Document and Visa Process for English Teachers in China
Getting a visa to work in China as a teacher is a complicated and time-consuming procedure. Thankfully, most employers send someone to assist you through the whole process, so you’re not alone.
For an authentic Z Work Visa in China, you'll need the following items:
Possessing a valid passport
How to Apply for a Chinese Visa
Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TEFL) with a Minimum of 120 Contact
Bachelor's Degree with Verifiable Accreditation
Letter of Acceptance from Criminal Background Checking Agency (sent from your school)
Statement from an Overseas Expert (sent from your school)
Obtaining these records might take a few weeks, or even a few months. Many rule-bending schools may have trouble securing a Foreign Expert Certificate on your behalf, and you may need to apply for one more than once.
For example, I was expected to have two years of college counseling experience post-graduation for my college counseling employment in China. My school had to do a lot of persuading since I had been living in China since the day I graduated from college. You should start applying for employment at least three to four months in advance due to the length and complexity of the procedure. Application deadlines for a September start date are typically in the months of May and June.
Once you have all of these papers, you’ll need to apply for your Z Work visa either at your local consulate or embassy, via a visa service agency (if you live nowhere near a consulate like me), or in Hong Kong.
When you arrive in China, you’ll need to move from a Z Work Visa to a Residence Permit. This permission will be applied for by your school, but after you are in China, you'll need to have a medical examination.
Without a Bachelor's Degree, I Taught English in China
If you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, it is feasible to teach in China… but not legally. The demand for English language courses in China is high, but there aren't enough legally certified instructors to provide it. This is where your expertise is needed.
Many institutions of higher education accept professors on tourist or business visas who lack the necessary academic credentials. Some of these institutions lack the funding to pay competitive wages to skilled instructors, while others lack the permissions required to lawfully employ a foreign teacher.
Do your best to get an illegal job in China at a school that has received positive evaluations elsewhere. If you don't have a legally enforceable contract with your school, you have less of a safety net in China in case your school doesn't provide you with all they'd promised.
It's normal practice to hire teachers in China on tourist visas; I know many of people who've done it. If you keep your head down and don't shout it from the rooftops that you're a teacher, you should be safe.