Coronavirus – How the impact on teacher recruitment is evolving

With all of the headlines around the Coronavirus constantly filling up our news feeds, it's leaving many with more questions than answers and filling those who had planned to relocate with uncertainty. In our unique position, assisting people looking to move and travel around the globe, we are here to provide a balanced and informed view of the situation.

With all of the headlines around the Coronavirus constantly filling up our news feeds, it’s leaving many with more questions than answers and filling those who had planned to relocate with uncertainty. In our unique position, assisting people looking to move and travel around the globe, we are here to provide a balanced and informed view of the situation.

How is this affecting overseas employment?

The demands for ESL teachers overseas hasn’t so much dwindled in the wake of the pandemic, than altered its processes of working. ESL teachers are still very much an essential part of the education of students in countries such as Vietnam, China and Thailand, but the medium in which they are taught has shifted to online platforms inline with their other lessons. This temporary adaptation has ensured that students can still access their learning and the teachers can still receive their salary. While it will never replace the value of physical learning, it is a workaround that is seeing some success.

China has the highest demand for native ESL (English as a Second Language Teachers) in the world. Finding enough applicants to fill the available roles in the country already fell short of the mark before the current outbreak. There are estimated to be over 100,000 teaching position available in China, with only one third of them being filled successfully.

This has previously caused many issues in the Chinese labour market, with many rogue agencies attempting to circumvent the guidelines set out by the government regarding the minimum requirements for a teacher of ESL.

The Coronavirus outbreak caused a halt in recruitment for relocation positions, with those already in the country being put in isolation during the lock down. While some returned home before the travel ban, in order to wait out their school closure, most stayed within China.

We are confident that it will be business as usual in the very near future, with many schools in China already re-opening their doors and students will be returning to classes on campus. As teacher recruitment happens all year round, there will still be plenty of positions to be filled when operations are back on track.

This of course can only return to full operations when the countries supplying the teachers are also in the clear, and global travel is reinstated. With most flights grounded and many governmental services closed down, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK on the 23rd March, document legalisation is unable to happen. This in turn puts any job applications on hold until the correct paperwork can be provided.

Why are people still advertising for positions in China?

coronavirus blog teaching image

Many recruiters are still advertising for teaching positions to start at the beginning of the new school year. The likelihood is we will be seeing a sense of normality by September, though for new recruits this is dependent on travel availability. Sophia Zeng, a HR specialist for RHDS in China, is beginning tentative recruitment processes again.

“I am confident that things will back to normal soon. Schools are now opening gradually. Schools in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia, are open already. When things get back to normal, there will be a huge demand later. Lots of foreign teachers went back to their own country and haven’t finish their contracts due to the virus.” Sophia Zeng

If you’re mulling over the idea of moving overseas, it’s worth keeping a check on the employment situation as you monitor the situation in your own country. However, we would advise you to remain mindful of certain restrictions with documentation when it comes to the application of your work permit, should you be accepted for a job role in China.

You will be required to provide a Police Clearance check and at least a degree qualification for a work permit for China. When you have these documents legalised, the first stage in the UK is an Apostille stamp, which you can read more about here. For China, these must have been issued in the last 6 months in order to be accepted. The same applies for Police Clearance checks themselves.

With this in mind, timing your legalisation right will help you both beat the delays which the inevitable rush will cause once restrictions are lifted, and avoid your documents expiring. With it being unlikely that the current situation will last for longer than 6 months, it would be a good time to start exploring your options and requirements. You can read more about how to be proactive in this area further on in the post.

When it is likely that things will return to normal?

Being able to predict when a pandemic will be brought under control is almost impossible. Though we are starting to see schools and life returning to normal in the original epicentre of the virus, restrictions are still being imposed on travel in and out of the country.

There is still an air of caution on the streets of Wuhan, but with no new cases reported for several days in a row, people are starting to take to the streets and return to work again. Other parts of China that were on lock down for over a month are now starting to awaken, with shops, bars and clubs coming to life once again. As things start to slowly return to normal, the rest of the world won’t be too far behind if we can follow their response to the crisis.

We are already starting to receive requests for document legalisation for China. There is a sense of people getting prepared to make the move, which is a positive sign that the demand within education recruitment in the country hasn’t suffered at all.

We spoke to a recruitment specialist based in the UK who helps place ESL teachers in China about the current situation and how things are evolving.


Schools are starting to open in China, but they aren’t accepting new recruits onto campus at the moment. This is because anyone travelling to China from overseas will be required to quarantine for 14 days when they arrive. This will be in a hospital and they’ll need to pay for it themselves.

I’m advising people not to travel just yet, but don’t write the idea off . Get any experience you can whilst staying safe, find out all you can about teaching in China, and be ready for the boom in recruitment as soon as restrictions are lifted. As soon as people have the freedom to travel again, there definitely there will be a boom! Things will get very busy indeed.” Kevin Fieber – Teach In China Project.

Other countries haven’t been as deeply affected as China when it comes to recruiting from overseas, but are still remaining cautious. We asked Billy Palmer, an ESL recruiter in Thailand how the situation was in his country.

Teachers for Thailand

“As yet the government (in Thailand) haven’t announced that the school year will be postponed so until that happens people will obviously still advertise positions being available. An old colleague in China has informed me that things over there are starting to loosen up and are in the early stages of returning to normality.

I think when things start to return to normal then people should continue their plans to teach abroad. They are being cautious, of course, and so they should be. But this will end, and when it does I hope that it hasn’t put people off coming to South East Asia as it’s a fantastic place to experience, and a privilege to teach over here.

In the meantime, I think certain countries should be avoided, especially if their healthcare is poor.”
Billy Palmer – Teachers For Thailand

What can you do in the meantime?

If you’re planning on teaching overseas in the near future, there is plenty you can do to prepare for the recruitment drive which will occur once the all-clear is given.

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Teach ESL online

This can give you a feel for the industry and help build your confidence, as well as develop your skills for lesson planning and delivery. If you have a degree, you can start applying for these positions with no experience at all. Find out more about these roles here, with one of the industries leading ESL providers.

You will only require a degree to start teaching, so if you’re working on a TEFL certification at the same time, this will be perfect for you to implement what you are learning into structured lessons. It can also build and develop your skills in lesson planning and delivery.

Learn a new language

Over 60% of expats stated that language barriers was one of their biggest concerns with relocating overseas. A massive part of bursting the “expat bubble” is integrating into the local culture, and being confident in even basic communication with the locals can go a long way.

You can start learning a new language online, 1-to-1 with a native speaker today through iTalki. As an added bonus, Vital Consular have negotiated a deal for our reader base, where you can get $10 credit added to your account to spend on future learning after you’ve completed your first lesson on the platform. Click here to get this deal and find the perfect tutor for you!

Learn about the recruitment process

This is something most people leave until they are about to start applying for positions. There is a lot of variation depending on where you wish to teach, but there is ultimately a lot more paperwork involved than most people realise. Getting yourself ahead of the game can save you a lot of time and stress in the future.

Understanding which documentation you will require, and how the legalisation and visa processes work will stand you in good stead to accept a position and you’ll be free to concentrate on the logistics of relocating. If you would like to know more about these stages for China, you can read our full step by step guide here.

Once restrictions are lifted, you will be ready to go much quicker than other recruits who aren’t aware on how to go about applying for their visas and work permits, making you an ideal candidate.

Returning to employment in China

If you were already in China and decided to return home at the start of the outbreak, you may be able to return to your position and complete your contract. Keep in touch with your HR contact at the school, or your recruiter, for updates on when the school is open. Bear in mind, you will likely still be subject to the quarantine rules as long as they are in place, so keep up to date with official sources on these regulations.

Returning to your position and completing your contract is the recommended course of action if you intend to carry on teaching overseas, especially in China. Any new employers will take into account any uncompleted contracts or any work permits that were cancelled by your previous employers due to uncompleted contracts.

We’re still here to support you

Vital Consular are still operating during this time and you can reach out to us for advice. We are in the office and ready to answer your chats, calls and emails about your document legalisation. You can get in touch through our live chat system, drop us a line on 0330 088 1142, send a message on WhatsApp or via email on

Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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