Obtaining an employment visa (Z type) to work in China from the UK has been a real nightmare, seemingly compounded by the Olympics when things were further tightened up. The process isn’t very well documented anywhere so to try and possibly help others I thought I might relay my experiences. Please note that none of the below is in any way official and obviously subject to change – your mileage may vary!

To apply for the Z visa from the UK your company will need to provide you with the following documentation:

  1. An employment permit

  2. An visa notification letter

For them to get this documentation you will need give them:

Copies of the above need to be notarised by a Notary Public (search Google to find one near you), legalised by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (in Milton Keynes by post or in person), and finally certified by the Chinese Embassy (in London/Manchester/Edinburgh) IN THIS EXACT ORDER.

Once your company has made the application for the employment permit / visa notification letter and sent them back you can then apply for the Z visa at the Chinese Embassy (appointment required) or Chinese Visa Application Center (more expensive but no appointment needed) for which, in addition to the aforementioned documents (plus photocopies), you will need:

Unfortunately all of this is very expensive and time consuming – I would recommend budgeting at least £400 and 6 weeks to complete the full process at a bare minimum. Once you arrive in China you will need to obtain a Residence Permit which I will save for another post (once I’ve been through it myself!).

Good luck and if your experience differs or you have any other advice to offer please comment below!

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi David,

    I’m going through the same process right now and am interested to learn how things go when you get to China. For instance, do they give you a multiple entry stamp in your passport when you convert to the resident permit?

    Just to add to what you’ve said here….My company secured the “foreign expert” paperwork for me, and I got the visa notification and employment permit sent to me with a few less hassles than you. I didn’t need the police check or notorisation, etc. I simply sent my MA Degree (original), medical check documents, CV in English and Chinese direct to China, and they did the rest there. I’m lodging the visa itself through CIBT instead of direct to the Chinese embassy in the hopes that I can avoid an interview, too.

  2. David says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment – sounds like you’ve had a much easier time! Which province did you apply to out of interest? I’m in Shenzhen but hear it differs depending on where you apply…

    As to answer your question – the Z visa gives you single entry into China. To convert this into a multiple entry residency permit once I arrived I first had to have a full medical check. This included blood check (for HIV etc), physical exam, chest x-ray, ECG, ultra-sound, dental and eye checks. Then once I received the all clear I had to apply for a temporary residency permit (must be done within 15 days of entry). Next I will apply for the permanent residency permit (within 30 days) which will allow me to live in China officially (for 1 year) and come and go as many times as I like. For this I will have an interview at the police station – I’ll post here with an update next week.

    Hope this helps!

  3. tseeker says:

    Does the company in china needs original degrees and certificates ?

    If possible, please reply on my email as well. Thanks

  4. David says:

    I used DHL to mail them and then nervously watched the online tracker! So yes, it’s a risk but your only other option is to take them by hand (or try making some really convincing copies!).

  5. tseeker says:

    so you mailed your original docs by DHL or something ? wasn’t there a risk of losing them in mail or anything like that you know ?

  6. Marc says:

    Hey!

    The originals don’t have to be legalized. Just send the originals to your company in China. They will translate them into Chinese and legalize the translated copies. They will give the copies and the original (just for a check) to the Labour Bureau.

  7. David says:

    Hi Marc, thanks for your comment. I think it probably depends on where your applying from (home country) and where your applying to (province in China). For me applying from the UK to work in Shenzhen they definitely needed legalized copies of the original which had already been notarised. That was Aug 2008 so the rules may have already changed.

    Either way it’s still a long and painful process!

  8. David says:

    Marc, are you sure this is now the case? Last year what you describe was definitely impossible when I applied. I heard that they had tightened things up due to the Olympics so perhaps its relaxed now? Hope so…!

    Before I was told on no uncertain terms that I had to apply for the Z visa from my home country and that it was impossible to do it within China / Hong Kong anymore. Also none of my documented needed translation – it was exactly as I outlined it in my post.

    I wish the Chinese gov ran a site which explained exactly what is/isn’t necessary for all these procedures. Most of the embassy sites are woefully inadequate which is why it leads to so much discussion online.

  9. Marc says:

    As far as I know, even in Shenzhen, only the criminal record (“no crime certificate”) must be notarised in the home country. Other documents (university degree, recommendation letters etc.) are accepted without notarisation. But Labor Bureau and PSB want to see the original anyway (just for review), and the translation must be legalized of course. But the company can translate it in China, that is by far cheaper than doing it at home. The translation company must put their red stamp on it.

    Just a remark in case somebody reads this blog entry as a walkthrough:

    The procedure in Shenzhen is different from most other parts of China. You can enter China on another visa initially (tourist or business visa) and do all the paperwork on the spot (especially the health check which is much cheaper than in Europe). Just make sure the company starts to apply for “Alien Employment License” within 15 days of your entry. After issuing the notification letter, it is not necessary to leave the country and come back with a Z-visa (unlike most other parts of China). The process is “smoother” than in other parts of China, especially the very strict regulations in Beijing and Shanghai.

    • As a rule of thumb, the bigger the city, the more shady aliens the cops have seen, and the tighter the regulations.

      I didn’t know about the procedures in Shenzhen, but yeah, it’s a 30-minute train ride into Hong Kong where you apply for the visa “from outside the country”, so it becomes a useless deterrent to keeping out some of our shadier fellow aliens.

  10. Marc says:

    Usually you definitely need a Z-Visa for initial entry (unless you are the CEO or other top manager). But there are special regulations applicable only in Shenzhen and some certain other parts of China. It might be due to the fact that SZ is a Special Economic Zone, not sure about that.

    More information (in Chinese) here:
    http://www.sz.gov.cn/ldshbzj/ywgz/swjy/200809/t20080909_35503.html

    For a colleague who applied in Nanshan district it was exactly like this.

  11. Jade Neame says:

    I applied for a Z-visa in shanghai and just sent my cv and copies of uni certificates etc. and they gave me the licence and invitation letter and voila! Z-visa o’clock.

    I’m hoping obtaining the residence permit is just as swift!! haha

  12. Adam says:

    I will be applying for a Z-visa in the new year, to work in Beijing. I was wondering if anyone could share their experiences of the process following arrival in Beijing on the Z-visa.

    Thanks.

  13. gonzalo says:

    Dear All,

    I recently applied for a Z VISA by post trought CIBT. I must say that it was the easiest process I have ever seen (and I have done some travelling around ;)). It took 4 working days to have my passport and VISA back.

    Basically, apart from the normal paperwork (photo, form, return prepaid envelope) I sent them the “alien employment permit” and a letter by the Shanghai local/regional government asking for a VISA to be issued.

    Hope it helps

  14. Tim G says:

    CAN ANYONE HELP ?

    I am currently looking into trying to get a teaching job in China/Hong Hong. I have a 1st class hons degree and i also I graduate in 2 weeks from a Post Graduate Certificate in Education with a enhanced UK CRB which clears me to work with both vunerable adults and young people.

    My problem is that i am not sure i would be accepted for a work visa. Basically i had addiction problems in my younger years and as a result i have quite an extensive criminal record, inlcuding a drug offense.Although i have been off drugs for some years now and have turned my life around and helped many others to do the same through voluntary work I still think this situation may be impossible.

    Can anyone suggest if there is anyway i may still be considered to work in the region and receive a Visa ?

    • David says:

      Hi Tim, I’m not an expert but knowing how tough the Chinese are on drugs I would imagine that your criminal record could be a show stopper.

      Hong Kong would probably be more reasonable than the mainland but your only reliable way to find out is going to be to contact the Chinese Consulate in the UK.

      Good luck.

  15. Iain says:

    Does anyone know the best place to get a physical examination? My local doctor does not do X-rays or ECGs and these are both required for the expert certificate……

  16. Hannah says:

    Hi all,

    I am applying for a Z visa as I have recently accepted a job in China. I understand the documents required, but am having a problem with the Physical Examination.

    I am from the UK and my local GP can’t carry out the Physical Examination and I have so far been unsuccessful at finding someone who can carry out this examination for me other than paying £300+ for a private consultation in London.

    Do you any of you have any advice / suggestions regarding the situation I am in?

    • Hannah says:

      I’m going to work in Zibo in the Shangdong province, about 4 hours South of Beijing. I have 2 friends who live there, I met them whilst at uni in UK and they have since moved back.

      I’m very nervous about it all but also very excited!

      Where did you / are you working?

  17. Hannah says:

    Hi all,

    Just thought I’d update you all and future readers of the z visa process in the UK.

    After a lot of phone calls I finally found out that my local GP can carry out medical examinations (despite the fact they told me NO first time I asked!)

    GP will refer you to the Sexual Health Clinic for the sexual health tests. This can cost between £10 – £100.
    Fortunately I had a really nice Dr who passed my results onto my GP so that I didn’t have to pay.

    GP will also refer you for an x-ray; an appointment will come through from the x-ray departement. This cost me £80 and was a really quick and easy process. I had to fill out a form with the radiographer and provide a passport photo. They also took a copy of the medical form.

    I had to book an appointment with the nurse to have an ECG (I didn’t pay for this as my GP requested it – so not sure if you should normally pay extra).

    I then waited a couple of weeks before booking to have the rest of the medical examination completed so that I could ensure my GP had all of the results.

    The medical examination costs between £90-£120 depending on how long it takes.

    I will update again once I have gone through the next stage, as for now it is down to my employer in China to get the necessary paperwork!

    • David says:

      Hi Hannah – thanks for the update, glad to hear it’s not too expensive in the UK. I imagine those from the US would not be so lucky!

  18. Robert says:

    New law in china .if u work for five years in china on z visa ,u can not get the visa renewed for subsequent one year and u have to leave country so in other words u can not work for a year in china.I am not sure is it same in other parts in china.if anyone got same experience.please share with me.Sichuan china.

    • Laws are not so tight that way. I’ve been here for six years and got one-year extensions but only a six-month extension in July 2011. However renewal for another six months is automatic unless I commit a felony. I shall not need to leave the country. I should not even need to present at the PSB immigration & visa counter.

      • Iris says:

        My partner, James, a British national, is currently in the same situation as you were a year a go. He’s been working in China since Oct. 2015. The sixth and the seventh year, his university (in Heibei) managed to get his foreign expert renewed but we didn’t know if any colleges or universities could do that or his one used some sort of “connection”. After having taught in China for seven years we decided to move our life to England. I got an offer from Nottingham university, he quit his job and went back to England ( in Aug. 2012) to wait for me.

        Unfortunately my student visa didn’t work out in time due to many delays I could not control. I was forced to get my offer deferred to Sep. 2013. So we had to alter our plan at a very late stage. With a few weeks hard work of seeking, we fond a university in Dalian, Liaoning Province, which is still in need of foreign teachers in the middle of the term, and also my partner is quite happy with. He passed all the process of getting in and now on stage of paper work.

        But there are two things I am concerned about his z-visa. Firstly, since the term has started already in Sep. and he is going back to England with me to study. He won’t be able to sign a whole year contract which never happened to him before during the years of working here. Secondly, He has been working in China for more than five years, yes, he got his sixth and seventh expert certificate ok in Hebei, but how about this time in Liaoning Province? I wonder how tight the new rule is and he could still do it or not.

        I am glad you managed last time. Are you working on your seventh z-visa now? Thanks for your patience in reading the e-mail. If you have time, could you please send your reply to my e-mail please ([email protected] )? It would be very much appreciated!

        Iris

  19. James says:

    Hi,

    I am going to apply for a Z-Visa. so that I can teach in China. I am able to get all the paperwork apart from the CRB check.

    Do they require a normal CRB check or an extended one? I can’t find any info on the Chinese Embassy in UK website.

    James

  20. Note that many privately owned schools are not authorized to import teachers but still want to hire them. They will tell you to enter the country on a tourist (“L”) visa which they promise to convert into a work visa.

    In practice, you will be working illegally and when your visa runs out, the school’s manager will simply shrug his shoulders and tell you he couldn’t convert your visa so you are simply out of a job.

    Secure a government school as your primary employer; work the private sector as a sideline.

  21. Ed says:

    Hello,

    I am in the process of applying for a visa in Shanghai.

    The visa bureau has asked me to provide a certified / notarized curriculum vitae.

    The British consulate does not provide this service.

    Does anyone know how I could get this sorted out without having to travel back to the UK?

    Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    Many thanks

    • David says:

      Hi Ed, a CV isn’t a legal document so how could anyone certify it? Are you sure they didn’t mean an academic certificate?

  22. Gareth says:

    Hi

    Ive been offered a teaching job in China and having some hastle sorting the documents out. The school says a medical check is necessary and the embassy should advise me which doctor / hospital to go to. Whereas the embassy say it isn’t necessary for the Z visa itself so they can’t (which is what I suspect is true). I can see above that normally this can be done on arrival anyway? (which would probably be easiest if it’s an option).

    Is it essential to have the X Ray and blood tests etc? Or does it normally suffice if the doctor / hospital deems you to be healthy in those areas?

    Any advise would be much appreciated!

  23. A C says:

    The information is accurate but the 400GBP is a conservative estimate. 4x30GBP (notarised documents) + Z Visa (varies but approx 100-200GBP), + medical (375GBP from a clinic (Harley Walk in Clinic London EC3) in London approved by Chinese Embassy, but might be cheaper if you look round).

    Total = 600GBP.
    Add on travel costs if you do not live in London and it’s more like 700GBP

    I am going through the process now (Dec 2013) and it is both time-consuming and expensive

    AC (Nottingham)

    • A C says:

      This is in addition to what I have already said. The actual total cost was as follows:
      Medical: 375GBP
      Notarised documents: 60GBP
      Legalisation: 30×4 + 6 (courier) = 126GBP (I did not need to supply a Criminal Background Check but I sent one about a year out-of-date; I don’t think it was needed anyway)

      Total = 561GBP

      I did pay 30GBP to get my PNC (Criminal Background Check) legalised so I actually paid 591GBP.
      So you wont get much change out of 600GBP. I have my Z Visa. I fly out on 18th Feb 2014. It’s a university in Jiangsu Province. The Criminal Background Check is a shady area. I don’t think I needed one, but everything else you need (so notarisation and legalisation are a must)

      • David says:

        Thanks for the breakdown A C – it’s sounds like it’s got a bit more expensive since I did it in 2008! Good luck in China.

  24. A C says:

    I have just received my Z Visa (it arrived yesterday). The university I am going to work for (I fly out on 18th Feb 2014) did not request one. A criminal background check is not on the Chinese Embassy’s list of requirements either. So if the company/your sponsor does not specifically request one, then you don’t need one

  25. Reggie says:

    My company is speaking to me about taking on an opportunity in our Shanghai office. However, I do not have a college degree (I have over 10 years of experience in my expertise which is what I would be going to do). Will this be a problem in securing a Z visa? Seems odd that my company would speak with me about this knowing I do not have the college education.

    • James says:

      Hi Reggie,

      I am in the same situation. Were you able to progress the opportunity? I have actually accepted the offer and begun making plans for the move, only just realising that it seems that degrees are necessary…

  26. Callum says:

    Hi,

    Really useful information. I hope everyone is able to sort out there Z-Visas! I’m in the process of applying for mine. I’ve only realised that you also require the medical form to be legalised also. This process is extremely long lol Is a CRB still required? I hope someone can help.

    Cal

    • Katriina says:

      Hey,

      How are you getting on with this? It is such a long process, every time I think I’m almost there something else comes up!

      I’ve just been asked to provide a medical check and DBS check for a school in Wuhan. No one’s mentioned legalising yet, so hoping that’s not needed.

  27. KC says:

    Hi there

    Does anyone know of any medical centers, other than the one in Harley street, where the medical exam can be performed? Is it possible to do individual parts of the form at multiple doctors and then just get one of them to stamp the form? Please help!

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