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. 

Apostille  

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  

wording1wording2

Approved Examples 

wording3wording4

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.  

Troubleshooting  

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.

Sunrise Is Eldorado

Got up at 5 and climbed a fence to get these images. I’m happier getting up early every day as I age!

IMG_8845-PanoIMG_8855-PanoIMG_8861-Pano-EditIMG_8879

Thankfully sunrise is at 6:42AM at the moment, so I can practically sleep in. When we did a similar early shoot in Austria about a month ago, we had to get up at 4AM. Can’t wait until the foliage changes a little bit more so I can go back!