In order to teach English in China, you’ll be required to obtain a Z Visa. A lot of teachers who we speak to about the Z Visa process, after we’ve secured them a job in China, report feeling slightly overwhelmed. We know how this feels, after all, each member of our team here at Teach English Global has been through this visa process firsthand! That’s why we’ve created this blog post – to break down the Chinese Z Visa process in a way that’s easy to understand for teachers who are planning on moving to China in the future!

Required Documentation  

In order to start the process of obtaining your Chinese Z Visa, you’ll need to collect the following documentation:

Valid Passport

  • You must hold a passport from one of the following countries – Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom or United States.
  • Your passport must have at least 12 months until it expires, and three clear pages

Bachelor’s Degree

  • You’ll need your physical bachelor’s degree certificate
  • You’ll then need to have a copy of this notarised by a notary public, authenticated with an apostille, and stamped at a Chinese embassy

TEFL Certificate

  • You’ll need to have a minimum 120 hour TEFL certificate
  • This will need to be notarised by a notary public, authenticated with an apostille, and stamped at a Chinese embassy

Criminal Record Check

  • You’ll need to obtain a criminal record check. Depending on whereabouts you are from these can have different names, such as DBS check (UK) or FBI check (USA) etc.
  • All checks must be done at a federal level
  • Your criminal record check must be notarised by a notary public, authenticated with an apostille, and then stamped at a Chinese embassy

Passport Photos

  • You’ll need 10 full colour passport photos. These will be used at various stages of the visa process

Work Permit Application Form

  • You’ll need to fill in a work permit application form. This is a standard two-page form, which covers basic questions about you and your background

Medical Form

  • Depending on what city / province you’re going to be teaching in, you may be required to do a medical examination before going to China. If this is applicable to you, you’ll need to have a specific medical form filled in and signed by the doctor who undertakes your medical in your home country
  • The main city you will required to do this for is Beijing. For most other Chinese cities you will complete your medical after entering the country, as we will show you later on in this article

Step 1 – Send Documents

Once you’ve gathered all of the documentation listed above, then the first step to obtaining your Z Visa is to send the following to your school in China:

  • A photocopy of the information page of your passport
  • A notarised, authenticated and stamped copy of your original bachelor’s degree
  • A notarised, authenticated and stamped copy of your TEFL certificate
  • A notarised, authenticated and stamped criminal record check
  • Two passport photos
  • A completed work permit application form
  • A completed medical form (if your school is in Beijing)

Some schools in China will only require you to send scanned copies of these documents via email, whereas other schools will require you to physically post these documents to them. This depends on what city/province in China your school is located in. If you’re required to post your documents then they should be sent by recorded delivery – we recommend using a carrier such as FedEx or DHL to ensure their safe arrival in China.

Step 2 – Work Permit Notice Application

Once your school has received your documents then they will apply for your work permit notice in China. This is a relatively straightforward process, and it typically takes around 3 – 4 weeks until your work permit notice is issued.

*As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese government have introduced a temporary, additional stage to the visa process – the PU letter. Once your school has successfully received your work permit notice, then they will be able to apply directly to the government for a PU letter. This usually takes a further 3 – 4 weeks, but please note that not all schools are eligible to apply for PU letters.

Step 3 – Z Visa Application

Once your school has received your work permit notice and PU letter, then they’ll send scanned copies over to you by email. The next thing for you to do is book an appointment online at your local Chinese embassy, in order to officially apply for your Z Visa. 

If you don’t live at all near to a Chinese embassy, then we would recommend using the help of a visa agency. For a fee, an agency will apply for your visa on your behalf and then mail your passport back to you once it has been processed.

Regardless of whether you go into the embassy yourself, or use the help of an agency, this is the documentation that you’ll need in order to submit your official Z Visa application:

  • Your passport – Must have at least 12 months until it expires, and three clear pages
  • One passport photo
  • A completed Z Visa application form (download here)
  • Your work permit notice (sent to you by your school)
  • *PU Letter (sent to you by your school)

The cost of your visa does vary depending on where in the world you’re applying from. Therefore, we recommend that you check the website of your nearest embassy prior to making your application, as the price should be listed here, as well as answers to any other questions you may have.

Your Z Visa should take around 5 – 7 days to process, after which you should receive your passport back with the visa inside. You’re now free to enter China!

Step 4 – Enter China

You have your Z Visa, and you can enter China, surely that’s the end of the process? Unfortunately not. Once you enter China, your Z Visa will only be valid for 30 days, and within this timeframe, you must transfer your visa into a residency permit – this is what will enable you to live and work in China for the duration of your teaching contract (usually 12 months). As soon as you arrive in China, someone from your school will be likely appointed as your liaison officer and it’ll be their job to assist you with the final necessary steps to transfer your visa into a residency permit.

Step 5 – Police Registration

Within the first 24 hours of arriving in China, you must register where you’re staying, with your nearest police station. If you’re staying in a hotel for your first few nights, then the hotel staff will take care of this. Once you have permanent accommodation sorted (Finding an Apartment When You Arrive in China), then this permanent address will need to be registered with the police. The liaison officer from your school will take you to do this, and you’ll need the following:

  • Your passport
  • Your housing contract
  • A copy of your landlords details

Step 6 – Medical Check

As mentioned earlier in this post – if your school is located in a certain city/province (such as Beijing) then you’ll be required to get a medical check done at the start of the visa process. However, for schools located in the majority of other cities, you’ll do this medical check once you’ve arrived in the country. Your school will arrange the medical check for you, and you’ll be required to bring the following with you:

  • Your passport
  • Copies of your passport details, visa and entry-stamp pages
  • Five passport photos
  • Medical check fee – usually around 500RMB and paid for by your school

Step 7 – Obtain Your Work Permit

The next thing to do is obtain your Chinese work permit. This is essentially done by transferring the work permit notice that is issued in step 2, into a work permit (sometimes known as a work certificate). Again, your school will take care of this step. It’s relatively straightforward, and for it, you’ll need:

  • Your passport
  • One passport photo
  • Your police registration form (step 5)
  • Your medical check (step 6)

Step 8 – Obtain Your Residency Permit

The penultimate step in the Chinese visa process – obtain your residency permit! In order to apply for your residency permit, you must show up in person at your local Public Security Bureau (PSB) at least one week before your Z Visa expires. Your school will of course assist with this. Here’s what you’ll need for this final step:

  • Your passport
  • One passport photo
  • Your police registration form (step 5)
  • Your work permit (step 7)
  • A completed residency permit application form (your school will provide you with this)

Your residency permit allows you multiple entries in China, meaning that you can leave and re-enter the country as much as you like during the period it is valid for.

Step 9 – Start Teaching!

Once you obtain your own residency permit then you’re all set! You won’t need to worry about anything else visa-related and you can fully focus on the reason you moved to China – to teach!

At first sight, the Chinese Z Visa process, and subsequent residency permit transfer may seem overwhelming and a little daunting, but teachers, please don’t worry. Most of the bureaucratic leg-work will be done by your school, and you’ll be fully guided through the process from start to finish!