Applying for a #ChinaWorkVisa (#ZVisa) as an American

9 Nov

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. This is NOT a legal “What to Do” article or anything from a legal or professional perspective. I’m not a professional immigration lawyer or professional immigration / visa worker.  This is just an overview of MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE!  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 application process. 

I have actually already written about the whole pre-application process in another post over here.   Including an in-depth explanation of Document Authentication and what is required.

But here is a small overview again with more details under STEP 4 — actually applying for the VISA.

Step 1: Get Certain Documents “Authenticated” by the CORRECT Chinese Embassy in the US.

  • Criminal Background Check — A federal check will not suffice, you need a STATE or LOCAL police check.  I got mine from the Iowa State Criminal Background organziation, but I’m not sure where your’s would need to come from.  It cannot be older than 6 months. It should be from your last US residence — so if you lived in China for 4 years, it should be from your last US home.
  • Highest Degree Diploma

You will need to have both documents “certified” or “authenticated” by the Chinese Embassy that has jurisdiction over the ORIGIN of the document. So if your Diploma comes from the University of Virginia, it should go through the DC embassy.  If your background check comes from Florida, it should go through the Houston consulate.  My understanding is that DC may be able to authenticate ALL the documents since it is the official Embassy.  But you have to have the process done all the way through DC.  

If you have a document bound for DC, I recommend Roca Services. They got mine done within 10 days, although the others were quoting months.   If you are going somewhere else, I might recommend CVSC – I wasn’t thrilled with the Houston customer service and they take a few days to respond, but their Chicago service was pretty good.  

**For more information on how to get things authenticated, go here

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 from an approved institution.

Email photocopies and then mail or give the hard copies to the Chinese Organization you will be working for.

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.   The only thing is to make sure that the paperwork does not list the wrong consulate or Embassy as the “application location” and that it does not use the word “Chinese Embassy.”  If the document SAYS “Chinese Embassy” you will be forced to do your stuff in DC where the actual Embassy is.  If you are not from the DC jurisdiction area, they will make you do it all over again in the right jurisdiction with modified paperwork.  It takes about 20 days to get this part done.

Step 4: Collect the Documents You Will Need for the Application

For some reason, I was told I absolutely, 100% had to return to America to get my Chinese work visa.  Although the Chinese embassy in Seoul said they could process everything, the local provincial office said that would not be accepted. They demanded that I return home instead. However, I have a close friend who got his done in Thailand without going back to the States. I’m gonna go with “It depends on your province.”  Talk to your company very early on and see if you have to be in the States to do the application process or if you can get it done somewhere else that might be more convenient.  For me, it meant a special one-week mad dash on my holiday. 😦 

Also, once again that JURISDICTIONAL stuff comes in handy.  Because my legal residence is in Iowa, I was required to do the application process in Chicago. I would not be able to go anywhere else–I had to go to my jurisdiction. 

Anyway, you need:

  1. Original Passport
  2. Photocopy of Your Passport
    1. They gave this back to me and took their own copy. But bring one just in case.
  3. Passport Photo (2×2)
    1. Do not actually ATTACH this to the application. Just bring a loose copy. If they want it attached, they’ll glue it on.  
  4. China Visa Application – TYPED!
    1. It absolutely MUST be Typed.  They will not accept a written form.
    2. If you do not have an answer, type N/A instead of leaving it blank.
    3. For 1.9 – ID or Citizen #, you can include your Driver’s Licence #.
    4. For 1.15 – I put down my current employment status WITHOUT the job I was getting in China. For example, I was getting a work visa, but without that job I was UNEMPLOYED 
    5. For 1.17 – I typed “Last Employer” first and then put the Company Name of my last workplace.  Someone said you can leave it empty, but others say don’t. I just put “Last Employer – XXXXXX University”
    6. For 2.1 – I put down “Work” as my Primary Purpose of Visit.
    7. For 2.2 – I put down “One Entry valid for 3 Months from the date of issue.” Even if you requested more, this is all you would get for a Z Visa. So I chose Option 1.
    8. For 2.5 – I put down 365 days because that was the length of my work contract. 
    9. For 2.6 – I put down the address of the university and my contract dates on the first line.  I know that with tourist visas, you have to  do day by day. But for this one, I just put my address down with “XX/XX/XX to YY/YY/YY” 
    10. **For 2.5 and 2.6, I got the opinion that wasn’t terribly important to them. It’s more for tourist visas, so I wouldn’t worry too much. 
    11. For 2.7 – I put “Self-Supported”
    12. For 2.8 – I left it with N/A.  I did not need an inviter since I had the Work Permit. So I marked it N/A.  I was told that if you put the company down as an inviter, you would need to include the letter of invitation. It was not necessary for a Z Visa.  
  5. Your Work Permit from the Chinese workplace
  6. Any other documents you Chinese workplace provided.

Step 5: Apply for the Visa

Go to the Chinese Embassy or Consulate or your jurisdiction. I’ve been to a few in my time, and so far the process was ALWAYS the same (even in other countries).

You want to arrive about 15 minutes before the office opens. They almost all are only open a few hours in a day. They open later in the morning (sometimes 8am, but usually 8:30 or  9am — check the office’s website).  They’ll do the first wave. Then they’ll close for break at lunch and may be closed more than an hour.  They they’ll open for a few hours in the afternoon.  I’m gonna be honest, they aren’t GREAT about timing.  Although I was told to be there at 8:30am, the office “officially” opened at 9am — they just started the line at 8:30am.  And in reality, they started more around 9:10am.  Whatever is going on, it’s best to be as early as possible (definitely be there before the doors open).  It’ll pack out fast and stay full all day.  

You walk in the door and go to a machine to get your number.  If you need a passport photo, now is a good time to go get it.  It Chicago, there is also an office on the same floor who can help you print your application.  But the embassy will direct you to a different building outside, so don’t ask them for directions.  🙂  Sit in a chair and wait  your turn.

They aren’t known for friendliness in these offices. To be honest, I really hate talking to them. They are particularly bad about answering questions–I’ve never met one person there who was nice when I asked a question.  So avoid messing with them as much as possible.  Hand them the number and paperwork.  Wait while they see what needs to happen. Do whatever they tell you to do.  They’ll give you a receipt – KEEP IT!  YOU NEED IT TO GET YOUR PASSPORT BACK AND PROBABLY FOR REIMBURSEMENTS WITH THE COMPANY LATER.  

Notice there is no longer a ONE DAY SERVICE option offered at the Chicago Consulate. It might exist at others, but I wouldn’t count on it.  I know DC doesn’t have it anymore either, and I was told they do not do “Rush” either.  Chicago was still doing rush, but I found it more economical to do express service instead. Just one day more, but less $$.

On the appointed date (they’ll tell you when to come back), return to the office.  Check their times for “pick-up” — some of those times aren’t the same as the office hours.  Pay the person at the pick-up desk.  Many do not accept cash any more.  Some don’t accept credit cards. Try to read their website and see what they do before you come. If you aren’t sure, ask when you drop off your papers.  Chicago did not take cash, so I used my card. 


Step 6: 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. Later you will be taken to the local PSB (Public Security Bureau) to apply.  They’ll take your photo and collect your passport again. After about 3 weeks, they return everything with the Foreign Residence Card.  Once you have that, you’re good!  Don’t forget to go to the local Police Station and register your residence! The school should help with that!


That’s It!

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