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. Ask your employer but I also needed to notarise a Criminal Record Check and I know people who also had to notarise their CELTA. Ask!

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. Ask your employer but I also needed to notarise a Criminal Record Check and I know people who also had to notarise their CELTA. Ask!


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