Applying for a Visa

How Do I Apply for Chinese Visa?

Everyone who wants to come to China to teach English needs to apply for a working visa (also called a Z visa). For many people who have never needed to apply for a visa before, the process can appear overwhelming. After a successful interview, Nova ESL will share our professional experience to guide you through this process, step-by-step.

Who Can Come to China and Teach English?

In order to apply for a Chinese working visa, you need to:

  1. Be age 22-60 (in most cities) and in good health;
  2. Have a clear criminal background check;
  3. Have a bachelor’s degree (or above) in any subject or major.

For an ESL teaching position, you also need one of the following:


  1. A degree in English Literature, Education, Linguistics or similar relevant field;
  2. A 120-hour TEFL, TESOL or CELTA;
  3. 24 consecutive months’ teaching-related work experience after graduation;
  4. A teaching licence.

Getting Your Working (Z) Visa and Residence Permit

Many people don’t realise that their working visa is only for the purpose of entering China, and is only valid for 30 days. Once you arrive, we will need to convert your visa to a Residence Permit, which will allow you to remain in China for the duration of your contract and re-enter the country as many times as you like.

Different cities in China may have slightly different requirements as to the documents needed, but this is a general overview of the visa process:

Getting your Working Visa to Enter China

Step 1: After a successful interview, sign a contract with your school.

Step 2: Authenticate your degree, background check and TEFL certificate (if required). This takes around 30 to 45 days. This step varies by country and state, so you may wish to view our authentication guide for more information. Nova ESL will provide detailed guidance based on the country or state you are in.

Step 3: Complete a medical check at your GP or local clinic. The medical check form must have a doctor’s signature or stamp on the back, and a passport size photo on the top right of the first page.

Step 4: Once we receive scans of your medical check and authenticated documents, we’ll assist your school in China to apply for a Notification Letter. This is a formal invitation letter permitting you to come to China for employment purposes and is the most important document required for your Z visa application. A digital copy will be sent to you via email. This usually takes 15-20 business days.

Step 5: Print the Notification Letter, fill out an application form and take these along with your passport to apply for a Z Visa at your nearest Chinese Embassy or Consulate. The visa will usually be ready to collect in 4 business days.

Step 6: Pick up your passport and visa, book your flight and start packing!

Getting your Residence Permit

Step 1: Once you have entered China, we (or someone from your school) will take you to your local police station to get an Accommodation Registration slip.

Step 2: If your medical check in your home country was not comprehensive, you may need to have a second medical check done in China. The cost of this will be reimbursed by your employer.

Step 3: Your school will start your application for a Work Permit Certificate (see below). This document looks like an ID card or Driving License. This usually takes 10-15 business days.

Step 4: Once your Work Permit Certificate is issued, your school will take you to the Exit and Entry Bureau to convert your work visa into a Residence Permit. They will need your passport to affix the Resident Permit to one of its pages. Your passport and Residence Permit will be ready for collection in 7-10 working days.

Nova ESL connects teachers to schools across China. Our mission is to promote understanding between East and West, and to help people experience all China has to offer. Founded by a former ESL teacher from the UK and a Visa Manager from Beijing, Nova ESL has cross-cultural partnership at its core.

  • Address: Office 038, 4th Floor Tianshunrenhe Building, 30 Beiwa Street, Haidian District, Beijing, China
  • Tel: +86-10-64946380
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