China is one of the world’s biggest and most fascinating countries. For Westerners looking to gain valuable experience living and actually working in a culture well beyond their own, China is an ideal location to investigate.

Both the rich history and the exciting, evolving modern way of life attract many English teachers to China. From the beautiful countryside to the stunning architecture, there is so much to explore, and the people themselves are becoming more and more connected to the Western world.

As you might imagine, the desire to learn English has never been higher; not only as Chinese youngsters look to actually visit Western countries as tourists or students, but also for their futures in the business world.

Of course, moving to China to teach English is not a quick and easy process. There are many areas to consider, not least the legal aspects of relocating. Certain criteria must be met, and the process of application can be incredibly confusing.

This article is designed to be the only guide you need to help you understand the legality of your upcoming move to China.

What Type of Institution Should You Consider?

You have committed to teaching English in China. What now?

The next step is to consider which level of education you’re able and willing to work within.

In China, English teachers are given work in various institutions:


Teaching English in Chinese kindergartens demands little external work or preparation, and so may be one of the more simplistic options. Obviously, the ages of children you would be working with is very young, so you must be comfortable helping them develop and maintain an understanding of the English language.

Given the complexity of the English language, breaking it down and fostering the youngest children to understand it may be more difficult than working with older students. However, the rewards would be myriad, not least in the amount of fun you would likely have in such an environment.

The salary for teaching English at kindergarten level varies, but is typically around RMB 150 (roughly $18) per hour. You may find there is more on offer, though, depending on the school itself.

Boarding Schools

In China, boarding schools are actually quite abundant in both the major cities and rural areas. You can earn between RMB 4,000 and 9,000 per month (around $480 and $1090 respectively). You would also receive an apartment and payment for your plane trip as well.

Vacations are also generous, with a month to celebrate the spring festival, a two month break in the summer, and an extra two weeks as a paid vacation.


When you choose to teach English in China, you may be able to work in winter and summer camps, which usually last from a single week to even a month. However, the pay is around RMB 5,000 (approximately $600) per two weeks.

These can be hard work, but provide the ideal environment in which to discover whether teaching English in China will be for you without making a longer commitment.


You may be able to teach at a Chinese university if you carry the required qualifications. Most of today’s Chinese universities feature a department dedicated to foreign languages or English itself. Depending on your background and certification, you may be able to find a job as a ‘foreign expert’ to teach courses of a higher level. This would equate to a higher rate of pay.

Salaries provided from one university to another will vary, though you can typically expect to receive accommodation close to or on the campus itself.

What Type of Visa Must You Apply For?

Before you can work legally in China, you must apply for a visa. This can be confusing for many people, especially when travelling so far from the UK or the USA to China.

However, the embassy tries to keep the process as simple as possible.

In order to work in China as an English teacher, you have to apply for a ‘Z’ visa from a Chinese consulate or embassy – this is today’s sole valid visa for workers. Additionally, you also need to secure sponsorship from your future employer, so be sure you can arrange this early on.

You MUST take care to secure the proper ‘Z’ visa before you begin working. Even if you accidentally receive another visa (such as the ‘L’ or ‘X’), you may well be hit with significant fines or possible detention.

What Do I Need to Get My ‘Z’ Visa?

To actually secure your ‘Z’ visa, you need to have a specific set of documents.

This includes:

• Your visa notification, which will be sent to you by your Chinese employer
• Your ‘Work Permit for Aliens’ from the Chinese Labor Ministry OR your ‘Foreign Expert’s License’ depending on the role you apply for (this latter license will be granted by the Chinese Foreign Expert Bureau
• Your valid UK or US passport, which has A MINIMUM of six months left before it expires
• Your Visa Application Form (Q1), which should be fully complete, and a single passport photograph
• You should include 50 dollars (US)
• You should also receive a health check which proves you are free of TB, HIV, and do not use drugs

How Do I Apply for a Residence Permit?

When you apply for your visa and your passport, you also need to secure a residence permit. As well as your ‘Z’ visa, your residence permit will allow you to teach – this applies to you whether you are regarded as a Foreign Teacher or as a Foreign Expert. Don’t worry, though: your future employer will ensure you know which of these applies to you.

As a Foreign Teacher, you and your employer will work together to help you secure a Foreign Teacher Resident Permit (otherwise known as the Green Book) at the nearest Public Security Bureau. Before you can receive this, though, you need to make sure you have the right documentation:

• You need your ‘health certification’, submitted by the Beijing Exit & Entry Inspection & Quarantine Bureau
• You need your valid visa and passport
• Two recent passport photos, showing your full face and bare head
• You also need to include the official seal of the unit on your completed Application Form for Visa, Residence Permit’, as well as another picture as above

For Foreign Experts, you also need your original and copied versions of your ‘Expert Certificate’ as delivered by the National Expert Bureau of Foreign Affairs Office of the Municipal Government.

We are dedicated to helping you find the right teaching job in China. Whatever questions and concerns you may have, our team will help you find the answers, preparing you for your exciting new life in this beautiful land!

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