The complete process of thinking, applying & securing a job in China teaching English – from what you should consider to obtaining your permit & work visa!
I have taken the steps to teach English abroad in China for 1 year (maybe more!). For the last few months I have been applying, interviewing and getting everything ready for my trip abroad to teach. There has been a lot involved and I wanted to create this guide to help anyone thinking of doing the same thing; or someone who is looking to travel abroad but needs an idea of how to go about doing it.
Taking the time to read through this guide should give you an idea on what to expect, whether it is something you are interested in and the steps you need to take to get that job in China!
Why Teach abroad?
So a good place to start is establish why you should teach abroad? It is definitely something that took a lot of thinking about for me. It’s not something I wanted to rush into and you should take the time to do as much research as you can, so you can weigh up whether this is something that is a realistic commitment you can make and would like to do.
For a start, it is a great way to earn some money! Unless you are able to live off ‘the zest of life‘ and have no financial commitments you’ll be needing money of some sort to fund whatever it is you want to do. For me I needed to fund travelling and mostly plane tickets!
So I researched lots of ways to make money and then I came across the idea of teaching English abroad. I fitted the necessary requirements to be able to teach as I had also just completed my degree and was fluent in English; however I wanted to strengthen this and enrolled in an online TEFL course to help my application as well.
It is also a great way to combine travelling with working – a very popular choice amongst people wanting to sustain both lifestyles. You get to work in a brand new place, experience a new culture, travel in your free time and have an amazing experience working in a different place. Pretty great and exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do!
Requirements to English Teach Abroad:
- Be 18 years old or over
- Have a degree or qualification in teaching in English (TEFL, TESOL, EFL) – minimum of 120 hours completed
- Native speaker of English or fluent
- Have all the necessary requirements to be able to leave your country to work and the time to work abroad for up to 1 year
Tick all of those? Great! Next up is securing that 120 hours of TEFL/TESOL/EFL teaching. In my case…
How I got My TEFL?
Again I did a lot of research into the best courses, read blog posts and reviews to get a feeling of where to go and what was the best. Much of the courses are similar and all aim to equip you with the minimum 120 hour online certificate that you need to apply for teaching jobs abroad.
The course I did, broke teaching down into sub topics like: lesson planning, psychology and classroom techniques. It also offered mini quizzes in between each section as well as videos to demonstrate the things they were teaching. I really enjoyed the variety of resources used to teach it as it is a lot to digest in one chunk. I completed end of course essays and created my own lesson plans which were marked and given back to me by an examiner with teaching experience.
It took me about 3 months to complete the 120 hours, as I made sure I did a few hours everyday.
I won’t go into too much detail because I have written up my review of i-i LoveTEFL over on my previous blog post here, which you can read to find out if it is something you would like to do as well. But research, research, research! There’s always deals and new courses being released so scout for the best!
Applying for Your Dream Job to Teach Abroad!
If you have got to this point you must have ticked all the requirement boxes and have your new teaching certificate (TEFL, TESOL, EFL) firmly in hand! Great, now it is time to start applying for teaching opportunities abroad! First decide where you’d like to teach, there are so many places that you can now with your certificate. Popular choices are Korea, Japan and China but you can also go teach in South America and many European countries.
I chose China because it was amongst the top wage earners for teaching English and it is also somewhere I have always wanted to explore and experience.
For applications it’s good to make sure you have these documents ready and scanned in:
- TEFL or equivalent certificate
- Degree (if applicable)
- Resume or CV in word format
I started by checking various job boards for job postings in any area of China but I had in mind 3 or 4 places I wanted to go. These were Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu or Huangzuo because I had already researched a lot about these places and they kept coming up in TEFL reviews online – so I figured that these were popular choices to teach abroad.
I used these job boards:
I found that these job boards provided the best results in my case. I received instant feedback from all the job opportunities I applied for and the recruitment people I dealt with were all very helpful and communicated the jobs well. However I found that Gold Star stood out for me in terms of there customer service. It was clear and transparent from day 1 and I received my job posting through them. I was linked to Kid Castle Language School for a job they had teaching English in Shanghai.
Interviewing hints and tips to make sure you get a great job to teach abroad!
I had a few interviews with different recruiters and companies via phone call or Skype.
The interviews are fairly brief ranging from about 20-30 minutes. Most of them ask similar things and the recruiters are mainly just making sure you tick the boxes and are aware of the effects of moving abroad. Once you get through to companies and schools they obviously spend a bit more time having a conversation with you to make sure you suit the role and answer any questions you have left.
There are lots of reviews on the net for you to access about people’s experience with specific recruiters or schools. In my experience I had fairly positive feedback however there was one that I passed on fairly quickly. The recruiter didn’t seem to care about me as a person and just seemed to want to get me out there asap to fill in a number for them. You have to make sure the school is a good fit for you and that you’re not just being fast tracked to make the recruiters numbers look good.
What questions should you be asking?
Here are a few questions to note when going through the interview process – I’d ask as soon as you can, don’t wait to get all the way to the end before you start finding some of these answers out!
- What is the salary?
- What are the hours?
- What age range would I be teaching?
- Do you have a curriculum?
- Is there freedom with the curriculum?
- What office hours are there? What are the classroom hours?
- Am I entitled to holidays?
- Do I get sick pay?
- What accommodation do you provide? if any? (Some schools will provide somewhere for you to stay for the first month while you find somewhere to live)
- Do you pick-up from the airport?
- Do you provide training?
- Do you cover medical, visa and flight costs? (Most places will re-imburse you these expense but make sure you double check! if they don’t find somewhere else as they are probably not a great place to work for!) (Also most schools offer a completion bonus on completing your 1 year contract!)
- Do you have an employee handbook copy you can send me or email over?
- Is there any progression in the role? (If you’re wanting to stay for more than a year it is worth considering)
- Do you offer health insurance through the company?
- How long is the probationary period for the job?
What to look out for in contracts:
Like any other job role you want to be looking out for the usual requirements you’d expect to see in the contract, these include:
- Salary details
- Probationary period
- Sick pay
- Holiday entitlement/pay
- Bonuses (Completion)
- Health insurance
- Dismissal details
- Start/end dates
You Will Need:
- Passport photos – I’d recommend getting a bunch of these done, I always have loads spare. You’ll need them for your contract, application forms, medical and visa so stock up!
- Passport copies
- TEFL Certificate copies
Passing A Medical Exam for Your Permit & Visa:
Once you have been offered a job you will need to begin the process of applying for permits and your working visa. It’s a little bit of a long process so make sure you factor in the time if your waiting to start the job or finishing one job to go to this one.
I’d say from the point of getting the job it took about 6 months for me to receive paperwork, fill in paperwork, go for medicals, wait for permits and secure visas! Having said that my experience is a little different because I was doing this whilst in Ghana volunteering! So I’d say allow more like 3 months to have everything completed and ready to go comfortably.
For my medical I had a little bit of a nightmare! It was a lot of frustration and trial and error, so having experienced getting one done, I can now save that hassle for you!
Chinese Visa Medical Exam Requirements:
• General medical examination
• Chest x-ray
• Resting ECG (electrocardiogram)
• Blood group test
• HIV test
• Syphilis test
The main thing you want on the form is ‘Fit for work’ + Official stamp + Original test results + a signature from the doctor
You’ll need to go private. It will be way quicker, convenient and guaranteed to pass over in China if you do. They are very strict about their applications, so it’s best to be on the safe side to save yourself time! I tried to go through my GP but 1. The Chinese symbols on the form make GP’s not want to sign their name against it because of being hesitant about the true translation. 2. It would also mean you would be required to have various tests in different clinics and have waiting times for each one. In all, this would be a long drawn out process if you did get a willing GP to do it – however if you had the time I guess you could…
BUT private medical is really the easiest way – expensive but if your company is re-imbursing you anyway then it is worth while doing it. I got my medical done through Harley Health Centre which cost me £375 (plus £10 for them to post the documents recorded to me the next day) which is about the average price for a China Visa Medical. They already had a China Visa medical form printed and the doctor filled all the sections required; they had completed visa medical forms previously.
“I found the service quick, clear and efficient. I booked for the next day, made my way up to London and was seen/done within about 1 hour 30 minutes in total. I spent 30 minutes having a full medical examination with a doctor who was friendly and quick. I had my vitals checked, blood test, blood pressure, basic eye test and ECG. I was sent 5 minutes down the road to have my Chest X-ray straight after. The whole process was easy and very fast which is what I was looking for. After 1 day the doctor phoned me with the results to explain everything and then sent the documents in the post to me. I received them the following day which was great! I’d highly recommend using them for your China visa medical exam.” – Jack Gunns (Gunns Travels)
Foreign Expert Work Permit – What? Why? How?
“The Work Permit is a legal document from the foreign expert supervision department of the employer. This document means the holder has the legal right to work in China as a foreign expert.”
Your employer should be the one to apply for this for you. It takes them a few weeks to do this, and there is no formal tracking for the due-date. However, based off of average processing times + holidays according to my employer having experience with this, they expect to have your Foreign Expert Work Permit within about 20-30 days.
Once they obtain the permit, it will be another 3-5 days to obtain the Invitation Letter (required for the Z Visa). Then they can mail over these 2 documents, and you will bring them to the Chinese Embassy/Consulate to obtain a Z Visa (2-5 business days).
*As of April 2017 you now also need to get your degree legalised, certified and notarised for your application for working permit in China.*
Along with your Foreign Expert Work Permit you’ll need to secure an invitation letter from China as well. The teaching company you apply with should get both the permit and the letter for you; before sending them to the UK so you can obtain your Z-Visa.
“An Invitation Letter issued by companies, corporations, institutions or individuals in China. If the invitation letter is issued by an individual in China, the photocopy of the ID of the individual is required.”
Securing Your Z-Visa:
Take a breath, you’re almost there!
Obtaining the second part to the visa is going to the Chinese Embassy nearest to you (London Chinese Embassy or The Consulate in Manchester.) For me I went to the Chinese Embassy in London (Central Line to Bank and 5 mins walk to centre)
You Will Need:
- Visa Application Form
- Passport Photo
- Invitation Letter
- Foreign Expert Work Permit
As well as all of these documents make sure you photocopy all of them once or twice, just to be sure. They will want copies of them for the application and will give the originals back to you. If you are unable to get copies before you go, don’t worry as they have photocopiers at the centre you can use (50p per sheet).
*Here is a link to the Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China(Form V. 2013) – that you can download and fill out.*
They also say:
“One of the following documents for those who shall stay for more than 90 days after entry:
(1) Foreigners Employment Permit of the People’s Republic of China issued by Chinese government authorities for Human Resources and Social Security, as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.
(2) Permit for Foreign Experts Working in China issued by the State Bureau of Foreign Experts as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.
(3) Registration Certificate of Resident Representative Offices of enterprises of foreign countries(regions) issued by Chinese authorities of industrial and commercial administration, as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities as well as Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Chinese entities.
(4) An approval document for commercial performances issued by the Chinese government authorities for cultural affairs or Invitation Letter of Duly Authorized Entity or Confirmation Letter of Invitation issued by relevant Foreign Affairs Office of provincial governments of China.
(5)Letter of Invitation to Foreigners for Offshore Petroleum Operations in Chinaissued by China National Offshore Oil Corporation.”
This means your (1) foreign expert work permit!
Service fees of Chinese Visa Application Service Centre:
Standard service: £66 (including VAT) – the visa will be ready for collection on the fourth working day;
Express service: £78 (including VAT) – Express service: the visa will be ready for collection on the third working day (subject to approval);
Postal service: £90 (including VAT) – Group visa applications require five working days to process. There are no express services for group applications. An additional visa fee of £15 per visa will be charged. (Please note not all nationalities are eligible for express service.)
Total visa charge = (visa fees +service fee) * number of persons in the group | (In my case it’s £85 + £66 = £151 as I required standard service)
Make sure you book an appointment in advance as you’ll need to secure a booking slot to go and apply for your Z-Visa. They say apply for the visa at least 1 month in advance but do it as soon as you can, I actually booked mine 2 weeks before and will get my visa back a few days before I am due to fly. But to be on the safe side, give yourself enough time – especially if using the postal service as this could take a few days to get back to you.
If you are collecting the visa from the centre, they will give you a receipt to come back with 3-4 working days after; you will not have to pay until you collect for this option.
When you go to your visa appointment you should have with you:
- Visa application form (filled out)
- Valid Passport
- Invitation Letter
- Foreign Expert Work Permit
- Passport Photos
- + Extra copies of all these documents
- Method of payment i.e. Debit card or cash (If applying by post, they ONLY accept debit card payment)
Once you have your Z-Visa you are now ready to go and start your new job!
IMPORTANT: Remember to apply for an extension visa when you actually get to China and register at your nearest police station, as the Z Visa is valid for 3 months only!
Booking Flights To Your New Job!
There are so many sites you can use to book flights but some brief travel hack flight searching techniques are:
- Browse a few different sites to get the best deal
Going To Teach!
We made it!
Finally after securing all of that we are now heading to China to teach English. From this point I have no idea what to expect, but from the research I’ve done and things I have read, I can certainly say I’m excited to work, live and learn in a completely new exciting place! I’ll continue to help & blog about my time in China to help anyone thinking of doing the same!
My aim is to help anyone considering this massive life decision. It really is something to sit and think about, you can see from reading to this point that there is a lot to consider and do. Really weigh up wether it is something you want to do and then get planning with this (I hope) helpful guide!
Remember to read up on learning some mandarin, brush up on ancient Chinese civilization/history, and/or become knowledgeable about China’s current political affairs. These can all help broaden your understanding of the culture you will soon be immersed in, and allow you to get more out of your time there!
Good Luck with your next steps and whatever you decide to do!
Follow along my journey and get some inspiration from my social channels below 😀
Travel. Create, Be Nice!
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