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Feb 9th, 2022 by David O Connor

A PU Letter? You Longer Need a PU letter for a Working z Visa

You no longer need a PU letter to get a work (z) visa for China.

Instead, skip directly to How to get a Work visa for China.

What is a PU letter and how can you get one?!  Read on to find out! If you want to apply for a China working visa, you’ll now need to get your eager hands on a PU letter.

If you wish to teach and work in China right now, you need to be ‘invited’ to do so by the Chinese Government. The PU letter? That’s the official invitation you need to secure before you apply for your China working visa.

Getting a PU letter is quite a ‘simple ordeal’ and yes, the oxymoron is on purpose. Because this is China, after all, and there ain’t nothing simple about getting anything done! This is especially true in current times. When COVID has greatly impacted the world and many countries, China included, are restricting incoming traffic.

Yet once you know how to get a PU letter and finally do get your hands on one. You’ll be heading to China and starting an exhilarating new phase of your professional life. Take it from us. It will all be worth it in the end.

Because China, here YOU come!

Here’s everything we’ll cover on this page:

  1. What is a PU Letter?
  2. The Sinovac CoronaVac Exemption
  3. How to Get a PU letter
  4. What YOU Need to Do
  5. Who Can Get a PU Letter?
  6. What You Should Know BEFORE Applying
  7. How Long Does It Take to Get a PU Letter?
  8. Can Dependents Get a PU Letter?
  9. Can Schools Get Their Foreign Teachers a PU Letter?
  10. Finally, I’ve Got My PU Letter! Now What?


1. What is a PU letter?

You no longer need a PU letter to get a work (z) visa for China.

Instead, skip directly to How to get a Work visa for China.


The PU Letter is a new visa-application requirement imposed by the Chinese Government since March 2020, and the start of the COVID pandemic.

What is the PU letter, exactly? It is a general invitation letter needed by any foreign national who wants to work in China, like teachers. The PU letter is not intended for specific high-level business visits (those require a different letter altogether).

So, why the PU Letter?

Because the Chinese Foreign Affairs Office wanted to add an extra level of scrutiny to incoming passengers, given the pandemic. It’s not the first nor the only country implementing extra measures, and introducing a ton of new paperwork, for inbound visitors.

Before we delve into details, here’s an important update you ought to know about!


2.    The SINOVAC CoronaVac exemption for the PU letter

You no longer need a PU letter to get a work (z) visa for China.

The Chinese Government has recently eased the PU Letter requirement for *some* foreign nationals. Namely, those who received the Chinese SINOVAC vaccine.

Plenty of people have managed exemptions this way. Some have even gone to the trouble of specifically seeking out a SINOVAC vaccine in countries where they’re on offer.

SINOVAC doses were generously dished out all over Eastern Europe in 2021. Countries like Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and even Belarus held open-door vaccine days and foreign tourists found it easy to get vaccinated, alongside residents. Mind you, they needed to stay in the country for 3-4 weeks so they could get their second dose, but many found this hassle worthwhile.

Having said that, we haven’t heard of anyone being able to get a SINOVAC vaccine abroad lately. Perhaps the supplies ran dry, or those mass vaccine drives are no longer held. Whatever the case, consider this a considerably painful option, but an option nonetheless.

If you do get lucky and manage to score a SINOVAC vaccine (along with a month-long vacay somewhere) remember that you will need the vaccine certificate translated and authenticated by the Chinese authorities, given it will probably be in English.

For now, best to read on and acquaint yourself with all things PU letter related!

PS. There is another exemption to the PU letter requirement that’s granted to those who already hold a valid residency permit in China. Dare we say, if you do, you’ll probably already know all about this!

The great news, however, is that the onus of securing a PU letter for China does not rest solely on your shoulders.


3. How to get a PU letter

Individuals are not allowed to apply for a PU letter, only businesses may apply on behalf of their employees. This means you are not the one who must go through the hassle of getting this letter but, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of other hassles to worry about!

Now, before your employer can apply for a PU letter for you, they have to secure their own permissions to hire foreign employees. Not every employer/school can nab this permission, which means not every school (currently) advertising teaching jobs can get a PU letter for you.

Those who know they can’t get a PU letter are hoping to employ teachers who can get an exemption.

Many visa agencies claim they can get you a PU letter. Don’t fall for this scam! The only agencies who can actually get you a PU letter are employment agencies, like this one, that works with reputable schools.

Some are even offering to cover your moving and quarantine costs. These are not scams but, naturally, they do come at a cost. While the offered salary will still be considerable, it won’t be on par with those offered to teachers already in the country (who won’t incur visa/moving/quarantine costs).

FUN FACT: The PU Letter is not actually new. Until five years ago, it was part and parcel of the China working visa application form. Then, to streamline applications, the Chinese Government scrapped this step. Now, thanks to you-know-what-virus… it’s back!

4. What YOU need To Do 

Before your employer can get you a PU letter, they will need YOU to apply for your China Work Permit Notice. With this notice, they can go ahead and apply.

check list

So, how do your get a China Work Permit, you ask?

Simplez! Ask your employer for an official form (which they will provide) and fill it in. Provide the following documentation:

  • A copy of your valid passport
  • 2 passport photos, as per China visa requirements
  • A copy of your qualifications (degree and/or EFL certificate), authenticated by the Chinese authorities
  • A copy of your clear Criminal Background Check, validated and authenticated

Your employer will guide you through the process of gaining a Work Permit Notice and will hand in your documentation at the local labor bureau.

It can take up to a month for your China Work Permit Notice to come through, and that’s provided all your documents are in order. You’ll find more info on documentation needed in the China visa application link, towards the end of this page.

5. Who can get a PU letter?

Anyone with a job offer and the right qualifications to teach in China can get a PU letter.

You need to hold an ordinary passport (not a diplomatic one etc.) and, right now, be from either the US, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or the UK.

In the last 6+ months, the number of foreigners entering China has been reduced to a trickle. Luckily, we’ve partnered up with a reputable agency that’s providing PU Letters and Visas. Check it out here!


6. What You Should Know BEFORE Applying

Choose your preferred Visa Application Centre ahead of time – The PU letter is addressed to a specific China Visa Application Centre so you need to commit to one from the get-go.

Once you are ready to apply for a PU letter, you will first need to decide where you’ll be applying for your China Z visa. The invitation letter will be addressed to a specific China Visa Application Centre which means you need to tell your employer which center you’ll be using to get your visa.

Be careful where you go – At the time of applying for a PU letter, you’ll be asked to declare your whereabouts for the previous 28 days. They’ll want to know city, province and country, and this is a way to weed out those who’ve been to high COVID risk destinations.

Should you happen to have visited a region that China considers high-risk in the last 4 weeks, your application will be denied. Yep, that sneaky weekend in Paris could cost you dearly!

To maximize your chances of getting a PU letter, we recommend you carefully consider where you will be for a month prior to applying for your PU letter. Location matters!

At the time of writing, China considers over one-third of the world as high-risk and no country has yet made it to the low-risk category. In all honesty, it’s just a matter of picking the better of all the risky evils. And then, given infection numbers can swing quickly, hope for the best!

deadline for application

You CAN apply for your work permit and PU simultaneously – Save some time and apply for both at the same time, but know the Department of Foreign Affairs will process the permit before moving on to the PU letter. Still, it can make the whole process a little swifter.

Pay more for faster visa service – Although you can’t hasten the processing of your work permit notice and PU letter, you can opt to pay for speedier visa application process. Every day counts!

Be patient…this is just the first step – Right now, it’s not unreasonable to imagine the whole ‘moving to China to work’ process taking 6+ months. Perseverance and loads of patience are usually rewarded when it comes to getting a PU letter and a working visa for China, so don’t lose hope!

7. How long does it take to get a PU letter?

The PU letter ‘usually’ takes about a month to receive.  Given these are not usual times, however, you can expect it to take 6+ weeks to arrive. We’ve had prospective teachers wait for 2-4 months in the last year, given various reasons which have resulted in serious backlogs.

It’s important to stay in contact with your prospective employer to get regular updates. They will usually have a better idea of how long their local Foreign Affairs Department Office is taking to issue letters. Lastly, just be patient. And keep being patient until your PU letter arrives, because it will.

You know… eventually!

8. Can dependents get a PU letter?

family moving

Up until late 2020, up to five dependents could jump on the back of an applicant’s PU letter. This option was scrapped halfway through 2021, meaning everyone had to apply for their own PU letter.

Now, it seems the option of adding dependents to a PU letter is once again on offer – at least, in Shanghai.

Dependents and family members must provide their own vaccine certificate (if over 18), and any document which can verify relationships statuses, such as marriage or birth certificate.

While we wait for this restriction to be lifted across the board, best to check with your employer as to the latest news on that front.

9. Can schools get their foreign teachers a PU letter?

As long as the school is allowed to currently employ foreign teachers, and registered with the government to do so, they can.

From here, though, things get a little murky.

The PU letter requirement is mostly about the school, in fact, and not you personally. Many different businesses can get PU letters and various factors determine their eligibility.

Mostly, the business or school needs to have its tax bill sorted with the government, and it also helps if they have leverage with the local authority.

This kind of ‘influence’ even has a name in China. It’s called guanxi. This concept of influential relations that facilitate business isn’t unique to China, of course, but the way it infiltrates every interaction might just be.

You can learn more about guanxi, it’ll certainly help you in your future life in China.

All of this is to explain why it’s the school that must apply for the PU letter, and not you!

NEWSFLASH: The majority of schools in China now able to get a PU letter are international schools. If you are qualified to teach in one and currently living outside the country, you’re in a privileged position and will likely find it easier to get in.

10. Finally, I've got my PU letter! Now what?

Once granted, your PU letter is only valid for three months. Given you need to complete your visa application before it expires. We recommend you spend the waiting time getting all your other documents in order. This way, you can apply for your visa as soon as your PU letter comes through.

To apply, make an appointment with your closest Chinese Visa Centre and remember that the entire process must be complete by the time your PU letter expires.

The China Working visa application process can be tedious and time-consuming and that’s why we urge you to put your PU letter waiting time to good use and get all your ducks in a row.

This is especially crucial right now, as many centers have a backlog of applications to go through, so everything’s proceeding even slower than usual.

We hope this blog has helped you understand what the PU letter is all about and how to get one. We also hope you understand how fluid the situation is, and how requirements for a PU letter are changing on a near-weekly basis.

If you’d like some help to navigate the at-times complex world of China visa applications and teaching job searches, reach out to us.

Alternatively, Submit Your CV right now and we’ll get in touch.

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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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