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Feb 1st, 2023 by David O Connor

Teach in China – Authenticating Documents as a US Citizen

Teach in China - Authenticating documents as US Citizen

China by Teaching can now help you authenticate and legalise documents for your China visa application. Contact us to know more!

You must gather a few essential documents for your China Visa Application

to teach in China. To avoid the tedious process of authenticating the required documents for US citizens, get started as soon as possible. The documents you need to authenticate involve proof of your teaching qualifications to teach in China.

In addition to the visa application form, you will need the following: 

  1. Passport – with at least six months of validity left
  2. Copy of passport
  3. Your TEFL certificate
  4. Bachelor’s Degree (or higher if applicable)
  5. A clear Criminal Record Check
  6. Invitation Letter – provided by your school
  7. Work Permit Notice – provided by your school

Three of the seven documents mentioned above must be authenticated in their country of issue and then legalised by the Chinese authorities.



  • Passport copy
  • Bachelor’s Degree or a higher award+
  • Your TEFL Certificate+
  • Your Criminal Background Check+

It’s important to note that these documents must be authenticated and legalised in the country where they were issued.

For example, let’s say you are a US citizen who gained a degree at home but got your TEFL certification while travelling in Australia. You would need to get your Degree authenticated and legalised in the US, but your TEFL certificate is authenticated and legalised in Australia.

Are you with us so far? Great!

Just in case, here’s a summary:

  1. Authentication is carried out by the government of the country of issue (the US Government authenticates documents issued in the US. This tells Chinese Authorities the document is legitimate).
  2. The Chinese Government representative in that same country carries out legalisation. (The Chinese Embassy in Washington legalises documents authenticated in the US. This tells China your documents can be accepted in your visa application)

Authenticating your documents in the US for a Z Visa application

Of all the countries whose citizens are eligible to teach in China, the US boasts the most convoluted process to authenticate documents. That’s because every single State follows its protocol.

Generally speaking, however, China visa document authentication is a three-step process that requires documents to be verified on three levels:

  1. County
  2. State
  3. Federal Government


Before you begin the process, it’s a good idea to ask the Chinese school that has offered you a teaching job which level of authentication they require. Sometimes, a seal by a Notary Public is sufficient, which would make the process significantly easier.

Steps to Authenticating Your Documents

You have two options for authenticating documents: independently or with the help of a Visa Agency. Doing the authentication yourself involves finding a notary public, sending your documents to get authenticated, and then getting a legalisation stamp from a Chinese embassy. This is a hugely time-consuming process that many US passport holders choose to skip. The Visa Agency method is easier and quicker – you send your documents to the agency, and they will take care of the authentication process for you. This will ultimately lead to you departing for China sooner.

Here’s how you go it alone:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarised by a Public Notary.

This must be done in the State where the document was issued. Notarisation costs anything between $5 and $20 per document, and you may even get a discount for multiple documents. This is the first step to full authentication and the one step EVERY State requires.

Step 1.5 – Authenticating documents by State

Residents of the following US states must add another step here, and that’s to have the document authenticated by the County Clerk / Circuit Clerk / Probate Judge / Superior Court Clerk:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • New York
  • Tennessee


Step 2 – Authenticating documents by the Secretary of State

Have your documents authenticated by the Secretary of State (in the same State as the Notary Public). The cost of this can vary. In Michigan, it can cost $, and in Texas, it can cost $15. Contact the office of the Secretary of State in your State for details on the updated process and fee.

For most US states, this is all you have to do BUT, for some states, documents like the Criminal Record Checks (issued by the FBI), will need to:

Step 3 – Authenticate documents by the US Department of State

Documents issued in some states will also have to be authenticated by the US Department of State in Washington DC.

The states in question are:

  • Alabama,
  • Arkansas,
  • Delaware,
  • Florida,
  • Georgia,
  • Idaho,
  • Kentucky,
  • Louisiana,
  • Maryland,
  • Mississippi,
  • Montana,
  • Nebraska,
  • North Carolina,
  • North Dakota,
  • Oklahoma,
  • South Carolina,
  • South Dakota,
  • Tennessee,
  • Texas,
  • Utah,
  • Virginia,
  • Washington DC,
  • West Virginia,
  • Wyoming and
  • Puerto Rico. 

To submit a Request for Authentication Service, you need to fill in and download a DS-4194 from of the official website of the Office of Authentications details how to pay and mail your documents. Please note that walk-ins or face-to-face appointments are still not offered at this time.

The mailing address is:

US Department of State

Office of Authentications


44132 Mercure Cir.

PO Box 1206

Sterling, VA 20166-1206


What is the difference between an apostille and an authentication?

Once you start googling ‘authenticating documents’ you will come across the term ‘apostille’ and wonder what that is. An apostille is an authentication stamp used for international purposes and is accepted by all signatories of the 1961 Hauge Convention. Since China is not a signatory to the convention, it does not recognise apostille stamps. Therefore, documents must be ‘authenticated’ – not apostilled – for China visa applications.

Authenticating documents as a US Citizen for Chinese Work Visa

Authenticating Documents outside the US

If you are outside the US but have US-issued documents to be authenticated, then we would definitely recommend employing a company like  FBI Apostille Services.

– don’t worry, they also authenticate! It is not the cheapest option, but it could save you a world of hassle. 

You can also Contact Us and we can have all your documents processed in three weeks at a competitive price.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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