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Apr 18th, 2023 by David O Connor

China Teaching Visa – How to Authenticate Your Documents

Teach in China. Authenticating of Documents

Once you gather all your China work visa application documents, you must authenticate most of them. Read on to find out how to do just that!

Applying for a Z-visa the only visa legally allowing you to teach in China involves gathering many 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 
  • legalized by the nearest Chinese Embassy or Chinese Visa Application Centre in the issuing country

Confused about what all this means?

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you’re Canadian and 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.

The Chinese consular services in Canada will now accept this document. 


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

All documents can be used in the country where you are applying for a China Work Visa

Why is Authentication Needed for Visa Documents?

Authentication is needed to ensure documents are legitimate and not fake. It figures that the only authorities who can 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.

Every country authenticates its own documents, and, ultimately, the Chinese authorities recognize these authentications.

The 1961 Hague Convention agreement on abolishing the need to legalize foreign public documents does not apply in China because the country is not a signatory to the treaty. This means you must have your documents authenticated and not apostilled.

Hopefully, if China ever decides to join the party, this complicated procedure will be a thing of the past for foreign teachers wishing to apply for a Chinese work visa.

But for now, here’s what you need to do.

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

Our How to get a China Visa page details the step-by-step process of applying for a teaching visa. Here is a quick summary of the documents you need:

  • Your passport – with at least six months of validity left
  • A copy of your passport*
  • A copy of your TEFL certificate*
  • A copy of your Bachelor Degree*
  • A clear Criminal Record Check*
  • Filled-in Z Visa application Form
  • Job Invitation Letter
  • Work Permit Notice

* These are the documents you will need to have authenticated

If you no longer live in the country that issued your document, you’ll want to start the procedure as soon as possible. It can take considerable time to liaise with the relevant government bodies from afar.

This blog aims 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 TEFL 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 (is it the USA, Thailand, or UK?) because you’ll need to authenticate it there.

It pays to employ an international authentication agency in a multi-country situation. They will do the job for you at a higher cost—more on this option below.

Does authentication or Legalisation 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 for six months from the issue date for your Chinese work visa. Your passport will also have an expiry date, so these are the only two documents where validity counts.

In summary: your authenticated documents can be used forever except for your criminal background check and copies of your current passport.

What to Know About Authenticating Documents for Your China Work Visa

You will likely come across various terms while collecting documents for your China work visa application.

Here is what the different processes mean:

  • Notarization – A Notary Public confirms that the signature on your document is legitimate
  • Apostille –A stamp that declares the signature of the Notary Public is legitimate – only valid for countries that signed the 1963 Hague Convention (which China did not)
  • Authentication – A stamp that declares the Notarization/Apostille stamp is legitimate (internationally recognized). This is the main subject of this page!
  • Legalization – This step, undertaken by a Chinese Embassy, Consulate, or Visa Application Centre, declares all the above legitimate and acceptable to the Chinese government.

The multi-step approach to authenticating documents makes using counterfeit documents in visa applications nearly impossible. For obvious reasons, this quite valid necessity makes the whole process time-consuming.

Depending on where you are, authenticating documents for your China visa can take anywhere from a few days (if lucky) to quite a few weeks. Expect it to take even longer if you’ve lived in a few different places and need to gather more documents.

Moreover, the documents mentioned above are what most employers require, yet there are exceptions. Some schools’ HR departments will require extra documentation. It is always worthwhile to double-check the documents they need so you can authenticate them all simultaneously.

China Visa Document Authentication for Irish Citizens

The authentication process in Ireland is straightforward:

Step 1 – Have your documents notarized by a Notary Public. Any document from a government body (like a background check) will NOT need to be notarized before being authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Original Bachelor’s degrees are likewise already notarized. You will likely only need this step if you get copies authenticated.

Step 2 – Have your documents authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through their  Legalization Office.

  1. Walk-in visits are back on in Dublin and Cork – details are below.

COST: Public Notary fees are not standardized, but most charge around €15. The price for authenticating a document in Ireland is €40, and the process should take about a week from receiving the documents.

Living abroad? Use the services of a legalization agency, like,

who’ll take your documents and have them notarized and authenticated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Then they will have them legalized by the Chinese Embassy and mail them back to you.

IMPORTANT: When applying for your Criminal Background Check in Ireland,

ask for it to be notarized when issued. You’ll see a blue stamp on the bottom left-hand side if it has been. This stamp is essential; the document cannot be authenticated without it, so don’t forget to ask.

Read on for more in-depth information about having your documents authenticated in Ireland

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 involve multiple steps. First, you should find out the procedure and costs in YOUR home state. In such a vast 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 they were issued. Always double-check if this is required, as some documents are notarized upon issuing. This could save you some time!

Step 2 – Have your documents  authenticated by the Secretary of State in the same state they were issued. 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 $20 per document for this service. The office is also still experiencing considerable delays – up to two months! In-person services are no longer offered, so you can only do this by mail.

COST: A Public Notary should charge about $10 per document, while authentication costs at the state level can vary quite a bit.

Things to keep in mind:

  • 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, while others may want the whole shebang of multiple authentications.
  • State regulations (and fees) can differ, so make sure you know what YOUR state requires. For example – AL, GA, HA, KY, MD, TN, and NY residents 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.
  • Start your application for a Criminal Background Check in the US as soon as possible, given it’s such a time-consuming endeavor.


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.

Read on for more in-depth information about having your documents authenticated as a US citizen.

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 Department of the UK Foreign Office  You can courier the documents and have them 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 the time of writing, the whole process can take up to 20 working days plus mailing time.

Living abroad? Save yourself some hassle and use a reputable legalization office, like, 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.

Read on for more in-depth information about having your documents authenticated as a UK Citizen

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 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. You’ll need to do everything by mail because in-person services are no longer offered.

COST: The Canadian Government does not charge a fee for authenticating documents, but you should expect the process to take up to a 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  Legalization Services to get your documents legalized in Canada.

Here’s their page on authenticating documents for China work visa applications in 2022. 

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. Note that Australian documents must be authenticated, not apostilled.

COST: Notary fees in Australia are notoriously steep, and some charge as much as $150! The government, on the other hand, charges $92 per authenticated document.

Living abroad? The DFAT offers authentication services for those in and 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.

Do note that various levels of authentication are offered (with varying prices). By selecting China on the above link, you’ll see that:

China is a category A authentication country.

Your documents will be authenticated by the Department of Internal Affairs Authentication Unit and then sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for verification.

Your authenticated documents will have a covering page with a stamp from MFAT. The documents will be tied with a ribbon and get an official embossed seal. They are then sent to the address you included on your application form.

The authentication process should take about two weeks, but delays are common.  

COST: The minimum official charge for Notary Public services is $90, but they usually charge $10 for all subsequent documents, so it’s worth waiting until you can have them notarized together. Category A authentication, on the other hand, costs NZ$65 for the first document and NZ$31 for subsequent ones. Again, it (literally) pays to have them processed as a bundle.

Living abroad? You can use the same links if sending/receiving documents from abroad. Alternatively, Vital Consular can do the whole thing for you – they are not cheap, but they 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 in Pretoria. This is the only office tasked with authenticating documents. 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 (may be paid in Rand equivalent). DIRCO charges between R150-200 depending on how many documents you need authenticating.

Living abroad? The DIRCO link is also useful, as it details requirements for submitting authentication documents via South African consular representatives abroad. You can email your request to [email protected].

You also can nominate a family member/friend in South Africa to act on your behalf, which is helpful if your document has not yet been notarized – given it will need to be notarized in South Africa.


Document Authentication Insider Tips


  • Although we advised US citizens to ask their employers about the kind of authentication they require, it’s something everyone should do. Some schools are happy with just a Notary Public stamp. If that’s the case, it saves 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 a Chinese Embassy or China Visa Processing Centre. Once you have this final approval, you can pass your documents on to your employer, who’ll get the visa application 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 reimburse your visa application costs, including 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, remember it as an essential subject to discuss.

What Next!?

At China by Teaching, we’ve been successfully match-making foreign teachers and Chinese schools for years. 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.

Interested to know the kind of teaching positions available?

Then read our  Complete Guide to Teaching in China and Contact Us 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.

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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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