Why you need a TEFL certificate to teach English in China [Video]

Why you need a TEFL certificate to teach English in China [Video]

This year, teach abroad hopefuls are all abuzz about the hottest English teaching destination on the map – China!

You might have already heard that a Bachelor’s degree and a TEFL certificate is really all you need to teach English in China. And while it is true that a teaching license and experience aren’t necessary to land a job, what are some of the other things prospective teachers in China need to know about when it comes to visa requirements? Watch our quick video to find out!

Video Transcript

Christie: So, Elspeth, I wanted to have quick sit down with you to talk through some of the requirements for teaching in China. I know it’s something we get a ton of questions about at the University of TEFL Online course.

Elspeth: Sure! We get so many emails and calls on a daily basis from new grads and licensed teachers interested in teaching in China, wondering about the requirements are in order to qualify for teaching jobs.

While there’s lots of buzz and excitement about teaching in China, there’s definitely some confusion out there when it comes to visa process, so I’m happy to walk through the main points now.

C: Awesome. Maybe first you can tell us a little more about why China is where it’s at this year when it comes to teaching overseas?

E: Absolutely! While many people don’t think of China as their first choice to teach English abroad, after learning about the country’s incredible job and travel opportunities, it’s hardly a surprise that it’s an increasingly popular destination for many of our TEFL course grads. Teaching English in China is an incredible way to enjoy a low cost of living, see the world and gain amazing life experience. And now’s the time to do it.

C: Why’s that?

E: Well, China just happens to be the hottest ESL job market in the world right now. There are over 300 million English language students in China. Just to put that into perspective – that’s around the same population of all of the United States and ten times the population of Canada!

This very minute, there’s a shortfall of about 100,000 English teachers in China and this number is only set to grow over the next few years. This makes China a dream teaching destination for English-speaking college grads, as well as certified teachers looking to take their teaching career overseas.

C: Ok, so why all the confusion when it comes to visas to teach in China?

E: In April this year, there were some changes in the teaching visa requirements. So, you need to familiarize yourself with the new regulations before you can start applying for jobs in China. Without further ado – let’s break the new teaching visa requirements down for you.

In order to teach in China, you need a specific type of visa called the Z visa (also known as the Foreign Expert Permit). A lot of the confusion arises with the terms used for different visas in China.

A few years back, the Z visa was a one-year working visa, but now the Residency Permit is the long-term visa to teach in China and the Z visa is just an entry visa good for 30 days – long enough to get your Residency Permit.

Before you can apply for your visa, be aware that you do need to have secured a teaching position, as your employer needs to act as the sponsor for your Z visa. Once you’ve accepted a job offer to teach in China, your employer will send you a formal invitation to work in China.

You can then apply for your Z visa at your local Chinese consular office. Once you have your visa, you can hop on that plane bound for China! Don’t forget that your Z visa is only valid for 30 days from the day your passport is stamped on entry into China. Once you arrive, you need to convert your Z visa to a Residency Permit, which allows you to live and teach in China.

C: Great, so what are requirements in order to be granted a Z visa?

E: Satisfying any of these requirements will qualify you for a teaching position in China in most provinces and cities.

  1. So long as you have a TEFL certificate, no prior teaching experience is required. This means teaching in China is perfect for people looking to travel and live abroad after graduation. While the Chinese government requires teachers to have at least a 100-hour TEFL certification, most provinces actually require teachers to have a 120-hour TEFL certification, so it‘s a much safer bet to choose a TEFL course at least with 120 hours of study in order to be considered for teaching positions at hiring schools in China.
  2. If you don’t have a TEFL certificate, then you do need to have two years of teaching experience. If you’re a certified teacher, then you don’t need a TEFL certificate to fit the visa requirements. Of course, while not strictly required for the Z visa, candidates with both teaching experience/license and their TEFL certification will maximize their job prospects and qualify for the highest-paying teaching jobs in China.

Other Z-visa requirements are:

  • You need to be a fluent English speaker
  • You need to be between 22 and 55 years of age
  • You need to have a Bachelor’s degree, any major – authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate
  • You need a clean criminal background check – again authenticated by the Chinese Embassy or Consulate
  • You need to have a medical check done when you arrive in China

What you don’t need:

  • You don’t have to speak Mandarin. Chances are, you’ll be working with a local Chinese teacher who can help with translating as needed.
  • You don’t need to have a teaching license or have past teaching experience, just your 120-hour TEFL certification.

C: Any other advice for job seekers looking to teach in China?

E: If you’re looking into teaching in China, remember to be careful about how you kick start your job search. China has a huge number of schools, most of which are awesome places to work, but of course, with over 300 million people learning English, there are bound to be a few bad apples with a bad rep where you could end up teaching, if you don’t do your research carefully.

To steer clear of the bad apples, we recommend you go through a North American company with a team who will help you find the right position for you, at reputable schools in China.

Teach Away has recently launched a new initiative called the Explore Program, which helps recent college graduates get English teaching jobs with their partner schools in China. We’ll leave a link below if you’d like to find out more about teaching English in China with the Explore Program.

C: Thanks for giving us the lowdown, Elspeth! Don’t forget, the University of Toronto TEFL Online team are here to answer your questions if there’s something you’d like to know about TEFL course requirements for teaching in China this year. Leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you, or feel free to email us at teflonline@teachaway.com.


Hi Elspeth,

Thank you for the tips about finding reputable schools abroad. I will certainly mention The Explore Program to my blog readers and to the other inquiries I have received through the site. Soon I plan to feature an article reviewing the best TEFL programs on the blog as well. As I understand, the one offered at the University of Toronto has gotten a lot of positive reviews. I will be sure to mention it in the review and let you know when the blog article is published online.

Thanks again for all of your helpful advice.

Hi Paul,

That’s a great question. It’s great to see you’re already aware that it’s essential to exercise caution when searching for opportunities abroad.

When searching for a reputable position overseas, it all starts with the school to which you are applying. It’s important to do your research and choose a great school with a good reputation.

Be sure to also avoid any TEFL programs that offer guaranteed job placement. Schools participating in guaranteed job placement programs are not as concerned with the quality of teachers and thus the jobs they offer may not be quality positions.

The good news is that there are credible recruitment agencies, like Teach Away, that can help you find those quality schools. I recommend checking out The Explore Program, a program offered in conjunction with Teach Away and some of the top schools and language academies in China.

If you or your followers have any further questions, feel free to contact us at teflonline@teachaway.com.

- Elspeth

Elspeth Chalmers
Hi Kathy, thank you for posting the video and the transcript about teaching in China.

Are there any scams that teachers should look out for when working for their employers in China?

I tend to get a lot of questions about this on my blog and from followers on social media lately.


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