Document Notarization Process for a Chinese Z-Visa

Please note that this guide covers moving from the UK to China so might not be as accurate if you live elsewhere.

The example of a degree is used in this post. You will also need to notarise a Criminal Record Check and your Teaching Certificate.

Overall Time Taken: 2-3 weeks

Overall cost per document: approx. £50 (excl postage and any travel costs)

In order to legally work in China, you will need a pretty Z-Visa firmly stuck in your passport before you book your flight to faraway lands.

Assuming your employer will assist you in obtaining a Z-Visa, they will ask for a number of initial documents. Of these is a notarised copy of your degree.

What is a notarised copy of a degree?

Basically, notarisation is a somewhat lengthy process to confirm that your degree is authentic. By the end you will have a photocopy of your degree with a stamp and signature from a UK solicitor, an apostille from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and a couple of shiny stickers from the Chinese Embassy.

What are the steps to get a UK degree notarised?

There are 3 main steps and if you follow them things should work out smoothly.

Step 1: Certification from a solicitor

Time Taken: 1 working day

Cost: £5

You will need to take the original copy of your degree to a UK solicitor. Make an appointment beforehand and mention that you need to get your degree certified in order to get an apostille from the FCO (they’ll get it).

The solicitor will make a copy of your degree certificate and do the following to it:

  • State the action they have taken: “This is a certified copy of the original…”
  • Sign it with their personal signature (not a company signature)
  • Include the date of certification
  • Include their name and company address (usually a stamp)

Your document is now ready to be sent off to the FCO!

Step 2: Legalisation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)

Time Taken: 4 to 6 working days (can take longer during peak times)

Cost: £30 (plus delivery costs < £5)

Next, you will need to go here and follow the instructions to print out a cover sheet and pay the fee. Note down the address and get a couple of envelopes (I used A4 Manila envelopes and put my docs in a plastic pocket to keep them safe – but you can pay that extra bit and get bubble envelopes too).

I chose to get two envelopes, one with my address and a First Class Recorded Delivery stamp on it, and the other with the FCO address and another First Class Recorded Delivery stamp on it. There is an option to pay £5 to get them to post it back to you (standard delivery) but it costs about that much to buy both postage stamps. So, envelopes are cheaper and quicker.

Your main envelope should have your return envelope, printed cover sheet and the certified copy of your degree. If you chose fast delivery options it will take one day for the FCO to get the document, 2 days for them to process it and 1 day for you to get it back. Any delays and they’ll email you. Easter and Summer are busy periods so 1 week is an estimate.

Twiddle your thumbs. When you get your copy back it should have a piece of paper glued to the back. This is an apostille. Value it. Do a victory dance! Then move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Legalisation/Notarisation from the Chinese Embassy

Time Taken: 4 working days

Cost: £15 (plus any travel costs)

First, find your nearest Chinese Consulate. Mine was in Manchester which wasn’t very close by. You can call and check to see if they provide a legalisation service for your area.

Second, check what times they are open for the legalisation service. Usually it will be a small window (maybe 3 hours) starting early in the morning. So if it’s out of the way, aim to get there early to beat the queues.

Third, make sure you take the following:

  • The legalised copy of your degree (obviously)
  • A photocopy of this legalised copy
  • Your passport (make sure this isn’t expired)
  • A photocopy of your passport
  • The application form, which can be downloaded here. Here’s some advice on filling in the form.

The embassy folk will return your passport and give you a tiny receipt with a date for when to come and collect the document. They keep the rest. Return on or after the date, show the receipt, get your blessed Notarised By The Chinese Embassy Degree and pay the £15 fee.

Done! Do another dance!

This is what the back of your degree should look like now.

You can now scan and send your Notarised By The Chinese Embassy Degree to your employer and be one step closer to that juicy Z-Visa.

Can this possibly take any less time?

This all depends on your location and how much free time you have. If you can book an appointment with a solicitor quickly or send someone to get the certification done on your behalf (you don’t need to be there in person) that’s a bonus.

You can also expedite Stage 3 by paying an extra £15. You’ll need to tick the right box at the top of the form. This will save you two working days.

Tips and Further Advice:

  • DO NOT go to your university to get the certified copy of your degree. I made this mistake and it cost time and money. Your University registrar is not a notary nor a solicitor and the FCO will not recognise their stamp and signature. Certified copies of your degree from your university are valid for specific things and legalisation isn’t one of them. Even if the solicitor you phone says this is the way to do it, just call a different solicitor. Not all of them know about certifying for international purposes.
  • DO NOT ask the solicitor to “notarise”. Getting a solicitor to certify will cost you £5 and notarising requires a notary. This will cost you £70. The Chinese Embassy will accept a certification from a solicitor so save yourself the money.
  • If you are set on China being a definite option for employment, I recommend getting this process done early! It will save you a lot of time and stress and considerably speed up the Z-Visa process, you can even say in your application that you already have all the necessary documents notarised!
  • To notarise the DBS (criminal record check) be sure to send the original document after getting it certified. Photocopies will be sent back unchanged.

The example of a degree is used in this post. You will also need to notarise a Criminal Record Check and your Teaching Certificate.


31 thoughts on “Document Notarization Process for a Chinese Z-Visa

  1. Hi

    Did you get a basic disclosure (Scotland Disclosure) criminal check notarised? If so, before sending it to the FCO, did you send it back to Scotland Disclosure to get it signed and stamped?

    If you got an ACRO certificate legalised then you probably won’t be able to help me!



    1. Hi Mark,

      Yes! I did get the Scotland Basic Disclosure. China isn’t too strict about needing an ACRO and the Scottish Disclosure is cheaper. So what you need to do is get the ORIGINAL document certified. You can do this via a solicitor. Make sure they don’t write that it’s a copy or anything on it because they can do that by mistake. They confirm it’s the original (it costs about £5) and you send it to the FCO. Let the FCO know that it’s an original and signed to confirm authenticity and you’re done. That’s how I did it and it worked out. Got my apostille.

      Hope this helps.



  2. Where did you get a solicitor to countersign your certificates for £5? I’m asking around for quotes right now, which seem to be much much higher.


    1. How much higher? I’m based in Leeds. I asked them to certify that it’s an original copy and mentioned it was for the FCO to get an apostille. Make sure you don’t use the word “notarized”, it’s the same thing for 14x the price. I’ve used different solicitors, it’s a pretty standard thing I thought.
      For my degree etc they photocopied and certified that it was a copy of the original, still five pounds. Stamped and everything.

      I hope this helps. They shouldn’t be charging you more.



      1. Yup, I had the same issue. The FCO needs it to be certified, not notarized. Chinese embassy just needs an FCO apostille and they’ll notarize it. Save your money! 🙂


    2. Hi Steven,

      I saw that Sophia already responded to you and you may be past this stage now anyway, but there may be someone reading this who is still curious and confused!

      I emailed several solicitors in my area. Two of the bigger ones (chains that have branches across the country) responded telling me what a difficult process it was and how they could help me through it and the prices quoted were around the £100 mark for all three documents. This seemed like way too much especially after I read what Sophia had wrote on here.

      One of the solicitors I emailed was a much smaller, local one who offered to certify my documents for £5 each. I can confirm that after sending these £5 certified documents off to the FCO that I have had these returned with an apostille.

      Don’t let the solicitor tell you that notarisation is needed when certification is perfectly fine. They are just trying to make as much profit from you as possible! The FCO only need a certification and the Chinese embassy/consulate only need an apostille from the FCO.

      Hope that helps,


  3. Hi Sophia,

    Thanks for the reply.

    Just to clarify – Did you send both the original and certified copy of your degree to the FCO?


    1. Hi Mark,

      No problem.

      I took my degree to a solicitor and they photocopied it and certified the photocopy. I only sent the photocopy to the FCO.

      Hope this helps,



  4. Hi Sophia,

    Thank you for this blog! It’s been such great help as I have been searching around on Google all week and not found a straight answer! It is nice to get the advice directly from someone who has gone through this process recently!

    I just have a question about the medical check! One school that offered me a position wanted a medical check notarised and to have an apostille. After all of my searching I can’t find anything about this being required! Did you have to do it? I don’t want to have to pay for another document that I won’t even need!



    1. Hi Tom,

      Yeah it’s a total minefield. I’m not yet in China because of various delays. However, my brother has managed to get his visa. He did not need to notarise his medical check.

      Sounds pretty mental that you’re being asked to get it notarised. The point of the notarisation is that the country you live in authenticates documents as valid. This can only apply to documents of your home country, such as degrees, criminal checks and teaching certificates. It wouldn’t make sense to notarise a form that is originally Chinese. Also it’s not a formal document, it’s just a form. Unless your medical check is not the Chinese form (which they should have emailed to you) and is something issued by a GP/Hospital (i.e. a UK document) then I don’t see any need to notarise it.

      I am aware however, that, due to China being absolutely massive, the rules differ in different regions. So I would say ask that school to justify why they need the medical check. It seems like an illogical request. It’s possible they don’t really know what they’re doing – I’ve had that problem before. The rules for visas change around a lot and not all schools/universities are up to date.

      I hope this helps 🙂



  5. Hi Sophia,
    Glad someone led me to your post.
    I got really confused because all the China embassy websites for different countries that I looked up to say that the degree has to be notarised. I even called up the embassy where I am based at and made the person confirm twice that it has to be notarised.
    I am aware the cost for a notary is ridiculous and if I can just go for the “certify” option I will. But in my case I no longer live in the UK and need my degree from the UK certified/notarised/legalised for my work visa.
    Any advice?


    1. Hi,

      That is a confusing situation. My worry would be that even if you get it notarized won’t you still need the FCO to legalise it? Can you post it from abroad to them?
      The embassy will always say notarized because it’s the blanket term they use across countries, but really they just need the FCO apostille. The FCO will give you the apostille as long as it’s certified/notarised by a UK solicitor. When I was trying to find this out, I phoned a notary and she was the one who advised me against spending lots of money and just getting it all certified instead.
      Basically, the apostille is what matters to the Chinese embassy.
      Hope this helps.


  6. Hi Sophia

    You have potentially just saved me from spending £445 on letting Edward Young, Notary Public London complete the process for me, So thank you VERY much for that. Did you have to tie up your documents up with a ribbon when you took them to the Chinese embassy? I noticed the website mentions that.


    1. Hi James,
      I’m glad I could help.
      If any one document is over a page then yes you need to tie it. But I had three documents (degree, certificate and police certificate) and each was just one page. So I didn’t tie anything. I think it’s just if you have a many paged document to ensure nothing ends up missing. Don’t tie different documents together.
      Hope this helps,


  7. Hi Sophia, Thanks for saving me a lot of money on the notary stuff as the certification worked fine. I paid £10 per document for degree and TEFL and the Criminal record check was free. I now have my three documents stamped by the FCO which wasn’t so cheap.

    I wondered if you can help me out with the last stage of the authenticating process. I’m filling in the form for Legalisation at the Chinese Embassy. I’m wondering did you hand write on the form or type? Also the section that asks for employer/ school does this refer to the school in China who will be employing you or does it mean your current employer in the UK. As I’m not currently employed in the UK. Also did you photocopy your documents on both sides as the apostille’s are on the back of all three documents.

    Thanks for all your help



    1. Hello James,
      Glad things are working out for you!
      I filled it in by hand with the details of my Chinese employer. And I photocopied double sided copies of the apostilled documents.
      Hope this helps!



  8. Good money saving read, esp when compared against all in one service providers.
    Quick Q> Do you know if you have to go to the Chinese Embassy in person (at stage 3)? Im out of the UK, and trying to avoid flying back, or flying back as few times as possible, to complete the process


  9. Hi Sophia,
    Thank you for writing this post it has been so helpful! and has saved me a lot of money. I got both my degree certificate and dbs check certified by a solicitor however on the FCO’s website it states that i need the original copy of the dbs check certified and sent to them, is this what you had to do aswell?


    1. The original copy is the one that you need to have certified and sent off. They sent back the photocopy for me. Thanks for bringing it up. I’ll add it to the post.


  10. Hi. Sorry if it’s a repeated question but I’m still not clear about it. So do I have to send a certified photocopy of my degree, an original certified DBS check and a certified copy of the TEFL Certificate? Do I not need to send the originals? Also what about the Chinese Embassy? Do they take photocopies or originals?


    1. Hi Alex,
      The Chinese Embassy will want the documents that the FCO certified plus photocopies of those same documents. They will keep the photocopies and return the certified documents to you with their own notarization stamp.
      At this point you don’t need to show the originals, the Chinese embassy care more about the certified documents because they are confirmed as authentic by the FCO.
      The only time the originals are needed, I believe, is for the FCO and when you visit the solicitor.
      I hope this helps. Please let me know if I can help any more.


      1. Also, did you certify your documents at a solicitor? All the notaries I called so far said they charge around £40-£60 per document.


      2. If you ask for a notarization then that’s how much it costs. But actually what you want is a certification from a solicitor. The FCO will be happy with that. That should cost you £5. Don’t get upsold on the notarization thing because that’s not actually what’s required. For a notarization you need an actual notary and that’s a different role.
        I will say I had to explain it a little to my solicitor but they understood when I mentioned the FCO. Some have never heard of this process with university degrees etc because they don’t know many people going to China. I had one solicitor flat out tell me to get my degree certified from my university, which turned out to be incorrect.
        The key thing is: what will the FCO accept? And a certification from a solicitor is what they need.
        I really hope this helps 🙂


  11. Hi. Another question, did you use a solicitor or a notary? The solicitors I called said they don’t take care of things like that and every notary I asked charge like £60 per document to certify it.


    1. Hi Aleksandra,
      I had the same problem when I asked local solicitors. I ended up calling up a larger company of solicitors. I actually spoke to their notary first and just explained that I need my degree certified to be authentic so that the FCO will be able to perform the next step. She understood what I needed and I was able to book an appointment with a solicitor within the organization.
      When I went to meet with him he was very confused about it all and I had to explain that a stamp, date, signature etc was needed.
      Solicitors know about certifying documents, it’s part of their role. Degrees and DBS checks are unusual ones to certify but the process is the same so you might need to be reassuring them instead of the other way around.
      I hope this helps and you find someone. Let us know if you do!


      1. I finally got them certified. Is a stamp with “I therefore certify this as a true copy of an original” and a signature enough? Will they be accepted by the FCO. Also I’ve read you sent an original of the DBS, but the solicitor made a copy of mine and put a stamp on that copy so should I send the copy and the original? Thanks for all your help. It’s saved me so much stress!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For the certification you also need date, name of the solicitor and the address of the office. The name and address is usually a stamp that they have.
        My partner’s DBS was sent back when it was a photocopy and the FCO requested the original. I’m trying to find the link on the website that stated the DBS needs to be the original but I can’t. I think when you go through the application process for the FCO on the website they mention it at some point.
        However, I will say honestly that I succeeded with a photocopy. My DBS photocopy was a colour copy that felt like the original and the FCO I think missed this and just legalised it anyway. I do not recommend this. As I said, my partner and I sent them at the same time, his got rejected and we had to go through the painful process all over again. If you can get the original certified spend a bit of time and do that. The solicitor will have to write that they confirm it is the original.. etc
        I hope this helps and I’m glad you’re making progress!


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