Questions about visas working in China!


I have gotten many emails asking me how to apply for a work visa in China.  Today, I’m going to walk though the whole process of applying for a work visa in China for ESL teachers.


In my agency, the employer who is hiring ESL teachers will assist the ESL teachers to get the Z visa.  Sunrise will also stay with the ESL teachers and be ready to help ESL teachers when they need.


First, let’s talk about what ESL teachers need to get a Z visa working in China. There are two things that ESL teachers should have before they apply for a Z visa in China. One is a bachelor degree and the other one is two years relevant experience (can be instead by a teaching certificate).


Two years working experience is the biggest barrier for a lot of teachers who want to work in China.  Two years relevant experience is also a necessity for the benefits or a higher salary.


As I said before, the two years work experience rule is only for big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and other tier one cities, in smaller cities, the rule does not exists.


There are two ways to get a Z visa, one requires an employment license, and the other requires a Foreign Experts certificate. ESL teachers usually end up with a Foreign Experts Certificate. As I mentioned before, the requirements for a Foreign Experts Certificate for an ESL teacher are a bachelor degree and two years relevant working experience or a certificate of a language teacher qualification. Hence, the two years experience is not a necessity. However, the certificate that can take the place of two years working experience is from a specific organization. I have mentioned it in one of my other articles.


If ESL teachers don’t have two years experience, then they can start searching for jobs in the smaller tier two and three cities and try to figure out whether you can get Z visa in that city.  You’d better get the Z visa before you leave for China, because you know that your employer is allowed to legally hire expats.


There are also some employers who need ESL teachers immediately and don’t have time to apply for a Z visa for in your own country.  They will recommend you to take a tourist visa to China, and then convert to a Z visa when you’re in China.  Some ESL teachers may get confused and be scared that they may be cheated. It’s ok that ESL teachers apply for a Z visa after they come to China, but not the mainland of China. ESL teachers need go to Hong Kong to apply for the Z visa working in China. We’d always recommend getting the Z visa before arriving in China. Why? The most obvious benefit is that you know your employer is legally allowed to employ teachers and Chinese Law protects you.


However, there are many ESL teachers teaching english in China without a Z visa.  I have talked about that before in other articles. Chinese government has added stricter penalties for those working in China illegally.  Please make sure that you know the risks before you do that.


Then, we can talk about how to get a Z visa in China.


There are two ways to get a Z visa in China. Generally, the employers will choose the first one.  One is that the employer sends you Foreign Experts Certificate (SAFEA) and Invitation letter. The other one is that the employer sends you employment license and invitation letter. No matter which way the employers use, you need to send them a number of documents to prove who you are and what your qualifications are, and the employers then go through the bureaucratic process at their end.  The employers will go to the Ministry of Foreign Experts and the local government office, get the Foreign Experts Certificate (SAFEA) and Invitation Letter or Employment License and Invitation Letter, and then mail them to you.


After you get the documents from the employer, you need to go to an embassy and apply for your Z visa. Expect for the documents that employer has just sent, you also need to present a number of other things. There is a list of what you’ll need to bring to apply for a visa, according to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

  1. Passport

Original passport with at least six months of remaining validity and blank visa pages, and a photocopy of the passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separate.

  1. Visa Application Form and Photo

One completed Visa Application Form with a recently taken color passport photo (bare-head, full face) against a white background attached (photo requirements for Chinese Visa Application)

  1. Proof of legal stay or residence status (applicable to those not applying for

the visa in their country of citizenship)

If you are not applying for the visa in the country of your citizenship, you must provide the original and photocopy of your valid or certificate of stay, residence, employment or student status of the country where you are currently staying.

  1. Photocopy of previous Chinese passports or previous Chinese visas

(Applicable to those who were Chinese citizens and have obtained foreign citizenship)

If you are applying for a Chinese visa for the first time, you should provide your previous Chinese passport and a photocopy of its data page.

If you have obtained Chinese visas before and want to apply for a Chinese visa with a renew foreign passport that does not contain any Chinese visa, you should present the photocopy of the previous passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separated, as well as the previous Chinese visa page. (if your name on the current passport differs from that on the previous one, you must provide an official document of name change.)


Those documents may vary from country to country. Please check the website of the embassy of Republic of China in your own country.

It seems complicated for some ESL teachers. Don’t worry! If you choose Sunrise, Sunrise will company every step of the process and always be ready to assist you anytime.