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October 16th, 2020 David O Connor

Teach in China – Authenticating Documents as a UK Citizen

Teach in China - Authenticating documents as British Citizen

Authenticating documents is the last step before applying for a Chinese work visa (known as a China Z Visa). In the UK the process is relatively simple.

As long as you’re in the UK when applying for your visa, you can take care of the bureaucratic steps on your own. If you happen to be abroad or just want to save yourself the hassle, however, you may want to employ the services of a third-party. We’ll tell you more about this option, below.

This blog aims to help you through the process of authenticating documents in the UK and we’ll also provide you with some insider tips to make the whole process run smoother.

First up, however, here is everything you need for your visa application.

  1. Your passport – at least 6 months before the expiry date
  2. A copy of our passport
  1. Your Bachelor Degree (not sure what degree you need to teach in China? This guide will help)
  2. Your TEFL certificate (one of the prerequisites to Teach in China)
  3. Your Criminal Record Check (this is to ensure you don’t have a criminal record back home – see this guide for more details)
  1. Filled-in Z Visa application Form
  2. Job Invitation Letter
  3. Work Permit Notice
  1. Your negative COVID Nucleic Acid Test certificate

There are three documents that you will need to be legalized, authenticated and/or notarised for the visa process.

  • Bachelors Degree – If you have a higher education award like masters, this will suffice.
  • Your TEFL Certificate
  • Criminal Background Check
  • Your negative COVID Nucleic Acid Test certificate**

*The one exception here is it you have a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education). This supersedes the need to have a TEFL qualification.

**More details on the latest COVID -19 pre-travel requirements, at the end of the page.

Authenticating documents for the China Visa is a two-step process: first, you’ll need to have them authenticated by the UK Government and then you’ll need to have them legalized by a China Visa Application Centre, also in the UK. Essentially, the first step guarantees that your documents are legitimate and the second guarantee acceptance by China.

Insider tip: Every step incurs a cost (no big surprises there!) so if you’ve negotiated reimbursement for your visa costs with your employer, keep all the receipts! Visa fee reimbursement is one of the most important interview questions


Document Authentication in the UK for the China Work Visa

On the UK Government side of things, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get your documents notarized –, PUBLIC NOTARY

The first step is to find a Public Notary who’ll notarize the documents: this involves taking the original along. The Public Notary (must be UK-registered – find your nearest here) will make a copy and certify that copy as being authentic. Ie. your original copy will not be tampered or stamped at all.

In the UK, Public Notaries usually charge about £30 per document, although they offer a discount for multiple docs so it’s always cheaper to have them all done at once.

Insider Tip: The requirement for authentication of documents varies by city and by a school, in China. Before doing anything, ask your employer what he/she needs – it may just save you some much-needed time and money if they only want a Notary Public stamp!

   2. Get your documents authenticated – FCO (Foreign Office of the British Commonwealth

The next step is to have that notarized copy authenticated by the FCO. Many people think the authentication is of the document itself but, technically, they are authenticating the Public Notary’s signature and stamp. You can courier the documents to the Legalization Office of the FCO (here is the official website) and have them courier the package back to you.

The FCO charges £30 and, unfortunately, they do not offer discounts for multiple documents.

Courier costs range between £5.50 and £25, depending on where you are (the UK, EU or Rest of the World). If you are in the UK, you can opt for snail-mail although risking your precious documents going AWOL, for just a few pounds’ saving, may not be worth your while.

Once the FCO has your documents, the process takes about 10 working days.

You can contact the FCO directly for info:


Telephone: 03700 00 22 44

Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm

Or start your document authentication application, right here

Teach in China - Legalize and Authenticate documents

3. Get your documents legalized by the Chinese Government

As a very final step, you’ll need to send your freshly authenticated documents to your nearest China Visa Application Service Centre (see this list) so they can authorize them for use in China. Chinese Embassies the world over are shifting the visa-application process to dedicated centres so your nearest embassy or consulate will no longer be dealing with the legalization of documents.

You will need to take along (or send) the original documents, as well as the authenticated ones, your passport and a copy of your passport. Given the sensitivity of the matter, it’s always best if you can make a visit in person but do contact them first to make an appointment.

In the UK, the charge is about £15 per document.

If you are abroad: you may feel uneasy about sending documents back and forth to the UK on your own and, although it may cost an extra, authorized legalization services are worth their weight in gold. Plus, they can cut the processing time, which is great if you’re in a hurry.

Some of the most reputable agencies out there:

Once you’ve managed to have all your documents fully legalised, you can send them to your employer who’ll kick start the visa application for you.

You may not be done yet but you’re certainly one step closer to teaching in China!


A COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) certificate is the latest addition to the list of ‘required documents’ before traveling to China.

Although most Chinese embassies around the world have designated certain medical facilities to carry out the test, the Chinese Embassy in the UK has not done that (yet). You are free to choose the medical facility closest to you, as long as it carries out the NAT test. We know, from experience, that all NHS facilities are approved.

You also don’t need to fill in a Health Declaration Form (as is the case with most other countries) as long as your NAT test result is NEGATIVE and you are taking a DIRECT FLIGHT FROM THE UK TO CHINA. If you plan on stopping along the way in a third country, however, you will need to fill in the form.

The Chinese Embassy in the UK has a handy FAQ page that you should keep referring to as your trip nears, to ensure you know all the latest updates. However, do note that there has been a development in the last days that hasn’t been added to this page yet:

The COVID NAT test must now be carried out up to 72 hours (3 days) prior to traveling, and not 5 days as used to be the case.


If you need to fill in a Health Declaration Form doc, you can get one from the embassy. Once you fill it in, you’ll need to return it to them and they will authenticate it. This takes at least 24 hours so do not leave it to the last minute.

The form looks like this:

Health Declaration Form - Chinese Visa

WHEN YOU TRAVEL: Always keep with you the original COVID NAT test certificate and the authenticated Health Declaration Form. You will likely be asked to show this several times throughout your journey: at check in, during stop-overs and upon arrival in China.

For more details on the COVID test and other flight requirements, please refer to Planning a Trip or Returning to China in 2020

Teaching in China is an exciting prospect so don’t let the initial bureaucratic rigmarole dissuade you from applying for fantastic teaching jobs.

Want more personalized advice?

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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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