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What Are the Visa Requirements to Work in China as a Foreign Teacher?

In order to work in China legally as a foreigner, you would need to obtain a working visa, or Z visa, and additional documentation like work permit and resident permit. Z visa is issued to foreigners who intend to work in China. Typically the recruiting agency or school will collect the necessary documents from you and guide you along the process. Be sure to consult the recruiting agency and school for detailed requirements.

This article is specifically for the Chinese working visa (work permit) application, but the process is very similar to work in other countries.

The Employment Conditions of the Z Working Visa for Teaching English in China

Foreigners intend to teach English in China as an employed job, they must meet the following minimum qualifications.

No Criminal Record

A background check record can be obtained in a local police station or FBI.

Good Health Condition

A medical examination can be obtained from an authorized hospital

A Bachelor’s degree or above

Teaching certificate including TEFL/TESOL/CELTA OR two-year proven teaching experience.

An exception – candidates with a degree in Education or English major can exempt from holding a teaching certificate or teaching experience.

Country of Origin and Language

If you’re interested in applying for an English teaching job in China, then you must be a native English speaker from the following countries – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa.
Non-native English speakers from outside the seven countries mentioned above with proven minimal two-year proven teaching experience can also teach in China but in other subjects other than English subjects.

Age limitation

Must be over 18 years old

Employment Obligation

A one-year employment contract

The Application Process of Entering in China

Accept the teaching position offer
Notification of Work Permit (15 business days)
Z visa application (5 business days)
Apply for foreigner Work Permit (10 business days) once you entered China
Apply for a Residence Permit under work (7 business days) once you entered China

Work Visa Requirements & Documents to Work in China

Work Visa Score
Here is a checklist of all the documents you would need for a working visa application.

The U.S. citizen

A color scanned copy of the passport information page with passport ID
Passport should be within six months before expiration.
At least one blank page left in it to stamp.
Recent front headshot photo.
The photo must meet the requirements. Usually 2 x 2 inches.
Reference letter and foreigners Employment Permit (obtained from recruiting agency or school)
Employment historical record might be requested.
A certificate or letter of references that verify employment if you have previous two-years of teaching experience.
Teaching certification
TEFL (typically 120+ hrs)/TESOL/CELTA certificate
A basic medical examination report from a hospital.
An additional health check may be conducted once entered China. Here is a health check application in Shanghai.
Background check authenticated by the local US police station or FBI
Obtain a clear criminal check from the FBI or a local police station. Only applicants with no criminal record will be accepted. The result in the document can be accessed online and be delivered via mail.
Send the FBI approval document to the Office of Authentication from the U.S. Department of State, the office of authentication in D.C., in order to obtain an “authenticated” FBI non-criminal document.
Once received the authenticated FBI non-criminal document, then make an appointment with the Chinese Embassy in D.C. first by sending an application to the Embassy. Then the Embassy will schedule a date for you to drop off your document directly. However, since the majority of us are not living in D.C. We would need to hire an agency to perform that action for us.
Example message from the Chinese Embassy.

For document authentication only

Your appointment is scheduled on Friday July 10. Appointment NO. GT-01-0710.

  1. Print this email and attach it as the first page of all your documents to be submitted.
  2. Drop the documents in the bin labelled AUTHENTICATION at Window 1 between 09:30am to 10:00am on Friday July 10.
  3. Back to Window 10 for payment and pick-up if the documents could be authenticated between 10:30am-11:30am on Friday July 17.

ATTN: Your Appointment NO. is not only for submission, it is for payment and pick-up as well.
Note that Notary service No longer works for the job application in China.

Diploma authentication
You must have a Bachelor’s degree or above to apply for the work Visa application.
A notarized diploma by an authorized notary office or Chinese Embassy
Another option is through the Chinese service center for scholarly exchange. It has the diploma authentication service, but the website is in Chinese.
Visa application form filled
Notice that you MUST fill out the application form on a computer first and then print it out. Handwritten is not accepted. Only the signatures and dates in Part 4 and 5 must be handwritten.
Double-sided printouts will not be accepted.

Non-US citizens

The application process is very similar, but please consult the recruiting agency, employer, or Visa service agency for further details.

Proof of legal stay or residence status (applicable to non-U.S. citizens)
You must provide the original and photocopy of your valid certificates or visa of stay, residence, employment or student status, or other valid certificates of legal staying provided by the relevant authorities of the country where you are currently staying.

Notification of Work Permit

Additional Details about How to Apply for China Work Visa

Detailed information can be obtained from the Chinese embassy site.

Supporting Documents

Applicants might be required to submit supporting documents on a case-by-case basis. This could include a medical form and criminal history check, which has been notarized and authenticated. If you are not required to submit the medical form, you still need to take a medical check when applying for the Temporary Residence Permit in China. Download Physical Examination Record for Foreigner to check the tests you need to go through.

Foreigners Employment Permit

Foreigners Employment Permit of the People’s Republic of China issued by Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security; if your intended work period is 90 days or less, you need to provide an Approval of Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China. You must apply for your visa before the commencing work date indicated on the Approval and you will be allowed to work only within the period of time indicated in the Approval.
Permit for Foreign Experts Working in China issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts.
Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries (regions) issued by Chinese authorities of industrial and commercial administration.
An approval document for commercial performances issued by the Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs; if your intended performance period is 90 days or less, you need to provide an Approval of Short-Term Employment for Foreigners Working in P.R. China. You must apply for your visa before the commencing performance date indicated on the Approval and you will be allowed to perform only within the period of time indicated in the Approval.

Family Members

If you have family members coming along, then the accompanying family members will need to apply for an S visa by submitting an invitation letter from you who already have a Z visa and documents for proof of relationship, i.e. marriage certificate for a spouse, or birth certificate for a child, and additional documents including a copy of passport and health check report if over 18 years old, etc.

If you previously held a Chinese passport

Photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas (applicable to foreign citizens who were Chinese citizens and have obtained foreign citizenship)

If you are applying for a Chinese visa for the first time, you should provide your previous Chinese passport held and a photocopy of its data page.

Passport Renewal

If you have obtained Chinese visas before and want to apply for a Chinese visa with a renewed foreign passport that does not contain any Chinese visa, you should present the photocopy of the previous passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separate, as well as the previous Chinese visa page. (If your name on the current passport differs from that on the previous one, you must provide an official document of the name change.)

Ready to Teach and Travel in China?

Visa Processing Fees

Regular Service

*Visa fee for certain non-U.S. citizens may vary from the list above based on reciprocal agreements. Please check with a Visa Office for special fees.

For more details, please see China Visa Fees.

Now You Have Entered China

Upon arrival in China within 30 days you will need to wrap up the remaining items to be a legal working and residence in China. The following items will typically be handled or assistance provided by the local recruiting agency that hired you, but it’s always good to know what is your duty to be a good foreign residence.

Health Check

You may need to have the health check again locally, consult the recruiting agency or HR for details.

Work Permit

This must be done before you obtain the Resident Permit. The company’s Chinese staff can help get this for you at the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, with the following documents, the hard copy of your passport, one two-inch photo, police registration form, medical report, and additional documents from the school or agency.

Resident Permit

Apply it at the local Public Security Bureau with the following documents, the hard copy of your passport, police registration form, resident permit application forms, one two-inch photo, the original Work certificate, and additional documents from the school or agency.

A holder of category Z visa must apply for a residence permit at the local public security authorities within 30 days of entry into China unless the Duration of Each Stay on the visa is marked as 30 days. Members of foreign diplomatic or consular missions in China must apply for a residence permit at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or local foreign affairs departments within 30 days of entry into China.

You can find more visa related information from the Chinese Embassy site.