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A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching in China: How to get your documents legalised (USA)

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Document Legalisation

The People’s Republic of China has not signed The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (1961) official documents are therefore required to be notarised by a notary public, Authenticated/ legalised by the FCO Legalisation Office and the Chinese Consulate or Embassy. Basically, to be able to use your documents in China you will need to legalise them before you apply for your Z Visa. 

Note: documents must be legalised in the country of issue.

To legalise a US public document, you have to follow the four steps outlined below:


Step 1:

Notarisation is a form of legal certification which certify that a document or a signature is authentic or a true copy.

Non-government issued documents need to be notarised by a notary public.

Notarisation is not required for original certified copy/certification issued by a competent Federal/ State/local Office. Please make sure you obtain a certified copy.  

For Federally issued certifications, skip step 1.

Please note: special circumstances regarding documents from Colleges, Universities and Other Post-Secondary Institutions:

  • Obtain from the registrar of the University a true official copy of the credentials. The registrar should then execute an affidavit attesting to the validity of the document before a notary public. Frequently the business offices of colleges and universities have notaries public.
  • Take the document, with the notarial certificate to the state Notary Public Administrator for authentication. The state Notary Public Administrator will affix a state authentication certificate. You should then send the document to the Authentications Office of the Department of State, following the instruction on that office’s web page.
  • Obtain authentication of the U.S. Department of State seal at the foreign embassy in Washington, D.C.

Step 2:

Submit the documents to the Secretary of the State, in which the document is executed, for authentication/ legalisation.

Apostille is not recognised in China.

  • Some states require that the document should be certified by the County Clerk first.
  • When you submit your application, please state on your application that the documents will be used in China.

Step 3:

The documents then need to be authenticated by the Authentication Office of the Department of State.

If you reside in any of the areas mentioned below, you may skip step 3 and submit your document to that Consulate-General for final legalisation:

New York


San Francisco

Los Angeles


If one of the Chinese Consulate-Generals holds consular jurisdiction (click to check ) over you state, you may submit your document to that Consulate-General for final legalisation. 

An authentication is the placing of the consular seal over the seal of a foreign authority whose seal and signature is on file with the American Embassy or Consulate. A consular authentication in no way attests to the authenticity of the contents of a document but merely to the seal and signature of the issuing authority.

(Please note: your legalisation application may be rejected by the Embassy/Consulate General that does not hold consular jurisdiction over the state where your document is executed.)


The authentication fee is $8.00 per document.

Payment method

Cash: acceptable when using the pick-up service only.

Cheque: acceptable using pick-up, appointment and mail-in services. Checks should be made payable to the U.S. Department of State.

Credit card: accepted for walk-in service only. (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are accepted.)

You can request Authentication Services in three ways:

  • Mail
  • Walking in
  • By appointment

Processing Time

Mail-in requests: 12 business days from the date of receipt 

Other: two to three business days.

Telephone: 202-485-8000

Physical Address:

Office of Authentications

U.S. Department of State

600 19th Street, NW

Washington, DC 20006

Mailing Address:

Office of Authentications

U.S. Department of State


44132 Mercure CIR PO BOX 1206 Sterling, VA 20166-1206

Note:  Effective October 6, 2014, all express mail air bill labels sent to the Office of Authentications for the use of returning documents must reflect the customer’s mailing address as both the sender and recipient.

Tracking service

To ask about the status of your documents, please call the Office of Authentications:

Phone:  202-485-8000

Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST

Step 4:

After completing the initial steps, please submit your documents to the Embassy or Consulate of the People’s Republic of China for legalisation.

Documents needed:

  • a completed application form
  • original copies and photocopies of your authenticated/ legalised documents 
  • passport and a photocopy of your
  • passport

You do not need to make an appointment. Walk-in service is available during the office hours.

The people’s Republic of China currently maintains one Embassy in Washington D.C., and five consulates-general in: 

  • New York, NY;
  • Chicago, IL;
  • San Francisco, CA;
  • Los Angeles, CA;
  • Houston, TX.

Click on the link to find the the Chinese Consular post that holds jurisdiction over your area of residence.

Click here!

Regular Service

Civil documents:  $25 per item 

Express Service: an additional fee of $20 per document

Pay on collection. 

Payment Method:

  • credit card (Visa or Mastercard only)
  • money order
  • cashier’s check
  • company check.

Regular service: four business days

Express service: 2-3 business days

Visa Office of the Chinese Embassy in Washington DC

Address: 2201 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W. Suite 110, Washington, D.C. 20007

Telephone: (202) 337-1956 (9:30-12:30 Monday to Friday)

Fax:  (202) 588-9760

Email:   visaoffice.dc@gmail.com


Office Hours

Applications submission: 9:30 -14:30 Monday to Friday

Pick up: 9:30–12:30, 13:30–14:30 Monday to Friday

Contact Us Page

If you do not live near a Chinese consulate, it will likely be more cost-effective to use an agent to complete this process for you.

Pioneer & Beyond does not hold any legal right or responsibility to the information in this document/ on this page.

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