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!):
- Highest Degree attained - 1) Call your Uni and ask for a notarized copy of your diploma. Most schools have a notary that will do this. 2) Get it apostilled in the state in which it was issued by the Sec. of State. (I went to Univ of TX, so TX Sec of State apostilled my diploma.)
- Teaching License - Call the state where your license was issued and ask for a notarized copy. It will have to be both notarized and apostilled in the state in which it was issued! (Florida Dept of Ed. sucks at this! jab)
- Criminal Background Check - Your local PD can do this, and also notarize it for you. In Texas, it's called a "Letter of ". Texas Sec of State apostilles this.
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:
- AS SOON AS YOUR DOCS ARE APOSTILLED, get your butt to the Consulate and get them authenticated!! (I did not know about this step, and could have had my docs completed weeks earlier!!) . Your school does NOT do this for you--you do it in the US/other country! No, you can NOT do it in China!)
- Three options for the in-person requirement: hire an agent (anywhere from $100-$500 depending on how fast you need the docs), go yourself, or send a friend. The consulate does not allow mail-in or e-applications for either authentication or visa application!
- Do NOT expect them to answer the phone, EVER. I called numerous times, was on hold a cumulative 3 hours in one day over the course of 10 calls. The operator and other people in other departments refused to talk to me or claimed ignorance. I called for several days at various times. The ONLY people who will talk to you are in the VISA and AUTHENTICATION departments, and they never answer the phone! But, if you have a bunch of free time and are determined and bored, the number is 832-240-3780.
- Do NOT expect a quick response via EMAIL, although I did actually receive a response in 24-48 hours. However, the response was completely UNHELPFUL and did not answer any of my questions; the response kept referring me to different pages of the website. What got me a quick response? When I posted and tagged (map and #) the consulate on FB in a public post about hold times and frustration that I called them 10 times and was on hold once for over an hour before I gave up --they suddenly quickly responded with apologies and "let management know" comment. Perhaps questions presented on their FB page with a map-location tag and # tagging will get a response! I tagged with #consulategeneralchinahouston and #consulategeneralprc
- FILL OUT YOUR FORMS IN ADVANCE and TYPE THEM! In other words, download BOTH applications for visa and doc authentication (forms available on their website), fill them out, and print them. Take 2 of everything, just in case! My frustrating, interesting, scary story about my visit to the Consulate is in another blog post!
- Same day service is sometimes available; I would opine that it depends on their mood, your level of politeness, your time of arrival, and their current paperwork load. It costs extra and you have to wait until 2:30 to pick up your docs. This applies if you arrive right when they open, at 9am. Can't say what they will tell you if you arrive at 11 or after lunch. Remember, their hours are limited: 9-3, with like a 2-hr or something lunch break when they are closed! I got in line at 9:10, was served within 10 minutes, said "NiHao" in greeting and was extremely polite, explained that I drove in at 5am and could I "please pick up my docs today". She said "come back at 2:30" for pick up!
Florida Apostille of your FL Teaching License
(more coming soon, I'm tired of typing... :-)
- Just TRY and get your teaching license out of FL quickly--LOLOLOLOL!
- Notary in FL
- Document apostille service in Tallahasee: http://www.capitalconnection.com/apostille.htm
Other required documents:
- Passport with at least 3 years left before expiration. (As of this writing, if issued after Jan. 1, 2015, you would have to provide old passport along with current passport. If your passport is going to expire while you are under contract, get a new one now! You can't/won't be hired if your passport expires while in country! My passport is due to expire in 08/2020, but my contract ends in 07/2019, so I plan to renew it at the local US Embassy in Chengdu, because I plan to stay abroad at the end of my contract. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/outside-us.html
- Passport photos (4) - China has very OCD photo requirements, take 4 instead of 2 because then you don't have to take more in country. houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/zgqz/t1448271.htm Don't go to CVS or a drugstore, go to a passport/visa agency that specializes in passport photos and will do it properly! www.thepassportandvisacompany.com/ houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/zgqz/t1448271.htm
- Medical Check Form
- Updated resume - year and month dates are required for employment and education.
- Name, address and telephone in home country
- Date of birth/ Place of birth
- Employment history (positions, periods of employment including year and month
- Education (include year and month)
- On letterhead/school logo
- Job title and work period (years and months)
- Contact person with job title and contact information (email and phone number)
- Letter must be signed by contact person
Costs (so far!)
- Visa Application $25 houston.china-consulate.org/eng/vp/gzrz/t1253953.htm
- Notarized copy of degree $15
- 4 Passport photos $30
- Medical check-up/medical tests by my MD approx $500 ($250 for visit, $75 EKG, $80 chest x-ray, $80 blood work) I do not have insurance, these are out-of-pocket prices). You won't believe the amount of medical info required for a visa. They want much more than communicable disease info (HIV, TB). Good grief! I was surprised they didn't want to implant a tracking device!!! (shh, don't give them ideas!)
- Authentication of degree and background check, same day service, by Consulate-General $165. $25 per document, $30 per document for same-day service.
- Visa processing service - $130. So I don't have to drive to Houston and back two separate times (that would be 14 hours of driving, not to mention Houston traffic. No thank you! www.thepassportandvisacompany.com/
- Dealing with the idiocracy of FLDOE (FL Dept of unEducation) approx $200 so far... ugh! $60+ for overnight shipping to/from FL, notary service (my Sis has a friend, so free), document apostille service in Tallahassee for Apostille by FL Sec of State: $115 (This is also a pain in the a$$ if you don't have help in FL because you have to have all these specialized notary statements and you have to create a statement describing the doc...see above) http://www.capitalconnection.com/apostille.htm
Very, very loooooooonnnnnnnngggggggg!