The Z-VISA Process for ESl Teachers in China

Having your Z-VISA obtained through the correct legal methods is of utmost importance to having an enjoyable time whilst teaching in China. We’ve put together this page to help you understand the key requirements. Please note the best place to go with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China for your home country and search for the VISA requirement updates. You can find the embassies by going back to our resources page.


What are the Z-VISA requirements for ESL teaching?

Here’s a list of requirements you’ll need to meet to become an ESL teacher in China:

  1. Fluent English speaker with a clear and audible accent
  2. Bachelor’s degree or above (non-native English speakers need to have theirs from a native English-speaking country)
  3. TEFL certificate, OR 2 years of teaching experience, OR English related degree
  4. Below the age of 60 years old
  5. No criminal record

What are the Z-VISA requirements for subject teaching?

Here’s a list of requirements you’ll need to meet to become a subject teacher in China:

  1. Fluent English speaker with a clear and audible accent, unless teaching another language
  2. Bachelor’s degree or above
  3. TEFL certificate, OR 2 years of teaching experience, OR English related degree
  4. Below the age of 60 years old
  5. No criminal record

Applying to be a Teacher in China for the first time

Please check with your embassy for the legal requirements, as this may have changed since the time of us updating this webpage.

  1. Have a copy of your Bachelor’s Degree and your criminal check notarized by a public notary, then legalised/apostiled from your country’s government.
  2. Have your already notarised and legalised copy of your Bachelor’s Degree and your criminal check legalised by the Chinese Embassy in your home country. 
  3. The school now needs to apply for your work permit. They’ll need a list of documentation highlighted in below in the ‘Work Permit’ section.
  4. Z-VISA Application Time! The school will send you a work permit and an invitation letter, inviting you to the work at their school. Look at the ‘Z-VISA Application’ section for documents you’ll need to bring.

 When you’ve arrived in China, you’ll need to get your residence permit within 30 days of arrival. To do this, you’ll need to:

  1. Have a health check, ensuring you aren’t bringing any dangerous diseases into the country
  2. Apply for your FEC (Foreign Expert Certificate), from which it’ll take about 15 days to process

Once you have your FEC and Health Check completed, you can apply for your Residence Permit. This will take roughly 3 weeks, and they’ll require your passport for the duration.

Before coming to China, don’t forget:

  1. To make sure your passport is up to date and will last the entirety of your trip
  2. Most Criminal Checks expire, be sure to make sure yours up-to-date before sending it for notarisation
  3. HiredinChina is not your direct employer, so be sure to keep in touch with the school of your choosing

Z-VISA Requirement List

Chinese Embassy Legislation:

1. Copy of your Degree Certificate
2. Original Criminal Police Check + photocopy
3. Original TEFL certificate
4. Photocopies of the notarised and apostilled documents
5. Photocopy of your passport
6. 4 Passport photos with a white background
Please note that your Degree Certificate and Criminal Check need to be notarised first and apostiled before being taken to the Chinese Embassy to have them legalised.

Work Permit:

  1.  Copy of Degree Certificate – Apostilled
  2. Copy of Criminal Check – Apostilled
  3. Copy of TEFL certificate
  4. Copy of your Passport
  5. Z-VISA issuing Location – Name of the City and Country

Please note your Degree Certificate, Criminal Check and TEFL must be clearly scanned, have colour and be saved as a PDF.

Z-VISA Application

  1.  Work Permit (2 pages)
  2. Invitation Letter from your school
  3. Original Passport
  4. Passport Copy
  5. 2 Passport Photos with a white background
  6. Typed Z-VISA Application Form – Download v 2013 here

Please make sure that for your Work Permit and Invitation Letter are printed in colour.

Arriving in China

  1. Original Passport
  2. Original Degree Certificate
  3. Original TEFL certificate
  4. Original Police Check
  5. Original Notarised and Legalised Papers
  6. Invoice or receipt for the notarisation and legalisation (if you have agreed with your school that they will pay these fees)
  7. 6 Passport Photos

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We’re here to help you find your perfect teaching position in China.

Second Year in China - Transferring to another school

Legally in China, your employer does not have to transfer your work permit across to your new employer. This can leave you stuck and quite possibly having to restart the Z-VISA process, making you go back to your home country. However, there are actions you can take to mitigate a long stay in your home country and allow for a smooth, well-planned transition into your new teaching role with only a short stop-over.

Firstly, we recommend that you start your criminal check again early. This document can be valid for up to 6 months in the eyes of the Chinese government, meaning your current one is invalid. Have this applied for three months before the end of your contract, and have it posted directly to a public notary. They can notarise it for you and send it to the Chinese embassy with the other documents you’ve provided to make a successful application, without you having to leave China.

Secondly, provide your new employer with all your documents early, including your newly completed criminal check.  It will take your employer 7 working days to apply for your work permit.

Now, you’re ready to go back to your home country for a quick stopover at the VISA application centre. Remember to pre-book your appointment as some locations get very busy and you may need to book an appointment for up to three weeks in advance.


If you are lucky enough to have had a wonderful relationship with your school, they’ll help you transfer your work permit to your new school. Here is what you need:

1. FEC cancellation (current employer to help)
2. Release letter from current employer
3. Passport photo
4. Resume
5. Passport
6. Residence permit
7. Bachelor Certification

You can learn more about the legal changes in real-time, by access SAFEA’s website.

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Start your journey as a teacher in China

Your FAQs

We’ve put together a Resources Page to answer your most frequent questions. From Saving Money, to Getting Your Z-VISA, we have gone into detail there.

Your school will apply for your VISA for you to work directly for them. We’ll be with you every step of the journey. We’ve created our own VISA Support Page. Remember, the VISA you’re applying for is a Z-VISA.

You will have a minimum of a one-year contract, that will be full-time. You can save a lot of money teaching in China, and we’ve put together more information for you to read.

When you are directly employed by the school, they will offer you insurance. This means private level care. Be sure to check your contract for sick days.

You will have to go through your bank to legitimately send money home. To do this, follow the steps they give you. Your school will help support you and will be able to translate anything you need.

That is fantastic news! Not speaking Chinese is great for your students, as you will be able to immerse them in English more. We’ve also put together an Essential Mandarin Guide, and Benefits For Learning Mandarin when you’re exploring.