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 more detailed requirements.
This article is specifically for the Chinese working visa application, but the process is very similar to work in other countries.
The 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
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.
- Must be over 18 years old
- A one-year employment contract
The Process of Entering in China as a Foreign Teacher
- 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
Notification of Work Permit
Applicants need to submit one of the following work permits obtained through their employers in China:
- Foreigners Work Permit – issued by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security of the PRC.
- 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.
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.
Work Visa Requirements & Documents
Here is a checklist of all the documents you would need for a working visa application.
- A color scanned copy of the passport information page with passport ID and photo.
- 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.
- Reference letter and foreigners Employment Permit (obtained from recruiting agency or school)
- TEFL (typically 120+ hrs)/TESOL/CELTA certificate
- A certificate or letter of references that verify employment if you have previous two-years of teaching experience
- A basic medical examination report from a hospital.
- Blood tests and X-rays are NOT required.
- An additional health check may be conducted once entered China.
- Background check authenticated by the police station and Chinese Embassy.
- Only applicants with no criminal record will be accepted.
- Bachelor degree or above
- A notarized diploma by an authorized notary office or Chinese Embassy
- 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.
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.
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.
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 a 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.
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.)
How to Apply for China Work Visa?
You can go to the Chinese embassy in person for the application. You can also hire a travel agency or a visa agency to take care of the visa for you. At the Chinese embassy, usually, no appointment to make, but a very long line to wait.
There is no mailed application accepted at the Chinese embassy. However, if you are not interested in waiting for the line or worry about missing documents, which means go back to the long line again tomorrow, you can also have the visa agency like Chinese Visa Application Centers (CVASC) to handle the application for you.
The following information is obtained from the Chinese embassy site.
Visa Processing Fees
|Number of Entry||U.S. Citizen||Non-U.S. Citizen*|
|Multiple Entries for 6 Months||$140||$60|
|Multiple Entries for 12 Months or more||$140||$90|
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.
You may need to have the health check again locally, consult the recruiting agency or HR for details.
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.
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.