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September 23rd, 2020 David O Connor

China Teaching Visa – Authenticating Documents in 2020

Teach in China. Authenticating of Documents

Applying for a Z Visa, the only visa that allows you to legally teach in China, involves gathering a substantial number of documents. Once you have all the needed docs in hand, you’ll need to have them authenticated by the authorities of the issuing country and then have them legalized by your nearest Chinese Embassy or Chinese Visa Application Centre.

Confused? No need to be. Here’s an example: Let’s say, you’re Canadian and you wish to apply for your China Work Visa in Canada BUT you gained your TEFL Certificate in Australia. First, you’ll need to have the Australian Government authenticate your TEFL certificate, then you’ll need to have it legalized by a Chinese Embassy, consulate or Visa service center in Australia. Finally, you can use the documents in Canada to apply for your visa.

Simple!

Authentication is done by the country that issued the document in question

Legalization is done by the Chinese Embassy in the country where the document was issued

Why is authentication needed?

In short, authentication is needed to ensure documents have been legitimately issued. It figures that the only authorities who can truly authenticate a document are the ones within the same jurisdiction as the stated issuing body. Australia would have no way of authenticating a Canadian bachelor’s degree, for example, and vice-versa.

What documents need to be authenticated for the China Z Visa?

Our How to Get a Visa for China details the step-by-step process involved in applying for a teaching visa but here is a quick summary of the documents you need:

  • Your passport – at least 6 months before expiry date
  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your TEFL certificate
  • A copy of your Bachelor’s Degree
  • A clear Criminal Record Check
  • Filled-in Z Visa application Form
  • Job Invitation Letter
  • Work Permit Notice
  • A negative COVID-19 test certificate**

**The latest COVID requirements for travel to China are detailed at the bottom of this page

Authenticating these documents means having them declared legitimate by the government that issued them. If you are no longer living in that country, you’ll want to start this procedure as soon as possible, given it can take considerable time to liaise with the relevant government bodies.

With this blog, we aim to streamline the document authentication process by simplifying the steps for every country whose citizens can legally teach in China.

Wondering if you’re eligible to teach in China? See all the Requirements to Teach in China page

What happens if my certificates are from abroad?

Although most people will gain their degree in their home country, issues arise when they gain TEFL certification online. First, you need to see where the TEFL agency is based (USA, Thailand, UK?) because you’ll need to have it authenticated there.

If you find yourself in a multi-country situation, it really pays to employ an international authentication agency. They will do the job for you, at a higher cost. More on this option, below.

Does authentication of a document expire?

No, not unless the document has an expiry date of its own accord. A Criminal Record Check is usually only valid 6 from date of issue for your Chinese work visa. Your passport will also have an expiry date, so these are the only two documents whose validity counts.

In summary, your authenticated documents can be used forever except your criminal background check.

China Visa Document Authentication for Irish Citizens

The authentication process in Ireland is straight forward:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Notary Public. Any document coming from a government body (background check) will NOT need to be notarized prior to authentication with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. AND Original Bachelor degrees are already notarised. You will more than likely only need this step if you are getting copies authenticated.

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through their Legalization Office. Normally, you’d be able to visit the Dublin or Cork office in person and walk out with your documents stamped in an hour…. However, due to the COVID situation, you’ll currently need to send the documents by mail.

COST: Public Notary fees are not set but most charge around €15. The fee for authenticating a document in Ireland is €40 and the process should take 4 -5 days from the time the documents are received.

Living abroad? Use the services of a legalization agency, like Apostille.ie, who’ll take your documents, have them notarized and authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Then they will have it legalized by the Chinese Embassy, and mail them back to you.

IMPORTANT: When applying for your Criminal Background Check in Ireland, make sure to ask for it to be notarized when it’s issued. If it has been, you’ll see a blue stamp on the bottom, left-hand-side. This stamp is essential, and the document cannot be authenticated without it, so don’t forget to ask.

Teach in China - authenticate and notarised documents for Chinese work visa

China Visa Document Authentication for US Citizens

In the US, document authentication requirements differ by state and they all involve multiple steps – the first thing you should do is find out the procedure and costs in YOUR home state. In such a huge country with so many different states, the authentication onus falls first on the county, then the state and, finally, the federal government.

Here are the steps you’ll have to follow:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Public Notary in the state where it was issued.

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Secretary of State in the same state – make sure they know the docs will be used for a China visa application and they’ll know to use the appropriate seals and signatures – this can cost as little as $1 (Michigan) or as much as $15 (Texas).

Step 3 – For certain states and all documents issued at a Federal level (like a US Criminal Background Check issued by the FBI) the document will have to also be authenticated by the US Dep’t of State in Washington DC. The Office of Authentication charges $8 per document for this service.

COST: A Public Notary should charge about $15 per document, whilst authentication costs at the state-level can vary quite a bit. In Washington, the authentication charge is $8 per document.

Things to keep in mind:

  • It’s good to find out what your employer will accept before delving into the authentication process for your US-issued documents. Some schools are happy with just notarized documents, whilst others may want the whole shebang of multiple authentications.
  • State regulations (and fees) can be quite different so make sure you know what YOUR state requires. For example – residents of AL, GA, HA, KY, MD, TN and NY need to send their documents to the County Clerk first, so they can be verified, before having them certified by the local office of the Secretary of State.

Living abroad? Document authentication can be a confusing and time-sucking endeavor even if you’re in the US, which is why many teachers use legalization services. You can get a free quote from FBI Apostille Services before deciding whether it’s worth the extra hassle and expense.

China Visa Document Authentication for UK Citizens

If you’re from the UK, here are the steps to have your China Z Visa documents authenticated:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Public Notary

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Legalization Dept of the UK Foreign Office. You can courier the documents and have them couriered back to you (rather than using regular mail). A much safer and faster option for such important documents.

COST: Public Notaries usually charge £30 per document, as does the Legalization Office of the UK Government, plus courier costs. At time of writing, the whole process can take up to 10 working days.

Living abroad? Save yourself some hassle and use a reputable legalization office, like Apostille.org.uk, to have your documents notarized, authenticated and legalized.

If you don’t yet have your police record, here’s How to Get Your Criminal Background Check in the UK.

China Visa Document Authentication for Canadian Citizens

Canada also boasts a multi-step procedure for authentication, although the whole ordeal is much simpler than in the US.

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Public Notary, solicitor or through the Commissioner of Oaths of Canada

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Global Affairs Canada Authentication Office. This official website can help you through the process.

COST: The Canadian Government does not charge a fee for authenticating documents, but you should expect the process to take up to one month. Notary Public fees, by and large, should be about $12-15 per document.

Living abroad? If you’re overseas, you can employ an authorized agent like LegalizationServices to get your documents legalized in Canada. Make sure to scroll to the bottom of the page on the above link to see info specifically for China.

China Visa Document Authentication for Australian Citizens

In Australia, authenticating documents is also a two-step process:

Step 1 – have your documents notarized by a Notary Public or solicitor

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Dep’t of Foreign Affairs and Trade – here is the new Document Legalization page.

COST: Notary fees in Australia are notoriously steep (see what we did there?) and some charge as much as $150 – the government, on the other hand, charges $84 per authenticated document.

Living abroad? The DFAT offers authentication services for those currently outside the country –  see how to get your document authenticated from your nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate.

See How to Obtain A Criminal Background Check in Australia

Authenticating Documents for Chinese Work Visa

China Visa Document Authentication for New Zealand Citizens

Simple and to the point, the process for authenticating your NZ issued visa documents are:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Notary Public

Step 2 – Have your document authenticated and verified by the New Zealand Government

The New Zealand Government will use a two-step authentication of your documents: first they’ll go to the Department of Internal Affairs and then they’ll be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Fortunately, however, you can simply submit your documents to the official government website and they take care of the whole lot.

Do note that there are various levels of authentication offered (with varying prices), so use this handy guide to using NZ documents overseas, click on ‘China’ in the country options and follow instructions. The whole process should take about a week.

COST: The minimum official charge for Notary Public services is $90 but they usually charge $10 for all subsequent documents so it’s definitely worth waiting until you have them all and get them notarized together.

Living abroad? You can go ahead and use the same links if sending/receiving documents from abroad. Alternatively, VitalConsular can do the whole thing for you – they are not cheap but they do guarantee authentication (or your money back) so it’s worth requesting a quote to save time and hassle.

China Visa Document Authentication for South African Citizens

South African teachers wanting to authenticate their China visa documents need to:

Step 1 – Have the documents notarized by a Notary Public or Registrar at a High Provincial Court

Step 2 – Have the documents authenticated by DIRCO, the Dep’t of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa. You can make a personal submission (and collection) by appointment if you’re near the Pretoria office. Alternatively, you can send the documents by courier or registered mail. Do note the DIRCO link above and follow the strict instructions for each type of submission option.

COST: High Courts in South Africa charge USD 50 per stamp to notarize documents (can be paid in Rand equivalent) and DIRCO will charge between R150-200 depending on how many documents you need authenticated.

Living abroad? The above DIRCO link is also of use to you, as it details requirements for submitting authentication documents via South African consular representatives abroad. You can email your request to legalisation@dirco.gov.za. You also have the option of nominating a family member/friend in South Africa to act on your behalf, which is helpful if your document has not yet been notarized – given they will need to be notarized in South Africa.

Insider Tips:

  • Although we advised US citizens to ask their employer about the kind of authentication they require, it’s a good idea for everyone to do the same. Some schools are happy with just a Notary Public stamp and if that’s the case, it save a lot of time, money and effort – so find out first.
  • Authenticating documents is the last step before you can present all your documents to be legalized by your nearest Chinese Embassy or China Visa Processing Centre. Once you have this final seal of approval, you can pass your documents onto your employer, who’ll get the visa application ball rolling.
  • As you’ve probably realized by now, gathering all your documents (and having them notarized, authenticated and legalized) can cost a dear penny or two (hundred). Many schools in China will offer a reimbursement of your visa application costs, which includes the authentication fees of your documents. If this is something you’ve negotiated, keep all your receipts. If you’ve yet to negotiate a teaching contract, keep it in mind as an important subject to discuss.

COVID-19 UPDATE

As of right now and for the foreseeable future, one of the most important documents you’ll have to present upon entry in China is an official certificate that declares you COVID-free.

The COVID Nucleic Acid Test (NAT) must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) prior to traveling, at an authorized medical facility. For instructions of where to go and what to do, contact your nearest Chinese Embassy/Consulate, who’ll provide you with a list of approved medical facilities. The test-time requirement has been shortened recently, in response to an increase of infections in the country. It’s imperative that you strictly follow the instructions as set out by the Chinese Embassy and do not leave your test to the last day prior to traveling: you’ll need to wait 24 hours to receive your results and then you’ll need to have them approved and authenticated by the Chinese Embassy.

All this needs to happen before you get on a plane.

For more details, please refer to Planning a Trip or Returning to China in 2020

What Next!?

At China by Teaching, we’ve been successfully match-making foreign teachers and Chinese schools – yes, even in COVID times! We’re here for any advice or concrete help – whether you’re looking for your first-ever teaching job in China or wish to find another teaching position within the country.

Interested to know the kind of teaching positions are available?

Then read our Complete Guide to Teaching in China and Contact Us Here for more detailed and personalized advice.

A Step by step guide on getting your documents authenticated and legalized so they can be used for your Chinese Work Visa.


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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