Anyone who dreams of ultimate-flexibility and a life of wayward travel knows that one of the best strategies for geographically untethered income is to become an online English teacher. With dozens of companies sprouting from East Asian nations in the last few years—primarily China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam—it’s no surprise that English-language-speaking digital nomads are lining up to share their skills with students of all ages via the internet.

Child looking at a laptop.

China has been the major heavy-hitter of these online English teaching opportunities, hiring thousands of native and learned English speakers to conduct one-on-one tutoring and classes at all hours. Popular and well-known companies like DaDa ABC, KooLearn, ClassIn, and VIPKid have lead the charge towards normalizing westerners earning money from teaching English online. Until now, it hasn’t been as regulated as the rest of the TEFL job markets. And the Chinese government is doing something about it.

Namely, upping the requirements.

As of mid-December, long gone are the days where a passport holder from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland could almost automatically get hired for online teaching jobs for Chinese-owned companies.

What you need to know

1. China is now requiring a 120 TEFL course certification

While previously not essential, China is no longer accepting employment of foreigners for online English teaching services that are based in their borders. Even an Online ESL Specialist Teaching Certification won’t suffice (though this is still a great option to pursue if you’re open to working for companies from other countries and don’t want to do the full 120-hour course).

China.

You need proof of completion for a 120 Hour TEFL course (in a rush? You can get a fast-tracked 120 hour TEFL certification here). This can be accomplished online from the comfort of home, through an in-person program in your home country, or through a TEFL course abroad. Whatever your learning style and preference, there’s a 120 hour TEFL course out there to help YOU maintain—or start—employment for tutoring English online in China.

Be sure to have your certificate number handy as your proof! Employers can use this certificate verification tool to validate your Premier TEFL certification.

Canal in China.

2. This is true even if you don’t live in China

To be clear: You don’t have to be living in China for this to be relevant for you. This is for anyone—living anywhere (China or otherwise)—who want to teach English to Chinese learners through a Chinese-owned company.

If you’re teaching English to Chinese kiddos between safaris in Namibia, you need to have completed a TEFL course. If you’re teaching English in Beijing at a kindergarten, but making extra funds by teaching English online to Chinese citizens through a company like DaDa English, you need proof of a TEFL certification. If you’re working from your home country and love being employed by VIPKid, make sure you have a TEFL course under your belt.

Great Wall of China

3. You still have to prove your education background & complete a background check

Beyond a digital copy of your TEFL certification, you also have to provide educational background. This can look a few different ways:

  • College diploma in any subject
  • Degree in education
  • Statement of employment demonstrating your teaching experience

For your statement of employment demonstrating teaching experience, think back to any volunteer service—perhaps at a church or with a local nonprofit—where you were educating others. Don’t leave out that summer you were a camp counselor or that short stint where you were a conversation partner for the international students studying ESL on your campus.

Temple in China.

Have absolutely ZERO teaching experience? Then sorry, you need a TEFL certification course whether it’s required or not.

Your background check can be completed through normal channels and sent to your employer digitally.

4. Reminder: This is the LAW

We’ve only mentioned a few companies, but there are quite a few more—and regardless of your employer, they should be abiding by these laws. It is applicable to online education services for all online education institutions in China. So, if a company is quick to hire you yet don’t require these documents from you, take a step back. It might eventually get you in trouble and restrict you from ever being allowed to enter China for travel (this would be a huge shame—China is awesome).

Shanghai.

5. This might be a “trial”

There are circulating reports that this will not be a longstanding requirement or that the new regulations are temporary. You can find more details about the status of this new requirement on Safea.gov.cn.

Get your 120 Hour TEFL course & start earning money teaching online

With a TEFL course behind you, you’ll be prepared and equipped to be an awesome online English teacher (you know, the kind that get *really* good reviews and have a steady stream of clients). Before you educate others, educate yourself. Teach English online in China lawfully — get your certification stat!