How to get a Chinese Z Visa

A Z visa is the visa that you need to enter China to work. Once you have the Z visa, you (your employer) must convert that to a work permit within 30 days. No other visa can convert to a work permit. Once you have the work permit, you can legally work in China and you can also travel in and out of China as you wish for the length of your visa. This is quite a complicated process with a lot of misinformation circling online.

Every single time we hire a new teacher, the conversation eventually ends up like this:

ECC: So you need to provide us with a scanned copy of all of these documents and the proof of notarisation and authentication.

Applicant: That seems like a lot of paperwork. I read online that all you need is a letter of invitation. Why don’t you just send me that?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just writing up an invitation letter. But, we’re here to help! Here we will explain in detail the whole process.

So here’s the process:

  1. You find a legitimate employer. You have looked at their business licence and it shows that they, in fact, are allowed to do the business that you will be doing (i.e, teaching English) and are legally allowed to employ foreigners. The business licence will be in Chinese, but please, use a document/image translator and double check. I cannot understate the importance of this step. Any legitimate business will proudly send their business license to you without hesitation.
  2. You have an interview. Here, the employer will primarily be evaluating your interpersonal skills, your presentation skills, and your accent. These three items are essential for being a good teacher in China.
  3. The employer accepts your application and you start the visa process.
  4. You gather your documents: university diploma, teaching license/certificate, police certificate. Make 2 photocopies of everything. These documents may take a long time to gather, please be prepared. More info here.
  5. You notarise a copy of your documents with a notary or lawyer.
  6. You authenticate your documents with your government. The authentication process basically means your government accepts that the notary you use is legitimate and therefore the copy is legitimate.
  7. You authenticate your authenticated documents with the Chinese embassy. The Chinese embassy reviews the notarised and authenticated documents and they, in turn, put their own authentication sticker on the document.
  8. You send a scanned copy of your documents to the employer:
    1. Passport (information page)
    2. Passport photo
    3. Diploma (and all authenticated pages)
    4. Teaching license/certificate (and all authenticated pages)
    5. Reference letters from previous experience
    6. Criminal record check (and all authenticated pages)
  9. Your documents will be translated by your employer and uploaded to the immigration system in China. In about 3 business days, Chinese immigration will create an official invitation letter tied to that employer. Your employer will send you a copy of that invitation letter.
  10. You make an appointment at the Chinese visa processing office and for your appointment, you bring your passport, your passport photos, all of your documents, a copy of all of your documents (always bring photocopies of each document page), a copy of that official invitation letter, and a completed visa application form (the visa application form is fairly simple, but will require information about your employer such as address and legal representative as well as your future address in China).
  11. You receive your Z Visa. Wait a minute, it’s only 1-time entry and valid for only 30 days??? Normal. Your Z visa is your first acceptance and your entry to China.
  12. You fly to China and start getting settled. Bring your documents. Always bring your documents and photocopies of documents.
  13. You go to the medical centre to complete your medical check. Your employer receives your clear medical check in the mail within 5 business days.
  14. Your employer will take you and all of your paperwork to the main immigration office that governs your location (it may be quite a drive depending on your location). You will submit your passport to the immigration office. 
  15. The immigration office will approve your application and you will receive your work permit (which actually works as your visa and is also a sticker in your passport just like a visa). This is valid for either 6 months or 1 year depending on the office you use. I have absolutely never heard of a case that someone’s work permit has been rejected after being approved for their Z visa, but I guess anything is possible.
  16. You will go to the HR ministry office that will provide you with your ID card that shows you are a legal worker in China.

The process seems daunting at this point, but your employer will help you at every step of the process. If you are planning on being an English teacher in China, the timeframe, ideally, would look like this:

  • March-May: job search
  • May-June: Z visa process
  • July: arranging for the big move and final goodbyes
  • August: travel to China, start training and complete work permit
  • September: school starts!

If you have any other questions, please let us know in the comments and we’ll get back to you.

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