What To Expect if You’re Getting Your China Teaching Visa

What To Expect if You’re Getting Your China Teaching Visa

China announced just shy of 12 months ago that it would tighten the regulations for foreign teachers applying for a Z visa to teach there.

This announcement is obviously not NEW news for ESL teachers in China, but for those who are nearing the end of their existing Z visa teaching contracts (in June 2016) and who are looking to  renew or change schools, will soon be affected.

Here’s some of the research I’ve done on the topic so far. Feel free to add or revise where required. It’s a work in progress.


  • Educational qualifications like degrees and academic transcripts need to be certified or notarized or apostilled by schools or government agencies in China. If you’re currently teaching in China under a Z visa, and if you want to renew your existing contract or work at a different school, you will have to re-authenticate your documents. And of course new teachers will be required to do this before even being granted a Z visa.
  • The reason for the rules are simple: There are too many fake degrees and TEFL certificates circulating in China. To understand why, read the quote below from the China Daily…

According to Beijing Bureau of Foreign Experts Affairs, about only 500 registered institutions in Beijing are legally qualified to issue “expert certificates” to foreign teachers, an incredibly low number considering more than 7,000 ESL institutions whose actual employment of foreigners remain unregulated” – The China Daily – http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2015-06/08/content_20932396.htm

  • If you’re already teaching in China, expect your academic documents to go through a certification process. Nothing to worry about if you’re legal of course. Here’s the story about it: https://chinascampatrol.wordpress.com/
  • What this means: The ability to find qualified teachers in China will get tougher and there will be more demand for qualified teachers. Does this mean salaries will increase? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
  • If you’ve got a fake degree and you’re teaching now, get out of China before you get deported or worse yet, imprisoned!
  • Depending on how many illegitimate teachers at your current school, it may make you more marketable (if you’re legal) and could result in a salary boost, or an even better offer at another school. In reality I don’t think much will change in terms of salaries in China, regardless of how tougher it gets to entice teachers there.
  • China’s crackdown on illegal teachers is nothing new. Korea and Japan have been doing it for years. It’s high time China did something to weed out liars and criminals. If China is indeed following in the footsteps of Korea and Japan, then do the salaries in China make sense? I suppose the cost of living is lower than Korea, but if you compare Seoul versus Beijing, I don’t see it being much different. It comes down to your country preference I guess.
  • Given other issues in China like unscrupulous recruiters, growing pollution problems, mistreatment of foreign teachers, weakening currency, and inflation in China, I think the pool of qualified teachers willing to go there will actually shrink. Maybe you could convince teachers to go to schools outside the toxic urban sprawls of Beijing or Shanghai and teach in schools or better yet, universities, but I still see China becoming a “harder and harder” sell to native speakers, at least.
  • Case in point: If you’ve put your resume up on any ESL job site, you’ll continue to receive emails and calls from desperate recruiters years after you’ve left China. The ESL market in China is 10x the size of Japan so you know they’ll be selling you hard to get you to the PRC. Just make sure you research your school PLENTY before you accept an offer.
  • Once your chosen to authenticate your degree, expect to pay. I’ve heard $60-$80 to get the notarization completed, depending on what country you’re from and where you actually have the paperwork executed.
  • If you’ve got your original documents with you in China and you’re required to get them validated, keep them in crisp, clean condition. Any folded pages, markings or oddities may cause the Chinese government to disavow them.
  • If you’re trying to get hired from outside of China, you’ll notice the application process getting more stricter. Criminal background checks, health checks and degrees must be notarized. You’re better off getting it all done before you get to China than dealing with it later. And the paperwork for your Z visa doesn’t come cheap. Between the medical checks, CBC, fingerprints, notarizations and translations and postage fees (UPS or FEDEX)… it could easily set one back $500 or more.
  • For Americans, an FBI check can take up to 90 days and then another 30 to have it apostilled by the US Secretary of State Department. If you add another 2-3 months from job application until you land in the PRC,  it could take up to 6 months for Americans. Korea is looking at expediting the apostille process for the US folks. Maybe better to consider teaching in that country?
  • If you’re Canadian then you don’t fall under the Apostille treaty like Americans, so you’re not required to do long-winded FBI checks and notarizations. For Americans, here’s a link to the China Consulate website which outlines the authentication procedure. if you’re unclear of how to do it. http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ywzn/lsyw/gzrz/rzcx/
  • Some say Chinese language schools will just circumvent the government regulations by hiring part-time foreign students, working holiday visa holders, or foreigners married to Chinese nationals.
  • The new regulations in China are a good thing. Obviously it’s more work for teachers  who already have a z visa and want to renew or change contracts with their Chinese language schools.
  • The new rules are no different in Korea or Japan. Overall it should clean up the ESL industry in China ( I hope). But given the Chinese market requires at least 100,000 English teachers, and there are approximately only 30,000 teachers currently there.. will tighter regulations help the country meet their quota, or hinder it?
  • As for better salaries and more benefits because of a smaller supply of ESL teachers in China… well that’s under debate and remains to be seen.

If you’ve experienced the new Z visa process in China either as a new teacher or a returning one, please leave a comment below on what else teachers can expect that may not have been outlined in my notes above. Thanks!


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