Swapping the Alps for the Yangtze: Paperwork 1

In November 2017 my partner and I made the decision to relocate our family from Switzerland to China. I explained the reasons for this in this post.

I thought the Swiss were bureaucratic but the paperwork required and the subsequent cost and effort to obtain a visa to work in China is quite mind-boggling. A process that began at Christmas continues in April, still with no visa in sight!

People keep asking me, how the preparation for the move is going and I still don’t have an asnwer for them because I am still dealing with paperwork. Different paperwork from the stuff in January admittedly, but its still paperwork.

So what is it we have had to do and continue to do to secure that working visa? I hope that the narrative below offers some pointers for anyone heading down this road in the future.


Firstly I had to get a new passport because my old one was due to expire eight months after we arrived. This wasn’t too much of an issue. I was able to order it online when I was back in the UK at Christmas and pick it up within the space of a week before I headed back to CH.


On the list of required documents our new school sent us was an ePhoto. I erroneously assumed that this was just a scan of a passport photo. On no! An ePhoto is a special digital passport photo, and, guess what? The Chinese specifications for passport photos are different to European ones. The only place we could find that could do this locally was a local photographer. He charged 100CHF for the four of us to have ePhotos. China 1 – Vincents 0

UK Degree & Teaching Certificates

Next, we had to have our UK degree certificates and teaching certificates authenticated/legalized by the Chinese Embassy in London. This involved sending all the documents to a UK solicitor who was able to stamp and sign them off as genuine before that could be sent to the UK Government’s Legalisation office who legalised the solicitors signature (effectively to say, that this solicitor was a real solicitor).

Once that was done the papers could be taken to the Chinese embassy in London who added a sticker to them that says it is an authentic document. This takes a few days and the documents have to be left at the embassy during this time.

The two visits (one to apply and another to collect) to the Chinese embassy had to be done in person and thankfully our family was able to help us here.

The UK embassy doesn’t seem to require any of the documents to be translated.

Swiss Birth Certificates

We had to undertake a similar process with our daughters birth certificates but this time in Switzerland as both of them were born here and have Swiss birth certificates. We had to take these certificates to the Cantonal Legalisation office in Lausanne to have them stamped before sending them to the Federal Legalisation office in Bern to be certified.

Once certified we were had to have the birth certificates and their certifications translated. We had a friend do this for us.

Once translated we were able to take the birth certificates to the Chinese Embassy in Bern, to have them authenticated and again we were able to collect them a few days later.

Criminal Record Checks

Thankfully, as we have lived in Switzerland for six years we aren’t required to submit UK record checks. I say thankfully because all the steps so far have required a large volume of posting, signing and filling in forms and when you are living in one country and having to get paperwork of another country sorted…well, it isn’t the easiest thing to do.

The Swiss system seems to be particularly well set up for these procedures. When applying for a Swiss criminal record check you can select an option to have it legalised at the federal office for an extra 20CHF. This means that your form arrives in the post already stamped.

Once certified by the federal office these documents also needed to be translated before they can be taken to the Chinese embassy in Bern to be authenticated.

Medical Checks

The medical is relatively straightforward. You have the usual stuff like blood pressure, height, weight as well as a chest x-ray, HIV and Syphilis blood test, and ECG. Except that our doctor forgot to also get my blood type, meaning I needed to have two blood tests with a 10-day delay over Easter.


So that’s where we are as of April 1st 2018. Lots of forms and paperwork filled in but still no visa in sight. All of this paperwork in Switzerland has also been hugely expensive (who would have thought of anything else in CH!)

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