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Oct 16th, 2020 by David O Connor

Teach in China – Authenticating Documents as a UK Citizen

Teach in China - Authenticating documents as British Citizen

Authenticating your documents in the UK is the last step before applying for your Chinese work visa (known as a China Z Visa). In the UK the process is simple compared to other countries.

As long as you’re in the UK when applying for your visa, you can take care of the steps on your own. If you happen to be abroad or just want to save yourself the hassle, 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. We’ll also provide you with some insider tips to make the whole process run smoother.

Documents you need for a Chinese Work Visa

Here is everything you’ll need for the visa application.

  1. Your Passport – at least 6 months before the expiry date
  2. A copy of Your passport
  3. Bachelor’s Degree 
  4. TEFL certificate 
  5. Criminal Record Check (this is to ensure you have no criminal record back home – see this guide for more details)
  6. Filled-in Z Visa application Form
  7. Job Invitation Letter – Provided by your school
  8. Work Permit Notice – Provided by your school
 
The following you don’t need for your visa application, but you will need it if you want to board a flight to China. 
  1. COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and COVID-19 IgG antibody test **
  2. Health Declaration Form – Authenticated by the Chinese Embassy

There are three documents that you’ll have to get legalized, authenticated and/or notarised for the visa process.

  • Bachelors Degree – If you have a higher education award like a Masters Degree, that will do.
  • TEFL Certificate*
  • Criminal Background Check
  • Health Declaration form**

*The one exception here is if 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 your documents for the China Visa is a two-step process. First, your documents need to be authenticated by the UK Government. Secondly they need to be legalized by a China Visa Application Centre, also in the UK. 

Essentially, the first step guarantees that your documents are legitimate. The second guarantees they’ll be accepted when you apply for your work permit in China.

Insider tip: Every step incurs a cost (no big surprises there!). If you’ve negotiated reimbursement for your visa costs with your employer, keep all the receipts! 

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

1: Get your documents notarised – Public Notary

For some, the notarisation step can be skipped. Remember, most originals, especially those issued by the UK government do not need to be notarised i.e Criminal Background check. 

The first step is to find a Public Notary who’ll notarize your documents. This involves taking the originals along or copies of the originals. The Public Notary (must be UK-registered – find your nearest here).

In the UK, Public Notaries usually charge about £30 per document. Although they offer a discount for multiple docs so it’s always cheaper if you 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! 

 2. Authenticating Documents in the UK – FCO (Foreign Office of the British Commonwealth)

The next step is to have the notarised copies or originals authenticated by the FCO. Many people think the authentication is of the document itself but, technically, they are authenticating the Public Notary’s signature or the document that the government has issued. For instance, the FCO may authenticate the a criminal background check, signifying it’s a legitimate document that can be used for your Z visa application. 

Documents can be couriered to the Legalization Office of the FCO (here is the official website) and can be returned via courier. The FCO charges £30. 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  can opt for snail-mail. Although the risk of your precious documents going AWOL for just a few pounds’ saving, may not be worth it’s while.

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

You can contact the FCO directly for info:

E-mail: [email protected]

Telephone: 03700 00 22 44

Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 4pm

Teach in China - Legalize and Authenticate documents

3. Get your documents legalized by the Chinese Government

As a very final step, your freshly authenticated documents are sent to the nearest China Visa Application Service Centre (see this list) so they be authorised for use in China. Chinese Embassies the world over are shifting the visa-application process to dedicated centres. As a result your nearest embassy or consulate no longer deal with the legalization of documents.

You need to take along (or send) the original documents, as well as the authenticated ones, passport and a copy of the passport. Given the sensitive nature of the documents, it’s always best if you make a visit in person. Make sure you 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. 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 then 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

Traveling from UK to China **COVID UPDATE**

Until November 3rd, travellers to China needed to do one nose and mouth swab to get a COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) certificate. This was a requirement to board a flight to China. 

This has changed. Due to the increase of imported COVID-19 cases into China, further testing for COVID and related certification is needed.  

Increased measures brought in by the Chinese authorities mean that you now need to have passed (negative result) a 

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

before being allowed to board a flight to China or an itinerary with China as it’s final destination.  

Once it was just an uncomfortable swab, now blood must be taken for antibody testing. Be prepared as this is unlikely to change for some time. 

The headache doesn’t end there. The two COVID tests must now be carried out no longer than 48 hours (2 days) prior to traveling, and not 5 and 3 days as it was previously. This throws up a whole host of logistical issues. You will need military like planning to board your flight. 

To reiterate again, you will need the following documents if you want to board a flight to China. 
  1. COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and COVID-19 IgG antibody test – Full test results
  2. Health Declaration Form – Authenticated by the Chinese Visa Centre

Health Declaration Form and COVID testing

As mentioned, you will need a Health Declaration Form, that is downloadable from the Chinese Embassy website.

Once you fill it in, you’ll need to return it with your negative test results and they will authenticate it. This is the document that will allow you to board the flight successfully.

The Chinese Embassy does not designate specific institutions to carry out the test. You can choose any recognised hospital or institution to take the test.

The biggest obstacle will be finding facility that can provide the results same-day. For example, a company on the net like Walk in Clinic that can turn the tests around in 24 hours. This should give you enough time to have your health declaration authenticated and board your flight.

Getting your results back within 24 hours will come at a price. Be prepared to pay anything from £325 to £450… ouch! Once you have them back, you will need to send the health declaration form and test results to the embassy. Embassy staff are working extra hours to approve the documents. Leave as much time as possible and preferably, do not send them at the weekends. 

 

Sending the Health Declaration form to the Chinese Embassy

To get your health declaration from authenticated, you need to 

  1.  Fill in and sign the Health Declaration Form
  2.  Make scanned copies of
        • Health Declaration form
        • NAT and antibody IgG Certificate (with negative results)
        • Bio-page of the passport

  3. Attached to an email and send to the most applicable email address

The Chinese Embassy in the UK has a handy FAQ page that you should keep referring to as your trip nears. Ensure you know all the latest updates. 

IT’S ALWAYS BEST TO CONTACT THE EMBASSY FOR THE LATEST UPDATES OF TEST/TRAVEL REQUIREMENTS BEFORE TAKING YOUR TEST

The Health Declaration form looks like this

Health Declaration Form - Chinese Visa

When you travel

Always keep with you the original COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) and IgG antibody test certificate as well as the authenticated Health Declaration Form. You will likely be asked to show this several times throughout your journey. Don’t be surprised if you are asked for this form at check in, during stop-overs and upon arrival in China.


Authenticating documents in the UK is no different from anywhere else. Nonetheless this is still a tiresome and sometimes overwhelming process. This is where we can help. We have lived and breathed this whole process and we can provide insight on how best to over it come it. 

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

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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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