Updated: May 3, 2020
If you’re considering teaching in China, you are probably wondering about what the requirements are. Not to worry, you've come to the right place. Starting a new career is terrifying in any situation, especially when you add moving-halfway-across-the-world into the mix. I used to be a TEFL teacher myself and I've heard so many horror stories about teachers coming to China without the necessary paperwork. These horror stories and disasters could have been avoided though. It's important to ensure that you choose the right job and that you have all the right documents before coming to China.
Read these safety tips when deciding on a job in China as it helped me secure two amazing jobs (Read Teaching English in China: How my journey started).
It’s easy to be overwhelmed in a competitive industry such as the TEFL industry in China where everyone, including teachers, employers and recruiters are gunning to employ and be employed at the best. Dealing with the Chinese culture on top of that can make it even more overwhelming. It’s key to understand this: that’s the way the cookie crumbles over there. Stay calm and do your research thoroughly. Do not accept anything that is said without proper research from various sources.
The biggest mistake that I have seen teachers make is to believe things that are said to them far too easily and this shows a lack of research. It takes a fair amount of time to get all the documents to legally work in China as a TEFL teacher. Teachers who sign a contract with a Chinese school and arrive in China 2 weeks later will most likely get into trouble, because that means they probably don't have the right documents. Getting the right documents can take up to 10 weeks. Do proper research before jumping on the airplane.
I'd like to discuss how to go about getting a Chinese work visa. I got my visa in South Africa, the process might be slightly different if you are applying for your Chinese Work Visa from another country. Do keep in mind that things are often changing in a fast-paced country like China, so you have to make sure you have up-to-date information about what you need to teach English there. It's important to consult various sources; phone the Chinese embassy, the Chinese Visa centre, DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation) etc. and be knowledgeable about the entire process. Whatever you do, NEVER EVER go to China on a STUDENT VISA if you are not going to study there. It doesn't matter if your employer says it can be switched to a Z Visa for working purposes once you arrive in China, because the truth is: your visa can't be changed.
If you have secured a job in China ,after following our safety tips when deciding on a job in China, you can start ticking off the list below to ensure you have everything you need before getting on the airplane.
1. Police Clearance Certificate
The police clearance is the first thing I recommend you do. This takes 6-8 weeks the long way and about 2 weeks the short way. You need this certificate to be authenticated at various other places, which will take some time as well. The slow way is to go to your closest police station, do the fingerprints etc. and have them submit it to the head office in Pretoria. You'll get notified once your certificate is ready for collection. The fast way is to do the fingerprints at the police station and then take the prints to the head office by yourself. You'll get notified once your certificate is ready for collection. You'll have to collect it at the head office.
2. Degree or Diploma Authentication
It's legally required by the Chinese Government for foreign teachers to have a bachelor degree or diploma. You cannot legally work in China without a degree or a diploma. It's important to take note of this. Your degree/diploma needs to be authenticated by the Department of Higher Education. You'll need to take a copy along with your original degree. For the overachievers, with more than one degree, you need to authenticate those additional degrees and diplomas as well. Recently, the government made some changes to this system and it is now possible to do the authentication online.
3. Authentication at DIRCO (Department of International Relation and Cooperation)
Once you’ve received both the certified copy from the department of higher education, possibly more than one if you have more than one degree, and the Police Clearance Certificate, you need to take all of these documents to DIRCO. (Presumably, of course, that your police clearance passed the inspection.) DIRCO is to verify that everything is in accord to the International standard between China and South Africa. Both the Police Clearance Certificate and the authenticated degree/diploma COPY will be handed in here. It takes about 45 minutes to get it the same day, depending on the workload of the staff members. DIRCO will bind the documents respectively into bundles with a green strap along with their stamped letter stating everything is in order and that it meets the international standard.
4. Visit the Chinese Consulate
These documents from DIRCO need to be taken to the Chinese Consulate. Here you will need some ID photos and be asked to complete a form. Make sure you have a invitation letter from your new school, the signed contract and the information from your new school such as address etc. (PRO TIP: have someone from your school on WeChat on standby while you are there). The Chinese Consulate will verify everything and add a very fancy sticker to the back of the documents that you handed in.
5. Visit the Chinese Visa Centre
Now, only after you receive the documents back from the Chinese Consulate can you go to the Chinese Visa center located in the Sandton Towers. Be sure to take your Chinese Consulate documents, your passport, ID photos, copy of your ID, and your school’s invitation letter. There are facilities available to print documents at a small cost. You will get a queue number and be asked to complete some forms. You'll need to submit all your documents, this is the final step. This includes your passport as they will stick your new Z Visa into your passport. This process takes about a week, but they have an express option where you can get it the next day if you hand it in before the express cut off time.
6. Receive your passport back with a shiny new Z Visa
A Z visa is the only visa that allows you to be legally employed in China.
7. Changing the Z Visa to a legal work permit
The Z visa is the most important thing as that will allow your passport to be linked to a legal Work Permit. A student visa cannot be linked to a work permit, therefore it is vital to get the Z Visa. The Z visa is only valid for 30 days, so make sure your entry date is well thought out. Once you arrive in China, your school should help you to get the work permit. The work permit can take about a week so make sure you arrive early enough to get the work permit before setting foot in a classroom.
That's a wrap for the requirements for teaching in China. Choosing the right job in China and completing a TEFL course is just as important as getting the right documents in place.
Completing a good TEFL course will gear you up to become a confident, well prepared teacher for your new journey. Starting my TEFL career I chose i-to-i TEFL You can read the full review here. I also opted for the 20 Hour Practical course as I had ZERO experience teaching. I wrote a review on the practical course as well. You can read about here. I had a great time learning through i-to-i TEFL and would recommend them to anyone.
If, after all the research, you still feel unsure please get in touch with me via our website. Alternatively, you can read more about TEFL online teaching here.