How I Filed a USA Passport for my Baby Born in China

In china business, family friends, usa by Michael Michelini16 Comments

Been pretty actively getting questions, comments, and phone calls from friends about how I filed a USA passport for my 2 week old son that was born in China.  While my baby was born in China, this process is the same for anywhere outside of the United States of America.

Diving Head First Into The Process

It’s a rather straight forward process.  The main thing to keep in mind is, what nationality do you want your newborn baby to be?  If my son had been born in Hong Kong, he could have been both Hong Kong and USA.  But by being in China, he could not be dual citizen in China and USA – as China will not allow anyone to hold more than 1 passport.

So we had to choose between USA or China citizenship.

We choose USA.  My wife isn’t a local Shenzhen resident anyway, so the education in local schools would be almost the full price as if he were a foreign or American baby – (she is from Shenyang city in the north – and each region has different tax benefits / costs for education and other perks)

Once decided, the US embassy is where you need to go, Guangzhou’s is the one for us – as Miles was born in Shenzhen, China and that falls under Guangzhou’s American embassy.  (But to be honest, for me personally, I normally go to the American embassy in Hong Kong, but for this situation, had to take the trip to Guangzhou – Hong Kong is much more convenient for me and most in Shenzhen).

The website is pretty clear, but it is a bit daunting, I will reference it here, but also discuss my “story” to be a less overwhelming and “technical” government feel.

What I needed to get started filing a USA passport

  • Birth certificate from the hospital he was born
  • Both Parents to go to the Embassy
  • Baby to go the the Embassy (I was able to get this waived as my child was in intensive care and we had a doctor’s note)
  • Marriage certificate
  • My USA passport
  • My wife’s Chinese identification card
  • Passport photo –  2 inches by 2 inches, white background, eyes opened, facing the camera
  • Fee: $105usd for a new US passport.  (can pay in US dollars or Chinese Yuan RMB)

Step 1: Please read the instructions below
Step 2: Please make an appointment online(If you need more than one service during your visit, please be sure to make separate appointments.)
Step 3: Please complete U.S. Passport Application Form DS-11
full website with directions and detailed FAQ go to –

But then I learned about another document…a COBA (certificate of birth abroad) see below

COBA – Certificate of Birth Abroad

My friends call it COBA – it’s easier to remember for me than CRBA – but technically the definition and acronym below is:

What Is A Consular Report of Birth Abroad? A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) is evidence of United States citizenship, issued to a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents who meet the requirements for transmitting citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Complete Consular Report of Birth Abroad application: Form DS-2029

Fee. The application fee for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad is USD$100.00.

How long does it take?  About 2 weeks.

So I filed a USA passport and COBA at the same time

I printed out both of the forms and filed at the same time.  Seemed to work just fine.  May as well take care of 2 birds with 1 stone, right?

Total fees were $205 us dollars.    Waiting time is 2 weeks.

I got a receipt of payment, as well as an authorization form to grant a friend / someone I trust to pick up the passport and/or COBA at the embassy if I couldn’t do it myself.  They will not mail it – it must be picked up.

Another note – you do not need to file a US passport right away – but the child cannot leave China / that country if an emergency (medical, political, etc) so I feel more comfortable to get it ASAP.

Hope this is helpful. And hope some comments below share some ideas and insights I may have missed.

I’ll try to keep this up to date.

Here’s how I updated his passport years later – read below:

Renewing My Kid’s Passport In China (Abroad)

This has been a popular blog post – about filing and getting issued your kid’s first passport – the issue is it only lasts a year or 5.

Now we have renewed the passport a couple times for Miles since writing this original blog post (crazy!) and want to write up the things we learned renewing the passport

Schedule an appointment as your nearby US consulate.

We picked Shenyang as the kids would be here for 6 months.

Note – the kid won’t have a passport for a couple months (6 weeks or so)

So don’t expect them to travel. But the other alternative is to have the baby’s passport still active, and then once the new passport is ready you can pick it up.

What we did was had a shipping courier company have a pre-paid label so that once the passport was ready it would be sent to our home in Shenyang, China.

Need to fill out Form DS-11

I thought I had to fill out a different form DS-88 – but it was for people over 16 years old. Because my child was under 16, I had to fill out form DS-11

Print in advance. I paid a print shop across from the US consulate and filled out there (paid 6 us dollars – well also passport photos!)

Have 2 passport photos ready. Or just pay a print shop next door (almost all consulates have one next door)

In China- they didn’t let me use my USA number and USA address- they wanted a Pinyin Chinese address and phone number – so we used my wife’s (as I’ll be traveling soon).

Enter The US consulate (no laptop, cameras)

So I knew this going in, but wanted to make a quick video blog for this – don’t expect to bring your computer and bags into the US embassy. Certain ones don’t even have a locker – you need to use a third party company.

And that is what we did – across the street there was a shop (that also did printing and passport photos) which took care of this for us, for 20 RMB.

Wait in Line, Took about 45 minutes

Hopefully not too long. They will check your forms, and then charge you 115 USD (that is how much we paid)

The whole thing took about 45 minuets

The whole process, from our 2:00pm appointment took until 3:00pm (but some extra time checking in, etc)

I can imagine this can be a lot longer if the embassy is very busy.

Good luck! Dealing with my own passport was a hassle, but now having 2 kids just adds to the complexity (I mean fun!). Hope I made it a little bit better for you.

Now I will do it for my second kid, my daughter Maggie, yay!

Help Each Other In Comments Below

Since writing this blog (I remember being so stressed as I typed each word) – a lot of other parents have shared their experience and knowledge in the comment section below. I encourage you to read and also add to it so we can all help each other out in these complicated and scary situations and processes.

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  1. hi mike! thanks so much for this information! Very helpful! How long did it take to process your baby’s passport and have it in your hand from the time you submitted the application?

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article Noah

      Well I had a special circumstances a my baby was in ICU, so it was a couple days as I had doctor note for emergency situation

      Normally it is two weeks

  2. Will have to do the same for mine when it’s here in June/July. I’m in Frankfurt, Germany, though. Looks like you got an emergency or temporary passport (the bio page is different from the regular one, and it’s only valid for a year).

  3. There is a section on the CRBA form having the parents list the precise dates they were in the USA. As I have been in the USA sporadically throughout my life, this section proves lengthy. Did you fill out exact dates for the times you were in the USA or did you fill in general dates?

    1. Matt, I just did both the CRBA and USA passport in Shenyang’s US embassy for my daughter. Yes, you do need to fill out those exact dates and the easiest way to do that is to take all your passports you’ve had and just go through each page, and write the stamp date for each country into an excel. Then you can sort the excel in chronological order which will tell you where you were and for how long ik chronological order. This room a few hours for me since I have gone through 4 passports but it was much easier than trying to figure out where I was just by memory or other means.
      Also, I’m surprised Michael didn’t mention this but you also need to prove “5 years of physical presence in the USA” for your daughters CRBA. Depending on your specific situation this could be a pain in the butt. All I did was show my college transcript to the consular officer and he was fine with that. How strict the embassy is really depends on who the officer ends up being. Hope this helps.

  4. Hello, I have a questions, My baby was also born in China. She have received her US passport and CRBA already. I was told that I have to get some sort of proof stamp or visa on her passport before she can leave China from the Public Security Bureau Aliens Administration Section. Do you know or have any info about this? And how to go about doing this?

    1. Hi Tim

      I just did this for my baby girl – I went to the same place I got my work permit and showed them my work permit and then she was added as a dependent under me. hope this helps?

  5. Do you have to be married to apply for the U.S. Passport for your child?

  6. hi Mike, thank you so much for sharing this. It helps me a lot. May I ask if you need a CRBA in order to file a passport application? Did they give you any trouble when you filed both at the same time? Thank you so much for letting me know and wish you a happy life 🙂

    1. Author

      i filed both at same time because my son was in ICU and we were trying to get him to leave china to a Hong kong hospital so we did at same time – but not sure if it is normally that way – this was almost 5 years ago (my son is 5 soon). Hope it works out smoothly for you – maybe you cna update me / this blog after you find out so others can learn too.

      have a happy life to you too Nadia 🙂

  7. After you get the passport, how long before you must take the baby out of country to get a visa? Do I have to go to America with the child?

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