There is a SUPER high demand for English teachers in China at the moment and with that comes a lot of questions about getting the right visa. The working visa for TEFL teachers in China is the Z visa and for that **all** applicants need to get their TEFL, Degree & Police Check legalized. Unlike Vietnam, this applies to documents from **any** country.
You can’t take it anymore! You’ve been daydreaming of the Bund (how amazingly futuristic is the Pearl Tower?!) and reading stories from TEFL teachers in China long enough. Now it’s time to write YOUR story, to write YOUR chapter on teaching English abroad in Asia.
But first things first: Are you qualified to teach in China? Can you feasibly get all of the required paperwork to even be eligible for open positions in Shanghai, Beijing, and beyond?
Teaching English in China isn’t as easy as it once was. You need to understand in advance if you meet the minimum qualifications to become a TEFL teacher in China, which includes a few additional steps that teachers bound for destinations like, say, Thailand or Vietnam, don’t have to worry about.
Fear not—It’s not hard. It just takes some advance planning and a helpful checklist (like this one here!). We’re ready to guide you every step of the way when you are.
Read on to learn the answer to the question: “How do I obtain a visa to teach English in China?”
No, you shouldn’t teach in China on a Tourist Visa
While it was common practice in recent years for TEFL teachers to arrive in China job-less with a Tourist (L) visa and find work almost immediately, this is no longer a recommended strategy for newbies. It puts you at great risk of fines, jail time, and potentially, deportation (embarrassing). You might get caught, and since working legally and for legit companies isn’t impossible, we recommend taking the less unsafe route.
“But all these people on Reddit/Quora/insert online forum said it was possible!” It is possible. But it is not recommended, especially if you don’t speak Chinese and don’t have a life goal of being banned from a country.
What is the Z visa?
The Z visa is a single entry visa with a lot of requirements. Smart TEFL teachers know to not apply for this visa until they’re ready to travel to China and start work, as you should hold this visa only for a short period before you enter China.
This visa lets the Chinese government know that your intent for entering China is to have a job and be paid. It must be turned into a local government office early-on in your China experience, where it then becomes a legal temporary residence permit.
6 steps to obtain a Z visa to teach English in China
1. Meet the minimum qualifications
If you’re still a college student with dreams of the Temple of Heaven, hold off for a few years—you aren’t eligible to teach in China until you have a bachelor’s degree under your belt. Further, non-native English speakers are not qualified to teach English in China on a Z visa, nor are those individuals without a TEFL or teaching certification (or two+ years of teaching experience).
In short, to be eligible to teach in China, you must…
- Have a bachelor’s degree
- Be a native English speaker
- Have a TEFL certificate or equivalent experience
If you do not meet those minimum qualifications, fear not. There are lots of wonderful places to teach English around the world!
2. Get an employment permit
One of the biggest perks of teaching English in China with a good program is help securing legitimate, vetted jobs in China—the kind that follow legal procedure and are willing to provide its teachers with employment permits.*
In order to secure your employment permit, you will need a few more documents (surprise surprise!). These include a valid passport, your resume, a notarized copy of your bachelor’s diploma (NOT transcript), a reference letter, a notarirzed background check, and a photo of your smiling face.
*Please note that it’s still illegal when/if a school or company asks you to arrive in China with a Tourist (L) visa to later change it to a Z (work) visa.
3. Apply for your Z visa
Once you’ve secured the above steps, you will be ready to fill out your Z visa application form. Don’t be too intimidated by all of the Mandarin characters there.
You’ll need to mail the documents listed in steps one and two to your nearest Chinese consulate (including your passport), then hang tight as they process your application and return your passport to you!
4. Enter China, alert local police station of your residency
Since you’ve entered China legally on a Z visa, you’ll be able to start earning money immediately—you’ll have nothing to kuai about!
Then, schedule an appointment at your nearby police station so you can register as a resident in the area. Ideally, this can happen in your first 24 hours abroad. You’ll want to walk away from this appointment with your Accommodation Registration form.
5. Take a physical examination
You have about a month to visit collect an official physical examination document from a nearby hospital. This proves that you are healthy and able to stay in China on your own.
6. Have your interview and you’re good to go!
Once you’ve collected all of the above information within China, you’ll have (yet another) appointment—this time with the Public Security Bureau in your local area. You’ll bring your accommodation form, the results from your physical examination, your passport, your employment offer letter, and money to cover the cost of changing your Z visa to a temporary residency permit.
Your passport will be returned to you in a few short weeks with a shiny new residency permit inside. Oooh! (We also love when a visa takes up a whole passport page ???).
Work legally as a teacher in China!
The Z visa requires a few steps, but it is worth the effort to live safely and legally in China as a TEFL teacher abroad. Don’t zzZzzZ on this opportunity. Get your work permit and start teaching in China ASAP—we’ll meet you at the corner xiaochi (snack shop) for pipin’ hot serving xiaolongbao (soupy, heavenly dumplings)!