunate enough to apply for and easily get a 10 year visa since I have the majority of my family living in china still. This is an awesome step-by-step guide for people who don’t know where to start.


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