This tick list is accurate as of 9th April 2021. Be sure to check at each stage for any updates to the procedures.

For any questions please get contact with your Gold Star recruiter, or contact us here or speak with the HR department at your school.

Very useful groups to join with lots of up-to-date information

– WeChat group “Americans Trying to Return”. Download WeChat app. Add Crystal as a WeChat contact, her ID is “mscrystal” and request that she adds you to the WeChat group. Alternatively you can add “Crystyl Mo” on Facebook.
Detailed guide for COVID testing and flights to China (updated 4 April 2021)
Foreigners Stuck Outside China Facebook group
China Visa page on Reddit

Important note about your passport:
Your passport must have at least 1 year validity and 5 blank pages and have no damage such as creased pages or water damaged pages. If your passport does not meet these criteria your work visa could well be rejected, so please apply for a new passport.

Please note, if you already have a residence permit from China that expired after 28 March 2020, you can apply for a renewed work visa. Please contact us for details.


Visa Agents

-Consider using a visa agent to assist with the process. They can offer free advice or take care of the entire process for a fee. Some suggested visa agents:

Google China visa agents in your area for more options


1) Get Criminal Background Check notarised and authenticated

Apply for a Criminal Background Check, also known as an Identity History Summary Check. This is an official statement stating that you do not have a criminal record. This document will be valid for the purpose of the China visa application for six months from its issue date.

There are two options: a) federal level check (FBI) b) state level check . Check with your school which is required, usually a federal level check if preferrable.

Procedure for criminal background check from the FBI:
NOTE: submitting your fingerprints electronically via the post office service is significantly quicker than submitting via mail:
-Visit the FBI page here for instructions
-Confirm your nearest post office which is authorised to submit your request by entering your zip code here. You may also choose an FBI-approved Channeler or if you are already in China, refer to the US embassy page.
-Submit your request here. IMPORTANT: check the box requesting a hard copy of the results
-They will email you your results within 24 hours and send the hard copy by mail within 7 days
-Get your Criminal Background Check document authenticated by the US Department of State. Make sure to inform them the document is intended for China.

Procedure for criminal background check from state level:
-Go to your home state website and request a criminal history check
-Get the document authenticated by the Secretary of State from the state where you live. You can see a list of sample documents and below that links to the state offices here or at the bottom of this page and also on the Chinese embassies page here.
-Make sure to inform them the document is intended for China.

We have also heard Accurate Biometrics offers a very good service for getting your criminal background check.


2) Get degree diploma notarised and authenticated

1- Obtain from the registrar of the University an official true copy of your degree diploma. The registrar should then execute an affidavit attesting to the validity of the document before a notary public.
2- Take the document, with the notarial certificate to the State Notary Public Administrator (scroll down to bottom half of the page) for authentication. Make sure to inform them the document is intended for China. Check this website for samples for each state.
3- A diploma authenticated in some states must be further authenticated by the US Department of State. These states include Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming, Washington DC, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Island.

Please see this guide for more details on the process.


3) Get TEFL certificate notarised and authenticated (if required)

Check with your school whether you need to get your TEFL certificate notarised and authenticated. In some cases, if you have sufficient teaching experience for example, you do not need a TEFL certificate for the work visa application.

The process is the same as for your degree diploma, it needs to be notarised in the state or country where it was issued.


4) Get Criminal Background Check, degree and (in some cases) TEFL certificate notarised by the Chinese embassy / consulate

-List of Chinese embassies and consulates in The US

-Download the application form to be completed and taken to the Chinese embassy / consulate

-Submit your criminal background check, degree diploma and (if required) TEFL certificate to be notarised at the Chinese embassy / consulate responsible for the states where the documents were issued. For example: if your university degree is from Indiana, it needs to be notarised at the Chicago consulate.

-You can submit the documents yourself or have a visa agent or trusted person submit them for you

-Consider using a visa agent for this step too. See links above.


5) Medical Check Certificate

You may be required to provide this, however, you may not. Please check with your school to ask if it is required.
-Book an appointment with your local doctor
-Download and print this form and take it to the doctor’s with you
-You might not have to have the blood test, chest x-ray or ECC tests done, please check with your school
-Make sure the doctor writes ‘healthy’ and signs at the bottom of the form
-Doctor must stamp over your photo on the top right of the form and at the bottom of the form
-The health check certificate is valid for 6 months from date it was issued

6) Email notarized and authenticated documents to your school in China


7) School applies for ‘PU letter’ (invitation letter) and work permit notification letter

-Process can take around 3 weeks


8) Apply for China Work Visa at the Chinese embassy / consulate

-Starting from 4th January 2021, visa applications should be made via as stated on this announcement on the Chinese embassy’s website.

-List of Chinese embassies and consulates in the US.

-Be sure to check for updated announcements from the Chinese embassy on procedures.

-Getting an appointment can be tricky, some of our teachers have used a visa agent to book the appointment for them as they can have a preferential access to appointments. See links at the start of this guide for visa agents.

-Try phoning, emailing and booking an appointment online regularly. Use ‘URGENT’ in your email title. We have heard from teachers who were first told there was along delay for booking an appointment and when they tried again a few days later managed to get an appointment for the following week.

-Please note: we have heard from teachers who have applied for Z, M, or F visas. Once they arrive in China the visa is then converted to a residence permit by the school which allows you to live and work in China. Please check with your school on what type of visa you should apply for.


9) Book flight

Detailed guide for COVID testing and flights to China (updated 23 Dec 2020)

-Confirm the target arrival date with your school before booking the flight.

-Make sure you book a flight that is approved to fly to China. Some websites list flights even though they are not approved to fly to China and are therefore likely to be cancelled.

-Here is a list of most of the approved flights to China (scroll down) as of 14 March 2021, be sure to check for an updated list of approved flights

-It is strongly suggested that you book a direct flight rather than one with a stopover. If you have a stopover, you will need to get a new COVID and IgM antibody test within 2 days of boarding your onward flight to China. Please note, we have heard of a flight from USA to Seoul in South Korea then on to China. No one gets off the plane in South Korea so this is not counted as a transit flight and passengers do not need to have a second COVID test in South Korea, so this is a good option.

FlightRadar24 is a useful site for checking the flight history of any flight for the last 7 days and for the coming 7 days, so you can check that certain flights actually flew and were not cancelled. Click Data / History at the top and search for the intended flight numbers.

-Book directly on the airlines website. Using a Chinese airline is also advisable as it may be less likely to be cancelled.

-Alternatively, consider using a travel agent (including Chinese travel agents if you can), they can offer flexible dates in case you need to change your flight and we have heard reports that a return flight can be cheaper than a one-way. We have also heard that they can get access to flight tickets even when the flight is showing as full on websites.

-Some airports are now offering the required COVID tests (PCR and IgM tests) at the transit area of the airport, to facilitate transfers to China. Finnair in Helsinki airport in Finland offer a good service, you can read more about it here. Lufthansa also offers COVID testing at Frankfurt airport in China and have a detailed guide on the procedures for flying to China here. Currently, there are 7 airports that can do fast COVID-19 PCR and IgM tests, which meet China embassy’s requirements for obtaining the Health Code needed to fly to China.

-Check for last minute availability for flights due to cancellations by other passengers. Sometimes, there are no flights available soon but if you check back often, one becomes available.

-We have heard of people getting the required COVID PCR and IgM antibody tests (see below) and then just turning up at the airport and booking a flight tickets on the airline website as they become available a few hours before departure.


10) Get a letter from your employer stating why it is essential that you enter China

-You will need this for step 11, when uploading your COVID test results

See this guide for what to include in the letter. Example letter 1. Example letter 2.


11) Get a PCR nucleic acid COVID test and IgM antibody test within 2 days of flying

Detailed guide for COVID testing and flights to China (updated 23 Dec 2020)

-Useful FAQ on COVID testing in The US

-Make sure to self-isolate as much as possible in the weeks before your flight, you don’t want to get COVID and have to cancel your flight

-Be sure to regularly check the Chinese embassy website for the latest announcements on the requirements for COVID testing and flying

-According to this announcement from the Chinese embassy, starting from 6th November 2020, passengers traveling from The USA to China need to provide:
a) negative PCR nucleic acid CVOID test (this is a swab test to test if you have CVOID)
b) IgM antibody test – this is a blood test to test if you have antibodies – IgM test has to be done with blood drawn from the vein, not finger prick.

FAQ from the Chinese embassy on 15th November for the COVID PCR and antibody tests

– If your flight is on Friday, you can get the PCR and IgM antibody tests done any time on Wednesday

– The test report needs to include: passenger’s name, date of birth, passport number, the testing agency’s address, contact number and email, the date the sample was taken, the date the report was issued and the test results (PCR and IgM results). The passenger’s name has to match their name on their passport.

Both tests have to be conducted within 2 days of boarding the flight to China. Please note, it is not from the date that the test results are issued, but rather from the date the sample was provided for the test. Please make sure to check the latest news from the Chinese embassy and airline to ensure this information is still accurate.

It is strongly recommended that you book a direct flight from the USA to China. If you have to transit in another country on your way to China, you will have to get another negative COVID and IgM antibody test in the transit country before you can board the connecting flight on to China. It will be quite challenging to get the required tests in time.

Please note, you require an IgM antibody test, not an IgG antibody test. IgM is usually the first antibody produced by the immune system when a virus attacks. A positive IgM test indicates that you may have been infected and that your immune system has started responding to the virus. When IgM is detected you may still be infected, or you may have recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection. If you had a COVID infection some time ago, you are unlikely to have levels of IgM antibodies that would disqualify you from flying to China. If you have recently been infected with COVID, you are likely to have IgM antibody levels that disqualify you from flying to China.

20th Dec 2020: the Chinese embassy in USA made this announcement stating:

“Starting from 0:00 on December 23, 2020 Pacific Time, IgM serum antibody test must be performed by medical professionals through venous blood sampling (blood taken from the vein), and the test report should include the following terms: Serum, IgM, Venous, etc. Finger-prick blood testing is no longer accepted. The report also needs to clearly state testing methods, including: (1) Colloidal gold; (2) Chemiluminescence; (3) Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay; (4) Others, please specify.”

“Starting from 0:00 on December 23, 2020 Pacific Time, nucleic acid rt-PCR test report should include such terms as NAAT, RT-PCR, and specify sampling method, including: (1) Pharyngeal swab; (2) Nasopharyngeal swab; (3). Others, please specify.”

“In order to prevent infection from long-distance travel after testing, passengers traveling to China must get their samples for the nucleic acid rt-PCR and IgM serum antibody tests collected at the departure city and vicinity of their direct flight to China.”

20th Dec 2020: the Chinese embassy made this announcement stating that the Chinese embassy and Chinese consulates throughout the USA will issue a list of approved COVID test centers which must be used for testing. Please be sure to check with your nearest Chinese embassy / consulate for the latest list of approved COVID testing centers.

Updates on approved COVID testing centers from Chinese consulates (be sure to check for the latests updates):
– Dallas consulate – (Washington DC Chinese embassy) for Texas (click ‘appendix’ at the bottom)
Chicago consulate (click the ‘annex’ link at the bottom to download the excel sheet)
Los Angeles consulate
New York consulate (click ‘appendix’ for the list)
San Francisco and Seattle

Make sure you also get the following, which will be needed for the next step:
– selfie of your face and holding the information page of your passport at the COVID testing site (for example outside the building with the clinic name or at reception with the clinic name)
– photos of you giving the sample for the tests if possible, this is optional and not a strict requirement
– receipt from your testing visit


12) Upload negative nucleic acid COVID and IgM antibody test results via online health app

Instructions from the Chinese embassy here

“As from 0:00 on December 1, 2020 Pacific Time, the Chinese Embassy/Consulates General will issue QR code with “HDC” mark for foreign passengers who are to fly from the U.S. to China.”

How to Apply for a Green Code of Health Declaration Form

Non-Chinese passengers should log in the application program by visiting on your computer or phone or scan the below QR code with your phone. Make sure to set up a profile before going for the COVID tests, so that as soon as you have the test results you are ready to upload them. Some people have said it is easier to set up the profile using a computer and then upload the COVID test results using your phone. Password can not contain words related to China or Chinese cities. Password must include upper and lower case as well as numbers and letters. Don’t use upper case characters for your email address. Uploads need to be JPEG format not PDF. If your COVID test results are in PDF, take a screenshot of them, which will be created in JPEG format and upload that.

Upload the following to the program:
– photos of COVID-19 negative certificates of both PCR nucleic acid and IgM anti-body tests (JPEG format)
– passport photo page
– flight itinerary (JPEG format)
– letter from employer stating why it is essential you enter China for the job – follow this guide
– selfie of your face and passport information page, at the COVID testing site
– photo of you giving the samples (PCR and blood) if possible (note – some testing sites don’t allow this, it is not essential to provide)
– receipt from your COVID testing visit
– any other required documents asked for by the program

Guide for how to complete the Health Declaration Form here.

Guide for iphone users here.


Embassy in the United States: or (temporarily in charge of the consular district of the Consulate General in Houston)

Consulate General in New York:

Consulate General in San Francisco:

Consulate General in Los Angeles: click here to submit online

Consulate General in Chicago:


13) Arrival at the airport

-Get to the airport at least 4 hours before your flight as check in process takes longer than usual.

-Make sure to bring the green health declaration code on your phone and original negative COVID and IgM antibody test result and passport

-Also bring all your notarized documents (degree, TEFL, criminal background check) as they will be needed to get your residence permit in China

Things to bring:
-Boarding pass
-Negative COVID and IgM antibody test result, issued within 2 days of your flight – check specific airline requirements to confirm requirements on this
-Green code on your phone – health declaration from Chinese embassy as detailed in step 11 above
-Valid Chinese visa or residency permit
-All your notarized documents (degree, TEFL, criminal background check)
-Medical face masks & hand sanitiser – cloth masks or masks with filter not allowed
-Phone with WeChat installed – this is needed for processing on arrival
-Download and complete the WeChat mini program ‘Customs Pocket Declaration’ on the WeChat app on your phone – instructions on how to get it here
-Enough cash in Chinese RMB to cover the quarantine costs and food or money on WeChat Pay or AliPay if possible
-Power bank to ensure your phone has power on arrival
-Name and phone number of a contact person in China
-Download a VPN, if you wish, for use in China as they are hard to get once you arrive
-Food for the flight – some airlines only provide limited food
-Store on your phone, as will be required for forms: passport number, visa number, flight number, seat number, address in China (in Chinese and English), emergency contact in USA, emergency contact person in China and their phone number


14) Quarantine for 14 days on arrival in China

-Once your plane arrives in China you will be taken to a quarantine hotel for your 14 day quarantine. The reports from teachers who have been through it have said things are organized very well, the hotels are of a good quality (similar to what you would expect from a 3 or 4 star hotel stay). They provide 3 meals a day.

-Here is an article from one of our teachers who went through quarantine in China in September 2020

-Here is another article from someone arriving and quarantining in Shanghai

-Here’s a YouTube video of the quarantine process


Useful links

– WeChat group “Americans Trying to Return”. Download WeChat app. Add “Crystyl Mo” on Facebook and message her to request that she adds you to the WeChat group.
Foreigners Stuck Outside China Facebook group
China Visa page on Reddit

Procedures may vary so be sure to check at each stage.

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