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Learn Chinese in China

Getting a Work VISA during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jeffrey Walsh

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I taught in China for many years.  Getting a work visa was usually a fairly simple process,

whether at a language institute or a university. I would drop off my passport with a designated

school official or Foreign Affairs Officer and a few weeks later, I would get a Foreign Expert

Certificate and a VISA in my passport.  These transactions all took place while I was in country.

Now 1) there's a worldwide pandemic and 2) I am in the U.S. Does anyone have any advice

for me in getting a work visa in 2020-2021?


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Wow, how long ago was this that you could get all this done so easily?


AFAIK it's not possible to apply for a new work visa (Z-visa) inside China. Also, there's no such things as a Foreign Expert Certificate any more.


This is the process I went through in 2020, from the UK.  Actually I did it all twice because my visa was initially awarded in March just before full lock-down, and it expired in June before I had a chance to enter China, so I had to start all over again.

Disclaimer: this being China, all of this is subject to change at any time, and possibly varies depending on which province or municipality you're going to.


  • Get a job in China and sign the contract.
  • Apply for police background check in home country to show no criminal record
  • Get original police check certificate and a copy of highest degree certificate notarised by a solicitor or notary public
  • Send the notarised documents to the government authority (Foreign and Commonwealth Office in UK) for addition of an apostille.
  • "Legalisation" of the documents with apostilles at the Chinese Consulate or Embassy (now handled by the visa application centre in the UK).
  • Get standard medical check done (chest X-ray, ECG, blood test including HIV, Syphilis, etc.)
  • Receive copy of medical check results
  • Submit scans of all the above documents to employer in China so they can apply for Work Permit and "PU Letter" 邀请函
  • Receive PU Letter.
  • Receive notification of Foreigner's Work Permit being granted 中华人民共和国 外国人工作许可通知
  • Submit visa application to Chinese embassy/consulate/visa application centre consisting of:
    • Completed application form
    • Current passport
    • Copy of passport ID page
    • Signed copy of declaration form
    • Copy of previous visa (if any)
    • PU letter
    • Notification of Foreigner's Work Permit
  • Collect passport from Visa Application Centre with Z-visa in it

Now for the COVID-related bit, which has has varied a great deal since I arrived in China in October, depending on country of origin and local COVID situation:

  • Get COVID PCR test done and receive certificate showing negative result (a week after my test this was extended to also include an antibody test and they both had to be done within 48 hours of flying; not sure of the current situation, see the IATA website and click on China for details.)
  • Submit health declaration form to Chinese consulate/embassy for authentication
  • Receive authenticated health declaration which had to be shown when boarding the plane.


  • Travel to China and quarantine in government-allocated quarantine hotel for 14 days.  (Recently extended to 14 days in hotel then 7 days in "home quarantine" and then 7 days self-reporting.)
  • Another PCR test 3 days before leaving quarantine (some of my colleagues also had an antibody test). Being negative is required to leave quarantine of course.
  • When leaving quarantine, receive green "Health code" (QR code) on phone app — mine lives inside AliPay — which enables free movement around local area and possibly beyond, depending on what's happening in China.



  • Once in country, employer applies for Work Permit Card
  • Get Chinese medical check done (in my case I showed them everything from the UK check and they just gave me another chest X-ray)
  • Receive standard Chinese medical check certificate — valid for 6 months
  • Apply for residence permit at Public Security Bureau (Z-visa is converted to residence permit in passport)... requires Work Permit Card, passport and medical certificate
  • At long last, get passport back with residence permit in it.


My own timeline was:

  • 13 Jul — Started the ball rolling with police background check and then notarising documents
  • 10 Aug — submitted all docs to employer in China
  • 08 Oct — appointment to submit visa application in person
  • 15 Oct — received passport with Z-visa
  • 25 Oct — flew to China
  • 09 Nov — left Quarantine
  • 23 Dec — collected passport with residence permit from PSB


Hope this helps — welcome to the forums!


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6 hours ago, mungouk said:

Travel to China and quarantine in government-allocated quarantine hotel for 14 days.  (Recently extended to 14 days in hotel then 7 days in "home quarantine" and then 7 days self-reporting.)


I wonder what will happen to people who don't have a “home” yet?  This is especially true for people arriving for the first time. It could potentially mean 21 days hotel quarantine. 

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