everything you need to know before you leave
Once you've found your perfect teaching position in China, had a great Skype interview with the school, and agreed to take the job, there are a few administrative tasks that need to be taken care of before you leave.
Beginning any new job requires paperwork to be signed, and most countries require foreign nationals to hold a working visa while employed there.
Both of these are necessary when teaching English in China, and the process can be daunting without someone to guide you through it.
With some healthcare advice thrown in too, this is our guide to your pre-departure procedure when leaving to teach English in China.
Signing your contract
Just like anything else you're ever asked to sign, you need to read thoroughly the contract for your teaching job in China. This contract will be emailed to you by the school. It's a contract between you and them directly, and not with TEFL Panda. A good English teaching contract should include at least all of the following information:
working hours per day
teaching hours per week
number of students per class
release letter terms
It's your responsibility to review the contract thoroughly and raise any points of contention or seek clarification for anything you're not sure of before signing. It's common for fines to be imposed for any contract clauses broken while teaching English in China, so it's essential to be sure of what you're signing. You should also bear in mind that signing a contract to teach English in China is a two-sided commitment. Your school are placing their trust in you to teach their students for the whole term of your contract, and the procedure they need to undertake for your working visa also costs them time and money.
Once you've signed your contract, the visa process can begin.
Working visas in China
China has a number of visas available for foreign nationals covering the various reasons for their visits. However, as an English teacher in China, the one you'll need to obtain is the working visa; also known as the Z visa. The schools we work with are licensed to provide you with a Z visa, but you'll need to supply the relevant paperwork for this to happen. Depending on the province or school, the paperwork required to apply for a working visa in China can include any or all of the following:
BA degree certificate
Criminal record check
Applying for a China working visa
Although the Z visa requirements can vary between provinces, the general process for applying for your China working visa should be much the same as outlined here:
After receiving all your required paperwork, your school will make the initial application for your Z visa with their local government.
If successful, a work permit and invitation letter will be issued within 1-4 weeks.
Once you receive your work permit and letter of invitation, you can apply for your visa at the Chinese embassy in your home country. This can be done in person or, in some countries, via mail.
You'll also need to submit your passport and a completed application form.
UK applications can be made through the Visa Service Centre, or in person at China visa centres in London, Manchester, and Edinburgh.
Postal applications are estimated to take up to 10 days, while applications made in person can be expected to turn around in 4 days.
Once you have your Z visa, you'll need to enter China within 90 days from the issue date.
Within 30 days of arriving in China, you'll need to apply for a Residence Permit from your city's immigration department. Your school will be able to help you with this.
You'll also need to visit your local Public Security Bureau and register your visa with the police. This needs to be done with the visa you arrive on, and again when you receive your Residence Permit.
Failure to do this can mean being fined should it be discovered at a later date.
Medical advice for working in China
Depending on your school and the province it's located it, you may be required to complete a physical examination in order to apply for your China working visa.
The form that needs to be completed for this can be found here.
UK residents can take the form to a GP and ask them to fill it in with as much detail as they can. A GP should be able to complete most of the form, although some parts may not be possible. The first page should present few problems, and the Chest X-Ray and ECG boxes on page 2 can be filled with 'not applicable'. After stating that you are fit and well in the final box, your GP can sign and stamp the form, which can then be used as part of your China Z visa application. New teachers in China are sometimes required to undergo another health check after arriving, regardless of completing one in their home country. Your GP or a Travel Clinic will also be able to advise you on any vaccinations needed for China, but we recommend doing your own research too. The World Health Organization's China page can be found here, and the National Travel Health Network Centre is another great resource. Your own country's health service website will also have the relevant information. All appropriate immunisations should be up-to-date, and it's worth finding out early which, if any, you'll need as courses of vaccinations for certain diseases can take a few weeks to complete.
Once in China, healthcare is not provided free of charge. Bills can be high, so it pays to be clear on whether your school contract includes medical insurance. We highly recommend taking out a travel insurance policy of your own to cover your time in China, and keeping a copy of your policy with you while travelling. It's even a good idea to have one in your hand luggage when flying to China, with an emergency number clearly stated. None of this is here to discourage you from pursuing your dream of teaching English in China. It's just really, really important. From ensuring all is well with your contract before signing to gathering all the paperwork needed to apply for your China working visa, and doing all you can to keep yourself healthy while living in the Middle Kingdom, your pre-departure procedure is one of the most vital aspects of the whole adventure.