Teaching in China legally: The visa process

While I tried my best to make sure the info below is thorough, please be aware it’s based on my own personal experience of applying for a visa a few years ago. There are other legal ways to be a teacher in China, namely knowing someone who is a contact with a school, applying through job listings on sites, or maybe even being lucky enough to be approached by agencies (more about this in another post), but in my personal opinion organisations like the British Council are well-versed in easing the process for first timers; you will get a 2-week ‘teaching English as a foreign language’ training session, a crash course in Mandarin Chinese and you will always have an external point of contact if you have concerns about your school (really helpful if you don’t feel comfortable broaching it with them).

Hope this helps!

[click here to download this guide as a PDF]


I took an Emirates flight from London stopping in Dubai. Note: this may or may not be reimbursed by your school depending on the terms of your contract.

Entry Requirements

Your visa will take roughly 2 weeks to process, so give yourself at least a month to get things ready. Visa appointments can fill up quickly in the approach to September, and sometimes the visa people really long out the process. Breathe. The ‘my-visa-hasn’t-arrived-yet-and-I’m-supposed-to-fly-out-next-month’ panic is a feeling those of us who have gone through this know all too well, so try to be positive.

Note: It is possible to book multiple appointments without changing your existing appointment (but you didn’t hear that from me!)

  1. Work Visa: A Z visa which will be placed on a blank page in your passport. Note: make sure you have several blank passport pages available.
  2. Vaccinations: consult your local GP surgery for region specific recommendations
  3. Full medical check-up, including: ECG and blood tests. Note: some tests may only be done in private clinics, which will incur a fee. You will also repeat some medical tests in China.
  4. An invitation letter: your company/school     
  5. A completed visa application form: you can download this from the visa application website. Please click here for more information on visa requirements.
  6. Contract: you will sign both an English and Chinese contract.

Work package

  1. Utilities/Rent: Free
  2. Accommodation: a modest apartment on the school grounds, or in an apartment complex close to the school
  3. Salary: 4,500 Yuan per month (roughly equivalent to £450. Different schools will vary slightly, but this is generally the salary you’ll expect if applying via the British Council. )


           Heads up:

* Ensure you contact the Student Loans Company and inform them of your new monthly income

* Apply for your visa at least a month in advance

* All Z visa holders must apply for a proper residence permit from the immigration department of the local public security authority (police station). You’ll have to hand your passport to them for a few days upon entry.

* Each school has a curfew for language assistants, so please make sure you’re aware of it. I recommend you build up a good rapport with school guards if you would like to bend it a bit




If you have any more questions on the visa process, or would like additional tips on the process of becoming an English Language Assistant with the British Council, please don’t hesitate to contact me: info@elisiatraveller.co.uk


[click here to download this guide as a PDF]




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