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Dec 18th, 2020 by David O Connor

China Visa Application – How to Authenticate Documents in South Africa

Authenticate Documents in South Africa for China visa

Applying for a visa to teach in China is not straightforward. Before you even begin the process, you need to gather a few documents and have them authenticated by the South African government and then legalized for use in China. This is a two-step process.

This guide will help anyone holding documents issued in South Africa. If you are from South Africa but teaching abroad, fear not.  This guide also helps those who are not in South Africa currently but need their documents processed there. 

Why? Because documents can only ever be authenticated by the government where the documents were originally issued.

If you are a South African citizen/resident but have documents issued in another country, you will have to have them authenticated in that country instead.

Documents you need to get authenticated in South Africa for the China Z Visa?

In our previous blog, we gave you an overview of what you need to do to Authenticate your documents for a China working visa in 2022.

Here, we detail all you need to know to apply for a visa to teach in China. These are the documents you’ll need:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your TEFL certificate
  • A copy of your Bachelor’s Degree
  • A clear Criminal Record Check**application details below
  • Filled-in Z Visa application Form
  • Job Invitation Letter
  • Work Permit Notice  

At time of writing, to Travel to China, you will also need to have:

    • NEGATIVE COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and a COVID-19 IgG antibody test

                                                                      Learn all about the Requirements to teach in China

What does document authentication mean?​

Document authentication means the South African government declares them to be legitimate and that’s an important step when wanting to use any document abroad. Essentially, this is what tells foreign countries that your documents are legitimate. This is Step 1.

After that, you’ll need to present the documents to a Chinese government representative in South Africa, who will look over the documents and accept them for use in your China Visa application. This is Step 2.

How to get your Criminal Background Check in South Africa

Applying for a criminal background check in South Africa is not all that complicated BUT it can be time-consuming. Get this process started asap!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Print out and complete the simple Police Clearance Certificate (see this PDF)
  1. Visit the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management office in Pretoria and hand in your completed form. Alternatively, you can also mail it to then OR hand it into any police station, anywhere in the country. Contact your nearest police station or the Pretoria office if you don’t intend mailing in the form. Currently, due to the COVID-19 situation, you may be prohibited from personally visiting any government office, so ask beforehand.
  2. Ensure you specify how you’d like the document delivered to you. You can either have it mailed back to your or, if possible, you can pick it up at your nearest police station.
  3. Usually, it will take 2 weeks to receive your Criminal Background Check

Once you have your document, simply add it to all your other documents and continue with the authentication and legalization process, as detailed below.

Getting documents in South Africa for Chinese visa

Authenticating and legalizing documents in South Africa - step by step guide

Step 1 – Get your documents notarized

First up, you will need to get the copies of the following documents notarized:

  • TEFL certificate
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Criminal Record Check

Please note that you will be getting a COPY of your documents notarized, authenticated and legalized. You’ll need to get the documents notarized by a Notary Public or Registrar at a High Provincial Court. Usually, this costs about USD 50. This is the only time you will need to bring your ORIGINAL documents along.

Once you have the copies notarized, you will be using these notarized copies in the following steps.


Step 2 – Authenticate your documents with South African Authorities

The notarized signature and stamp will then have to be verified by the Dept. of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa (DIRCO) for authentication. DIRCO charges R150/200 to authenticate a document.

See the DIRCO Legalization Services page, where you’ll find details on how to submit your documents, either in person, by mail, by courier or even through a friend or family member, which is a great option if you are abroad.

Regarding the above DIRCO link: it is imperative that you closely read the section related to each type of document, as the authentication process is different for every type of document.

For example:

  • Bachelor Degrees gained in a South African university: the notarized document must first be authenticated by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority) BEFORE being processed by DIRCO
  • For your TEFL certificate: if the issuing authority was South African and registered with SAQA, you can go ahead and have it authenticated by them too, before forwarding to DIRCO for further authentication. However, if the certification authority is headquartered abroad, you will first need to have it legalised by the South African High Court and only then can you present it to DIRCO for authentication
  • Your Criminal Background Check: this can be authenticated directly by DIRCO


Step 3 – Legalize your documents with the Chinese Embassy in South Africa

Send your documents to the nearest Chinese Embassy/Consulate, and they will legalize all the authenticated documents.

In South Africa, there is a Chinese Embassy in Pretoria and consul general offices in:

Every embassy has its own form to fill in and you’ll be asked to detail the ‘purpose’ of your document legalization. Make sure to tell them that you need the documents for your China visa application form as they’ll know how to word/sign/stamp it accordingly. Look for the Consular Legalization Page on the relevant websites – here’s the Pretoria Embassy Legalisation Page

If you’re abroad at the time you need documents authenticated, and don’t have anyone back home who could do this for you, you can also have your docs authenticated through your nearest South African Embassy/Consulate.

First though, you’ll need to send an email request to [email protected]

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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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