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TEFL: How to Conquer the Chinese Visa Process for the First Time

Chinese flag in London.

Whether you’ve signed your first TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign language) contract already, or you’ve only just started looking, it’s extremely important to know how to conquer the Chinese Visa process. It’s long, tiresome and expensive, so I’ve written this How To guide to help out the next TEFL teachers. Got your pen and paper ready? You may need it!

Step One - Obtaining the correct documents

To obtain your Chinese Visa, you will need the following documents to begin with;

  • Passport,

  • Degree Certificate,

  • DBS certificate

  • TEFL Certificate or 2 years teaching experience with a teaching qualification.

Passport; £94.75

  • If you don’t yet have a passport, you will need to order one before progressing with your application as one of the first steps on the visa process requires a passport. Do not use a random website online, be safe and use the official Post Office site

  • If your passport runs out within the next year, you must obtain a new one as even with a visa, China may refuse entry to anyone with a passport due to expire in 6 months or less; taking into consideration the time required for the entire visa process and getting to China. Click here for more info.

Degree Certificate; cost dependent on University (anything from £10 to £40)

  • If you do not have a Degree Certificate, you will be unable to obtain a visa as “reputable teaching jobs in China now require successful candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree of some kind.” - Teachaway.

  • If you are awaiting your certificate because you’ve just graduated, you may still apply for work but will need to wait for your certificate before beginning the visa application process.

  • If you have lost your certificate, you will need to order a replacement through your University. If you are unsure how to do this, we advise that you give them a call or check their website - email responses always take too long!

  • If you have more than one degree but only have the certificate for one, that’s enough! Don’t worry about ordering a replacement for the other(s).

DBS Certificate; £25

  • If you do not have a DBS Certificate, you will only need a Basic DBS check, which you can do with the Government website in a few easy steps. All you need is your basic information.

  • If you already have a DBS certificate, make sure it is valid for the next 1.5 years. This is because it is very unlikely you’ll be in China for less than a year, plus application times, booking flights, and any mishaps along the way. If yours is due to run out within this time, order a new one using the Government website or double check with your employer. Again, all you need is your basic information.

TEFL Certificate; cost dependant on course provider - anything between £50 and £300! (Groupon is your friend)

  • If you have a TEFL certificate, double check with your employer whether you need your middle name or not as you may need to order another one if it only has your first and last name.

  • If you have a TEFL qualification but have lost your certificate, order a new one with the course provider. These are fairly cheap to reorder. Double check with your employer whether you need your middle name or not as you may need to order another one if it only has your first and last name.

  • If you are nearly finished with your course, you may still apply for work but will need to wait for your certificate before beginning the visa application process.

  • If you have not yet started a TEFL course and don’t have any teaching experience, be sure to check Groupon for deals on courses with 120+ hours. Any less, and you may not be hired.

  • If you have not started a TEFL course but have a teaching qualification plus experience, you may not need to complete a TEFL course. Check with your employer before continuing.


Step Two - Legalising your documents; £350

I know it seems weird that you need to legalise legal documents, but unfortunately due to the forgery of so many, this is a requirement. You can do this by yourself, but it will take an absurd amount of time without actually saving much money. After searching around and checking with our own employer, we found Edward Young Notary Public London to be the cheapest, as they deal specifically with China. For this, you’ll need the following documents:

  • Photocopy of your passport

  • Original Degree Certificate

  • Original TEFL Certificate

  • Original DBS Certificate

  • Proof of address (utility bill or bank statement)

  • Edward Young’s China Authentication Order Form and application form (read on)

Photocopy of your passport:

  • Do not give your original copy to them. It is a photocopy only. If you do not have access to a photocopier, download the app CamScanner on your phone. This allows you to scan documents, resize, and send to yourself via email. Please note this photocopy will need to be printed. You can do this at your local library or print shop if you do not have access at home.

Original Degree, TEFL and DBS certificates

  • This must be your original copy. Not a photocopy. The Notary service sends these off to be legalised. You may hear the term ‘apostille’, which refers to an official stamp confirming the documents are legal.

Proof of Address:

  • If utility bills are addressed to you specifically, this will be fine, but please note that if you pay bills, but the bills are in the name of your landlord, you will be unable to use this as proof of address. Most people have a mobile phone contract however, so printing your latest bill will be sufficient.

  • If you do not have any utility bills in your name, use your latest bank statement. If you do not receive paper copies, you can either get one printed from your bank or print from online banking if you have access.

  • If you have just moved, and have used your new address for your certificates but don’t yet have any bills or statements with your new address, you could ask the notary service if a signed tenancy contract will do.

Edward Young’s China Authentication Order Form and application form:

  • This can be filled in by hand or on your computer. Either way, this will need to be printed. Please complete all 4 pages. Click here to download it.

  • To see the full step-by-step guide from Edward Young, click here.

Once you have collected all of the above, post them (or hand deliver) to this address:

Edward Young Limited Notaries & Lawyers

9 Carlos Place



United Kingdom

We recommend posting it via recorded delivery as it includes important and personal documents.

You will then receive confirmation from Edward Young upon receiving the documents. From this point, it will take 7-10 working days to complete this step. You can choose whether you’d like to pick up the documents in person or have them sent back with special delivery. We recommend the second option to ensure the safe return. During this waiting period, we recommend moving straight on to Step Three as you will not need any of the documents you’ve sent off.


Step Three - Medical Check; £425

Probably the most painful cost in the entire process is the medical check. Unfortunately, UK citizens are not able to complete the check through the NHS, meaning private healthcare is the only way to complete it. We phoned around and did our research, getting results of anything up to £1500. Finally, I found the contact details to the same company who completed my Cruise Ship health check, and they quoted £425.

Cooper Health:

020 7580 3324

112 Harley Street



You will be sent the ‘Physical Examination Record For Foreigner’ form by your employer, but if you are still waiting to receive it, take a look at the preview below:

Once you have booked your appointment, you will need the following:

  • Copy of the ‘Physical Examination Record For Foreigner’ form (they may ask you to send it over via email instead)

  • Passport photo

  • Photo ID

What to expect on the day:

Ben after his medical.
  1. Head to the reception desk to check in. You’ll be sent to a different floor where you will be called for the check. The waiting rooms are nothing short of luxurious, and there is access to tea, coffee and water. You will fill in a registration form here.

  2. Your Doctor will call you in to a private room where they will first ask you questions to help fill in the form.

  3. You will have your height and weight measured, and be asked to complete a small sight test using letters on the wall.

  4. You will complete a full ECG exam. If you’re unsure what this is, it’s a machine that measures the electrical activity of your heart to show whether or not it is working normally. You may need your chest shaved a little if you’re hairy! The Doctor will then attach sticky patches to your body and the machine will print out your heart’s activity on a sheet of paper. You won’t feel a thing!

  5. Finally, once all tests are completed and your blood test results are back, you will be directed for your final exam at a separate location about 10 minutes away for your chest x-ray.

  6. Once you arrive, you only need to wait for a moment before being called in for the x-ray.

  7. All you need to do is take off your top(s), put on a throw-away medical gown, hug a machine for a few seconds, and then leave.

  8. You will receive the completed medical form by post, along with your printed ECG results and a DVD of your chest x-ray, approximately a week later.


Step Four - Checking all of your documents are correct with your employer

Before going ahead and sending everything by post, scan everything you have and send it by email. This is just a precaution and allows your employer to check if there is anything missing. By this point, you should now have the following:

  • Copy of your passport

  • Physical Examination form

  • Degree Certificate

  • Notarised Degree Certificate

  • TEFL Certificate

  • Notarised TEFL Certificate

  • DBS Certificate

  • Notarised DBS Certificate

  • Any extra documents or forms required by your specific employer; this may include application forms, draft contracts and passport photos.

Again, if you don’t have a scanner, use Camscanner to do it on your phone. You can make folders and scan more than one page into one document using this app. It’s free and takes very little time compared to making a visit to your local library. Once all is scanned, send through to your employer and await confirmation.


Step Five - Getting Your Work Permit (NOT A VISA)

Once you’ve sent all your documents to your employer via UPS or DPD (arrives at its destination a few days after being sent), you’ll need to keep in contact with your employer about their application to the foreign office. You do not need to do anything in this process; it is up to your employer to obtain a work permit for you.

Once your employer has made the application, they will be given a date that they will receive it. This leaves you with approximately 10 working days to wait for your work permit to be sent to you. In the meantime, you should book your appointment with the Chinese Visa Centre, as appointments in London can be up to a 2 week wait. Please make sure you book it on a date AFTER you’re due to receive your work permit, and not before. You will need to hand in the work permit at the appointment.

Once you receive the work permit, you will need to print both the Chinese and English translations. See below for details.


Step Six - Booking your Visa Appointment

Getting our fingerprints done in London.

Now that your employer has begun the work permit process, you can prepare for your visa appointment. When booking your appointment, you must remember to enter a date after you are due to receive your work permit from your employer.

First of all, go to the China Visa Application Centre website and scroll down until you see “UK”. Please note the scroll button is hard to see on mobile, so don’t make the mistake of thinking the UK isn’t on the list! You have four centres to choose from; London, Manchester, Edinburgh or Belfast. Click on the location easiest for you.

Next, you will need to click on ‘quick access’, which takes you to the welcome page. Scrolling down, you’ll see an ‘appointment’ block, with the option to book an ‘Appointment(application)’; click on this to open up the calendar.

Once you’ve filled in your details, you may notice that almost every day is highlighted in blue. According to the key on the right hand side, this means appointments are available. However, this is not often the case, so click on each day until you no longer get a pop up saying ‘The appointments in this time period have been fully booked.’ You may be looking at approximately 2 weeks later, depending on how busy they are. Once you’ve found a date that suits you (remember, make it AFTER you’re due to receive your work permit), click on a suitable time slot on the right hand side. Bear in mind that it is more expensive to travel before 9am, so double check your journey time before agreeing a time slot.

Confirm the appointment when prompted and you may get a pop up saying ‘Your appointment has been made successfully. But the reservation list failed to be sent to your email. Please kindly have a second click to send again.’ - Do not fret, it isn’t important. Print screen, print, save or email the current page with all the details of your appointment so that you have a copy.

So that’s your appointment booked! All you need to do now is gather and fill in all the documents you need to take with you; but don’t worry, none of them are the same as the ones you’ve sent to China already!

PLEASE NOTE: if you do not book an appointment, you will be unable to apply for a visa. The only visa type exempt from this is humanitarian visa, which is nothing to do with your specific application.

What you will need to bring to your appointment:

  1. Passport (Valid as stated in Step One)

  2. Copy of passport (printed)

  3. Visa Application Form - this needs to be filled in on a computer and then printed and signed.

  4. Passport size photo

  5. Terms and Conditions - printed and signed.

  6. Prepaid, trackable envelope with assigned receiving address - only applicable to those who would rather have their passport sent back to them instead of picking up in person.

  7. NOTIFICATION LETTER OF FOREIGNER’S WORK PERMIT IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA - Once you have your work permit sent to you by your employer, print out both the Chinese and English copies.

Whilst you’re waiting for your work permit, fill in and collect numbers 1-6 above.


Step Seven - Your Visa Appointment

Once your work permit comes through, head to your chosen Visa Centre for your appointment. If for any reason you need to change your appointment, you will need to do so online - they are unable to discuss appointments over the phone.

When you enter the Visa Centre, you must join the queue before sitting down. If somebody asks you what you’re there for, tell them it’s for dropping off, not picking up. You will be given a ticket and asked to sit down and wait. Waiting times can be anything up to an hour, even with an appointment, so prepare for this before you come! You are allowed to eat and drink in the designated area.

Ben celebrating when our visas were finally complete!

Once your number is called, head to the desk to hand in your documents. Here you will need to complete a fingerprint scan. You will be asked to do your four fingers on each hand, followed by both thumbs. You may be asked for an interview too, so don’t be alarmed if they ask you to do so. The Visa Centre staff will then issue a payment-due slip to you if your application is accepted. Once you’ve signed and paid for the visa and postage, you’ll be given a receipt and pick-up form. KEEP THIS SAFE - you will be unable to pick up your passport without it.

Once your visa application has been filled, you will be able to check its status on the visa centre website using the Pick-up form or Application number.

If you do not wish to pick up your passport in person once the Visa has been accepted, you are able to arrange to have it sent to your address. According to the visa centre website you should ‘provide a prepaid, trackable envelope with assigned receiving address when submitting (extra charge will occur if the visa centre provides you with the envelope)...It is suggested that you make note of the tracking number of your prepaid self-addressed envelope, so that you can track the returning package. You can track your package with the postal service provider...In case your returning package is delayed or is lost, the Visa Centre can provide necessary assistance to help you to track it with the postal service provider. However, the Visa Centre is not liable for any delay, loss or damage of your passport and/or your documents during transit.’

You can expect to wait no more than a few days for your visa to be ready, however do not rely on this! The maximum recorded time is 2 weeks, but 4 days is the norm.


Step Eight - Booking your Flight

Ready to board our flight to Beijing.

So you’ve finally received your passport with your new and exciting visa (placed inconveniently in your passport - always somewhere hard to find!), you are finally able to book your flights! Depending on the time of year, you can expect to pay anything from £250 - £500 one way. Our favourite flight search engine is Skyscanner, but we’ve developed a few tricks of our own to make even Skyscanner look expensive! Our flight from London - Beijing had a layover in Prague, and was a total of £348. We then searched London - Prague separately from Prague - Beijing and voila! £276. This meant we were able to spend 3 nights in Prague with our friends, costing the same amount as our original £348 flight would have been.

We actually provide a completely free travel agency service if you’d like us to search for you. There’s no catch, we just want to make travel more accessible to those with a lower income. So if this entire process has cost you every penny you’ve ever made, feel free to give us a shout here!

If you have any questions regarding the above, please feel free to send us a message on our Facebook page, email us, or message us from our Contact Us page!

Good luck on your journey, friends!

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