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April 29th, 2020 David O Connor

How to obtain a criminal record check for your China work visa

Teach in China_Obtaining a criminal record check for your China work visa 2

A ‘criminal record check’ is one of the documents you’ll need to get a China work visa and is something that you may also see referred to as a:

  • Criminal background check
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Criminal history check
  • No criminal record check – and even a
  • Police clearance certificate

All are essentially the same thing: an official document, issued by your home country or country of residence, that states you have a clear criminal record. Basically, China wants to ensure foreign criminals do not enter and work in their country. So far, so good.

The procedure for obtaining your criminal record check differs depending on your country of origin yet before we move on to our step-by-step guides, you should know that there are a few prerequisites they all share.

Your criminal record check should be:

  • No more than 6 months old
  • Signed by the issuing authority
  • From your country of current residence PLUS any other country (countries) you have resided in, for more than 6 months, in the last 5 years
  • Authenticated, in the issuing country, at a local Chinese Embassy

If you have been working as a TEFL teacher around the world in recent years, this will obviously be a time-consuming endeavour so factor this in when ascertaining your China work visa application time.

Please note that Criminal Record Checks application incur a fee in every country, EXCEPT New Zealand

It’s important to note that China works differently to most other nations – the criminal record check requirement may also differ depending on which province (and city) you intend to work. Some Chinese provinces require federal records whilst, for others, a locally (State) issued certificate will suffice. Differences can even occur between cities IN the same province. Even though the requirement will not be decided by your prospective employer, he/she will still have the most up-to-date information on what kind of criminal record check you will need for your work visa application

Whilst getting a criminal background check will be a somewhat easy and swift affair for some, others (like US citizens and residents) should count on a more complicated procedure, one that can take up to 10 weeks! There are ways to maximise time-efficiency, however, and we’ll detail those on a country-by-country basis.

Here are the short-cuts to our step-by-step guides:

We’ve also included:

This is something you will need when you have had your run of teaching English in China and want to move on elsewhere. Given you will likely have clocked up a year (or more) living in China, you will need a criminal background check and it’s imperative you obtain one before you leave the country.

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Ireland?

The luck of the Irish is at it again: Ireland has one of the easiest procedures to obtain a criminal record check!

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Request a Criminal Record for China directly with a local Garda station, Ireland’s National Police and Security Service – you can also appoint someone else to do this for you
  2. Once you’ve received your certificate (anywhere between 2 days and 2 weeks) you will need to have the document legalised through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Legalization Office) which should only take about an hour
  3. Once legalised, you’ll have to have the document authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in Dublin, which can take about 3-5 days
  4. Once the document is ready you can add it to your cache of docs needed to get your China work visa application

Want to save time and hassle? Seek the services of a Document Legalisation Service like Apostille – which can take care of steps 1 – 3 and save yourself the running around.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our post on How to get your criminal background check for Ireland.

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in the UK?

Obtaining a UK criminal background check is perhaps the least painful process of all.

You can:

  1. Request a criminal background check with your local police station OR
  2. Apply for what’s known as a Basic , online
  3. Once you receive your document, you’ll need to have it notarised by a public notary or solicitor in the UK
  4. Then, you’ll need to get the doc authenticated by the FCO – Foreign Commonwealth Office
  5. As a last step, you’ll need the criminal background check legalised by a local Chinese Embassy

You can also utilise the service of a professional in the UK if you like – agencies like VitalConsular can take care of the logistics.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our post on How to get a criminal background check for the UK.

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in the USA?

The USA boasts inarguably the most complicated and time-consuming procedure of all with both the criminal record check and authentication process requiring several steps. Unsurprisingly, many US residents and citizens choose to employ the services of a ‘channeler’, given the excruciatingly long and convoluted process, when dealing directly with the relevant authorities. Just bear with us whilst we quickly guide you through this!

First up, here’s what you should know:

  • In the USA, Criminal Record Checks can be issues both locally (through local law enforcement/sheriff’s office) State-wide (through a State Police Office) and federally, though the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). For obvious reasons, the first two are easier and faster to get than the last
  • Not every teacher applying for a China work visa will be required to get an FBI criminal record, but most do. Some will even be required to get all three!
  • As stated at the beginning of this article, your employer will tell you which documents, and at which level of government, you will need
  • Your employer will also tell you if the documents need to be notarised and authenticated, or notarised only. The school can also advice you if they’ll accept an authenticated, certified copy
  • Requirements for authentication of documents differ by State! Please check with your local authorities as to their procedure and whether or not you need to authorise your document through your county clerk

Here’s a step-by-step guide for local and State-issued criminal background checks:

  1. Apply for a background check report directly with your local and/or State police office, as the case may be. Make sure you inform them that it’s needed for your China work visa application and request it to be notarised at time of issue.
  2. You should receive your document with 1-2 days at local and State level
  3. Next, you need to have the document certified by your local Secretary of State Office
  4. And finally, you can get the document authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in the State where the document was issued

We’re not done yet! Here’s a step-by-step guide to obtaining your criminal record check from the FBI:

  1. Visit your local police station and request for your fingerprints to be taken – inform them you are applying for a Federal Background Check. Make sure to take two copies!
  2. Apply for your Federal Background Check through the FBI, which requires a form to be filled in, a payment slip to be completed and your fingerprints to be included in your application
  3. Once you have received your criminal record check, you must have it authenticated by the US State Department in Washington DC, the only office authorised to do this
  4. Then, have your document authenticated by a Chinese Embassy in person

Some teachers have reported this entire process taking almost 10 weeks when they tackled it on their own yet, through an agency like US Authentication Service, it can take as little as 2 weeks for an additional USD 100.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our post on How to get the criminal background check in the US.

Teach in China_How to obtain a criminal record check for your China work visa

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Canada?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is in charge of issuing Criminal Record Checks and, during your application, you may or may not be required to provide your fingerprints. It all depends on the amount of information you can provide about yourself and whether or not that’s sufficient to distinguish you from someone else of similar name/date of birth etc. OR if there is, indeed, a criminal record to verify.

Here’s where to start:

  1. Contact your local police station and enquire about applying for a Criminal Record Check – check the RCMP website for more details
  2. If you are required to provide fingerprints, you will receive what’s known as a Certified Criminal Background Check
  3. If there is NO criminal record, expect to receive your document within just a couple of days
  4. Once you have your document, you must have it notarised by a local solicitor, notary public or Canada’s Commissioner of Oaths
  5. Have your document authenticated by the aptly-named Authentication Office of Global Affairs, in Canada
  6. Finally have the doc authenticated, once more, by the Chinese Embassy of Canada

IF you are living outside of Canada, you can obtain your Electronic Criminal Record Check through your local Canadian Consulate or Embassy or, alternatively, through a third-party Canadian agency.

For a more detailed explanation, check out our post on How to get a Criminal background check from Canada.

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in Australia?

The easy-going Aussies made obtaining a criminal record check very easy, however please note that applications are no longer accepted at police stations.


  1. Apply for a National Police Check (NPC) either online or by post
  2. Make sure you have all the documents you need to accrue 100 ID points (pdf)
  3. Alternatively, apply for a copy of your record, online, through the Australian Federal Police website
  4. Have your document notarised by a local notary public
  5. Have your documents authenticated by your local office of the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
  6. Visit a Chinese Embassy in the State/Territory where the document was notarised, and have it authenticated

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in New Zealand?

In New Zealand, your application can either be done online or via snail-mail via the Ministry of Justice. Plus, it’s FREE!

  1. Fill in a Criminal Conviction History form (printable PDF)
  2. Send in your form, together with copies of relevant ID, either via mail or email (details at bottom of PDF form)
  3. You’ll be asked to wait a maximum of 3 weeks to receive your document
  4. Have your document authenticated by the Department of Internal Affairs (Authentication Unit)
  5. Have your document verified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Last, but not least, get your final authentication at the Chinese Embassy of New Zealand

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in South Africa?

The South Africa Police Department can issue your criminal background check, called a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC).

  1. Complete the one-page Police Clearance Certificate form (printable PDF)
  2. Hand in your application to the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management office, in Pretoria. You can do this personally or by post, or by handing in your form at any police station in South Africa, who’ll forward it on to the Pretoria headquarters, at no extra cost
  3. Makes sure you specify how you’d like the document delivered (by registered post, pick up in person in Pretoria OR your nominated police station)
  4. Expect to receive your document in about 2 weeks
  5. Have the document notarised by a notary public
  6. Have your document authenticated by the DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa)
  7. Have your document authenticated by the Chinese Embassy

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in China?

Granted, you may not want to think about the logistics of leaving China when you haven’t even arrived yet, but we think it still helps to be prepared. Moreover, if you transfer to another school at some point during your tenure, your prospective employer may request a local criminal record check for the time you have spent in China – this is especially true if you’ve been in the country for more than 6 months and your ‘home’ criminal records are no longer considered valid.

What you should know about getting a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC) in China:

  • The doc is also known as a No Criminal Record (NCR)
  • Chinese cities will only issue PCCs for the time you resided in that particular city (ie. they are not province or nation-wide) so if you have moved around a bit, you may need to apply for several PCPs, although it may depend on how long you’ve lived in each city
  • The prerequisites are a mystery. Seriously! Every province seems to have its own rules as to how they issue criminal background checks and, more crucially, most cities will not publicly publish them. You have to enquire at each place of residence

Here’s how it works:

  • Head to your nearest Public Security Bureau (PBS) office and request what’s known as a PCC. It is here that they will tell you what you need to do and what documents to hand in
  • Once you have your Police Clearance Certificate, you’ll need to take it to a notary public, who will notarise the document and also have it translated into English or any other language you request (mostly)

We know that all this bureaucratic run-around sounds overwhelming at first, and it can certainly be if you leave it to the last minute. So don’t! Rushing through this process with only a few weeks to spare will result in lost sleep and lost money: eventually, you’ll just pay anyone anything to get it done. So be ahead of the crowd and start getting your ducks in order as soon as your job is secured – this is, after all, the most time-sucking document you’ll need to apply for a visa, so best make it the first you tackle. Just remember that given the requirements are specific to the city in which you’ll teach, this is not something you can get before you have secured a teaching position.

Contact us here so we can better advise you on how to tackle your teaching in China move, one baby step at a time.

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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