As a legalisation and visa company, we have extensive experience in helping clients with the paperwork required to obtain their dream jobs in China. We’ve been dealing with documentation for China since 2006, and our expertise in handling TEFL qualifications is unrivalled in the industry. Below, our team have put together a complete guide for you to the paperwork you will require to secure your new teaching position!
Our team of specialists will guide you through each stage in order of completion. While this is based on a UK applicant, we can complete the legalisation processes for you wherever your documents were issued. We can only help you apply for your Chinese Z Visa if you are based in the UK, but with our extensive network of colleagues in over 150 countries, we will be able to advise you on any legalisation or visa related query as required.
How to legalise your documents for use in China
So, you’ve made the decision to accept a teaching position in China…
It’s a very brave and exciting move but one that can be fraught with pitfalls for the uninitiated. Our purpose is to relieve you of one of the major headaches encountered when preparing for your move… document legalisation. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound like the most interesting of topics, but trust me, this is one part of the process you’ll want to get right!
Lesson 1, educate yourself
One of the unavoidable realities of working overseas is that you must hold a valid Z Visa. As my colleague Katie is covering visas in the other half of this blog, we’ll just be concentrating on the legalisation of your documents to apply for the work permit for now.
Without exception, to obtain a work permit you will need to provide the Chinese authorities with a specific set of documents. These documents generally include your highest qualification (Degree), a criminal record check (ACRO or DBS in the UK), and a teaching qualification or employment reference letter. Traditional teaching qualifications include QTS or PGCE certificates, however, more recently most people moving to China may instead hold some variation of an ESL certificate, such as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).
The HR department at your prospective school, or recruitment company should be your first port of call for confirming exactly which documents will be required. They will also be best placed to advise you of any requirements that are specific to themselves or the region. Your HR department will usually also take care of your work permit application too, so it’s advisable to be extra nice to them!
TEFL certificates are one of the trickier types of document to deal with. Whilst these qualifications are becoming much more accessible to those who wish to teach ESL, the industry itself is not officially regulated by any central body. This can make it difficult for would-be students to identify which course would meet their needs, and to establish a standard certificate format which will be accepted by the FCO.
This means that the company issuing the award may not always be officially registered in the country in which they operate. In order to be legalised, the government must recognise the awarding body. Another issue we’ve seen our customers encounter is their certificates containing wording that certain governmental departments or embassies may take exception to. We check every TEFL before submission. and if the content is unsuitable, we are able to advise on what actions to take next to help ensure the TEFL is accepted.
What is the process for legalising a document?
Once you’re confident that you know the requirements, it’s time to get those documents legalised (sometimes also known as authentication or attestation). And here’s where the real fun begins. Not every country follows the same process, and this applies to both the country of origin and your exotic new destination. The process for China usually includes the following stages:
- Notarisation/Solicitor Certification
- Application of an Apostille by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- Legalisation by the Chinese Embassy
Each of these steps must be carried out in the country where the document was issued (with a few very rare exceptions).
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, there are a few ways that this process can get rather complicated. For a start, not all documents are created equal. Certain documents require all the steps outlined above, others don’t. Some require even more. Each country will also have requirements as to how the documents must be presented which can differ greatly, all of which must be taken into consideration in each individual case.
What if I want to do it myself?
If you would prefer to take care of the legalisation process yourself, one of the main issues can be the time and expense involved, especially if you’re overseas. Many departments will not accept applications by post which means an unexpected road trip or flight, plus hotels etc. Sounds fun in theory, but, in reality it’s an unnecessary waste of time and money. There are also certain Embassies that will only accept documents submitted by registered agents such as ourselves.
When submitting certificates for Chinese legalisation, several supporting documents must also be provided. There are strict rules in place regarding these documents and any discrepancy can result in instant rejection by the Embassy (bearing in mind the Embassy is stage three of three). The rules that determine whether a certificate is accepted or not can and do change without notice, regularly! We work tirelessly to stay on top of this and ensure an easy and trouble-free experience.
China is such a popular destination for overseas teachers these days and we have certainly been dealing with more and more Chinese legalisation over the past couple of years. It’s not hard to see why, it’s a huge and beautiful country with a rich culture, friendly people and almost unlimited demand for ESL tutors.
If you’ve got a handle on the legalisation process, you’re ready to move on to the next step: getting your work permit. Although we can’t help with this stage directly, my colleague Melanie has put together an overview of this for you below, as this process bridges the UK stages.
Getting your work permit for China
Once you have your legalised documents, you can then pass these to your employer. These will be used to apply for your work permit in China. Most of our customers choose for us to courier the completed documents directly to their employer in China if the customer is not in-country.
Once the permit has been issued, you will receive a digital copy of this, which will form part of the document requirements to apply for your Chinese Z Visa. You do not require your legalised documents for this stage of the process, so don’t worry about not having these with you!
Your work permit will have an expiry date listed when you receive it, so be sure to take note of this information as it can vary dependent on your employer. You will need to ensure you have applied for your Z visa well before this date.
Once you have your Permit ready, you can start to get your documents together for your Z Visa application. Read the next section put together by our specialist visa team to help guide you through this stage!
Applying for your Chinese Z Visa
So, you have your documents legalised and your work permit has been issued. It looks like you’re ready to jet off to your exciting new job in China! However, there is one last step to take before you start packing your bags.
You have to apply for the Z visa in your country of residence. It is a fairly straightforward procedure once you have all of your documents together, but it does require a trip to a Chinese Visa Centre. There are four across the UK; London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast. We are able to assist with this process for applicants that reside in the UK.
Below are the steps for applying for a Chinese Z Visa.
- Gather your documents
- Complete the online application form
- Book your appointment at the visa centre
- Attend your appointment
- Collect your visa and documents once they are ready
Once all of these steps are complete, you will then be ready to travel to China!
Which Documents Are Required To Apply For Your Chinese Z Visa?
- Passport – Original passport with at least six months of remaining validity and with at least 2 blank visa pages.
- Visa Application Form, which we send to you once an order has been placed
- Passport Photo – A digital copy must be uploaded to the online application form.
- Proof of legal status (applicable for those not applying for the visa in their country of citizenship)
- Photocopy of previous Chinese visas
- One of the following approval documents*:
- Both original and copy of Alien Employment License of the People’s Republic of China issued by the Chinese government authority for Human Resources and Social Security
- Both original and copy of Permit for Foreign Experts Working in China issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts
- Copy of Notification Letter of Foreigner’s Work Permit in the People’s Republic of China
*If your employer provides an approval document which does not fit the description of any of those noted above, please get in touch and we can verify the acceptability of this document for you on an individual basis.
We can guide you through the application form to ensure that all of the needed information is included. Once we know you are ready to submit your application, we can book your appointment at your chosen visa centre, on a day that is convenient for you.
When your visa has been successfully issued, we will then arrange for it to be collected or sent directly back to us so that we can check that the visa meets your intended travel plans.
Attending The Visa Processing Centre, And What To Expect
When your appointment at the visa centre has been booked, you will be given a half hour time slot to attend.
Once you arrive, you will be given a ticket with a number on it. When your number is called out, you will be required to go up to the counter to submit your documents. The staff will look through your documents and advised you if anything needs changing. You may be asked a couple of questions about your intended plans in China.
Your biometrics will then be taken. They will take a scan of your fingerprints and in some cases a passport-style photo will be captured.
Once you have submitted all of your documents, you will be sent to another counter to pay. The price does differ slightly depending on your nationality, and we will be able to advise you on how much your visa cost should be when you enquire with us.
Finally, you will be given a “Pick Up Form”, which is basically a receipt of your application. If you have submitted at the visa centre in London, we will need this document in order to collect your documents once they are ready, and we will ask you to drop this document off at our office or send it to us in the post. If you are submitting at one of the other offices, then you will just need to keep it safe.
We know that this is an exciting and stressful time, but we are here to put your mind at rest. Be it from checking over confusing application forms, to answering any questions you may have about the process. Get in touch today to speak to our friendly visa team via our live chat system, send us a text message via WhatsApp or give us a call on 0330 088 1142. Wherever you’re coming from and going to, we can help.