5 Steps To Obtain Your Work China Visa (Z Visa)
In order to legally live and work in another country you have to obtain a visa. There are different kinds of visas and different policies/rules associated with each visa depending on the country and your reason for obtaining one. For this post, I will be discussing how to obtain a china work visa (z Visa) for Foreign English Teachers. The China Work visa (Z Visa) is issued to those who have obtained employment permit and intend to work in China. In my case I obtain an employment permit or sponsorship from York English. Z visa is usually issued for one entry with duration of stay of the number of days your employer wishes to Sponsor you. In my case, I have my visa for one year (365 days). The visa process can be stressful. that is why it’s always helpful to have your employer give you as much support as possible. without support, you can end up spending a ton of money, get documentation wrong, and worse get a rejection from the chinese Government. So here are the steps I took to get my Z visa for China.
STEP 1 | Time
How long does the visa process take: When applying for a visa, it is smart to give yourself at least 4-6 months before your planned departure to your new country. Let’s say your job starts in August and you started your application process in June, you can just forget about getting on that flight. Your new employer can give you an idea of how much time you need. My employer suggested 3-4 months in my case. documentation preparation and approvals can take months and that’s if you don’t submit anything incorrectly or have to travel outside your home city/state to apply in person (more on that further down). I started my visa process in january, got approval from the chinese government in the first week of april and I just Received my visa on April 19th! Just to give you an idea of how long I waited.
STEP 2 | Documentation
What Documents Do You Need: Specifically speaking of obtaining a work visa for a foreign english teacher in china, there are several documents needed in order to apply with your employer and the chinese government.
Criminal Background check You need to get a notarized police background check from your local police authority in your city. This document must state that you have never been arrested in your city/state/country. This document must also be notarized before it can be released to you; so make sure they notarize it before you leave the police station.
college degree You need a 4 year degree from an accredited english speaking college. you need to obtain the original and have a copy that you will notarize later.
College transcript You would need to contact your school and request a copy of your transcript. warning: If it has been years and you forgot what you were like in college, don’t be alarmed when you realize you didn’t put that much effort in school for your first 2 years of college.
TEFL Certificate If you don’t have one, make sure to take your TEFL course and pass. You will need an original certificate not a copy or digital copy (more on this further down). TIP: make sure you take a TEFL course from a TEFL school in the country you reside in! (I’ll explain further down.)
Passport self explanatory. make sure it will not expire before or around your departure date. If it is, get a new one immediately!
visa photos you will need two of these. Even though your employer will give you some crazy photo specifications that you should follow, don’t worry! The chinese Consulate accepts a regular passport photo with a white background! the rules might change, but I took passport photos and got approved, so.
STEP 3 | Authentication
Notarization, Legalization & Authenticating Your Documents. in my opinion, this is the most expensive & stressful step of the visa process. Before I go into this process, I think it’s important to know what each of these mean. Notarization refers to having a notary public formally attest to your execution (signing) of a document. the Notary Public does not verify the truth of any facts contained in the document. So, basically you can get a fake document notarized, because they legally can’t confirm authenticity. Hence why Governments take the extra step and require documents be legalized & Authenticated. To use certain legal documents outside your home country, you may need to obtain legalization & Authentication. this refers to a chain of government authorities authenticating a legal document, so that a foreign country's legal system will recognize the document as authentic, valid, and having legal effect. The process is involved: you must have the document notarized, then have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs authenticate the notary's signature, and then the embassy or consular authority in the country in which you plan to use the document must verify the Ministry's authentication. This process can take up to 2-3 months, depending on the number of documents needed and where you send them.
Here are the documents that needed this process For a foreign English Teacher in China:
college degree: go to your local notary public to be notarized.
police background check: this statement must be notarized the day you receive it at your local police station. Do not leave the station without it being Notarized or it will not be valid.
TEFL certification: make sure your certificate was obtain through a school in your home country. for example if your TEFL school is an online certification and the company is located in Canada, but you live in the USA, you cannot notarize your certificate in the USA. This will create more costs for you and Possibly extend your visa timeline. I made this mistake. I took an online TEFL course and the school/company was based in the UK. Instead of paying for a $10 notarization service here in the USA, I had to pay the TEFL school to ship my original certificate to a UK Notary public which i paid them $100+ to notarize it.
Legalization & Authentication
Once all of your documents are notarized its time to get it Authenticated. If you didn’t make the same mistake I did with your TEFL certification, you can send all your documents to one place to get it legalized & authenticated. Unfortunately, I had to send my college degree & police check to one company here in the USA and my TEFL to another company in the UK. This doubled my costs and increased my time to about two weeks. in total this process took 8 weeks (2 months). Luckily I gave myself plenty of time before my departure date (refer to step 1 for why time is so important). Make sure you instruct these companies to send your finalized documents to your employer in the country you will be going to. Your employer should tell you where to have your documents mailed. keep all of your Receipts so your employer can Reimburse you.
sTEP 4 Applying for visa
Obtaining Your Visa At Your Local Chinese Consulate
Once your notarized, legalized and authenticated documents have reached your new employer, they will prepare your paperwork and submit it to the chinese visa system. From there, it is just a waiting game for the chinese Government to approve you and issue you visa Verification letters. Once you have your visa verification letters, it is time to apply for your visa in person. depending on where you live, you might have to travel to get to your local/closest Consulate. There are only a few locations throughout the USA and some are Responsible for a few states. luckily, i lived in the state where my local consulate was located. Mine was located in Houston, TX & I live in Dallas. So, I only had to make a 4 hour drive. Be sure to find out if you need to make an appointment first or if they allow walk-ins. The consulate in Houston doesn’t take appointments, so you can go anytime during business hours.
what to bring to the consulate
copy of passport
2 visa photos
completed visa application
Warning: They will hold on to your passport for processing. The processing time is around 4 days. So, if you had to travel to get to your consulate, I would plan to stay at a hotel or family if they are near once you dropped off your application. For me, since I was only 4 hours away, I drove back home and just made another trip there to pick up my visa. That’s it! you are ready to travel to china! your visa will show you the very last day you can enter the country and how long your visa is valid for.
You Obtained your Visa; What’s Next?
Start packing! you have everything you need to legally live & work in your new country. I am currently, as of April 22, 2019, at this step right now! From what my employer told me. the visa that I obtained is only valid for 30 days. once I enter china’s mainland, they will transfer my 30 day visa for a permanent visa that will be valid for 1 year. I will not be able to travel for the first 30-40 days until i get that permanent visa. Perfect opportunity to get to know my local city, right? Make sure to bring ALL of your original documents & Receipts. ie: original college degree. you will need them when you enter the country to get your permanent visa.
How much did everything cost? Be sure your employer is offering a visa reimbursement! This process does add up and it’s nice to know that once it’s all done, you will get that money back once you start working in your new country. these numbers may vary for you depending on where you live and where you decide to do your TEFL course.
Criminal background check: $10
TEFL Certificate: $300
School Transcript (Note: price might differ depending on school): $50
Notarization, Legalization & Authentication (note: if I had completed my TEFL with a US company (my home country), I wouldn’t have had to pay for a separate service):
College degree & police Background Check: $350
TEFL Certificate: $368
Visa Photos: $14 at local CVS store (prices might be different depending on location)
Passport: $ 110 (if you already have a passport that will not expire near your departure date, then ignore this. my passport was expiring this year so I needed it renewed)
delivering documents to employer: $20
Z Visa: $140
(note: the $140 doesn’t include the travel expense to get to the Chinese consulate which was 4 hours away from my home. this is just the cost of the visa itself.)
total cost for visa and to travel to consulate:
Rental car: $200
In total, I paid out a little over $1,600. If I knew then what I know now about my TEFL certification & maybe driven my own car to houston, I would’ve saved around $750-$800. The bright side to all this is that I will be getting reimbursed for the cost of the visa process minus the travel expense. I can’t wait to get that back! That is pretty much all the stuff i went through to obtain my visa. obviously, every case is different. I had a ton of support with the paper work. some people depending on who they end up working for might not get the support i had. also, costs may vary depending on where you live. When i announced to my employer that I received my visa they Congratulated me. at first, i thought “that’s weird. why would you congratulate me?” Now I get it. This process is so long and Sometimes stressful. So, making it to the end is a huge Accomplishment.
have you ever applied for a visa? if so, what kind? was your process as long as mine? Let me know!