China Work Visa Requirements

The basic requirements for a Chinese work visa for teaching, as of 2014, are as follows:

  • Bachelor degree
  • TEFL Certificate
  • 2 years relevant work experience
  • Reference from your most recent employer (with company stamp)
  • Age between 18-65

You need to meet these requirements in order to get an official invitation from the State Administration of Foreign Experts (SAFEA).

If You Don’t Meet The Requirements for a Chinese Work Visa

Here I will discuss commonly used method of those who do not meet the requirements. Some such methods are legal, whilst others are illegal and for education purposes only.

It’s worth noting that even if your application gets rejected by SAFEA in one province, they’ll tell you the reason and you may still apply in another province and get accepted, so you do have more than one chance. The enforcement of policies is inconsistent between different cities and provinces. Big cities such as Shanghai are very strict, whereas rural regions are a lot more flexible.

1. Without A Bachelor Degree

You can do some short-term, cultural exchange work on an F-visa where a degree is not required. On this visa, you can get paid for your expenses but you are not allowed to receive a salary. This means they may cover your expenses of living in China, but they cannot actually pay you a salary for services rendered. In previous years, people without degrees would simply keep renewing their F-visa – this is no longer possible.

Many people want to work in China long-term, and do not have the time and money to pursue a degree from a reputable academic institution. Such people sometimes turn to unaccredited educational institutions which offer degrees over the Internet. These “degree mills”, as they are known, hand out degrees for little more than a payment. There are numerous accounts of people who have used degree mills, subsequently gaining employment and being granted a work visa. However, in 2014 there has been a major crackdown and teachers who had been previously granted a visa based on a questionable degree certificates are now being sent home.

2. TEFL Certificate

If you don’t have a TEFL certificate, you can do a 2 week accredited course online and you will have no problem. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this and for those who are pressed for time and money, I would highly recommend it. Online courses are sometimes criticized for their lack of a classroom component. Ironically, this criticism almost always comes from people who have done a course which has classroom component! In practice, the missing classroom component is quickly compensated for after you get some experience – this is understood and recognized by most employers.

If you want a more highly regarded qualification, you can do a CELTA. The CELTA is rather expensive and a lot more intense than an online course. It has a classroom component and will better prepare you for teaching. Some large language centers prefer a teacher who has a CELTA, so it may give you a bit of an edge in job hunting. If you’re on a budget but still want a well-recognized TEFL certificate, the Trinity’s Cert. TESOL is equivalent to the CELTA and a lot cheaper.

3. 2 Years Of Relevant Work Experience

Without two years of experience you can’t get a work permit. If you’re not a teacher in your home country this can seem like a tough obstacle to overcome. A great way to deal with this is to volunteer as a teaching assistant / tutor. You could volunteer to work part-time at a local school or language center. For example, you may find a local language center and do a couple of hours there each Saturday afternoon. Simply explain to them at the beginning that you’d love to help out at their center and get some teaching experience.

In practice, there are a large number of ESL teachers who don’t put in the effort to get experience and instead put fake work experience on their CV. This is fraud and not recommended.

4. Letter of Reference

All you need is a letter from an educational company, on the company stationary with signature and company stamp (very important), saying that you did some teaching and performed well. The best way to do this would be to do some work at a center or school for a few months and get them to write a letter of reference for you.

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