6 Steps to a Z-Visa, Work Permit, and Residence Permit Applications in China

6 Steps to a Z-Visa, Work Permit, and Residence Permit Applications in China

Starting a career as a teacher in China, going the legal way is the most important thing. This article might have many discussions, but following the guidelines set out in this discussion will be safe. There are many exceptions to any rule, but they are not always legal.

Visa Requirements passport



  • This visa enables you to be able to enter the country.
  • Only a registered school, language center, or kindergarten can provide you with a Z-visa working visa.
  • This visa is valid for 30 days after you enter the country.
  • After entering the country, you need to register at the local police station.
  • You need to obtain a work permit.
  • You need to be granted a residence permit.


You can not work on a

  • Tourist visa. Some agencies promise people that you can come on a tourist visa, and while there, they can change and apply for your Z-Visa. That will cause a lot of heartache and turmoil if you are caught and detained. There are many horror stories of teachers who got caught for teaching illegally and deported.
  • Business visa
  • Student visa.

Requirements to teach in China?documents

1. You need a Bachelor of Arts degree or higher from an accepted university or college to be able to teach in China. You can find out if your university is on the list of accepted colleges and universities issued by the Ministry of Education.

The Foreign Education Supervision Information Website under the China Ministry of Education lists foreign educational institutions that Chinese authorities have recognized. The list is mainly used to confirm whether a foreign university or college is bona fide.

The list is transcribed to give foreign nationals who intend to work in China more confidence that their diplomas/degrees can be authenticated by the China Ministry of Education (MOE). China MOE can verify the authenticity of your diploma and issue an authentication certificate. Being listed here is not a guarantee of success for diploma authentication by China MOE.

You can also check out the ranking of your college or university on this website. 

Nor does being not listed is a guaranteed failure. China MOE will authenticate a diploma so long as it can be verified with the university or college that issued it. If your university is not found in the list, you can still apply for authentication with China MOE.

2. Be a native speaker – you need to be a passport holder from one of the seven English-speaking countries recognized by the Chinese government – the UK, Ireland, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

3.  Hold a  TEFL certificate (ideally 120 hours) or Two Years of Work Experience. Many schools would prefer that you have a TEFL certificate, but if you don’t have one, the experience would also be acceptable. If you have a Teacher’s Certificate, then you don’t need a TEFL certificate.

4. Pass a criminal background check –  you need to pass a criminal background check in your own country.

What Visa documents do I need? 

1. A Valid passport. You need at least one year left before your passport expires and a lot of blank pages left.

2. Your Bachelor Degree and/or TEFL certificate.  It does not need to be in English. It can be in any subject.

3. A Criminal background check. It would be best if you had a criminal background check from your home country and the countries in which you have lived for the last five years.

These documents need to be authenticated or apostilled by your country’s government. Then it has to be legalized by the Chinese Embassy or the Visa application centers.

ladder to success

6 Steps to a Residency Permit in China 

In order to work in China you need three things:

  • a Z-visa, which is a working visa.
  • a Work Permit
  • a Residency Permit.

Step 1: You need to get a Work Permit.

  1. You need a valid job offer from a registered school, kindergarten, or learning center in China.
  2. The work permit application will be made by your school.
  3. They will ask you for a lot of documents:
  •  Scanned Copy of your Passport
  •  Resume/CV – this should clearly state your education and working background
  •  Scanned Copy of Bachelor’s degree certificate
  •  Scanned Copy or the Bachelor’s degree transcripts
  •  scanned copy of the TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certificate or Teaching Licence
  •  Photos  taken within the last six months
  •  Medical Forms
  •  Physical Examination form
  •  Reference letter which states your two years experience if you do not have a TEFL certificate (if applicable)
  •  Social Security Number (if from the US)
  •  Background Check: the non-criminal background check (CBC) must be valid within six months of applying for your Work Permit. Information about how to get it and authentication can be found at:
      1.  US Citizens – FBI
      2. UK Citizens – ACRODBSDisclosure Scotland
      3. Canada – RCMP
      4. Australia – AFP
      5. South Africa –  SAPS 

Step 2: Z-visa Application

  1. Go to your country’s Chinese embassy website and fill in the application form. Upload your documents. You need photos, and here are the requirements for the photos.
  2. You need your work permit, which you applied for in Step 1.
  3. You need a valid passport with one year before the expiration date and blank pages. It will be a suggestion, if your passport is nearing the expiration date, having it renewed swiftly as it takes considerably longer at the time of the writing this article, due to borders closed and delays with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Make an appointment at your nearest Chinese embassy or Visa Service Center.
  5. Hand in your printed application form and all relevant documentation.
  6. Your application will be reviewed. If everything is right, it will be submitted for approval. It usually takes one week for your visa to be completed.
  7. If this is too difficult for you and overwhelming, you can hire an agency for a fee to do all the authorization, legalization, and visa application for you.

Guilin China

Step 3: In China

You have 30 days to turn your Z-visa into a residence permit. The visa gets you into China. It is a single entry, so you won’t be able to leave China during the first 30 days.

The Residence Permit, though, ensures you can stay. You can exit and enter the country as often as you like.


  1. VERY IMPORTANT: Register at the local police station where you’ll be staying within 24 hours.
  2. Documents you need to take with you to the police station?
  • Passport
  • Housing Contract
  • A copy of the Landlord’s ID and their contact number.
  • If you stay in the hotel, the hotel will do this registration for you. They might keep your passport or make copies so that they can register you.

Step 4: Medical Check  Medical Check

In-country medical Check within 30 days of your arrival in China

  • Passport
  • Photocopies of the passport material pages (picture and information page, visa page, and entry stamp page)
  • 5 passport-style photos
  • Medical check fee – 400 RMB
    • You might have to pay, and your employer reimburse you.
  • Health Certificate takes about a week.
    • Your employer should register that with the authorities.

Step 5: Work Certificate

  • You will need this in order to apply for your Residence Permit
  • your employer will assist you with this application.
  • Passport
  • One Photo
  • Medical Check (if applicable)
  • Police Registration form (from your arrival in China)
  • it will take 5 (five) working days

Step 6: Residence Permit

  • Your employer will assist you with this.
  • You must appear in person at the Public Security Bureau (PBS)
    • Passport (the PBS will keep it for the processing period)
    • Work Certificate
    • Police Registration
    • Medical Check
    • Resident Permit Application Form
    • One Photo
    • 10-15 days ( Once you applied you do not have to worry about your 30-day visa that will expire)


How long will everything take?

Work Permit TimelineTime

  • It can take from 3 days to several months
  • Getting your documents notarized
    • 3-4 weeks
  • Getting you Work Permit
    • up to 30 business days
  • Getting your Z visa
    • 3-7 business days
  • Finally, getting your Residence Permit
    • 10-15 days

Document Authentication Timeline

  • paper authentication
    • translation into Chinese
    • authentication at a Chinese Embassy/Consulate
    • authentication at the state level
    • notarized copy of the original diploma
  • online authentication
  • Chinese Ministry of Education
    • 10-15 days

Leave a Comment