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Guest blog post from David O Connor, China by Teaching

Eligibility for teaching in China is synonymous with eligibility for the only type of working visa the country offers. As long as you can secure a so-called Z Visa for China, you’ll be legally allowed to teach there. The requirements for this type of working visa are pretty clear although the sheer number of exemptions you can use to your advantage can make the procedure seem more complicated than it actually is.

Female Teacher And Chinese Schoolgirl Sitting At A Table
Image courtesy of Monkey Business Images |

The basic principle for eligibility to teach in China is this: if you find a job you like and an employer who’s willing to sponsor you, then you can apply for a teaching visa regardless of whether or not you meet ALL the eligibility requirements. As long as your prospective employer is happy to hire you, then you should have no problem securing a working visa

Take this as an example: let’s say you are not a native English speaker (one of the major eligibility requirements for teaching in China), but you’ve spent the last 10 years working and teaching in the UK. Now say you’ve managed to secure a teaching position with a Chinese school after holding a Skype interview with your prospective employer. If the school is chuffed with your proficiency in English, you satisfy all their other eligibility requirements and have been offered a job; then you can apply for an exemption to the ‘native English speaker’ eligibility requirement.

Got that?

Here are the primary eligibility requirements to teach in China and exemptions, where applicable:

1. You must come from one of the seven countries China recognizes for teaching visas. They are: USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa

Exemption: If you don’t originate from one of these seven countries but gained your tertiary education in one and are fluent in English, you can apply for an exemption to this rule

2. You must have completed a Bachelor’s Degree – in any subject

Exemption: If you managed to secure a job that doesn’t require a Bachelor’s Degree, you could apply for an exemption. This is perhaps the rarest exemption to be granted, but it does occasionally happen

3. You must be a native English speaker

Exemption: As explained above, you don’t need to be a native speaker to be a fluent speaker. As long as you don’t have a strong accent and can prove your proficiency in English (or, even better, gained your tertiary education in one of the above-mentioned seven countries) then you should have no problem requesting an exemption to this rule. This is especially crucial if you have a Bachelor’s Degree and are qualified to teach in your own home country

4. You must have completed a recognized TEFL course

Exemption: If your Bachelor’s Degree is of a literary nature, you may request an exemption to this rule. Moreover, if your newly found job in China is teaching any subject other than English, you may also ask to be exempted from this rule if your employer is in agreement

5. You must have completed a certain number of practical teaching hours – usually between 120 and 200hrs, or 2 years in total

Exemption: There are several cases where exemptions to this rule are granted, and almost all have to do with your job requirement – so check them carefully. If your employer is more than happy for you to be inexperienced (because they plan on training you on their specific syllabus OR because you secured a kindergarten job), then you should find it easy to obtain an exemption to this rule

6. You must supply a clear criminal record from your home country

Exemption: There are no exemptions to this rule that we’ve ever discovered. However, do note that they are looking to dodge hardened criminals here so don’t worry about minor infringements

7. You should be between 18 and 55 years of age (women) or 60 (men)

Exemption: Should you find a suitable job position in China and an employer who’s keen to sponsor you, an exemption to the age restriction may be requested (and is often granted), most especially if you have a ton of experience

8. You must supply a clear medical examination certificate from home

Exemption: None that we’re aware of – however, note that China mostly wants to discount infectious diseases and prolific drug abuse. Unless you have an issue disclosing this kind of information, you’ll have no problem with this eligibility requirement. Keep in mind that you may be required to undergo another medical examination once you’ve arrived in China, as well

Trying to get a clear picture of eligibility requirements to teach in China may seem like a minefield of total confusion but, in reality, it all comes down to specific job requirements. Some schools are very strict in their requirements – this is mostly the case with very prestigious schools in Tier 1 cities that offer exceptional remuneration. Obviously, they seek the most experienced and qualified teachers and can afford to be very picky. Yet, if you search for teaching jobs outside the most obvious destinations, you’ll find plenty of schools and teaching institutions that are a little more flexible with their eligibility requirements – this is particularly true if there happens to be a shortage of teachers applying for jobs. If a school is quite desperate to fill a teaching role, they may overlook a requirement they don’t deem to be positively crucial to the task.

The main point to take home is that in order to secure the very best teaching jobs in China, you ought to satisfy all the requirements – but there’s plenty of wiggle room and an abundance of options if you’re happy to take a slightly lower-paid job or a job in a secondary or tertiary teaching destination.

Visit China by Teaching to learn more about ESL Teaching Jobs and Teaching Destinations.

David O Connor
David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is lover of craft beers, book clubs, and super long road trips.

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About China by Teaching
China By Teaching is the brainchild of a group of expat teachers living and working in China, who first arrived with an abundance of enthusiasm and a willingness to learn everything there was to know about teaching in this enigmatic country.

Nowadays, we’re in the fortunate position of being able to offer guidance and support to those who wish to follow our path, one that wasn’t all that easy to navigate.

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