I’ve Started Talking To My Mint Plant

I’m having dreams about talking with people. About sitting in beer halls and talking about normal things. About meeting people for dinner. About speaking to people in English and in Italian and Spanish. I desperately try to find a seat, but there are so many people all together that it’s standing room only.

And I wake up every morning and say hello to my plants. I ask them how they slept and tell them that I will make sure to give them water in a few minutes. We have a snake plant we’ve had for almost a year and a new arrival, a peppermint bunch.

“Hold on just a minute,” I say. “I’ll be right back to talk more after I have a shower.”

It’s day 53 here for us.

This post is continued on the place it was actually supposed to be posted, but I have to post it here to get around a Facebook ban (undeserved and unresolved). CLICK THROUGH HERE PLEASE

Blast from the past: Nine Years Ago Today

This is a special posting that I wanted to make about my month in Italy, which I have just returned from. I kept a detailed journal while I was there, trying to write nearly every day, recording my experiences and observations. I did not have much access to the internet, and so I could not keep a blog updated.
My thought is to take an excerpt from my journal for each day and post it as a sort of mini-blog. That way everyone will be able to read about my adventures and see the many amazing places I was able to go, in addition to the usual Facebook photo albums. The pictures in the albums go along with this beautifully.
I want to warn those who want to read this that it will contain some swears, references to alcohol, thematic elements, and overall adulty-ness, so prepare yourselves. Like you would for a PG-13 movie. Italian will inevitably work its way into the writing, and I may forget that not everyone can read it (or just think that I am writing in English), so please use google translate or wordreference.com to help get the translation you need. And it’s long.
So here it begins!

24 Maggio 2010 Between Denver and Italia

I’m finally on the plane to Italia! Andiamo! Ciao Stati Uniti.

The plane is showing Invictus as the in-flight movie. Nothing like forcing people to deal with racism in a metal tube when they’re stuck with each other for the next eight hours.

25 Maggio 2010

Dear US Airways,
You suck. You can’t even call out boarding zones correctly. Your attendants are surly and downright rude (And I quote: “You turned up your nose at our sandwich like someone had passed gas”). Thanks for the “service” and the shitty, concentrated, lukewarm tea.
Much Love,
Coleen (Who hopes to never fly with you again)

I need to make myself a list of the goals I have for this month.
-Reclaim myself as a global traveler
– Watch the USA vs. England match
-Have one costly, amazing meal
-Do one thing every day that scares me
-Make at least two friends that I can keep in touch with
Mozzerella. Vino. Un po’ del sole. Basta.

So I had an interesting afternoon. I got in on time and took a cab to the bed and breakfast that I was supposed to stay at, but after an hour they still had not shown up. In the meantime, their Laotian neighbor let me into the lobby and fed me cheese and coca cola, showing me his pictures from his world travels. Eventually I decided to leave and try to find a hotel. I put my sunglasses on so no one would be able to see how lost I was and stepped out into the city without a map or phone, and with no idea where I was or where I was going. I went through a super-creepy heroin tunnel and began crying because I was so lost. I asked Saint Anthony (patron of lost stuff, so he must have a hand in helping lost people too, right?) to help me find what I was looking for. About ten minutes later, I stumbled into the posh lobby of the Hotel Roma, begged in exhausted and rusty Italian for a room for the night, and stumbled up the stairs to take a shower.

26 Maggio 2010 Bologna

I’ve missed odd things about Italy. The way people dress, the architecture, the total lack of personal space, and above all the smell. I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to be a mixture of old buildings, good food, and cigarettes. And high-class perfumes. It smells like home, really.

27 Maggio 2010 San Martino

Ferrara is relatively unchanged. I feel so much like I’m home!

28 Maggio 2010 San Martino

Oh my God so tired.

29 Maggio 2010 San Martino

Dinner with Carmen and both of her parents after having eaten pizza at Estebar in the afternoon. Too much food today.

30 Maggio 2010 San Martino

My hair smells like mildew, which is disgusting and I’m unsure how it happened.

Oh my God more tired.

31 Maggio 2010 San Martino

I don’t remember being this happy in a long time. Punto.

Yesterday was very interesting. We had brunch at Ombretta’s house with a bunch of her friends, with tons of food and wine and gesticulating. As usual, the discussion went from pleasantries to school issues to a lively political discussion. I LOVE that about Italy, even though some of the people seemed to be blaming Laura and I personally for things far beyond our control (i.e. the whole BP situation and how Obama “non ha fatto niente fin’ora” or the fact that we’re called “Americans” and not “United-statesians”). I mean, what are we supposed to do, go to the gulf of Mexico personally and stuff our socks into the bursting well? Or change 200+ years of rhetoric about “Americans?”

Then, the Palio. It was long, starting at about 16:00 and going until 19:00. First was the massive procession of all of the neighborhoods, which took about an hour and a half. Then the boys’ footrace, the girls’ footrace, the ass race (which was hilarious) and finally the attempt to start the horse race.

It took about a half an hour of the announcer yelling at the various riders and total chaos, culminating in a false start. Then about fifteen more minutes of yelling and confusion, and then they were off! Santa Maria in Vado’s horse (our neighborhood) was facing backwards. At the last turn of the first lap, one horse threw its rider, who was nearly trampled. Borgo San Giorgio won, and Santa Maria in Vado somehow managed third place. Now we’re gonna try to go see Laura’s grandfather’s cousin, Bianca.

Revelation: Men cannot be trusted to lift the seat in the bathroom and not pee all over the place, so the trains here springload them.

I fully intend to live in my bathing suit for the next 5 days.

1 Giugno 2010 Albisola

This town is awesome. Beautiful water, relaxed atmosphere, nice people, and even a microbrewery.

Screw. Booking. Hostels. And trains. Seriously.

2 Giugno 2010 Treno a Vernazza/Arezzo

Bianca (my friend Laura’s cousin) is a doll. Allegra, direi. Yesterday we drove to another relative’s house in her car, which stays in a tiny garage underneath one of the buildings near hers. We had to go on the autostrada, which was an experience because she drove about 70 km/hr while 18 wheelers and a line of other cars honked their way past us doing 130. Finally we arrived, and Andriano (who was cute and 92ish and dressed up for the occasion) welcomed us into his house and we sat on the couches in the salon talking about the family history. Snatches of Lady Gaga floated in the open window, casting a surreal knowledge of the difference of epochs inside and outside the apartment like a shadow.

After a couple of days Bianca began introducing us both as her “American cousins,” so now I’m part of the family. Now we’re on the train to Vernazza, passing the beautiful Ligurian countryside.

Definitely though that was a lesbian couple and not just one with a super-effeminate boy. Che schif.

Mullet-dread-hawk. Fo sho.

3 Giugno 2010 Ischia

A massive line of tags on the walls near the Roma Termini, ranging from the usual “Hot Boys Cosa Nostra” to names (“Stan” and “Runa”). One massive “HUGE” written in 20 foot high letters. “Odio Napoli.” “Nemio.” “PWR.” A cluster of a million “fede.”

Ischia is wonderful. I want to live here. We had quite the journey to get here, with the 4-hour train ride from Arezzo, the one-hour boatride from Napoli (che nausea), and then the busride and the walk around the town of Forio searching for our hostel.

4 Giugno 2010 Forio (Ischia)

Massive storm at 5 AM. It had been a long time since I’d heard the sky-ripping sound of close lightning. So much! Must write bullets.

-We’re at Ring Hostel, run by a family with three brothers. Lorenzo is 26, walks with a massive swagger, and drives like a madman. Very nice, though.

-We went to the natural hot springs with 50 of our closest friends. I went out into the depth water through the rocks and saw an army of stinging nettles coming my way. In my haste to not get stung, I slipped on a rock and gashed my knee. All my Italian language skills went to hell as I came out of the water gushing blood, and all I could manage to the owner of the restaurant was, “Aiuto? Sangue, sangue!” (“Help? Blood, blood!”)

-I slipped on the bus as we were going around a turn and my ass ended up pressed up against some old Italian guy’s face. I couldn’t escape for about 20 seconds because of the centrifugal force. Afterwards I apologized and he put out his arm and patted it, smiling, “You can sit on me any time, my dear.”

Every moment is like a flower that blossoms and fades suddenly. There is no way to capture them all here, and I may be beyond trying.

6 Giugno 2010 Fuori Napoli

I’m on my own now. The Amalfi Coast is literally breathtaking. I honestly never thought that I would see something so beautiful with my own eyes. It is unearthly.

I went down to walk around in the piazza in Atrani and was immediately stopped by Lucca, who asked me out after literally two minutes of conversation. When I spoke to him in Italian, he did the usual doubletake and exclaimed, “Ma che culo che ho!” (“What an ass I have!” which is akin to “How lucky am I?”) Please, dude. You had no chance. You lost me at your stature and baldness.

An acoustic fiddle version of “Turn the Beat Around” is lilting up to me in the hostel’s open living room.

7 Giugno 2010 Atrani


Think of yourself a mere four months ago. Did you ever think that you would be here? Never. But hell yes.

9 Giugno 2010 Atrani

What a broad and beautiful life I have.

10 Giugno 2010 Atrani

Woke up at 11:30. Vespa ride all around. Ave Maria, piena di grazia, il Signore e’ con te. Minori. Hot-ass rocks on the beach. Lemons the size of watermelons.

On the bus ride back to Atrani, I flashed everyone because my sarong fell off. Everyone clapped, and I bowed once I got myself covered up. No point in being angry or embarassed that the whole bus full of tourists and locals saw my bathing suit-clad butt.

I’m not sure how I feel about leaving.

11 Giugno 2010 Ravello

Thousands of honeybees dripping nectar on me in their haste, like holy water. Or tears.

14 Giugno 2010 Atrani

Yes, I am still here.

15 Giugno 2010 Atrani


16 Giugno 2010 Leaving Atrani

Couldn’t sleep. What a bittersweet goodbye to this place, which has become one of my very favorites in all of Italia.

An Italian businessman in an Armani suit just farted ON me in the Salerno train station while negotiating a deal on the phone. WTF.

17 Giugno 2010 Assisi

OW. I got a new piercing, and I was not prepared for the pain that it would bring. I wanted and orbital with one ring and two holes, which seemed easy enough. With the tugging and pushing and the thought of the metal going through my ear, I very nearly threw up on the tattoo parlor’s floor.

Sky-blue-pink, moving quickly outside. Magic. Life is moving, and I am soooo happy. It comes from being confident, secure, and expressive. I finally love myself again.

Just raided my hotel’s kitchen fridge. Awesome.

18 Giugno 2010 Assisi-Ferrara

It never ceases to amaze me how close I am to certain death when a train flies by the platform doing nearly 40 mph, only 10 feet away. The wind is nearly enough to pull you under the wheels.

Jehovah’s witnesses. They’re everywhere, man.

Not a full-blown strike. More like a day of more laziness than usual that pisses everyone off by making us late everywhere. Low-impact, low-effort civil disobedience.

I forgot that the Ferraresi dress so well. The women dress in heels and jewelry to go to the supermarket.

Correction, they dress in heels and jewelry to go to the dollar store.

19 Giugno 2010 Ferrara

Today has been a lesson in changing one’s bad circumstances and letting them go. Very Successful. That is, except for the extremely loud, extremely cacophanous, extremely off-key concert going on in the piazza near the castle. That circumstance I can only accept.

20 Giugno 2010 Ferrara

Being here in Ferrara makes me remember a particular phase of my life, emotionally, that is now difficult for me to picture myself in.

35 bug bites. F****** everywhere. On my legs. The palms of my hands. My left eyelid.

21 Giugno 2010 Ferrara

My back hurt so badly when I woke up this morning, I could hardly move. I dropped my bag when I tried to lift it from the pain. Now, due to a combination of advil, some effervescent Italian painkiller, a heating pad, and holy water, it’s at least bearable. Today is a day of waiting.

Sitting as I am in at the end of a train car facing forward gives the dizzying impression that I am not moving, but instead it is the world moving around me. There’s a girl sitting across from me whose shoes proclaim VAG-abond. Ciao, Bologna.

I feel very safe in the Bologna airport even though something really strange happened at dinner. I was eating my gnocchi al pesto when suddenly a young man with terror on his face came and sat so close to me he brushed my knee with his out of the blue. There were plenty of other tables, and I was on the phone trying to talk to my parents, so I must’ve given him a look of shock and confusion. He didn’t say anything and instead began stuffing his mouth with risotto, bread, and gnocchi so fast that I was concerned. He pushed my book on the table aside and moved still closer to me. “Ma scusa,” I said, “Posso anche andare di la,” (“Excuse me, but I can also go over there.”) indicating that I could vacate the table for him. “No,” he mushed through a stuffed mouth, “E solo che c’e’ qualcuno di che io non voglio vedermi. Scusami tanto, eh?” (“No. It’s just that there’s someone over there that I don’t want to see me. Excuse me, ok?”) It was then that I realized that the reason that he looked so crazed was that he was hungry. In looking at his face again, I noticed that he had the sunken cheeks of real hunger, like he hadn’t eaten in days. He was hiding from the caffetteria workers, hoping to not pay for his meal. I let him stay.

He remained hidden until about ten minutes ago, when he came down the stairs singing a triumph song and doing a little happy dance. He gave me a thumbs-up and a smile, and then he went on his way.

All my clothes smell musty and faintly like B.O., and some I may simply have to toss. Towards the end I began spraying them with hairspray in the attempt to cover the backpacking stink.

3:30 AM. I just did my makeup in the bathroom for an hour, moving as slowly as possible, and then I found the downstairs bar to be open. I may need a coffee. And some pringles.

Pringles obtained. Sunset and sunrise at the Bologna airport.

And just like that, my Italia disappears behind the clouds. A circular rainbow is chasing our progress across the sky, and the Alps are rising above the fog. DAMNIT. Spilled hot tea all over my lap. It felt kinda good after awhile. All the benefits of peeing your pants without actually doing it.

Time has lost all meaning after 36 hours on the road. Almost there. Almost there.

How to Apply for a Chinese Work Visa (Z Visa, 2018)

PLEASE NOTE: If you are working in Fuzhou, you need to follow the instructions for the notarization process very carefully. I wrote a guide that you can use here. 


Phew! You made it. Now on to the third step.  

You need to contact an agency that can help you with the further steps in this process. An option for those in the Colorado area is the Teaching Nomads group, who are excellent for legalization services.  

Quiz time! What’s an apostille?  

That’s right, it’s like a mega-notarization stamp! An apostille is a diplomatic stamp that is used to show authenticity for documents required for immigration (It’s used for international adoptions, marriage visas, and other forms of immigration).  

Let’s go over the steps to obtain one:  

  1. Contact your HR Representative and confirm once more that all your notarizations are correct.  
  2. When you have approval, contact the agency of your choice and explain the situation. You will be applying for a Z Visa (work visa) and need to obtain the work permit.  
  3. They will guide you through the next steps. Follow their instructions exactly.  
  4. You will COURIER (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) your documents to their office.  
    1. NEVER, EVER, EVER USE THE US POST OFFICE TO SEND OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS UNLESS YOU REALLY LOVE CHASING DOWN POSTMEN AND HANGING OUT IN POST OFFICES FOR DAYS ON END. (Seriously. Five days is the current record for lost documents, and only five heart attacks for the teacher involved!)  
  5. They will take them to the state’s  Secretary of State for the application of the seal.  

After this, the agent should take the documents to the Chinese Embassy, or the Chinese Consulate with jurisdiction over your home state.  


PLEASE NOTE: If you went to university in a different state, or in a different country…this step MUST be done in that place and not in your home state. Apostilles can, by international law, ONLY be applied to documents over which the Secretary of State has jurisdiction.  


Example of Apostille  




Step #4 – Legalization By Chinese Officials  

Once your documents have the apostille affixed to them, the agency (or a new one that handles this part of the transaction) will take the documents to the Chinese Embassy or the Consulate.. There, the officials will apply a special legalization unique to the Chinese visa process.  

You need to make sure to send the documents to an agent, or go in person, to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over your state of residence. 

You should contact the Embassy or Consulate. All list an email on their websites, which is the best way to contact the officials.  

Generally, they do not take phone calls about visas and documents. Officials will most likely respond within 24 hours unless there is a US or Chinese national holiday. 

The legalization process is the fourth step, and the last one before you actually apply for the Work Permit and Z Visa. Here are the steps.  

  1. The agency takes the documents with full notarization and apostille to the Chinese officials at the Embassy or Consulate.  
  2. The officials place a stamp on the papers.  
  3. The agency COURIERS (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) the documents to you.  
  4. You scan and email the documents to Fuzhou.
  5. You COURIER (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) the documents to your company in Fuzhou. Confirm the address with your HR representative before sending.  


Work Permit  

At this point, the documents will be taken by an admin at your company to the local government in Fuzhou and you will be underway for the work permit. If all the previous steps were followed, you should receive the work permit via email within 10-14 days (unless there is a major Chinese or US holiday in between). Keep in close contact with the HR representative and make sure that you get back to them quickly with any questions you may have.  

At this point, it is not uncommon to have your documents’ wording rejected. Unfortunately, it is sometimes a matter of redoing the notarization process several times to get the wording correct. Stay calm. You’ll get through this.  

Work Permit Examples  

When your work permit arrives, you can fly/drive/walk to the Embassy or Consulate and apply for your visa in person. This is required by Chinese law, and you cannot have an agent do the application for you.  

To apply at the Consulate or Embassy: 

  1. Print both work permit letters.  
  2. Fill out the Visa Application form given to you by the HR representative. Follow the instructions EXACTLY. Use capital letters and black pen.  
  3. Get visa photos taken, using the EXACT specifications given to you by the HR representative. You may also be able to do this inside the Embassy/Consulate.  
  4. Bring  
    1. your passport 
    2. checkbook or checks from your bank 
    3. the documents 
    4. a black or dark coloured shirt 
    5. a lot of patience 
    6. any additional documents that are required for your visa application.  
  5. On the day you apply, arrive VERY EARLY. You will need to take a number and wait in line.  

When called forward, remain calm no matter what. I saw people freak out and swear at the officials in Chicago. This is unlikely to make them want to help you. 

Hand over your documents and passport. Take the fingerprints required.  KEEP YOUR RECEIPT FROM THE CHINESE OFFICIAL.

In 2-3 days, your passport will be ready to return to you with a Z visa inside. This is your ticket to China! 

In the case that you cannot wait around for three days in the city that you applied in, make arrangements with a local agent to do a passport pickup for you. They will retrieve the passport for a fee, and courier it back to you. This costs $15-$60. You will need to give them your receipt from the consulate/embassy.  

What’s Next?  

When you’ve jumped through all these hoops, you can come through the border into China. Bring extra copies of everything that you submitted to the Embassy/Consulate and emails from your employer confirming that you will be working for them, just in case.  

After arrival, you’ll need to complete a few further steps to obtain residency to legally remain in China. These steps may include:  

  • A full medical check with bloodwork and chest X-ray  
  • Registration at your local government office for your apartment  
  • Go to the Public Service Bureau and hand over your passport once more for the official work visa and permit to remain

If you have any questions about this process, please feel free to contact me using the contact form!

How to Get Notarized Documents for Fuzhou, China (Working as an English Teacher)

If you’ve been hired by a company in Fuzhou, China you need to read this article carefully! 

Welcome! You’ve entered the fray just at the time that the requirements for documents became somewhat more stringent. Lucky you.  

Don’t worry, there are several teachers who have been through this process already and we’ve put our heads together to help you out. This guide will:  

  • Help you juggle terminology like “legalization” and “true original”  
  • Prevent you from freaking out when something goes wrong 
  • Provide useful strategies for negotiating with your local authorities in the US  
  • Act as a checklist for what you may need for your visa for China  

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Documentation requirements are completely up to the Chinese government and the local authorities in Fuzhou. Their rules may change at any time, without warning. If you have any questions about this process, please consult your HR contact for more information.  

In addition, your personal circumstances may be different to other US teachers who’ve gone before you. Pay close attention to the rules and adapt as you go.  

Before You Start

Just a tiny bit of preaching. This is a complex process with a lot of stressful and expensive steps. Keep in mind these important points:

  • Nobody is specifically out to get you. Bureaucracy just crushes everyone beneath its wheels.
  • Immigrants are required to do all this (and MORE) to come to the USA for a visa. Keep this in mind when politicians spout bullshit about “open borders” and how “easy” it is to get into another country for work.
  • You need to have extra money set aside. This whole process can cost upwards of $1000, especially when you consider that you will have to go in person to the Embassy or a Consulate when you actually apply for the visa.
  • Use good Bureaucratic ninja skills! I wrote about this here. 

Terms that you need to know  

Notarization: the process of going to a State-appointed person who can place a stamp onto a document for you  

Legalization: the full process for each required document, which includes at least four steps  

  1. Obtain the documents needed  
  1. Have a local notary certify the document is true and original 
  1. Obtain a state-level apostille stamp from the secretary of state from your home state   
  1. Send the documents to the Chinese Consulate with jurisdiction over your hometown  

Apostille: official documentation stamp that is used for international immigration  

Consulate: official document and services center in a country that is subject to the government of the embassy of another country  

Embassy: official center for diplomatic relations and services within another country, which is technically a part of the nation that has jurisdiction over it  

First Steps  

There are several ways to obtain a work permit and residency card for Fuzhou. You will most likely follow one of the following two paths, although your circumstances may change what documents you will need and how to process them.  

Inexperienced Teachers  

  • A four-year degree from a University  
  • A clean criminal background check from your local state (NOT FBI Background Check. We’ll explain why in a moment.)  
  • A 120-Hour TEFL at minimum (or the equivalent certificate), preferably from a US-based company for authentication purposes  

Experienced Teachers  

  • A four-year degree from a University  
  • A clean criminal background check from your local state (NOT FBI Background Check. We’ll explain why in a moment.)  
  • One or more letters of recommendation from previous employers (THESE DO NOT NEED TO BE LEGALIZED, but you do need to send them to the HR department in Fuzhou to obtain your work permit)  

Obtain these documents, and follow the specific steps below for the background checks.  

State Background Check  

Every state has an equivalent of the FBI that does investigations within the state. You may want to call them before asking for your background check to ensure that they are able to help you with all the following steps. (Please note that some states refer to this as an arrest record, or by other terms).  

Degree Notarization  

I sincerely hope that you went to school in-state. If not, I apologize to inform you that you may have to drive/fly to your university to obtain the necessary signatures in this case.  

TEFL Certificate  

This is why it’s important to obtain your TEFL in your home country. This document will need to be put through the same treatment as the others. If it is from another country, it may be very difficult indeed to get the legalization done.  

The Problem(?)

The local government of Fuzhou is very strict about the requirements for these documents. You must be very careful with the wording of the documents in order to get through and make it to the plane and to your new life in China.  

The government will reject any document that has the wrong wording on it.  

The government will reject your documents if they are not signed for properly.  

You may have to pay up front for multiple rounds of legalization in the case that things go wrong (Companies should compensate you for the cost of the documents).  

They only recently made these changes, and the wording is most likely based on a misunderstanding about how notarization works in the United States. The wording that is required is most likely based on the wording for UK, Canadian, or other English speaking countries’ practices. In these countries, the role of a notary public is much more like a lawyer in the USA. They cannot affix their seal to a document without first authenticating its veracity.  

However, in the US, the notary public CANNOT typically verify that a document is authentic. They simply witness a signature, or administer a legally-binding oath, and then affix their stamp. Typically, US notary public procedures are done on “True Copies” which certify that the original was present and that the notary saw the person who signed it give their oath.  

Unfortunately, this is not adequate for the local government’s requirements. Even if you’ve done a visa for China before, or even a visa for Fuzhou before, the requirements are likely to be different from the previous times.  

In Fuzhou, the documents must have the following wording:  

I have verified that the original document is genuine and I have no reason to doubt that the facts set out therein are true and correct.  

For Fuzhou, the documents MUST NOT have the following wording:  

‘Swearing’ wording can’t appear on the notarization documents  

This is where we get to the possible problem. Your notary public may tell you that they cannot put the correct wording on the documents.

Rejected Examples  


Approved Examples 


It may feel like a catch-22, but we’ll get you through it. Follow the steps below for examples of how the wording must be done, and how to finesse your way to success in this epic documentation journey. Let’s start with the criminal record check. 

Criminal History Check (Background Check) Notarization  

You need to obtain a record of your arrests in your state of residence. Please do NOT obtain a national FBI Background Check. If you do, it may be impossible to get the wording required for the notarization. The FBI is notoriously difficult to contact and they are not very flexible about their documentation.  

Here are the steps to obtain a state or local criminal history record:  

  1. Contact the local Bureau of Investigations Identifications Unit. Calling by phone is best.  
  2. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL background check BEFORE they return it to you.  
  3. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement.  
  4. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from your HR Department.  
  5. Confirm what you must do to obtain the check (fill out application forms, possibly obtain fingerprints from a police station).  
  6. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  7. Wait about one week.  
  8. When your background check arrives, CHECK it very carefully. Scan the document and send it to your HR Department.  

You should be prepared to obtain a new background check and pay once more if your first one does not have the correct wording. In some cases, teachers have been the very first in their home state to request Fuzhou’s required wording.

Be polite, but firm about the wording. Without it, you won’t be able to stay in Fuzhou.  

University Degree Notarization  

  1. Contact Office of the Registrar at your alma mater. Calling by phone is best.  
  2. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL DEGREE (either on the front or the back).  
  3. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement. Some universities may not have processed this type of notarization before. You can mention that the United Arab Emirates and South Korea require this type of notarization for teachers in addition to the local Fuzhou government.  
  4. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from the HR Department.  
  5. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  6. Most likely, you will have to appear IN PERSON to obtain this notarization.  
  7. Before the notary and registrar official apply their signatures, CHECK the wording one more time against the exact wording sent to you from your company.  
  8. Once you have the notarization on your genuine, original degree you need to scan the degree and send the file to your HR representative.  

Keep in mind once more that you may be the very first person in the history of your university to request this form of notarization! Trailblazing is often fun, but can easily get a little bogged down in the weeds. Stay polite, but be firm about the wording.  

TEFL Certificate Notarization 

  1. Contact the TEFL Certificate issuing authority. Calling by phone is best.  
  1. Explain that you have a unique situation and need to confirm that they will notarize the ORIGINAL CERTIFICATE (either on the front or the back).  
  1. Explain that the Fuzhou government requires specific wording to appear in place of the typical notary public signature witnessing statement.  
  1. Offer to send via email the EXACT wording sent to you from the HR Department.  
  1. Follow their instructions precisely. Submit all payment and paperwork.  
  1. Once you have the notarization on your genuine, original TEFL Certificate you need to scan the document and send the file to the HR representative.  

NOTE: Many TEFL Certificate companies are not based in the United States. If you need to go through the legalization process with a TEFL Certificate from a different country, please note that this ENTIRE process must be completed in that nation. This includes the official stamp from the Chinese Embassy/Consulate. This is likely to be very expensive and a real pain in the mass. Talk closely with the HR Representative from your company about this situation.  


It’s possible that a notary public will tell you that this wording is not possible. There are a few things that you can do to try to work around this problem.  

  • Ask if the word “sworn” can simply be omitted. Check with the HR Department first, but in some cases a “signature witnessing” statement may be a workaround.  
    • In this case, the person who made/issued the document signs a statement about its true and genuine nature in front of the notary public, and the notary witnesses that the signature was done by the person who signed the statement on the date they did so.  
    • Make sure that the person whose signature is witnessed does NOT include any “sworn” language! 
  • Ask if the wording could be changed to “I certify that this is the original” on the notary public statement. “I affirm that this is the true original” may also work. Think of synonyms for the word “swear.”  
  • Appear in person at the office whenever possible. Negotiation in person is often more effective than over email or on the phone.  
  • Everyone hates to be “that guy,” but you may have to ask to speak to a manager. Go up the chain of command at your local Bureau of Investigations if necessary.  
  • Contact your local State and Congressional representatives’ offices and ask them for assistance. This may take a long time, but in dire need it might be worth a shot.