Once you have accepted a job offer for teaching in China, you will need to start the process of applying for a Z-visa. This is a single entry visa which allows you to enter China and is valid for 30 days. Once in China, your school will then apply for your work/residence permit on your behalf. Don’t worry – your school will guide you through each step of the process and we at TFA also provide support and advice when needed.

The 2 parts to the China visa application process are:

  1. Before you enter China, you apply for a Z-visa.
  2. Once you have arrived in China, the school will apply for your work permit.

Here’s a summary of the steps involved:

Step 1 – Notification/Invitation Letter Application (Required for the Z-Visa)

Once you have signed a contract with the school, they will require you to send them scanned copies of all the following documents, which they use to apply for your notification letter:

Colour scan of your passport (first two pages)

Digital passport photo (4:3 headshot on a white background)

Colour scan of your TEFL certificate (if applicable)

Colour scan of your degree

Colour scan of a Criminal background check which must be issued within 6 months before entry into China, showing that you have a clean record.  This can be obtained through Disclosure Scotland (https://www.mygov.scot/disclosure-types/?via=https://www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/) or through ACRO Criminal Records Office (https://www.acro.police.uk/police_certificates.aspx).

– Physical/Medical exam report (if required – this can also be done on arrival in China)

– Signed reference letters from previous employers, especially for education-related work (if required).

When you have sent all of the above to the school, they will apply for your notification letter. This can take several weeks. They send the letter and the pack of your visa documents back to you.

NOTE: Remember to send the colour scans of your degree and background check to the school BEFORE you start the process of legalizing these documents to ensure the school can start the application for the notification letter promptly or this will delay the whole visa process. You should also specify the embassy (city and country) where you will apply for Z visa.

Step 2 – Legalizing/Authenticating your Documents in this specific order:

  1. Have your degree certificate and background check (and your TEFL certificate, if required) notarized by a notary public. See https://www.gov.uk/certifying-a-document for helpful tips on this. Do shop around as prices for this service vary considerably.
  2. Have these documents legalized by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised. The cost is £30 per document plus the courier/postage fee. The process normally takes 2 working days plus postage time. Opening hours are Monday-Friday, 10am to 4pm. You can email them at: legalisationenquiries@fco.gov.uk or call them on 03700 00 22 44.
  3. Take the authenticated documents to the Chinese Embassy in London or the Chinese Consulate in Manchester, Edinburgh or Belfast – for details check this link: http://www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/lsfw/legalization/. The cost is £17 per document and the process takes 4 working days. Applications cannot be submitted via post but you may authorize someone to submit and collection an application on your behalf. They are efficient, so you could be in and out in minutes if you time it right!

Step 3 – Z-Visa Application

You should download, print off and complete the Z-visa application form from the Embassy website (http://www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/visa/qzxz/) before going to the Embassy so that you can submit it along with your documents (your notification letter, passport and other documents from Step 1 and your legalized documents from Step 2) and the appropriate fee.

 Step 4- Work permit application in China (original documents will be required):

The work/residence permit is applied for following your arrival in China. The documents required for this process are the same as you submitted to your school in Step 1 except for the fact that the colour scans of your degree and background check must be of the versions legalized by the Chinese Embassy.

PLEASE NOTE: You will need to bring originals of all the documents with you to China as originals are required for the work permit application. Your degree certificate will be returned to you, they will retain the background check. They won’t return the TEFL certificate to you, so ensure you submit the certified copy of it.