Working In China: What You Need To Know

Working in China can be a thoroughly rewarding experience, however there are a number of things you need to know in order to do it well. Check out our Moving To China Essential Checklist for further details on Chinese work permits and visas. Just as with that post, we’ve spoken to a number of experts to bring you the very best information.

Joey Zhou is a Chinese expat living in Scotland. After working at the Chinese Consulate and Visa Centre, Joey now runs a Chinese visa business, i2Visa, helping others to navigate the Chinese visa process. Abigail Thomson and Joe Coroneo-Seaman are Chinese language graduates and British expats who have lived, worked and studied in China for many years.

4 Steps To Move To China:

1. Apply for a job and get a job offer
2. Legalise your documents
3. Get your work permit (via your employer)
4. Obtain your Chinese visa

Document Legalisation

Document legalisation is the process of ‘converting’ your essential documents so that they are legal and valid in China. The documents that you most commonly need to legalise are your degree certificate, Disclosure Scotland certificate and/or NPCC criminal record check.

You can carry out this process yourself directly. It will be slightly cheaper, but will take more of your time and unless you know the process well, may prove a little more complicated. Or you can have an agent manage the entire document legalisation process for you.

Direct Document Legalisation Process
Total time taken to process: from 14 working days

  1. Notarise your documents (by taking them to a solicitor) – approx. £40
  2. Send them to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) – £30/document
  3. Take your notarised documents to the Chinese Consulate – £15/document

Agent Document Legalisation Process
Total time taken to process: from 10 working days

  1. Notarise your documents (by taking them to a solicitor) – approx. £40
  2. Send them to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) – £30/document
  3. Take your notarised documents to the Chinese Consulate – £15/document
  • Agency fee (from £55 with i2Visa)

What You Need For Your Document Legalisation

  • Original documentation plus one copy (in colour or black and white)
  • A copy of your passport
  • A complete document legalisation form – like this

Enjoying Your New Life

Once you are in China, the best thing you can do is go with the flow. Chinese culture can be very different to that of the UK, so try to be as understanding and accepting of this as possible. Chinese people will often be very happy to host you and show you around their city or neighbourhood. Be careful, but make the most of Chinese hospitality.

To enjoy the authentic Chinese experience and make new friends, try to expand your horizons beyond expat communities. Clothing and food will be cheaper in areas frequented by locals. It is here that you will also have the best opportunities to practise your Mandarin or Cantonese. Just remember to keep your passport with you at all times. In China everyone is issued with an ID card which is used constantly in daily life – your passport is your equivalent.   

Chinese Climate

Working in China can be very different to the UK because of the differing climate. As China covers such an expansive landmass, its climate can differ greatly depending on the area you move to. In the far North you are more likely to experience much colder, tundra weather. Whereas in the South (below Shanghai), winters are relatively mild and summers are very hot.

A key thing to remember when moving to China is air quality and pollution. Smog is much worse in the winter, especially in the big cities. This can be a challenge for you if you are prone to asthma. As such, many people wear face masks. Airpocalypse is an entertaining English language app which is designed to help you ‘survive and thrive in heavily polluted China.’

Chinese Culture

When you first move to China there might be many things that strike you as unusual, but try to remember that the culture is just different. For instance spitting on the street, shouting taxi drivers, people staring at and taking photos of you are all things that you might experience. The best thing you can do is keep an open mind. There are a number of websites designed to help you adapt to your new life in China – Shanghaiist and Chengdu Expat are just two of them.  

About The Authors

Joey Zhou is the founder of i2Visa – a Chinese visa agency which specialises in urgent Chinese visas and document legalisation. Joey spent two years working at the Chinese Visa Centre and the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh before deciding to help others navigate the process by setting up his business. His extensive knowledge makes the Chinese visa process simple.  

Abigail Thomson is a Interpreting and Translation (with French and Chinese) masters student at Heriot Watt University. She spent her third year studying in Hangzhou before moving onto Fujian Province for a further 6 month Chinese language scholarship. After graduating Abi worked for 5 months in Chengdu as a Hotel Management Trainee in Guest Relations at Fraser Suites.

Joe Coroneo-Seaman is a Chinese and French graduate from The University of Edinburgh. He spent his third year studying in Hangzhou before moving to Taiwan for a 6 month Chinese language scholarship. After graduating Joe worked for InternChina for 5 months in Chengdu, sharing his experience which other expats via the InternChina blog.

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2 thoughts on “Working In China: What You Need To Know

  1. Hi,
    I’m currently looking for anybody interested in a teaching position in China.

    There are positions in various cities, from bustling Hong Kong to the idyllic water town, Suzhou.

    I’ve been teaching in China for a few years now, but I’m back in the UK for a while.

    If anyone would like to discuss the option of teaching in a school in China, just send me an email at

    I can teach you Chinese too!


  2. I am currently studying a BA in education and social services. When Im finished I want to gain a CELTA Certificate with the hope of going to China to teach. I love travelling and languages though don’t speak any Cantonese or mandarin yet! I have an 11 year old daughter and wondered if anyone else has experience working abroad with children on board.?

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