How to get a Work Visa for China in 2024

Your simplified step-by-step guide to securing a China working visa

Working Visa for teaching in China

China offers a range of visas, though only the Z-Class Visa permits employment as a TEFL teacher. If you want to travel to China to teach, you must have a Z Visa and are not authorised to work with any other visa type (e.g., tourist).

This page provides all the help you need for a China work visa.

Even though the process may seem daunting, do not worry, as your prospective employer will take on most of the bureaucratic obligations. We can’t deny it: the initial two weeks in the new country may feel like a whirlwind, with you going from office to office, submitting papers, getting health checks, etc. This is where it pays to working with a reputable school! The top-notch schools in China will offer the most assistance for you to get settled.

The China visa process can be nuanced and ever-changing. Despite our continuous attempts to update this guide to reflect the latest changes, you must check every step of the procedure for updates before starting your Z-visa application.

The visa process can be nuanced and ever-changing. The video does a good job of giving you an overview of how to get your work visa for China, although we have more updated info below.

Enjoy the read!

General China Visa Overview

China visa options are numerous and include those specifically for tourists, students and even family members wishing to visit their ESL-teaching family members. Here’s a quick overview of China’s most popular (non-working) visas.

1. Tourist Visa L

If you want to enjoy a holiday in China before deciding if working and living here is for you, then this is your best visa option for a short-term visit. L tourist visas are valid for 30 days from the entry date but can be extended once, about a week before they expire. You must show proof of travel in and out of China, such as return flights, hotel/tour booking or a letter of invitation. US passport holders can apply for 10yr multiple-entry tourist visas as a show of reciprocity. Note that you cannot teach in China if you enter the country on this visa.

2. Student Visa X

Long (X1) and short (X2) student visas are granted to certified school/university students. On this visa, you cannot teach English (or any other subject).

3. Business Visa M

Solely used for business visits to China for commerce and trade, this visa is for those scouring factories, meeting clients or finalising contracts. You’ll need a letter of invitation from your Chinese business contacts to apply for this visa. Once again, you cannot work as a teacher on this visa.


4. Private Visit Visa S

This is the visa your spouse or close relative need if they wish to visit you once you’ve started working in China as a teacher. For this visa purpose, relatives include spouses, children, spouses of children, parents, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, and grandchildren. There are two options here: the S1, which allows for stays of more than 180 days, and the S2, which allow stays of up to 180 days.

You guessed it…you can’t teach English on this visa either!

NB: if you’re caught teaching in China on anything OTHER THAN A Z VISA, you WILL face huge fines and potential deportation. If you value your freedom of travel, passport, and teaching future, don’t risk it. It just isn’t worth it in the long run. While we’re at it: don’t trust anyone who says they can ‘help you because they know a guy’. That’s how every problem in China starts!

Not sure what kind of teaching job would suit you best? See our ESL Teaching Jobs page to learn the differences between teaching positions in China 

Qualification Requirements for China Teaching Visa

The Z Visa is the only legal option to teach English in China.

At a glance: A Z Visa is issued to foreign nationals who have obtained an employment permit and intend to work in China. This visa is typically issued for one entry with a duration of stay to be determined. Its holders must enter China within 90 days of visa issuance and register at the local public security bureau within 30 days of arrival. At this point, they will be issued a China Residence Permit to replace the Z Visa, allowing multiple entries for one year.

Getting the Z-Visa is a two-step process:

  1. Secure a Chinese Work Permit – officially known as a Notification Letter of Foreigners Work Permit
  2. Apply for the visa.

The work permit is issued by your intended employer, which means you can only apply for a Z Visa once you have signed a teaching contract with a Chinese school. So, get your job sorted first, and your visa application process can begin.

The Z Visa requirements are as follows:

  • You must be between 18 and 60 years of age (exceptions are made if you are slightly above the max age requirement and find an employer who’s keen to hire you)


  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree of any kind (it does not need to be English or teaching-specific)


  • Have TEFL certification


  • Have at least 100hr practical teaching experience (in Tier 1 cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the minimum requirement is 120hr)


  • Eligibility requirements to teach in China are interchangeable with Z-Visa eligibility because holding a valid working visa is the main requirement for teaching here. However, several exceptions can be made, so check out our Am I Eligible to Teach in China? page to know more.

Document Requirements for a Teaching Z Visa

Following is a list of all the documents you will need for the China work visa application process. However, not every document is needed at every step, so we’ll detail when you should have what ready.

Once again for the kids in the back: to apply for this China work visa, you MUST already have a teaching job in China lined up. Your employer will provide all the relevant forms that you’ll need:


– Passport with a minimum of 6-month validity and at least three blank visa pages, although it’s always better to have more, given the number of visas and entry/exit stamps you’ll receive (US passport holders: note that the last three pages of your passport are reserved for amendments by your government and cannot be counted as ‘blank’!) If you don’t have enough blank pages left, apply for a new passport immediately, before applying for a China work visa

– Copy of the details’ page on your passport

– 10 x passport photo as per China visa photo requirements

– Copies of your Bachelor Degree and TEFL qualifications, authenticated and notarised

– Job invitation letter (supplied by your prospective employer)

– China Work Permit Notice*

– Clear Criminal Background Check from your home country * (notarised)

– Correctly filled-in Z Visa Application form (here’s a printable pdf)

– Any additional documentation they might request  *details below


Although document requirements are somewhat standard across the board, some passport holders are asked to supply other documents. For example: if you are a US passport holder applying for a China work visa from Australia, you must provide evidence of your Australia visa/residence permit. Moreover, some schools will require you to undergo a medical test before travelling to China and add the medical report to your visa application. Don’t worry if this is the case; they will guide you through the process.

A small model airplane placed on top of a passport

How to Apply for a China Teaching Visa: Step-by-Step Guide

The China Z Visa application process may seem overwhelming at first, but, in reality, it’s quite straightforward, especially when you consider that your prospective employer will be doing most of the bureaucratic run-around.

Your 10-step guide to securing that visa? Right here!


Step 1 – Obtain your China Wok Permit Notice

After receiving a job offer, your employer will provide you with a job invitation letter. This is necessary to apply for a notice to secure a work permit. Your employer will give you the application form and any additional documents required. They will also help you with the submission process. It is important to complete this step before travelling to China.

On your end, you will need the following:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your authenticated qualifications as detailed above (Degree & TEFL)
  • Two recent passport photos as per China Visa requirement
  • Your clear Criminal Background Check certificate


Step 2 – Apply for your Working Z-Class Visa

Your China work visa application must be handed in at your nearest Embassy, consulate or, more commonly, the visa centre dedicated to Chinese Visas in your area. Check with your nearest Chinese consulate – their website will mention where to apply for visas.

Visa centres do not accept walk-ins, so you must first make an appointment.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill in your online visa application form through the COVA(Chinese Online Visa Application) website. Check out this useful list of common mistakes when filling in their visa application forms!
  2. Book an appointment online through AVAS (Appointment for Visa Application Submission), so you can hand in your documents.

Given there are only so many appointments available daily, it can take weeks and even up to a month to find a suitable slot – prepare for a possible delay!

Every country has not yet adopted the above procedure, so you must double-check with your nearest Chinese Visa Application Service Centre

The China Visa Application fee differs by country, so check with a Chinese Embassy or Centre where you are applying. Fees range between USD 90 and USD 140. Do note that Chinese Embassy websites also have a dedicated page on how to apply for a Z Visa!


Step 3 – Receive your Z-Class Visa and double-check it carefully

Once you get your passport back, carefully study all the details on your new visa. It’s not rare to be granted a visa other than the one you applied for. Some stuff-ups happen occasionally, so go over it with a fine tooth comb.

The visa will detail the entry date and length of stay, the type of visa (Z) and anything else you need to know. Regarding any problem, know that ‘ignorance’ is not bliss. No matter which visa class you applied for, what your actual visa states is the only thing that matters! Contact the visa centre if you find discrepancies in your visa.


Step 4 – Move to China

With your job sorted and your work visa secured, you’re ready for the big move. It’s time to finally travel to China to teach!

Once you arrive in China, it is important to take action quickly. Within the first 30 days, you must apply for a Residency Permit. This will essentially convert your Z-Visa into a long-term permit. Some people receive a Z-Visa marked with “000” which indicates that it is valid “indefinitely”. However, this is not the case – you still have only 30 days to apply for a Residency Permit. Note that this permit is tied to your work contract, meaning its validity ranges between 90 days and five years only.

You should view the Z Visa as a foot in the China-teaching-door. Once you’re in, however, you are expected to turn it into a residency permit pronto. 

The resident permit allows you to ‘reside’ in China legally.

Once you arrive, a staff member from your school will likely be appointed to help you with all the initial appointments and bureaucratic processes, so you won’t have to do it alone. You can read our blog on 10 things to know before moving to China – a timeless guide that will help you during the initial settling-in period.

Teaching Visa Z (Work Visa)


Step 5 – Get Your Police Registration Form

As soon as you arrive in China, you need to register with your local police station within 24 hours.

Usually, schools provide hotel accommodation to incoming teachers, and hotel management will automatically register your presence with the local police. Once you move into permanent housing, you will need to notify the local authorities of your new address. Your employer will assist you with this step.

You must personally present the following:

  • Your passport
  • Your housing contract (most often organised by your employer)
  • A copy of your landlord details (including contact phone number)

Once you have your Police Registration Form, you can move on to the next step.

Haven’t you considered your housing options yet? Here’s our comprehensive teaching in China cost guide, which details some info about your housing options.


Step 6 – Get a Medical Check

Everyone who arrives in China to work is required to undergo a fairly comprehensive and time-consuming medical check. Some, as mentioned above, may also be required to take one at home. The medical is meant to discount infectious diseases like HIV, polio, and drug use. You’ll undergo half a dozen tests in a specific hospital/medical centre in your teaching city. Your employer, or your appointed liaison officer, should make the appointment and accompany you.

This China visa medical check will be carried out during your first week in the country. It takes a few days to receive all the medical results, and your employer will need this to apply for your residency permit. And remember, you only have 30 days to get that done.

This is what you’ll need to take along to your Medical Check appointment:

  • Your passport
  • Copies of your passport’s details, visa and entry-stamp pages
  • Five passport photos
  • The medical check-up fee of around 500 RMB is usually reimbursed once you get the all-clear. It may originally be paid by your employer but do ask beforehand to be sure.
  1. You may be able to do your medical check in your home country before arriving. Although this sounds like a great time-saver, it can be an expensive time-waster. Requirements for you and your doctor are extensive; heaven forbid you get anything wrong! The whole thing will be for nothing. We also recommend you avoid doing a medical at home and officially get one done when you arrive in China.


Step 7 – Acquire Your China Work Permit

Remember that Work Permit Notice you applied for in Step 1? It’s time to turn that ”notice” into a bona fide “permit” again by dealing with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security. Your employer will also guide you through this process.

Expect to hand in the following:

  • Your passport
  • One passport photo
  • Your Medical Certificate
  • Your Police Registration Form (from Step 5), which should now reflect your permanent address


Step 8 – Secure Your Residency Permit

To apply for your Residency Permit, you must show up in person at your local Public Security Bureau (PSB) at least one week before you Z visa expires. Your employer will help with this process as they will have to verify that you will be working for them.

Here’s the documentation you’ll need to apply for your Residency Permit:

  • Your passport
  • 1 passport photo
  • Your Police Registration Form
  • Your Work Permit
  • A Residency Permit application form, nicely filled-in (your employer will provide you with this).



Can you believe it? You’re all done! Now you can finally get on with the business of teaching in China.

Mission complete!

Unfortunately, we are limited in the amount of info we can outline without knowing your specific situation. Requirements for Z Visa (as with all visas) in China are oftentimes also dependent on your nationality.

You can find more answers on our Frequently Asked Questions page, but if you are unsure, contact us here so we can advise you in more detail or browse our jobs.

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