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!

IMG_20170327_023103
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!

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


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12 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!

    Thanks!

    Like

    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.

      Sophia

      Like

  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.

    Like

    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.

      Sophia

      Like

      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! 🙂

        Like

    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,
      Tom

      Like

  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?

    Like

    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,

      Sophia

      Like

  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!

    Thanks,
    Tom

    Like

    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 🙂

      Sophia

      Like

  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?

    Like

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