Teaching English in China – Everything You Need to Know

Teaching in China

Everything You Need To Know About Teaching English In China – The Z Visa

Teaching in China

Teaching English as a foreign language in China is the ultimate adventure for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in a new culture. The third-largest country in the world with a staggering population of over 9 billion people offers a variety of opportunities for anyone seeking to teach English. Whether you are a new graduate looking to make some money whilst travelling the world, or you are hoping to embark on your teaching career, the land of dragons will have an option for everyone.

Do I meet the requirements?

Before you start packing your bags, first things first, you have to make sure that you are eligible to teach English in China. To meet the requirements you will need to be;

  • A passport holder from an English speaking country such as Ireland, America, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.
  • Aged between 21-60 for men & 21-55 for women.
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • A minimum of either 120-hour TEFL, TESOL or CELTA certificate, or at least two years of proven teaching experience

Will I need to be able to speak Chinese?

You do not need to be able to speak Chinese to teach English in China. Some schools prefer their teachers to know very little so that students can get the most out of their new English teacher. Other schools might offer Chinese language classes, to help you with the new transition into Chinese life.

However, this does depend on the location of your school. If you plan to teach in the city then you will find you can get by without Chinese. If your school is located in a rural area then you will struggle to often find another English speaker. This is something to consider when looking at possible teaching locations. Remember that it may not look a big distance on the map, but on the ground, it is a different story.

What is the Z Visa?

The Z visa is the legal working visa required in China to work as a non-citizen. To be eligible as an English teacher for a Z visa you have to meet all the criteria outlined above. You apply for your Z visa after you have received a job offer. There are six steps to getting your Z Visa.

Step 1 – Get your work permit

The first step to qualify for the Z visa is to be offered and accept a job from a school in China. Your new employer will ask you for a variety of documents to kickstart the process. It is standard practice for schools to ask for;

  • A Scanned Copy of your Passport
  • Your CV
  • Scanned copy of your bachelor’s degree and your degree transcript
  • Scanned copy of your TEFL certificate
  • A photo of yourself (they will let you know the requirements)
  • Medical examination form
  • A copy of your medical record
  • A criminal background check

Once all this information has been sent to your new employer they can get started on your visa process. This can take up to 30 days, so you will need to have some patience.

Step 2 – Z visa application and fees

The second step is to complete the online Chinese Working Application Form. Bring this completed form along with your passport, work permit and a passport photo to your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate office. It can take between 3-7 working days for your visa to be granted.

Remember you will need to pay for this visa. The cost varies depending on the country. Some schools will offer to cover this, but most will expect you to foot the bill.


UK – £151

USA -$140 USD

Australia – $109.50 AD

Canada – $145 CD

Step 3 – You’ve made it to China, let’s get registered!

The most important thing to do as soon as you have arrived, and after you’ve tucked into some delicious dumplings, is to report to your nearest police station with your passport, rent contract and landlord information. You have to do this 24 hours after you arrive in the country, so make sure it is at the very top of your to-do list. You won’t want to forget this step as it might put your position in the country in jeopardy.

Step 4 – Health check

Within the first 30 days of your arrival in China, your employer will require you to undergo a health check. It’s nothing to worry about and is required to ensure you are in good health. Be aware you may have to undergo a blood test. Your employer might go with you, or you may go with other TEFL teachers.

Remember you will need to bring the following documents;

  • Your passport
  • Photocopies of your passport information
  • 5 passport photos
  • A medical fee – 400 RMB

Step 5 – Working certificate

You have nearly completed all the steps to allow you to work in China legally. Your employer will help you when applying for your working certificate. To apply for this certificate you will need to bring;

  • Passport
  • One photo
  • Medical Check (if applicable)
  • Police Registration form

Step 6 – Residence permit

The final step, you have almost made it! Your employer will help you acquire your residence permit. You must go to a Public Security Bureau and bring with you the following documents;

  • Your passport (please note the PBS will hold onto this while they process your application)
  • Work certificate
  • Your police registration form
  • Health check form
  • Residence permit application form
  • One passport photo

Where can I teach?

In China, there are a variety of places you can teach English.

Public schools

If you want to teach in primary, high school or university then the public sector is for you. However, competition is high as the public sector offers benefits such as paid holidays and a better overall wage. To work in this sector you need to have a passion for education, you will be expected to create your own lesson plans and will have to be responsible for the learning outcomes of your students.

Private language schools

These schools are more common for newly qualified English teachers. Private schools will cater to a variety of students, from adults to kindergarten. You can expect to be teaching groups and also offering one-one lessons. Forget the 9-5, your hours will vary and you can expect to also teach night classes. Be aware that you may be asked to meet and chat with potential students, or students parents. You are the western face of your private language school and will be an added draw to any would-be students.

How much can I earn?

Your income in China will all depend on a variety of factors, such as your location, the type of school you work in, how many hours you teach and your experience. The average wage is between $1,000 USD to $2,500 USD a month.

If you live in a big city such as Beijing or Shanghai you can expect to earn a lot more than a smaller city but you have to factor in the cost of living will be higher.

You should also take into consideration the type of lifestyle you want in China. If you teach at a private school, you can expect to have limited free time for exploring. However, if you land a role at a university you will often find your contracted hours per week are 16. This will mean you will earn around $1,000 USD but you will have free time to explore and enjoy your new home.

About The Author:  Written by Sarah McCann, Blog Editor at MyBaggage.com who spent a year teaching in China.

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