How do I legalise my documents to teach English in China?

You've just finished your TEFL course and been hired for your first teaching job in China! But then you have to acquire your work visa, which introduces you to a whole new set of terminology and processes. Apostille, legalisation, FCDO, ACRO... Where can you even begin to untangle all of this information?

And how can you be certain you're doing it correctly the first time?

Continue reading for my straightforward step-by-step method to legalizing your paperwork to teach in China.

To begin, what does legalisation imply?

Legalisation is the process of converting a document issued in one jurisdiction into one that is legally recognized in another.

It is accomplished by a succession of verifications and stamps from several government offices, which is often referred to as attestation or authenticity.

It's crucial to remember that a document must always be legalized in the nation where it was issued.

For example, if you hold a degree certificate from an institution in the United Kingdom, the legalization procedure must take place in the United Kingdom.

Only the government in this country has the authority to certify the document's legitimacy.

Is the legalization procedure the same in all countries?

No, it does not.

When a prospective teacher begins their legalisation path, here is where the bulk of uncertainty arises.

There are a number of elements that will have a direct impact on the steps you will need to go through in order to correctly process your papers, including:

Country in which the document was issued Document type

Document issuer Country in which the document is provided

What documentation will I require?

The documentation you'll need may vary based on your school, but the following are the fundamental criteria for a visa to teach English in China:

clearance from the police (usually an ACRO certificate)

TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA certification.

What if I took my TEFL training with a firm in another country?

If you live in the UK but studied with a TEFL firm headquartered in another country, this might present complications when it comes to legalizing your certificate for your Z Visa.

You may still get the document legalized, but you will need to do it overseas.

For example, if you studied online via a corporation registered in the United States, you would have to deal with the different government authorities there.

This may be both expensive and perplexing.

How can I legalize papers from the United Kingdom for use in China?

So you've been offered a job in China. You must now understand how to legalize your UK papers in order to apply for your work visa.

There are particular actions you must take and things you must avoid in order to achieve this correctly.

Believe me when I tell that the Chinese authorities want everything to be done precisely. This covers the presentation of the materials as well as how you fill out your application forms!

1. Have your paperwork certified by a lawyer.

It's usual practice to have a solicitor certified copy created in order to preserve your originals clean.

These are often referred to as notarized copies, however there is a distinction here. It will be significantly more expensive and useless to have a notary public prepare a copy.

For legalisation, a copy from a registered solicitor with their stamp, date, and signature is more than adequate.

In the UK, the only occasion you can't provide a certified copy is when you're having a personal document handled. A birth, adoption, marriage, or death certificate, for example, must always be legalised on the original.

It is essential that you choose a solicitor who is registered with the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO). Continue to the following step to discover why.

2. Have the FCDO apostil your papers.

As part of the legalisation procedure, all UK papers must be apostilled. The FCDO is the only body in the UK that can grant an apostille.

The apostille is a little paper certificate that will be attached after the document has been validated to be an authentic UK document. They will also check the signature of the solicitor who created your certified copy against their database.

If the solicitor isn't in their database, they'll return your paperwork and ask for a copy of their registration information and signature to validate it. This may lead to delays.

An apostille is affixed after everything has passed the FCDO's scrutiny. It will be autographed and stamped, and it will have a unique serial number that can be confirmed online.

Problems that might arise

I already discussed the need of selecting a reputable UK-based service.

Because the FCDO must verify the provider's registration status in the UK, you may encounter difficulties if you seek to submit a TEFL provided by a firm that isn't registered here.

Because the provider is situated outside of the FCDO's jurisdiction, the FCDO would be unable to validate the legitimacy of the certificate or the provider's credentials.

If you're considering learning TEFL for China and live in the UK, you may save time and perhaps money by ensuring that the course provider you've selected is approved by the FCDO before you begin.

As a result, you can be certain that after your course is done, the procedure will be lot faster and smoother.

See this list of suppliers who have been independently validated as acceptable by Vital Consular.

These concerns are unlikely to arise if you study for a CELTA in the UK. This is due to the fact that CELTA courses are approved by the government's Office of Qualifications and Examinations (Ofqual).

Read this page to learn more about the distinctions between TEFL and CELTA courses.

When submitting your apostille for a Chinese Consular stamp, your apostille must be no more than six months old.

If it was issued more than six months before your submission, you must have it re-processed. For police clearance certificates, the same rules apply!

3. Pay a visit to the Chinese Visa Center.

Prior to November 2019, all legalisation requests were sent to the Chinese Embassy in London. However, since then, any UK citizens intending to submit their papers for legalization have been required to do so through the Chinese Visa Centre.

In the United Kingdom, there are four centers: London, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Belfast. This simplifies things since they must now be filed in person. Applications by postal mail are no longer accepted.

To submit your papers at the visa center, you must first schedule an appointment online.

Once your appointment has been confirmed, you may collect your papers and fill out an application form for submission. This will contain your personal information, information about your employment (the school), and the papers you want handled.

If you are unable to visit the visa center in person, someone else may do so on your behalf. You must, however, complete the application form and name them as your agent.

You'll submit your papers during your appointment and be given a date when they'll be available for pickup. This normally takes 3-5 working days from the time of submission, but always double-check your collection sheet to be sure.

When filling out the application form, keep the following points in mind:

Fill out the form online – handwritten forms will be ignored.

Make certain that you complete all parts correctly.

Sign the form twice, once with an original wet signature and once with a photocopy — photocopies will be rejected.

Submit a color photocopy of your passport's picture page.

The last step is to get the Z Visa.

Now that your papers have been legalized, you may send them to your school, who will apply for your work permit.

It's critical that you schedule this right since, as previously stated, your apostille and police clearance are only valid for six months from the day they were issued.

The expiration date will be printed on your work permit when you obtain it from your school. You should double-check this since each offer may have a varied term of validity, and you must apply for your Z Visa within this time frame.

To apply for your Z Visa in the UK, you'll need your permission.

Another trip to the Chinese Visa Centre is required for the Z Visa application, but this time you must visit in person. This is due to the fact that you will be required to supply biometric data and have your picture taken as part of your application.

You won't need to bring your legalized papers with you at this point, and they may be mailed straight to your Chinese school.

You will be able to go to China after your Z Visa has been obtained and attached to your passport.

Finally, within 30 days of your arrival, you must apply for a residence permit, which your school will assist you with.

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