Both Chinese citizens and foreign nationals who have lived in China may need to get China-issued civil documents authenticated by a foreign embassy/consulate in China for purposes of applying for study, immigration and work in the country which the embassy/consulate represents. China police certificates, China degree certificates and China graduation certificates are examples of common civil documents that need authentication. The purpose of consular authentication is to enable a document to be recognized in the country which the consulate/embassy represents.
Consular authentication is also known as “Double/Triple Authentication/Legalization”. The authentication process has three steps: (1) notarization, (2) authentication by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), and (3) authentication by a foreign embassy/consulate in China. For more information about the relationship between consular authentication, MFA authentication and notarization, please click here to view our brief introduction. In this article, we will explain the procedures and requirements for getting documents authenticated by Foreign Embassy/Consulate in China.
The information provided in this article is for reference only. Please inquire with relevant government agencies for details.
STEP 1: Notarization
Where to apply?
The notary application must be filed with a local notary office in the same city where the documents are issued. And the notary office must have qualifications to handle foreign-related notarization. For example, a degree certificate issued by a university in Beijing can only be notarized by a local notary office in Beijing. There are multiple notary offices in each city. It is recommended to go to the major notary office in the city that has the most experience dealing with this kind of notarization. In Beijing and Shanghai, for example, there are dozens of notary offices, among which these two are generally considered the most experienced.
Beijing Fangyuan Notary Public Office
Address: Dongcheng Qu, Dongshuijing Hutong 5 Hao Beijing INN Dasha 3 Ceng, Beijing (Click to view Google Maps or Baidu Maps.)
For the notarization of graduation and degree certificates, the required documents are typically the same as follows:
- Original graduation/degree certificate
- ID card copy (for Chinese students) or current passport copy (for foreign students)
- Power of attorney, if a third-party is appointed to handle the application.
For the notarization of other civil documents, please inquire with the local notary.
For the notarization of a foreigner’s China police certificate, please click here to view our guidance.
Typically, it takes a notary office about 5 to 10 working days to process a notary application for a notarial degree/graduation certificate or a notarial police certificate. For notarization of other civil documents, please inquiry with local notary offices.
Sample Notarial Certificates
Note: A China graduation certificate or degree certificate issued to a foreign student may show his/her name in Chinese which is translated from her/her English name, even though the student has never used the Chinese name. The Chinese name may be considered by foreign governments as “other name used” causing unnecessary legal issues. Some notary offices allow applicants to choose whether to show the Chinese name in a notarial certificate, but the other notary officers may require that both the Chinese and English names be written in a notarial certificate.
STEP 2: Authentication by China’s MFA
Where to apply?
There are agencies across the country that are responsible for receiving applications for authentication by China’s MFA. A list of the agencies is posted on China Consular Service Website (in Chinese). However, not every agency on the list can handle your authentication application. You would need to figure out to which agency you should make the application. Before we answer this question, we would like first to give you a bit of background about consular affairs.
There are two kinds of foreign diplomatic missions in China, embassies and consulates. Many people would consider these two as the same, but they are actually not. Consulates are like representatives of embassies. All the embassies in China are located in Beijing, while all the consulates are located in other major cities, e.g. Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenyang and Chengdu. In terms of consular authentication service, each embassy or consulate has its own consular jurisdiction. Take Switzerland as an example. Switzerland has one embassy and three consulates in China’s mainland. The Embassy of Switzerland in China is located in Beijing and its three consulates are located in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chengdu. Below are the consular jurisdiction/districts of each Swiss Embassy and Consulate as shown on their official website.
Embassy of Switzerland in China
Consular district: Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Tianjin, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, Shandong, Chongqing, Shaanxi, Hubei, Ningxia, Gansu, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Tibet (Xizang), Qinghai, Xinjiang plus Mongolei and North Korea
Consulate General of Switzerland in Guangzhou
Consular district: Guangdong, Fujian, Hainan, Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangxi
Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai
Consular district: Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui
Consulate General of Switzerland in Chengdu
Consular district: Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou (Note: “Relevant consular services within the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Switzerland in Chengdu will be handled by the Embassy of Switzerland in China.” This means consular authentication service for these areas is handled by the Embassy of Switzerland in China.)
The consular jurisdiction and the place of issuance of your notarial certificate determine where you should apply for authentication by China’s MFA. When you think about where you should file the application, you can first think about which one of these two categories your circumstances fall into. (1) If the place of issuance of your notarial certificate is within the jurisdiction of a consulate (not an embassy), you should apply to the Foreign Affairs Office of the local government. (2) If the place of issuance of your notarial certificate is within the jurisdiction of an embassy, you can apply to either the local Foreign Affairs Office (except Beijing) or one of the “Document Authentication Agencies in Beijing Designated by China’s MFA” (only in Beijing).
Let’s take two examples in which a notarial certificate needs to be authenticated by a Swiss consulate or embassy. If the notarial certificate is issued in Shanghai, it must be submitted to Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office for authentication by China’s MFA. If the notarial certificate is issued in Shenyang of Liaoning Province, then it can be submitted to either a local Foreign Affairs Office in Shenyang or to a “Document Authentication Agency” in Beijing.
When applying for China MFA’s authentication of a notarial degree/graduation certificate or a notarial police certificate, you are generally required to provide only the original notarial certificate. For MFA’s authentication of other civil documents, please inquire with the particular office where the authentication application will be filed.
The processing time for China MFA’s authentication is always the same. 5 working days for routine service and 3 working days for expedited service.
Sample Authentication Stamp of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
STEP 3: Authentication by Foreign Embassy/Consulate in China
Where to apply?
The embassy/consulate that authenticates your document must be the one having consular jurisdiction over the place where the China MFA authentication is performed. For example, if a document has been authenticated by Shanghai FAO and needs to be authenticated by a Swiss Consulate/Embassy in China, the document must be submitted to the Consulate General of Switzerland in Shanghai for consular authentication.
Generally, to file a consular authentication with a foreign embassy/consulate in China, the applicant can EITHER request the China MFA in Beijing or local FAOs to submit the application OR visit the embassy/consulate in person. This means an applicant does not need to appear in person at an embassy/consulate to deal with the consular authentication himself/herself. Instead, the China MFA in Beijing or local FAOs will take care of this step for an additional service fee. A few embassies/consulates require that the applicant must submit an application for consular authentication by himself/herself, meaning China MFA cannot submit it on behalf of the applicant. A few other embassies/consulates have the opposite requirement that they only accept applications submitted by China MFA.
The documents required by one country’s embassy/consulate can be slightly different from the documents required by another country’s embassy/consulate in China. For details, please inquire with the local FAO or China’s MFA office in Beijing which will help you with the authentication process or directly contact the foreign embassy/consulate that handles your consular authentication. For the consular authentication of a notarial graduation/ degree certificate or a notarial police certificate, the following documents are commonly required:
- The original notarial certificate authenticated by China’s MFA
- Your China ID card copy (for Chinese citizens) or current passport copy (for foreign nationals)
- A personal statement regarding the purpose of consular authentication. For example, the purpose of Swiss consular authentication is in connection with an application for a Swiss work visa.
- An official notice requesting consular authentication for a certain document. For example, an official email from a Swiss official requesting that the applicant get documents authenticated by a Swiss Consulate/Embassy in China.
The processing time at different embassies/consulates in China may be different. It can be as short as a few hours and as long as 20 working days. On average, it takes about 10 working days. For more detailes, please refer to the Compilation of Consular Authentication Rules of Foreign Embassies (Representative Offices) in China (in Chinese).
Sample Documents Authenticated by Foreign Embassy/Consulate in China
Sample Authentication Stamps of Embassies/Consulates of Various Countries
- South Korea
- United Arab emirates
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