Document Authentication for the Chinese Work Visa (Z Visa)

28 Jul

As many of you know, the rules for the Chinese Work Visa has changed a lot over the last year. This confusing and more complex system had three purposes:

  1. To simplify the process (at least that’s how the government proposed it)
  2. To sift through and minimize the number of fake diplomas, liars, and cheats getting through the system.
  3. To modernize their system in line with International Standards.

As someone currently going through this process, here is what I have learned so far. **Remember that this system is complex and new. The nuts and bolts haven’t been worked out yet. My experience may not be your experience. I highly recommend you speak with an agency for help if you need it.



Chinese Consulate Juridiction

In the United States, there are five Chinese Consulates (Houston, New York, San Francisco, LA, Chicago) and one Chinese Embassy (Washington, DC)


Each Consulate and Embassy divides up jurisdiction over different states. Each state (except California) belongs to one Consulate or Embassy. California is special because the Northern Counties belong to the Consulate in San Francisco while the Southern belong to the Consulate in L.A.

Do you care? Yes! This is a very important concept for the Visa process.

Step 1: Document Authentication

This is the step that is killing everyone in a horrible, confusing, bewildering maze of rules that don’t work and steps that can’t be done.

Here’s what is happening (so far as I can tell):

You must have an ORIGINAL copy of your Highest Degree Diploma and a Police background check from your last state of residence (**If you have been living in China, just go back to the last place of residence before China). A federal background check does not suffice. If you have been living in China, get one from your last US residence. A photocopy of your diploma will not suffice. It must be originals. TIP: You can get the diplomas from your university, but they usually don’t know what you’re talking about. Tell them you want the “Notarized Copy of a Diploma given to people taking Certification and Board Exams.” The copy that the Chinese Government wants is the same thing that people give to all the Medical, Accounting, and professional offices when they take the professional exams. It is an official diploma notarized by the county clerk there. Usual cost is about $10-$15. It takes about 1 week to mail to you.

PROCESS OF AUTHENTICATION: The rules for certification at each jurisdiction can be different. Application forms, the processes — the Chinese embassies and consulates are not always the same on how to get the documents certified. Visit the website of your Chinese office to ask what exactly is required before they will look at it. In general, the process has 3-4 steps:

  1. Notarized by a State Notary. I find the easiest way to do this is simply to tell the school or state that you need a “notarized” document when you ordered the originals. For both my diploma and state police search, I requested a “notarized” version and they sent me that. If you get one that is NOT notarized yet, you should go to a bank and ask them to notarize it for you. It must be notarized in the state where it came from! Not just any state notary will do!
  2. The Secretary of State must Authenticate the Original Document. For some, this means a stamp – for others they will staple an extra stamped / signed paper on the back of your document. DO NOT remove any staples or anything once the State has handled the document. Just leave it alone. To find out how to get your state to authenticate the documents, click here. In some states, they will give you an Apostille (similar but only used for certain countries). In others, they are giving you a “Certificate of Authentication” which is slightly different. Follow their rules to see which one you need from them. It must be authenticated in the state where it came from!
  3. If your document came from Delaware, District of Colombia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming you get to have an extra step! Yay! These documents have to also pass inspection with the Department of Authentication in Washington, DC. The link to their instructions is here. You can either mail your document in (what they recommend) or set up a walk-in appointment (only for emergency cases). You should probably call ahead and make sure you qualify as an emergency case. Otherwise, you”ll waste your trip (like a friend of mine did). Many DC agencies who process Chinese visas will also help you do this step for a fee 🙂
  4. Certified by the Correct Chinese Embassy or Consulate. This process varies from place to place. Please visit the website of the proper location for their specific instructions. **Remember this is according to where the document originated, not where you live! For example, I have a University Diploma from a college in Virginia. Even though I am an Iowa resident, this document came from a Virginia school and was notarized in Virginia. So it MUST go through the Washington DC embassy. On the other hand, my Iowa background check has to be certified at the Chicago consulate. Confusing and requires a lot of travel and mailing plans. Also costly.
    1. Washington DC.
    2. Chicago
    3. Houston
    4. LA
    5. New York
    6. San Francisco

When you get your certification, DO NOT MESS WITH IT AT ALL!  Do not unstaple it, do not fiddle with it.  Put it immediately as in into a folder and give it to the company for their process.


**Twice I was told that this process could be simplified if I just asked the US Embassy or Consulate in China to sign the papers. I was repeatedly told by the Chinese officials that this could be done. So I made a trip to Beijing — It was not true. 😦 According to the US official at the embassy “This is because China doesn’t understand America. They think the embassy can do everything. We don’t.” The US embassy & consulates in China will only sign or authenticate foreign documents being used in the USA. Not American documents used abroad. Hard & Expensive lesson learned.

Step 2. Collect all your documentation & Email photocopies to the Chinese Organization representing you

  1. Original Passport (with 8 months remaining and at least 2-3 pages empty)
  2. A Photocopy of your Passport.
  3. A Passport-Sized Color Photo of you. No smile. No hats or hair coverings. Stare straight ahead. Try to show your ears (**yes, this is a requirement I’ve run into — just do your best).
  4. Photocopy of Diploma & Certification from the Chinese Embassy
  5. Photocopy of Background Check & Certification from the Chinese Embassy
  6. Health Check — A health check done within the last 6 months at an approved institution.  If you do it in the States, the office should provide you with a form they want filled out to make sure you get checked for everything.  I did it in China and had to get it from the Provincial approved Zhengzhou Foreign Hospital, on the list of approved sites. Ask your company where you should have yours done.

The Chinese University / Workplace will have to do a bunch of work online to set everything up first. That’s why they need photocopies right now, not the originals.

Step 3: Chinese Workplace will Apply for your Chinese Documents (Alien Work Permit)

You don’t have to do anything here, just wait. The Chinese workplace will do all this paperwork and later mail or email you the document.

Step 4: Apply for your Visa

So, according to my university — the foreign expert bureau requires you to actually EXIT America on this visa. So you can apply for the visa through an Agency but you still have to get it in America and fly to China directly with it. No third countries in the middle allowed. I’m not sure this is true for everyone (I don’t really get the point of it), but that is what I’m told. For example, I’m in China but apparently have to leave the country, go to the US for a week while they do the visa application process, get it, then fly back to China directly.

***I haven’t actually done this step yet – I’ll let you know what was required as soon as I do. But I have asked about it, and this is based on what I was told.

Anyway, you need:

  1. Original Passport
  2. Photocopy of Your Passport
  3. Passport Photo (2×2)
  4. China Visa Application – TYPED!
  5. Your Work Permit from the Chinese workplace
  6. Any other documents you Chinese workplace provided.

Go to the Chinese embassy, drop off your papers, wait. Pay and pick it up when it’s ready!

Step 5: Get your Foreign Permit Card

Once you take your visa back to China, within 30 days they will take all your original documents — passports, diplomas, background checks, certifications, etc. and apply for a foreign permit card. Once you have that, you can go back to traveling within China.

Step 6: Get your Foreign Residence Card

The school will apply for this for you. It takes about 20 days to receive.

That’s It!

4 Responses to “Document Authentication for the Chinese Work Visa (Z Visa)”

  1. Adrienne November 8, 2017 at 3:57 pm #

    Thanks for this info! I’m starting the visa application process myself and your post is really helpful. Seems like this stuff is constantly changing.

    • deceptivelyblonde November 9, 2017 at 3:35 am #

      Wow! Good luck! Hope it helps you, the process was insane!

    • deceptivelyblonde November 9, 2017 at 3:52 am #

      Also, if it helps . . . when I did the authentication step I tried these people ( for my DC papers. I also did for my Chicago transcripts. Both companies did really well. . . . Roca was much faster at DC than the My China Visa was going to be. But I’m not sure they could do the Chicago ones or not. Anyway, if you want an agency to help with authentication, I’d recommend both of them.


  1. Applying for a #ChinaWorkVisa (#ZVisa) as an American | Deceptively Blonde - November 9, 2017

    […] have actually already written about the whole process in another post over here.   Including an in-depth explanation of Document Authentication and what is […]

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