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:
- Contact your HR Representative and confirm once more that all your notarizations are correct.
- 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.
- They will guide you through the next steps. Follow their instructions exactly.
- You will COURIER (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) your documents to their office.
- 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!)
- 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.
- The agency takes the documents with full notarization and apostille to the Chinese officials at the Embassy or Consulate.
- The officials place a stamp on the papers.
- The agency COURIERS (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) the documents to you.
- You scan and email the documents to Fuzhou.
- You COURIER (FEDEX, DHL, UPS) the documents to your company in Fuzhou. Confirm the address with your HR representative before sending.
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:
- Print both work permit letters.
- Fill out the Visa Application form given to you by the HR representative. Follow the instructions EXACTLY. Use capital letters and black pen.
- 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.
- your passport
- checkbook or checks from your bank
- the documents
- a black or dark coloured shirt
- a lot of patience
- any additional documents that are required for your visa application.
- 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.
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!