Obtaining a Chinese "Z" (work) visa is not the easiest task in the world, thought it is definitely easier if you are in your country of origin. The steps enumerated below are specific to teaching at an International School; are specific to my school in Chengdu, Sichuan; and are designated to U.S. citizenry. From what I have heard through other teachers, requirements are different for each school, different in each province in China, and change frequently as well. For instance, my friend that moved to China years ago did not have to provide the same documentation that is now required.
To be honest, it is not an unduly onerous process, just one that is time-consuming! Give yourself 3 months to complete all paperwork, if you have the time and wish to proceed sans anxiety. Many of us, it seems, have to complete all this on the fly, and so it is stressful! The long duration to get your visa is due to state, local, and federal government bureaucracies taking so damn long (especially the idiocracy in Florida, but that headache is in a previous post!)
First, I will list the documents needed. Next, I will describe how to procure each. Third, I will list cost (to me). And lastly, I'll add the timeline and any other relevant details, and maybe even some griping about the entire confusing process. I'll save that for the end so you can skip it if you wish!
As you wade through this time-leeching, money-devouring, patience-killing morass of document certification, please look toward the future to consider whether you plan to be overseas beyond your initial contract duration (stay at job, get new job, move to another province within China, move to another country). I strongly recommend that you go ahead and obtain two official copies of every required doc (document)! It is a nightmare to try to get this stuff done from abroad (I have friends who can testify to the thousands of dollars and months of waiting); a bad dream of bureaucratic-caused waiting and a sad, sucking sound caused by the black hole in your wallet! Get TWO official, apostilled copies of all required documents. Prepare to carry these to China (onboard, not checked luggage). Scan copies of these documents to keep in your phone for easy access, and print 2 copies as well (do this for all your IDs and credit cards, as if that needs to be said).
Each province in China and each overseas (like USA) Chinese Consulate-General has unique requirements! Check the location-specific website and inform your employer as to which one you will use: www.china-embassy.org/eng/zmzlljs/t84229.htm. Since I'm in TX, I got lucky that there is a Consulate in Houston, only 3 1/2 hours away. All the links I supply below of from the Houston Consulate houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/zgqz/t1251843.htm; applicable only to those states that are linked to the Houston consulate. If you are in CO, for example, you are required to to apply through the Consulate in Chicago.
Let's do this! Just say to yourself: "我能行!" (I can do it!)
******START WITH THE FLDOE FIRST IF YOU HAVE A FL TEACHING LICENSE BECAUSE IT TAKES THEM 4-6 WEEKS TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PRINT A DOCUMENT!******
Notarized, Apostilled, and Authenticated) Documents - START THIS PROCESS ASAP!!!
How certifications differ: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notary-basics-understanding-apostilles
Notary - A state-authorized statement and/or stamp, stating the document is authentic (pictures below). Some notaries only offer a notary stamp, but China requires both the notary statement and stamp: "I certify this is a true and legal document... blah blah blah..." or similar wording, picture below). You must be present for a notary to verify your identity and the document; they ask for ID.
Apostille - Validates the notary stamp/statement so that it will be accepted abroad; can be issued by state or federal Secretary of State; relevant to countries included in Hague Convention of 1961. Texas: www.sos.state.tx.us/authinfo.shtml Federal (US): travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal/travel-legal-considerations/internl-judicial-asst/authentications-and-apostilles/apostille-requirements.html
Consular Authentication - Additional certification made by a foreign government not part of Hague Convention (like China). houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/gzrz/t1253950.htm
**GET 2 OF EVERYTHING SO YOU DON'T HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS FROM OVERSEAS!!
The following items require notarization, apostille, then authentication (in that order!):
Authentication by Chinese Consulate-General
(Please remember the following is specific to the Consulate in Houston, TX - which covers several states. I do not claim any knowledge or experience with other Consulates. You should check the website of the Consulate attached to your state to note any differing requirements.
This is the last step prior to your school applying online for a work permit. Once the above three docs are authenticated in-person at the Chinese Consulate, your school will apply online in China, get the go ahead (5 days), email you back the work permit; then and only then, you head back to the Consulate (in-person) for your Visa!
A few important items to note:
Florida Apostille of your FL Teaching License
(more coming soon, I'm tired of typing... :-)
Other required documents:
Costs (so far!)
Very, very loooooooonnnnnnnngggggggg!