Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions appear below, grouped by their subject area. If you have any other questions that are not answered on this list, please send an email to ShanghaiACS@state.gov.
- Appointments and Fees
- Chinese Visas
- Passport Services
- Notary Services
- Marriage in China
- Consular Reports of Birth Abroad
- Legal Permanent Residents
- Social Security
How do I make an appointment?
You can make an appointment online by clicking here.
What if I need to do more than one thing? Can I do it all on the same day?
Each person requires their own appointment. For example, if a family needs to add pages to their passports, then each person needing pages should have an appointment.
If you require more than one service during one appointment, please make an appointment for the more time-consuming process. Applications for Consular Reports of Birth Abroad are the most time consuming, and notaries are less time consuming. However, if you require more than one notary for yourself, you only have to make one notary appointment.
What kinds of services require an appointment?
The following services all require appointments:
- Obtaining a U.S. passport for minors and adults
- Adding visa pages to a U.S. passport
- Applying for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) and first U.S. passport for children
- Returning interviews to submit additional documents for a pending CRBA application
- Applying for a social security card
- Obtaining notarial services
- Completing a Marriageability Affidavit
- Reporting a green card lost/stolen and/or applying for a DHS transportation letter
- Fingerprint services for adoptive parents
- Citizenship renunciations
I’m trying to make an appointment, but I don’t see it listed on the online appointment system. What should I do?
The online appointment system has four (4) categories of appointments:
- Add visa pages to undamaged, valid U.S. passport.
- Passport services other than adding pages.
- Report the birth abroad of a child of a U.S. citizen and/or apply for the child's first passport, Report of Birth and Social Security Number.
- Request notarial and other services not listed above
If the type of appointment you want to make does not fit into the first three appointment types listed above, then please make an appointment using option 4, request notarial and other services not listed above.
First adult passport (child over 16)
Passport card (previous PPT holder)
Adding pages to an existing passport
Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)
Notary/Certified copy (per notary seal)
You can also visit the State Department's travel website for a more detailed list of fees.
What methods can I use to pay these fees?
You can pay the fees in U.S. dollars, RMB equivalent or by credit card. We accept VISA, MasterCard, Discover, Diners Club and American Express cards.
What does “overstaying my visa” mean?
When you overstay your visa, you have exceeded the maximum amount of time allowed by the Chinese Exit-Entry Bureau to legally reside in China. The length of time you are allowed to be present depends on the type of visa in your passport and the length of stay as determined by the Exit-Entry Bureau.
I have overstayed my visa in China. What do I do now?
You should contact the Entry and Exit Bureau immediately. Overstaying your Chinese visa will lead to fines of 500 RMB per day with a maximum of 5,000 RMB. Refusing to pay the fine can lead to imprisonment and deportation. The U.S. Consulate cannot extend your Chinese visa nor waive the fee for you.
I have not yet overstayed my visa, but by the time I travel, I will have overstayed my visa. What do I do?
If you have onward travel planned, but your visa will expire before you plan to travel, you need to check with the Exit-Entry Bureau regarding your options. The U.S. Consulate cannot extend your Chinese visa nor waive the fee for you.
How can I get my nanny/ayi a visa to come with me to the U.S.?
All nannies wishing to accompany their employer on a short visit to the U.S. need a non-immigrant visa. For more information on how to apply for non-immigrant visas, see the visa portion of our website.
When I receive my new U.S. passport, if I have a valid Chinese visa in my old passport, do I need to have the Exit-Entry Bureau transfer it to my new passport?
In most cases, you do not need to have a new visa inserted into your passport until your current visa expires. However, if the biographical data has changed between your old and new passport, then you will need to get a new visa in your new passport. For instance, if you changed your name after your old passport was issued, the Chinese authorities may require that you reapply for your visa under the name in the new passport.
How do I get Criminal Record checks for transferring a Chinese tourist visa to a work visa?
The American Citizen Services Unit cannot perform a criminal records check for you; however, there are several options available to you. For more information on how to check your records, please click here.
Where can I find passport applications online?
You can fill out passport forms online using our passport wizard. After you have filled out the form, please print it out and bring it with you to the appointment.
I've lost my passport. What do I do?
To obtain a replacement passport and exit visa, you must:
- First, report the passport and visa lost/stolen to the Exit-Entry Bureau. You will receive a report of lost passport, usually within two days.
- Next, bring the report of lost passport and apply for a replacement passport at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate
- Update your registration, including your passport number, with the local police station. If you are staying at a hotel or hostel, they will often do this for you.
- Finally, take the new passport back to the Exit-Entry Bureau for the new visa.
Please view our lost/stolen passport page for more information.
I’m divorced but I have custody of my child. Why do I need my ex’s consent to renew my child’s passport?
U.S. law requires both parents to consent to issue a passport to a child under age 16 unless you have full custody of the child as determined by a competent court of law. Countries have different standards of custody, so the legal document granting sole custody must state that the parent applying for the passport has the legal ability to make decisions for the child.
How many times can I add pages to my passport?
We do not add more than 2 sets of extra pages to any passport. However, the final determination is up to the ACS Officer. If it is determined that adding pages is not possible with your current passport, then we can help you to apply for a new passport at that time.
Can I use a passport card to travel around China?
No. The passport card can only be used for land travel between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Why do I need to bring my child’s birth certificate to renew his/her passport?
Although your child’s passport is proof of his or her citizenship, renewing a child’s passport requires the consent of both parents. The easiest way to illustrate the identity of the two parents is with a birth certificate or adoption record.
What types of notary services are available?
The U.S. Consulate offers four types of notary services:
- Oath (Affidavit): An oath is a written statement or declaration sworn to, or affirmed before, a consular official.
- Acknowledgement: An acknowledgement is the consular officer’s declaration that the named individual appeared before him/her and has acknowledged that the signature of a document is his/her own signature, that s/he understands the document, and has signed of his/her own free will.
- Authentication: An authentication is the certification of the genuineness of a signature of a notary or government official. Documents that may require an authentication include legal instruments notarized by foreign notaries.
- Certification of True Copies: A document that has been verified as a complete and accurate reproduction of an original.
Why was my notary refused?
Consular officers can refuse to perform a notary service if they have reason to believe that the document will be used for purposed patently unlawful or not in the best interests of the United States. In addition, consular officers can postpone a notary if the customer cannot demonstrate that he or she understands the nature and language of the document and comprehends the significance of the act, or in cases where the signatory is acting under duress.
What happens if my document requires a witness?
The consular officer and local staff are not permitted to act as witnesses. If you did not bring witnesses with you, you may ask some of the other patrons in the waiting room if they are willing to witness your document.
How do I get a document authenticated?
Authentication is required when you wish to certify Chinese documents intended for use in the United States. To permit authentication, a Chinese notary public office at city or county level must first notarize the documents. Then, the foreign affairs office of the provincial government, which has jurisdiction over the city where the documents were notarized, should authenticate the documents. Once that has been done, the consular officer can authenticate the signature of the provincial foreign affairs official. We can only authenticate the signatures of the Chinese provincial-level foreign affairs officials within our consular district, which includes Shanghai and the provinces of Anhui, Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
Can foreigners get married in China?
In order to marry, at least one member of the couple must reside in China. Two foreigners on tourist visas are unlikely to be able to register to marry.
Are there any restrictions on who I can marry?
The eligibility age is generally 22 for men and 20 for women. Certain categories of Chinese citizens, such as diplomats, security officials, and others whose work is considered to be crucial to the state, are not legally free to marry foreigners.
Where do I register my marriage?
In Shanghai, please direct inquiries to the Marriage Registration Office at 3rd Floor, Room E; #82 Cao Bao Lu (Tel: +8621 6432-5087). In other cities, please contact the local civil affairs office (Min Zheng Ju).
What documents do I need?
Upon receipt of an application to register a marriage, the civil affairs office must ascertain that both parties are eligible to marry. The American partner to a marriage in China will generally be asked to submit a current passport, Chinese residence permit, Marriageability Affidavit and a certified translation of the Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry. The Chinese partner must submit their Family Registration Book (Hu Kou Bu) or residence permit, and Chinese National ID card (Shen Fen Zheng).
How do I get the Certificate of Marriageability?
The U.S. Consulate has the authority to issue a Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry for Americans who wish to marry in China. To apply for a Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry, you are required to appear in person at the U.S. Consulate. You will need to make an appointment and you must bring your U.S. passport and your fiancé/fiancée’s ID. Please use our online appointment system to make a notary appointment for this service.
What is a CRBA?
A Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) is an official record of your child’s acquisition of U.S. citizenship at birth. It can be used as a birth certificate for school, work, or other purposes.
When should I apply?
The CRBA is primary evidence of citizenship and the basis for issuance of a U.S. passport - it is one of the most important documents you can obtain for your child. A U.S. Consular Officer may issue a CRBA to an eligible child upon receipt of an application made by the child's parent(s) or legal guardian(s) any time before the child’s 18th birthday. However, since the Chinese government requires you to obtain a dependent visa within thirty days of your child’s birth, it is best to apply as soon as possible after the birth of your child. The Shanghai Entry and Exit Bureau has recently begun charging fines of up to 1,000 RMB for children who are not registered within 30 days. If you are unable to obtain a U.S. passport in time to meet the 30 day deadline, you may use your child’s Chinese birth certificate to register.
Is my child a citizen?
A child born outside of the U.S. to two American citizen parents acquires U.S. citizenship as long as one of the parents has resided in the U.S. prior to the child's birth (Immigration and Nationality Act Sec.301(c)).
- A child born abroad, in wedlock, with only one American citizen parent, acquires citizenship only when the citizen parent was physically present in the U.S. for 5 years or more prior to the child's birth, at least 2 of the 5 years occurring after the parent had passed age 14 (Immigration and Nationality Act Sec.301(g)).
- A child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father and alien mother acquires citizenship only when the father was physically present in the U.S. for five years prior to the child’s birth, two of which after the age of 14, AND father acknowledges paternity and agrees in writing to support the child until 18 years of age (Immigration and Nationality Act Sec.301(g), 309(a) as amended).
- A child born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen mother and alien father acquires citizenship only when the mother was physically present in the U.S. for a continuous period of one year sometime before the child’s birth (Immigration and Nationality Act Sec 309 (c)).
How can I prove my residency?
A combination of the following documents can be used to prove you meet the residency requirements to transmit citizenship to your child: current and old passports with entry/departure stamps, U.S. school transcripts showing periods of attendance, W-2 forms, pay stubs, utility bills, U.S. employment references, old letters, etc.
What if I lose the CRBA or the CRBA contains incorrect information?
Only one original of the Report of Birth is issued to the parent(s) or legal guardian(s). Additional copies are not available at the Consulate. You must contact the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. for a replacement. The Department of State’s Vital Records Section handles lost CRBAs. More information is available on replacing or amending is available on the State Department’s travel website.
I lost my green card. Can the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai get me a new one?
Green cards can only be applied for in the United States, but you can apply for a transportation letter. Transportation letters are approved by DHS in Beijing, but the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai can take the documents and payment, and then forward the documents to the appropriate authority. For more information on this process, see our page on lost and stolen green cards.
What if I plan on being absent from the United States for longer than a year?
It is advisable to first apply for a reentry permit on Form I-131, and this form must be filed with USCIS. Obtaining a reentry permit prior to leaving the United States allows a permanent or conditional permanent resident to apply for admission into the United States during the permit’s validity without the need to obtain a returning resident visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. Please note that it does not guarantee entry into the United States upon your return as you must first be determined to be admissible; however, it will assist you in establishing your intention to permanently reside in the United States.
If I remain outside of the United States for more than 2 years, what should I do?
Any reentry permit granted before your departure from the United States will have expired. In this case, it is advisable to consider applying for a returning resident visa (SB-1) at the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou in mainland China. An SB-1 applicant will be required to establish eligibility for an immigrant visa and will need a medical exam. There is an exception to this process for the spouse or child of either a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or civilian employee of the U.S. Government stationed abroad on official orders. For more information on obtaining a returning resident visa, see the Consulate Guangzhou webpage
If I give up my green card, can I get a 5 or 10 year visa?
Length of visa validity is based on reciprocity between individual countries and the United States. The current reciprocity agreement between the U.S. and China limits most visas to one year. There is no extra benefit for former Legal Permanent Residents. Also, please keep in mind that the act of giving up a green card does not prove a lack of immigrant intent in and of itself.
I want to give up my green card. My child also has a green card. How can my child abandon his/her green card?
Parents who are abandoning their green cards can also sign for their minor child to also abandon their green card.
Can I apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai?
Yes. You can apply for a SSN at the American Citizen Services (ACS) Unit of the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai. ACS will then forward your application to the SSA office in Manila for further processing. It may take 3-6 months or longer for people to receive a Social Security card in China from SSA office.
Is there any way for me to know my SSN sooner?
Yes. Since the Social Security card will be mailed directly from the SSA office in Baltimore to the mailing address that you left on your SSN application, we recommend that you leave a U.S. mailing address on your SSN application. This will help you to avoid an extra 2-4 weeks for international mails.
You could contact SSA office in Manila to release your number first. You may be able to know the SSN through this method in 2-3 months after you submit your SSN application to ACS.