Before interviews, packing, and moving to China, you will have to start the paperwork for a Work Visa. It can be a very frustrating and expensive process. CIEE is very supportive throughout this process and provides a great timeline. The documents include:
Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate (TEFL)
Physical Examination Record for Foreigners (PERF)
State level Criminal Record Check (CRC)
Participating in the TEFL course offered by CIEE is your best option. I received my TEFL certification a few years ago from another company before I heard of CIEE. Once you have a TEFL certificate, you need to have a photocopy verified and signed by an official of the company or school and duly notarized. I've heard that CIEE now automatically does it for anyone who takes their TEFL course. I had a difficult time with the company I originally went through because they refused to do sign and notarize a photocopy of my certificate, so I had to buy a hard copy of my certificate.
The PERF is a form that needs to be filled out by your primary doctor. Before your appointment, make sure you have attached a headshot to the upper right corner and have filled out the personal information part. On top of a regular physical, you need to have ECG, a chest x-ray, and a blood test done. These can get a bit pricey, especially if your insurance won't cover it for travel abroad. Make sure that your doctor has an official stamp as this is required in addition to their signature. Finally, your doctor needs to sign over your photograph. The attached headshot is to prevent fraud, which is a problem in China.
You will need to apply for a state level CRC. I contacted the state ahead of applying to make sure that I applied correctly for a notarized CRC. Wisconsin responded within one business day, and within a week, I had a notarized CRC.
The last document needed is your Bachelor's Degree (or highest degree earned). You will need to follow the same process as the TEFL certification. The school official, in my case the Registrar, needed to make a statement on a photocopy and then notarized.
The TEFL, CRC, and degree copy also need state authentications. These authentications required from the state you received the original documents. For myself, the CRC and degree were from Wisconsin while the TEFL certificate needed a state authentication from Colorado. This process is pretty simple. Go online and fill out an application from the state the authentication is needed. However, if the schools did not correctly notarize the documents, it will be turned down for an authentication. If this happens, you need to have you school officials verify and notarize another photocopy.
Finally, once you have the state authentications, you need to order Chinese legalization for the TEFL certificate, CRC, and Bachelor's Degree. Each of these documents needs to be legalized by the consulate that works with the state they were issued. Luckily, Colorado and Wisconsin are under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Consulate. There are two different methods to order the legalizations: Courier service or Walk-in. I will be opting for the walk-in service as it is both cheaper and I live close enough to the consulate to make the two required trips.
I will be honest. This process is stressful and intimidating. I have yet to experience the paperwork process go smoothly or on time, according to the timelines we provided. Remember this: CIEE will get you to China. This process is started before interviews so that you are not rushing or super stressed once you find a school. Also, keep in mind that the schools in China will not be upset or disappointed with you if you are unable to get to Chine when the semester starts. They are familiar with the Visa process and understand that sometimes there are delays.