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The Requirements for Teaching English in China
Learn what qualifications you need to teach English in China, including education, citizenship, visa, and age requirements.
Written By: Lynda Galea | Updated: November 10, 2021
Written By: Lynda Galea
Updated: November 10, 2021
There are a variety of reasons why English teachers love teaching ESL in China so much. The birthplace of one of the world's great civilizations, China boasts an unmatched combination of history, culture, and cuisine. With over 1.3 billion citizens and an estimated 400 million English language learners, China is the largest TEFL marketplace in the world. If you are considering teaching English in China, you will need to ensure you meet the following qualifications:
Requirements for Teaching English in China:
- A TEFL certification;
- A bachelor's degree in any field/major;
- Native-English speakers from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa are strongly preferred (especially if you are looking to teach in a major city in China). Non-natives will be expected to be fluent in English and speak at a native level;
- A clean criminal background check;
- A valid passport.
Let's expand on each of these China ESL teaching requirements and qualifications below:
1. TEFL Certification
A TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) certification is required to teach English in China. Getting TEFL certified will provide you with the relevant training and qualifications you need to get hired by a reputable school in China and should leave you feeling confident in your abilities to provide ESL lessons to your students.
Which TEFL course is right for me?
A majority of job interviews for China are conducted in advance from your home country, therefore it is common for students to take our 170-Hour Online TEFL Course which you can take online from home. This course is part-time, which means you can still work and save some extra money in anticipation of your departure to China, whenever that may be.
2. Language Requirements
Native-English speakers with citizenship from the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or South Africa are highly preferred, especially if you want to teach English in one of China's major cities. If you are a qualified non-native English speaker, you may still be considered for ESL teaching jobs in China, however, you must be fluent in English and speak at a native level.
3. Degree Requirements
A bachelor's degree is required to teach English in China. Your bachelor's degree does not need to be in education, it can be in any field (i.e.: Marketing, Psychology, Arts, etc). Any four-year diploma or bachelor's degree from an accredited university will satisfy this requirement (or three years if you studied in the UK, Australia, or New Zealand).
Please note, up until 2018, it was possible to teach English in China without a bachelor's degree, but the Chinese Government started cracking down on teachers without one and the schools that employed them. As a result, we strongly advise against this and would be wary of any Chinese school that tells you otherwise.
4. Required Documents & Visa
Z Visa for Teaching English in China
The most common type of visa for English teachers to obtain is the Z visa. This visa allows English teachers to legally work in China. The school that hires you should help you obtain this visa – you cannot obtain a Z visa if you do not have a job offer. If your school wants you to obtain any other type of visa, be sure to ask why and to understand what type of visa you will be getting. From time to time, schools will need a teacher to start working almost immediately and they don’t have time to wait for the teacher to obtain a Z visa. If this happens, the teacher will typically go to China on an L visa (tourist visa) and then get a work visa once in China.
Documents required to process your Z visa for teaching English in China
TEFL teachers applying for teaching jobs in China should expect to have the following documents available to process their work visa.
Pre-job offer, you should start to gather:
- Valid passport;
- Passport-sized photos;
- University Diploma and Transcripts;
- Local Police Background Check/FBI Background Check (more on this below);
- Get an apostille for your diploma and background check;
- TEFL Certificate - Your TEFL certificate may be required to be authenticated by your Chinese Consulate as a part of the visa application process. Review your consulate's guidelines for more information on this process.
Once you have a job offer, you will need to send all your documents to your school/employer. Send these through a private carrier so they can be tracked. The list of required documents may differ between schools, but here is what is typically required:
- Copy of original degree with Apostille;
- Two sets of sealed university transcripts;
- Notarized FBI/local police criminal background check and appropriate authentication;
- Copy of your resume;
- A signed copy of your employment contract;
- Two passport-sized photos.
After sending in all your documents to your school in China, you will wait to receive the following documents from your school:
- Alien Employment License or Foreign Expert Work Permit;
- Visa Notice or Visa Notification Letter or Invitation Letter;
Once you receive your Visa Invitation Letter you can submit your application to the Chinese consulate. For most cities, you will not have to make an appointment as they have walk-in hours. The documents required to apply for your Z visa at the Chinese consulate include:
- Original signed passport and a copy of the passport's data page and the photo page if it is separate;
- One completed Visa Application Form with a recently-taken color passport photo;
- Alien Employment License or Foreign Expert Work Permit Visa Notice and Visa Notification Letter or Invitation Letter;
- Visa fee.
Additional Reading: For a full list of required visa documents as well as a more in-depth explanation of the visa process, please read: How Do I Get a Visa to Work in China?
F Visa for Teaching English in China
Another type of visa available for teaching English in China is the F visa, also often referred to as a business visa. Depending on your qualifications, some schools may assist you in obtaining an F visa rather than a Z visa. It is also common to travel to China on an F visa and have it converted once in China to a Z visa as F visas are much quicker to obtain than Z visas. The bottom line is the school that hires you should be providing you with guidance and instructions.
Criminal Background Check
A clean criminal background check must be provided to obtain your Chinese work visa. Some positions will only require a local background check, while others will require/request an FBI Background Check.
5. Age Requirements
In some countries, a teacher's age can be a factor in the hiring process. In certain teaching markets, especially in Asia where it is common to teach English to young learners, schools will typically look for younger teachers (21-35), and abide by certain age restrictions for hiring and qualifying for work visa sponsorship.
China is one of many countries in Asia that maintains an official retirement age of 55 for females and 60 for males. Because of this, schools in China typically look for teachers under the age of 40. Is it impossible to get hired if you’re 50? No, but it can be challenging. Technically, China enforces a strict retirement age for local teachers, which also applies to TEFL teaching positions, so if you’re over the age of 60 or 65, schools won’t be able to sponsor your work visa.
Additional Reading: Will I Face Age Restrictions Teaching English Abroad in Asia?
6. Prior Teaching Experience
While prior teaching experience can help you stand out on your resume, you do not need it to teach English in China. Your TEFL certification training will provide you with the relevant qualifications you need to get hired by a school in China.
Any reputable TEFL certification course should include a mandatory practicum component to help gain firsthand experience practice teaching with real non-native English speakers. This will prepare you for the classroom and leave you feeling confident in your ability to deliver well-structured ESL lessons to your students. This practice teaching can count as teaching experience and should be highlighted on your resume.
7. Physical Requirements
A health screening and/or drug test are not required to teach English in China.
An accomplished traveler (she's visited 40 countries!), Lynda hails from Melbourne, Australia. Since she joined ITA in 2017, Lynda has become a primary expert on the field of teaching English online. Not only has she published numerous articles on the topic herself, but she has worked with International TEFL Academy alumni around the world to produce an entire library of information and content about teaching English online. Lynda also serves as a primary organizer of ITA's ground-breaking Teach Abroad Film Festival.
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