English teachers are in very high demand all over China. With a quick internet search for “teaching English in China” you will find a slew of resources geared towards helping people make the big move. It’s not just a career change, it’s an everything change.
You will be moving to a new country where you likely do not speak the language and have very limited social connections, if any. You might need to resign from a job in the USA and break a lease with your landlord. Maybe you even need to sell your car, if you don’t plan on coming back to USA for a few years.
Many expats who become English teachers in China do in fact stay for more than 1 year, traveling and teaching in different parts of the country. There’s certainly a lot to navigate from interviews, job acceptance, providing credentials, passing medical exams, getting a visa, and also tying up all loose ends in the USA before moving abroad. We have helped thousands of people through this transition and this article will describe the three main authentications needed for the Chinese government to approve your work permit.
The much sought out Chinese authentication seal shown above. Documents must have this type of seal for use in China
To become a teacher in China, you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Your degree can be in any subject, but if your degree is in English or education then the process of getting your work permit will be simpler. For the degree to be accepted/recognized in China, the Chinese Embassy (or Consulate) in your home country must authenticate it. For most of you reading this, that means your degree needs authentication by one of the six consulate offices in the United States.
Luckily, you don’t have to authenticate the original diploma; a photocopy of the diploma will suffice and it must be notarized, which means you can keep your diploma in its frame up on the wall – or wherever you keep it. The notarization method can vary depending on which state you live in – so please contact us before you have it notarized. Once it is notarized, you can stop and focus on the next document.
Earlier when we mentioned it’s simpler to obtain a work permit if your degree is in English or education – this is what we were referring to. A teaching certificate isn’t required for these two situations: 1) your degree is in English or education, or 2) you have 2+ years work experience as a language teacher. We’ve found that most of our clients do not fit these situations so they do require a teaching certificate. These certificates are known as TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificates and there are many organizations that offer them. Once you have your TEFL certificate, similar to the diploma, it must be notarized and we recommend calling in to check how to do this properly.
Criminal Background Check
China wants to make sure the teachers they hire are qualified, credentialed, healthy, and have no criminal history. That seems pretty fair, wouldn’t you agree?
So the next requirement we’ll focus on is obtaining a background check which is accepted in China. The requirement can vary from region to region in China, so your employer will usually let you know if they require local level (city or county), state level, or nation-wide. The most widely accepted background check is the nation-wide FBI report. The second most accepted is the state level, such as your state police department background check. Since state-level requires notarization and some state governments do not automatically offer this – we recommend FBI to our clients as the best option.
We can help teachers not only with the China authentication but also with obtaining the FBI report itself. FBI reports do not require notarization so the process is much simpler. The digital report can be printed and authenticated so this is another advantage since you won’t have to obtain a physical document from the FBI. The entire process to obtain and authenticate an FBI report is around 2-3 weeks. Start early if possible!
These three are the main documents required to obtain a work permit in China as a teacher. If you are married and your spouse is coming as well, then a marriage certificate authentication might be necessary. Likewise, if you have children coming with you, then their birth certificates will need authentication.
Your employer requires these documents in China for work permit approval. Once the permit is approved, we can assist you again, this time with the actual Chinese Work visa. One more thing! Two consulates (Chicago and San Francisco) require fingerprints for work visa approval. Please call for more details if you live in one of those two jurisdictions.
In conclusion, this may sound like a lot but it is definitely manageable. We can walk you through every step of the process over the phone or by email. We are here to support you through this transition and help you meet the requirements for teaching English in China! This is an exciting time and if you follow our processes, we can make the paperwork far less stressful and go as smoothly as possible for you.