Well, I had been keeping that conversation in the upstairs areas, but since a couple of people decided to ignore the "what's said upstairs stays upstairs" rule, I'll go ahead and lay it out for everyone here. Apologies in advance for taking this thread a bit off topic, but citizenship is often a follow-on to greencards in many countries, so it's not a complete wrecking of the thread. If this does get out of control, I guess we can spin it off into a new topic.
Before getting into the reasons, I'd like to assault the core of some of the objections I've gotten, both in the Saloon as well as items I've found online about others who have or are planning on changing from US to any other citizenship.
If I went to nearly any US citizen and said "I've married a foreign woman, want to settle down in the US of A, and she'll be getting her greencard, then become an loyal M'rican citizen, and we'll spend our final years getting bedsores in adjacent cots in a
Soon To Be Soylent Green Containment Zone
retirement hacienda, the universal reaction would be "how wonderful!" The reaction would be akin to walking into a conservative church and announcing the successful conversion of a "heathen" to the one true faith.
On the other hand, the general reactions of US citizens to any of their fellow citizens considering changing their allegiance to ANY other flag are . . . less than positive. If it's becoming a Brit, Kiwi, or some other "civilized" place, it's sort of the reaction I'd get if I announcing to my Southern Baptist parents that I'm becoming Catholic - not happy, but at least it's closely related. Pick a country much more afield and the reaction becomes a twisted mix of "Blasphemer!" and "Treason against your homeland!"
The US government itself is rather vindictive. If you give up your citizenship, it's forever (unlike China
). A requirement to publish the names of those who dare to renounce their citizenship was also enacted to try to frighten people way from doing this. At least the reports are that tourist/business visas aren't an issue for former citizens and that greencards (with no citizenship option) are a possibility. I'll personally be happy with a tourist/business visa in case I need to drop in for something.
I personally find it odd that "a nation of immigrants" can't handle the very thought of it's own citizens becoming immigrants somewhere else. If me thinking about giving up my citizenship somehow makes me a traitor, what does this say about every immigrant who gave up their old citizenship to become a newly minted US citizen?
So, I'll hope everyone here can avoid falling into the "Getting US citizenship is a wonderful thing and giving it up is somehow evil" hypocrisy. Yes, citizenship of any county has advantages and disadvantages, but the last time I checked, "America" wasn't supposed to be a religious faith that persecuted people who gave it up, and "Americanism" as an ideology also wasn't quite as perfect as children are subtly programmed to believe in in during Sunday school and elementary school. If someone here can't handle the core concept that different people might desire different citizenships, then this conversation won't get very far.
So, if we can dispense with the instinctive defensive USA Über Alles viewpoint, then on to more practical reasons and objections:
Everyone here who's ever lived in China knows that even a 6 month teaching contract isn't for everyone. Then again, there are people reading this who came for a 6 month or 1 year contract and have been here a lot longer than I have.
Some of you will eventually "go home." Whether or not you consider changing your citizenship, I know at least a few of you are like me. You can't go home - since you already are home.
Home is where I am now. I like to travel, but this is where I want to come back to. This is where I want one of the following to be done with my corpse:
c. made into tasty green crackers
d. cryogenically preserved so that I can be defrosted to annoy people in the future.
I know some of you are planning to retire somewhere besides China or your homelands. If that's what makes you happy, then I wish you a long and entertaining retirement wherever you end up. For me, I'm happy here and don't want to head off hunting for greener pastures as I get greyer.
But citizenship? In China?
Let me go through the usual objections and my answers.
1. What about Visas? Yeah, Chinese citizens are at a disadvantage when it comes to travel arrangements to a lot of places. The good news is that this is showing some signs of improvement. The bad news for me is that I'm helping the inlaws do their forms for US tourist visas this week and the damned thing wants even crazier amounts of info than I remembered (every job I've ever had, complete with address, phone number, and supervisor's name - Eeeek!). My personal news - other than business trips, my wife and often my daughter are with me, so the visa burden won't really be that big of a deal.
2. Health care? One of my lovely personal angels moved from Dongguan to HK. Thanks to meeting her in a hotel and handing her large piles of money, I finally have an industrial strength western-style set of insurance policies (and the very sad confirmation that signing up for insurance does not come with a happy ending even if the insurance agent is a very close friend
). DG itself has pretty good hospitals and the dentists have even been informed of anesthetics, so many of the nightmare scenarios people have trotted out are not going to be an issue for me. Plus, I can elect to have any really complex surgery done anywhere outside of the USA. Yeah, America has some of the world's best hospitals, but none of my US plans would let me run off and check myself in at a hospital in London, Tokyo, or Hong Kong if I didn't like the nearby options.
Just don't tell my lovely wife that my life insurance makes me worth a lot more dead than alive.
3. Does your wife really want to move to the US? I'm sure there are plenty of lovely ladies in China who would have been happy to marry me for my long and thick . . . citizenship (almost as many as for my big, hard wallet). Those aren't the kind of girls I hang out with. If every girl you meet thinks that way, you need to rethink were you are meeting girls.
I'm sure if I really wanted to move back, I could probably talk my wife into it, but not until after our lovely daughter gets married. Since I don't want to move back, I look forward to someday sitting around watching my grandchildren drive my daughter crazy.
4. Wouldn't moving to the US would make it easier to get my daughter into a US University? Maybe, bit her other father isn't letting me drag her off to another country until she's graduated high school, and first we have to get her into a decent high school next year.
Besides, I already have the US Uni admissions policy covered. If she really wants to go to an American university and can't get in as a freshman, I know which community colleges in Florida are well rated. She's already reached the point where I think she could get an adequate score on the TOEFL, and with that little obstacle removed, those are open enrollment. 2 years later, she's guaranteed admission at any of the state uni's in Florida and may yet become the 4th generation of Lunatics to attend my alma matter.
If she doesn't want Florida, I'll have to find out what other states have the same rules.
5. Why not settle for a green card? I could also ask the same question of why people with a US greencard don't just stick with the greencard, but decide to apply for US citizenship. I'll wager most of them aren't doing it just to vote for the least scary presidential candidate every 4 years and to have an easier time getting travel visas.
For me, the green card is both my fallback option as well as the first step. Only a handful of non-Chinese related foreigners have ever become citizens, so I don't expect to fill out a one page form, hand it across the desk to the immigration guy and get told "come back and pick up your Chinese ID in a week." Getting approved may take some time.
First step? Yep! Finding facts on this project of mine has been challenging. I finally managed to get a few questions answered directly by someone reasonably high up the food chain at the local entry/exit bureau of foreigner herding. According to him, it seems the part of the nationality law that says "settling down in China" as a valid reason has been interpreted as "has held a permanent residence permit for at least 1 year". So, I NEED that green card as the first step. I've just heard that there is a proposal to make it 3 years after getting a green card, but with more fixed qualifications (such as a citizenship test).
But, back to the question - why not settle for a greencard? Simple. I plan to be here forever. "Permanent" residency actually is on a 10 year renewal. If policies change, it's possible that retirees could be pushed out. It's possible that some of the common (and horrible) diseases associated with aging could be added to a list of reasons to not renew it. It's possible that my pathological need to jaywalk could eventually move me to a list of troublemakers and result in my deportation - unless I'm a citizen.
6. But how can you leave the #1 most perfect country in the universe? (Yeah, I tried to dismiss this earlier, but I know some of you are still stuck on that idea, so couldn't resist taking another shot at it.) Look at the social trends. Look at the financial statistics. Think long term. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Rome didn't fall in a day, but fall it did. If I wasn't in love with China, I'd be checking out other countries and looking for the softest landing possible. As it is, soft or hard landing, this is where I want to be. What if I'm wrong and
and fan collide here worse than the US? I consider this unlikely, but social and financial analysis are both very inexact sciences, so feel free to predict your own personal doomsday however you like. If this did happen, I wouldn't consider leaving my wife and daughter behind and run to the consulate waving my passport while screaming "Save me, for I am one of the chosen ones!" My personal "End Of Civilization As We Know It" plan is to gather up my friends, "borrow" anything that floats, run up the Jolly Roger, and say "Yo Ho Ho!" a lot. Personally, I think I'd enjoy that a lot more than the typical US plan of hiding in a bunker and shooting at gangs of cannibals.
7. What about dual citizenship? Two problems. First, the USA allows it, but doesn't recognize it. Second, the act of becoming a Chinese citizen requires surrendering all other citizenships. Approval isn't finalized until papers are presented confirming this has been done. Happily, they do give a firm "IF you give up the other(s), we WILL take you" before one needs to give up tany other citizenship, so there's no chance if ending up stateless by accident.
I'm not trying to recruit others to change their citizenship. I just feel that I want to change mine to fit my plan for the rest of my life. Some people couldn't handle a vacation in China, much less being here for life. Personally, the thought of a vacation in Iowa fills me with terror, but there really are people who actually move there voluntarily.
Getting my greencard and then acquiring Chinese citizenship is my personal quest, and I'm not planning on giving up.
BTW - I finally found out what it will say for my nationality. I thought I'd get labelled as Kazakh, Russian, or one of the other minority nationalities that I might be able to pass for. It turns out addition to the 56 nationalities, a few "unrecognized" nationalities that managed to get their names added to an alternates list, there are 2 other categories. One is for unrecognized nationalities that don't have their names on the list of alternates. The final choice translates roughly to foreigner who became Chinese. I've already done it in my heart. Now, I want the ID an passport to go with it.