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.

Beginning of the Season – DIY Paper Projects

Hello, out there! I’m working on being more connected to this blog again, and have several posts in the works. But today I was off work sick (again, due to the stomach issues that come with living in Vietnam).

I used the time to make some paper DIY projects and get into the holiday season. You can find the Youtube videos that I used to learn to make these projects below.

Tiny-Ass Kitchen

You may have heard of Tiny Ass Apartment, a blog about living in small spaces. I do love her tips and I use them all the time. The Washi Tape thing will be added to my own place tonight.

But I’m here to show you just how tiny my apartment in Korea actually is.

win_20161005_19_36_54_pro

Boom! Oh yeah, the computer is totally on the fridge. We an fit exactly one person without verging into newlywed territory inappropriate for blogging. It’s about 12 foot square, my kitchen. In other words, almost too small to fit two six-footers. In other other words, it’s smaller in square feet than our bed.

But it’s ours! And I am already learning about living in tiny spaces, something that I dream about on and off of Pinterest. Tiny House Training, 101. Right here, right now. Busan is a great place to learn the ropes.

The Fastest Way to Renew or Obtain Your Passport

In the US, more people than ever have a passport. I recently did a survey that surprised me. 84% of respondents said that they hold a valid passport. A strikingly high number said that they planned on immigrating to a new country. What? Maybe I phrased that last question wrong, since in my experiences nowhere near 35% of Statesians have told me they want to move abroad permanently.

Even so, most respondents said that despite their passport, they never travel abroad.

Percentages for Trips Abroad

Percentages for Trips Abroad

I have several How To Guides for visas and immigration on this site. My international life seems to be full of them. At this very moment, my very own passport is in the hands of the Chicago Consulate for the People’s Republic of China. I had run out of pages in my trusty 2007 passport, and had to renew it very quickly this February.

According to the Department of State, renewing or obtaining a passport takes some time.

Courtesy of Travel.gov

Courtesy of Travel.gov

If you are planning a trip abroad, you should begin gathering documents to apply for or renew your passport at least two months ahead of time.

But sometimes even the expedited service isn’t fast enough. What happens if you need to travel internationally in an emergency? What happens if you must obtain a visa for your trip?

This is the guide for how to obtain a US passport as quickly as possible. Be aware that most passport agencies will only allow you to apply this way if you have an imminent international departure.

Use this handy quiz from the US State Department to determine which way to apply is best for you!

Step 1: Find Your Local Passport Agency 

It’s easy to find a passport agency in your area. Be advised that these are government offices, and not for-profit passport companies. I have never used one of those, but it might work for you depending on the circumstances for renewing/obatining a passport. Determine whether it is feasible for you to travel to the passport agency.

List of US Passport Agencies 

Step 2: Make An Appointment

You should make an appointment by calling the National Passport Information Center.

1-877-487-2778

You will hear an automated appointment scheduling service. Make certain that you have paper and pen to write down your confirmation number. You must have the confirmation number with you when you go to the passport agency in your area.

From the NPIC website-Life or Death Emergencies:  If you have a life or death travel emergency outside of normal business hours (after 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, weekends, and holidays), please call (202) 647-4000.

Step 3: Gather Documents

Every passport agency will have a list of documents that are required for applications. Confirm the list using the website for your specific agency. I applied at the Colorado Passport Agency, and I supplied the following.

You may need a plane ticket or proof that you will be obtaining a visa in the near future. I brought my confirmation for my new job in China, and my original birth certificate as well. These were not required, but it was helpful to know that I had them.

Step 4: Go To Your Appointment 

Arrive early. You will have to go through a metal detector and security. Be aware that no weapons whatsoever are allowed at passport agencies.

When you are through security, they will send you to a window for check in. The person at the window will confirm your appointment number and take a look at your application. If anything is out of place, they will ask you to correct it. You will receive a number and take a seat.

When your number is called, approach the window indicated for processing. They will ask you a few questions and take your forms. You can make payment and make sure you take your receipt. My passport agency allowed me to request a mailed return, so that I didn’t have to drive back to Aurora.

If you have a valid passport that you are renewing, they will invalidate it by punching holes in it. This may cause any visas in that passport to become invalid! Check with the countries for which you hold visas to figure out what to do next. 

Step 5: Receive Your New Passport! 

I got mine in the mail about two days later. My experience at the passport agency in Colorado was fantastic; This office is easily the best I’ve ever had to deal with in terms of immigration/visa stuff.

You should always retain your invalidated passport. Some countries required that you show the old passports at the border.

Ready to go to work!

Ready to go to work!

Now get Travelling!!!