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Foreign criminal record checks: Who needs them?

In many Chinese cities (certainly in the larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou), foreigners applying for a work permit (the first stage of applying for a Z work visa) are now required to provide a “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” (CNCC) proving that they have a clean criminal record in their home country. Below you’ll find the information you need to apply for your own check.

Note that some jobs require Chinese criminal record checks as well as or instead of foreign ones; see this article for more information.



Who needs a CNCC?

You must present your CNCC as part of the process of applying for a work permit. Remember, a Chinese work permit and a Chinese Z work visa are two different things: You must apply for a work permit successfully before you can apply for a Chinese Z (work) visa. Therefore, if you do not already have a Z visa, you will need to present a CNCC before you can get one.

If you already have a Z work visa, and are simply in the process of renewing your visa, there’s no need to prove you have a clean criminal record. Your work permit does not need to be renewed each time you renew your work visa, so a criminal record check doesn’t factor in this process.

Those who are applying for tourist, student or any number of “visit”-type visas do not need to prove they have a clean criminal record.


Applying for a criminal record check in your home country

If you do need a CNCC, the process will likely vary in each country, but expect to be put through various bureaucratic hoops (with potential time delays and costs each step of the way). The basic procedure will go something like this:

  1. In your home country, visit an authority who would have access to your records. This could be a police station, the department of justice, a local courthouse or similar law enforcement department.
  2. You may be required to present your passport, documents as proof of residence, recent photos and fingerprints, so be prepared.
  3. Tell the authorities that you need a certificate proving that you have a clean criminal record from the age of 18.
  4. Complete any relevant application forms.
  5. Allow a few days before collecting the certificate. Pay any fees required.
  6. The certificate should be notarized by a public notary. Again, this will likely require a fee to be paid, and may require a day or two.
  7. The certificate must then be taken to your local Chinese embassy or consulate for authentication.
  8. When you have collected your CNCC from the Chinese embassy or consulate, you’re ready to submit it to your employer or whoever is handling your work permit application.


Useful Chinese words and phrases

犯罪记录证明 fànzuì jìlù zhèngmíng Criminal record check
签证 qiān zhèng Visa
工作许可 gōngzuò xǔkě Working permit
申请 shēnqǐng Apply


Useful links

The Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security (Chinese language)

A US website about getting criminal record checks

UK police website about criminal record checks

Indian website about criminal record checks


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17 Responses to Foreign criminal record checks: Who needs them?

  • Hi, One-Stop. Like some others here, I’m in the process of applying for a Z visa/work permit, and I’m wondering how two arrests from 15 years ago, for driving under a suspended driver’s license, may affect my application. The second arrest resulted in a guilty plea and a $500 fine. I’ve had no legal issues since. I honestly don’t know if these will show up on my FBI background check, but if they do, would that disqualify me from getting the visa/permit? Many thanks for your help with this.

  • Hi there. I’m applying to teach at a private boarding school in China. However, I have a misdemeanor of trespassing on my record from nearly 6 years ago from the U.S. I only paid a fine for this—there was no jail time involved and I haven’t had any run-ins with the law since. Will this hinder me from working in China? Thank you!

  • Hello,
    I have been offered a job in China with my current company, and will need to apply for a Z Visa.
    About 8 years ago I was convicted after being in a fight, although never went to jail. I have had no more issues since then and have worked my way up the corporate ladder. I am a New Zealand citizen residing in Australia (and was in Australia when the incident occurred).
    Will this hinder my application, and is there anything I can do to help?
    Many thanks

  • Greetings. I received my clean FBI criminal background check through an approved FBI channeler and proceeded to have the document notorized, the notary authenticated, and the document has state (CA) and federal apostille authentication as well. However at the bottom of the documents it states it is not to be used for purposes of employment which is odd to me because that’s the reason for getting it in the first place. Would this be acceptable in applying for a z visa and work permit n Zhongshan, Guangdong under the interpretation that the document is being used for immigration and not specifically for my employer’s consideration?

  • Hello there,
    In the past 2 years I have obtained a tourist visa for temporary entry to China. Now I wish to work as an English teacher there, possibly in Hohhot. 2 years ago my youngest child accused me of hitting her, police got involved and I was released on bail, during which time I travelled no problem.
    But I am now worried that when I apply for my visa z, that because of the above i might not be allowed to go ahead and teach out there as I am sure my visa application will be turned down. Crown court have still not made a decision to charge me or not. This is all.in the UK, I am a UK national.
    Would schools accept me despite this accusation and the events behind it? I am so worried my past has ruined my chances. My Chinese boyfriend and I wish to marry in the future and reside in China. Would I be allowed to work in China based on my past? Please let me know. I am so scared. Thank you.

  • So a “clean” criminal record does not mean no misdemeanors? I was convicted of a “Physical Control of a vehicle under the influence of alcohol” eight years ago, that is a lesser, but related, charge to a DUI. I was worried this would mean I cannot apply for a Z visa, but it seems you are saying I can. Do you know of people who have obtained a visa with a misdemeanor?

    Many schools require a “No Criminal Record” for their applicants. Are you saying that in China a misdemeanor Physical Control will not be considered a criminal record and I can apply freely to schools that request applicants with “No Criminal Record”? I will, of course, be upfront with them and tell them about the charge.

    As a side note in the State of Ohio where I live both this charge and a DUI cannot be expunged or sealed. They are on your FBI and local criminal record for life, so that is not an option.

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Hello,

    Currently in China and have to go through the visa process for work. Accepted the job and I have my criminal check with me. I do have a record of an misdemeanor assault back in 1999 that I pled to deferred judgement. I did my probation and community service and now it still shows but it’s classified as a non conviction. It’s never stopped me from working back in the USA and I always say no on an application. Is this going to come back to haunt me even thought it was almost 16 years ago and now is a non conviction. My prospective employer is fully aware.



  • I think I may be in a bit of trouble. I accepted a position in Shanghai back in March. I have been teaching and am licensed in my state for the past 2 years. I am scheduled to start in Shanghai in August. I have already received my visa for China. I have already quit my current position. Short of buying a plane ticket I am ready to head out of the country. Today my Chinese employer asked me for a No Criminal Record Certificate. No big deal. I ran my own background check through the local burea and received it right away…. Turns out it is a big deal. Apparantly I still have a DUI offense on my record from 11 years ago. I was under the impression this was not a criminal offense, but looks like its a misdemeanor. This fell off my driving record in 2011, I just assumed it was gone. Its never come up before. I had to be finger printed to get into my teaching program and they did a background check. I had a second when I applied for my license. I am not sure what to do at this point. Will this affect my application? Do I have any options? Thank you for any help… kind of in a panic.

    • Hi Sarah. Usually the employer needs the Certificate of No Criminal Record to obtain the Alien Employment License from the visa authorities; once you have this you can apply for a Z Visa. We are not sure how you already have the visa without first getting the license. 

      Anyway, as you’ve already received the visa, you could be honest with your employer about the record and explain the situation that it is a simply a misdemeanor and not a felony DUI, and also that it dropped off the record in 2011. You could also mention that you also passed the background check for your teaching position in your home country. A misdemeanor DUI would not usually affect someone’s application for a Work Visa.

      Despite this, although you already have the visa, your employer can cancel it if they have an issue with the record. You could consult a lawyer to see whether there is anything you can do to clear or expunge the DUI. Otherwise, it depends on whether your employer will be bothered by the record (which, as we say, would not usually affect an application).

      We are really sorry about the situation and wish you the best of luck!

  • Hello, I am looking into getting a work permit for China but I do have a Felony Dui conviction on my record from 2 years ago. Is this a definite disqualification?

    • Hi Brianna. We’re sorry to say that a felony DUI will affect your application; as it appears on your record, you will not be able to get the No Criminal Record Certificate. The best thing we can think to do is to be honest with the embassy officer about your history, and explain that you haven’t had any other DUI conviction and that you have behaved lawfully ever since. Try to persuade the visa officer that you are not the kind of person who would usually break the law and you have learned a hard lesson from it. There is chance the visa officer will sympathize with you and give you the visa. We wish you the best of luck!

  • Hello,

    I have a caution from before I was 16 (not serious).

    I’ve been offered a job in China I was just wondering if the caution would stop me being able to apply for a Z visa and then a residency permit?

    • Hi Sarah. Don’t worry, if you were that young when you were cautioned then the file may well have been sealed (though this will depend on which country you are from). In any case, a caution for a non-serious act should not impact your Z-Visa or Residency Permit application.

  • I am British passport holder and would like to work in China but I have a serious criminal conviction on my record in the UK.
    For the past two years I have been a resident of Finland, I have a Finnish ID number and I am registered in the Finnish social system.
    My police record in Finland is clean and I intend it to stay that way.
    Could I use a Finnish no criminal record certificate to obtain a Chinese work visa ?

    • Hi Dane. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. Usually the Chinese embassy will require a “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” (CNCC) provided by your home country (the country that issued your passport). As you have been living in Finland for about two years the embassy will probably demand a certificate from the Finnish authorities as well as one from Britain. 

      We suggest you go to the Chinese embassy in Finland and explain that you are a British citizen living in Finland and see whether they will demand a CNCC from the UK. It might be a good idea not to mention your UK criminal record when you do so. Though the chances are slim that a UK record is not needed, it is worth trying. We wish you good luck!

  • I have chinese friend who wants to move back to China to be with her adult son and grandchild. She is an American citisen through marriage but divorced and getting to be elderly. What does she need besides a background check as she does not plan to work or apply for a work permit? Thank you for your help with this for my friend.

    • Hi Barbara. If your friend is no longer a Chinese citizen then she will need some form of visa in order to stay in China. 

      Assuming that her son and grandchild are Chinese mainland citizens, the one that sounds like it would best fit her situation is the Q1 visa, which is for foreigners (which she is, now, if she has American citizenship) who wish to stay in China for the purposes of a family reunion with Chinese citizens for more than 180 days (the Q2 visa is for stays of less than 180 days). The actual length of the stay is at the discretion of the visa agent, and depends on the relationship between the visitor and the Chinese citizens, although it’s hard to imagine one closer than mother/grandmother. 

      If her son and grandchild are also American (or otherwise not mainland citizens) then she will need to apply for an S1 or S2 visa, which is the same thing, but for those whose relatives are foreigners working or studying in China. 

      Information on which documents are required to process Q and S visa applications can be found on this page.

      Your friend may also wish to become a Chinese citizen once more, although China doesn’t allow dual citizenship, so she would have to give up her American passport if she did that. The Chinese government has information on this subject on this page.

      We hope this helps, and wish your friend the best of luck!

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