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May 29th, 2024 by 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

Thinking about coming to China to teach? Follow these steps to obtain a criminal background check, one of the requirements get a China work visa.

Obtaining a criminal check is just one of the many steps required before you can apply for a China work visa. This all-important document goes by many names around the world. It can be referred to as a:

  • Criminal background check
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Criminal history check
  • No criminal record check  and even
  • Certificate of lack of criminal record

They are all basically the same thing: an official document issued by your home country or country of residence stating that you have no prior criminal records. A criminal background check is required when applying for a work visa in China to ensure that individuals with criminal records do not enter and work there.

The procedure for obtaining a criminal record check differs depending on your country of origin. However, before proceeding with the step-by-step guides, it is essential to note that some general requirements must be met.

When applying for your visa, ensure that your criminal record check meets the following criteria:

– It should not be older than 6 months from the date it was issued until you apply for your visa.

– It should be from your current country of residence and any other country or countries where you have resided for more than 6 months in the last 5 years.

– It should be authenticated by the issuing authority.

(Prior to November 2023, when China Joined The Hague Convention, you would have also needed to have the document legalised by a Chinese Embassy or Visa Centre. This step is now no longer needed.)

Which authorities issue criminal record checks for your China work visa?

Law enforcement agencies issue criminal record certificates. You can usually get yours at police stations, county sheriff’s offices, and even the FBI if you are from the USA and your employer requests a federal criminal check. Essentially, it’s whatever authorities in your country keep records of criminal activities.

Criminal Record Checks application incurs a fee in every country EXCEPT New Zealand and Ireland.

Obtaining a criminal background check may be a simple and quick process for some individuals, but it may not be so easy for others. If you need to obtain a background check from the United States, you should be prepared for a more complex procedure, which can take up to 10 weeks.

There are ways to expedite the process; we’ll detail that country by country.

It is important to note that in the past, minor or outdated violations found on a criminal background check did not necessarily lead to the automatic rejection of a work visa application. Each case was evaluated on an individual basis. However, the situation has changed. Recently, China has strengthened its regulations, and now, a potential teacher’s criminal background check must be completely clean for them to be eligible for a visa.


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

How to get a criminal background check from

We’ve also included a short blurb on:

Once you are ready to leave China after spending a year or more there, you must undergo a criminal background check. It is advisable to obtain this document before you move on to your next teaching destination, as getting it after leaving China can be bothersome. Keep this information in your memory bank to avoid any inconvenience later.


How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check from Ireland?

The luck of the Irish is at it again. Ireland has one of the easiest procedures to obtain a criminal record check for your Chinese Visa!

Here’s what you need to do:Request a Police Certificate directly from a local Garda station,

Ireland’s National Police. You can also appoint someone to do this for you.

The Gardai stationed at any front desk will be familiar with this form and can help you with any queries you may have while filling it out. They are generally helpful and knowledgeable, so don’t hesitate to seek their assistance.

In your application  (Download here) include your full name as it is on your birth certificate.

You must provide all the addresses of your previous residences and explain the purpose of your criminal background check. This is crucial, as the authorities will use this information to draft the document that satisfies the China work visa requirements. The document is issued free of charge.

Don’t forget to bring a certified copy of your passport, proof of past and present residence (bills, etc.), and a stamped, self-addressed envelope so they can mail your document when it’s issued. This saves you the hassle of coming back.

NB – Don’t forget to request the document be notarised at the time of issue, or you’ll need to send it back to them again!

After submission, the certificate may take up to 3 weeks to be issued. It is essential to check that the notarisation stamp is present on the document. The stamp is blue and can be found on the bottom left-hand side of the page. If the stamp is missing, you should visit the Garda station immediately to get it stamped.

Next, your criminal background check must be Authenticated / Apostilled through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Legalisation Office).

You have three options to get this done:

In person: Visit the Cork or Dublin offices during specified hours for a fast half-hour authentication process.

Courier mail: Send your document, cover letter, and payment through a courier service.

Drop off in person and pick up later (or return by mail): If you are near the offices but unable to visit during service hours, you can drop off your documents and receive instructions for later pickup or mail return.

Select the option that best suits your convenience and proximity to the offices. At the time of writing, an apostille stamp costs €40.

If you want to save time and avoid the hassle of having your document apostilled, you can seek the services of a Document Legalisation agency like They will do all the running around for you.

If you need to apply in Northern Ireland, you can do that here.

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

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

In the UK, two types of criminal background checks are available – a Basic Disclosure (DBS Check) and a more detailed ACRO Police Certificate. If you plan to work overseas as a UK resident, you will mostly likely need the ACRO Police Certificate – but it’s still wise to check with your employer which type of check they require. Generally, employers prefer the enhanced ACRO Police Certificate.

Here’s how to apply for both, just in case:

You can easily apply for a basic disclosure online. The process is simple and requires you to verify your identity first. Make sure you have all the addresses you have lived at for the last five years handy and have all the necessary documents ready. The fee for this service is 18 GBP, and the certificate can take up to 14 days to be issued.

Alternatively, visit your local , where DBS applications are accepted and they can also verify your identity in person.

To obtain an ACRO Police Certificate, you must provide your driving license, passport, national insurance number, and the addresses of all places you have lived in the UK for the past 5 years. You can apply online via the Download Form button. Once filled out, add the other required documents and email them to [email protected]. The cost for an ACRO Police Certificate is 55 GBP.

After obtaining the document, it must be notarised by a public notary or solicitor in the UK.

Once the document is notarised, it should be authenticated and apostilled by the FCO (Foreign Commonwealth Office). The cost for this service is 45 GBP per certificate. Ask your employer if they will accept what’s known as an e-Apostille (electronic apostille). This only costs 35 GBP and is the fastest apostille service you can receive.

You can also utilise the service of a professional in the UK. Agencies like Vital Consular and CRB Direct can take care of the logistics.

For a more detailed explanation of what’s needed and how to proceed, check out our post on How to get a criminal background check from the UK.

How Can I Get a Criminal History Check from the US?

The USA has the most complicated and time-consuming criminal record check and authentication procedure.

Unsurprisingly, many US residents and citizens opt for the services of a ‘channeler’ instead of dealing directly with the relevant authorities. This is because the process can be very long and complicated.

Just bear with us as we quickly guide you through this!

US Criminal History Check – An Overview

  • In the United States, Criminal History Checks can be obtained at the local level through the local law enforcement or sheriff’s office, at the state level through the State Police Office, and the federal level through the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). However, obtaining a federal check can be notoriously difficult and time-consuming. The local and State options are generally easier and faster to get.
  • Not every teacher applying for a China work visa will be required to get an FBI criminal record, but most do. 
  • As stated at the beginning of this article, your employer will tell you which documents you will need and at which level of government.
  • Your employer will also tell you if the documents need to be notarised and authenticated or notarised only. The school can also advise if they accept an authenticated, certified copy. Generally, if the Secretary of State’s office signs the document, then it needn’t be notarised.
  • Requirements for document authentication differ by State! Please check with your local authorities regarding their procedure and whether or not you need to authorise your document through your county clerk.

 Step-by-step guide for local and State level

To apply for a background check report, also known as a Certificate of Good Conduct, you should directly contact your local and/or State police office. Make sure to inform them about the report’s purpose and request it to be notarised at the time of issue.

The document should be ready within 2-3 days at the local and State levels.

After that, you must apostille the document. For local (State) documents, apostille is done with your local Secretary of State Office. Some states may require additional certification by the County Clerk, so checking your state regulations before proceeding is essential.

Federal documents, like the FBI criminal background check, are apostilled by the US Department of State, in Washington, DC.


A step-by-step guide for getting one with the FBI

The FBI offers an Identity History Summary Check, but it is not for employment purposes. Instead, you must apply for a Federal Background Check, Form 1-7783.

Visit your local police station and request that your fingerprints be taken on an official (FD-1164) card. You can also apply for electronic fingerprints at your local Post Office. Make sure to bring your ID with you. Also, inform them you are applying for a Federal Background Check. Make sure to take two copies! This costs around USD 90.

Apply for your Federal Background Check through the FBI. This requires completing a form, completing a payment slip (USD 18), and including your fingerprints in your application. For more details on how to apply, see this Official FBI Page.

After receiving your criminal record check – which can take up to 70 days – you must have it authenticated by the US State Department in Washington, DC. Apostille costs USD 20. Here are the apostille requirements for you to follow.

Some teachers have reported this entire process taking almost 10 weeks. It can take as little as 2 weeks through an agency like the US Authentication Service– for an additional USD 100 or so.

Check out our post on How to get a criminal background check in the US. This is a much deeper dive into the process that could help.

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

How Can I Get a Criminal Record Check from Canada?

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is responsible for issuing criminal record checks. Whether or not you need to provide your fingerprints during the application procedure depends on how much information you can provide about yourself. The police authorities assess whether the information can differentiate you from someone with a similar name and date of birth or if there is a criminal record to verify.

Here’s where to start:

Contact your local police station and inquire about applying for a Criminal Record Check. For more details, check the RCMP website.

If you are required to provide fingerprints, you will receive a Certified Criminal Background Check, which incurs a small fee (location dependent)

If there is no criminal record, expect to receive your document within a couple of days. A federal processing fee of 25 CAD is also charged for criminal background checks used for foreign visa applications.

Once you have your document, have it notarised by a local solicitor, notary public or Canada’s Commissioner of Oaths

Have your document apostilled, free of charge, by the aptly-named Authentication Office of Global Affairs in Canada.

If you live outside of Canada, you can obtain your Electronic Criminal Record Check through your local Canadian Consulate or Embassy. Alternatively, you can go through a third-party Canadian agency like .

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

How Can I Get a National Police Check from Australia?

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

National Police Checks are conveniently delivered via email as a secure PDF file. If you need a physical hard copy certificate, choose that option during the application process. Since you require notarisation of the National Police Checks, you must select the hard copy option, as digital certificates cannot be notarised.

Apply for a National Police Check (NPC) either online or by Post 

Make sure you have all the documents you need to accrue 100 ID points (PDF).

Alternatively, apply for a copy of your record online through the Australia Federal Police  website. The document costs AU$47 if fingerprints are not required and AU$104 if they are.

Have your document notarised by a local notary public.

Have your documents authenticated (apostilled) by the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade Office in your nearest capital city. At the time of writing, the fee is AUD 98 per document apostille.

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

In New Zealand, you can apply online or by snail mail through the Ministry of Justice. Plus, it’s FREE!

Fill in a Criminal Conviction History form (apply online).

Ensure you have all the required documents as stated on the page before starting your online application. If you prefer to go old-school and mail your application, see directions here.

The postal address is:

               Criminal Record Applications

EX 11064


It should take a maximum of 3 weeks to receive your document.

Have your document apostilled by the Department of Internal Affairs Apostille (Authentication Unit)


How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check from South Africa?​

The South Africa Police Department can issue your criminal background check, called a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC). The fee is 170 Rand.

Complete the one-page Police Clearance Certificate form (printable PDF) specifying you need the certificate to apply for a China work visa.

Get a set of fingerprints taken at your nearest police station.

Have a copy of your passport certified.

Hand in your application – complete with fingerprint and certified passport copy – to the Criminal Record and Crime Scene Management office in Pretoria. This is the only office that processes the document. You can do this personally or by post. Alternatively, you can also submit your form at any police station in South Africa, and they will forward it to the Pretoria headquarters at no extra cost.

If you are abroad, you can do everything by international post. However, the SAPD will NOT mail you the document abroad. Instead, you’ll need to nominate a local contact to receive it on your behalf.

The Pretoria office is open and accepting walk-ins. However, it is always best to contact them beforehand and double-check if coming from afar.

Specify how you’d like the document delivered. It can be delivered by registered post, picked up in Pretoria, or to your nominated police station.

Expect to receive your document in about 2 weeks.

Get the document notarised by a notary public. This costs around USD 10 (170 Rand.)

Have your document apostilled by the DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa). Their services are free of charge.

For more details and insider tips on making this ordeal go faster, browse our page on How to get a Criminal Background Check in South Africa. 

KEEP ALL YOUR RECEIPTS – If your new teaching salary package includes reimbursement for moving costs, you’ll want to keep all your receipts to recoup the costs of getting a background check!

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check from China?

While you may not want to think about the logistics of leaving China when you haven’t even arrived, it’s important to be prepared. Additionally, if you plan to switch schools while you’re there, a potential employer may require a local criminal record check. This is especially true if you’ve been in the country for more than six months and your previous criminal records from your home country are no longer valid.

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

The document is also known as a No Criminal Record (NCR) or 无犯罪记录证明书.

When it comes to Police Clearance Certificates (PCCs) in China, it’s worth noting that they are issued only for the time you lived in a particular city. You may need to apply for several PCCs if you have lived in multiple cities. However, the duration of your stay in each city may impact this. It’s important to note that PCCs are not issued by province or nationwide, except for Guangdong province, which does issue state-wide clearances.

The prerequisites are a mystery. Seriously! Every province seems to have its own rules for issuing criminal background checks. More crucially, most cities will not publicly publish them. You have to enquire at each place of residence

How to get your Chinese Criminal Background Check

Head to your nearest Public Security Bureau (PBS) office and request a PCC. Here, they will tell you what you need to do and what documents to hand in.

Once you have your Police Clearance Certificate, you must take it to a notary public. The notary public will notarise the document and also have it translated into English or (almost) any other language you request.


Obtaining a criminal check for your China work visa is a bureaucratic hassle and it can also be stressful. Don’t leave it to the last minute! Rushing through this process in only a few weeks will result in lost sleep and money. Eventually, you’ll just pay anyone anything to get it done. Get 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-consuming document you’ll need to apply for a visa, so it is best to make it the first you tackle.

Just remember that, given that the requirements are specific to the city in which you’ll teach, you cannot get this before you have secured a teaching position.

Contact Us here so we can better advise you on tackling your teaching in China move, one baby step at a time. And remember that, at China by Teaching, we can help UK and US nationals secure their Criminal Background Checks in just a few 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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