Going to work in China – The latest on the situation

Although life in China is returning to something close to normal, the government continues to keep a close eye on who's allowed to come into the country. And while most schools are allowing children back into classrooms, there is a major shortage in teaching staff because of continuing travel restrictions across the globe. We look at the situation as it currently stands, from inside and outside China.

Who can currently take a teaching position in China?

As things currently stand, due to quarantine regulations and travel restrictions, recruiters are focusing their efforts on hiring staff who are already in China. These are mostly teachers who were already in a teaching position and are looking for a new job after their employment contract has expired. A number of teachers that were working in China previously left the country during the lockdown period, reducing the pool of candidates available to fill open positions.

As of the 4th November, the Chinese Government banned travel from the UK to China for foreign citizens, including those already holding residence or work permits. It’s not known when this will change, but many people are keeping a close eye on developments and getting ready to travel as soon as the travel corridor opens.

Hiring from outside China is still possible as a forward-planning process, but additional restrictions have been imposed as well as the need for a special invitation to be issued from the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO). This is known as a “PU letter” and it’s only possible to apply for this documentation once an official job offer has been extended from a company based in China.

Once you have a confirmed job offer, your employer can apply for the PU letter from the government. Only once the request has been considered, and your reason for travelling to China is deemed acceptable, will the letter be issued. This then allows you to continue the usual process of applying for your Z-Visa in your country of residence, ready to travel once the ban is lifted.

Is document legalisation currently possible?

All associated government departments and embassies in the UK are currently operating, making document legalisation for China possible. However, there are reduced hours in place due to the second UK lockdown and the number of centres currently open has been reduced. This is making it more costly and time consuming for many applicants to complete the process themselves, as there is high demand and very few appointments available.

As there has been additional steps introduced to the application process, the overall timescale has increased. With the possibility of only having the paperwork completed within a several month window, many are starting the process early in order to avoid the anticipated rush in applications in the near future.

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What is happening in the recruitment sector for China?

As many of the recruitment companies that hire for positions in China are based outside of the country, things have been difficult. With the vast majority of new recruits being from overseas, and being unable to travel into China, the applicant stream has all but dried up.

Despite the negative impact, it’s clear that hopes remain extremely high. We spoke to Dotun, the Managing Director of a specialist recruitment company for China.

“Many candidates are preparing themselves for the eventuality of things getting back to normal, as there is an acute shortage of foreign staff in China currently. Generally, we are very confident that things will improve soon and we would be ready to handle the boom.”

Dotun Afouda

The Ehizoji Firm

Even in pre-COVID times, the supply of teaching staff rarely met demand. With the global pandemic hitting, the ability to fill positions has only become more difficult. As Vital Consular is firmly integrated into the relocation process, we can corroborate that there has been a steady increase in customers applying for document legalisation for China. After speaking to many of them about their plans, it’s apparent that the desire to travel to China to teach has been delayed, but not diminished entirely. There is a clear confidence in those beginning preparations to travel when they are able.

It seems that recruiters are spending this time preparing for the influx of applicants which will undoubtedly come as soon as restrictions are finally lifted. Although many have developed new ways of working during lockdown by hiring teachers to offer online learning from home, the demand for in-person education will always be preferential.

Not only does it benefit the student by having face-to-face learning, the experience of classroom teaching and exploring the culture and surroundings of their students is an integral part of the teaching experience for many.

Is it still worth applying for positions?

Whether applying for a position at the moment is a good idea or not depends on many factors, including where you want to teach, how long you are able to wait, where you currently are in the process and whether you’re going to use an agency or not. With the window of opportunity opening and closing unpredictably it can be difficult to know when to start applying, especially as it’s uncommon to start a position mid-semester in China.

We spoke to one of Vital Consular’s customers who we recently completed document legalisation for, about his plans to teach in China. Bryan has taught in China previously and is finding the current shifts in the travel restrictions stressful. Even prior the temporary ban on non-Chinese citizens entering China was introduced on the 4th of November, he was still preparing for a long wait before he was able to start his position.

“My contract is due to start on the 1st of March, but then even when I get to China there will still be a 4 week quarantine.” This is dependant on where the school is located and your travel plans after your arrival in-country, but as Bryan had a journey of around 200 hundred miles after he arrives in Beijing to reach his final destination, he has been advised that he will need to quarantine twice. “It’s a 2 week initial quarantine in your city of arrival, and then apparently I need to have another 2 week quarantine in my city of work.”

He is surprised at the level of quarantine still required, as very few cases are now being reported in China, but was more than willing to abide by the regulations in order to start his position on time. “Obviously this is fluid and it could change before I get there.” Bryan is hopeful, especially with the imminent roll-out of vaccines being tipped before Christmas, that things might change quickly enough that his plans aren’t as complicated as they could be.

As Bryan has a lot of experience as a teacher in China, he was confident enough to organise his own employment directly with a school, as opposed to going through a recruiter this time. However, he did reach out to several recruiters who were advertising teaching positions initially before going it alone, but had no luck. “I did respond to a few ads through recruiters, but nothing seemed to be happening. They would say that maybe I could start next semester, but there was no rush. I ended up making direct contact and organising it on my own”.

Bryan is still adamant that he wants to start teaching in China again as soon as possible, despite the uncertainty as to when he could start teaching. “There are a number of signs of hope and reasons to be optimistic and to go ahead anyway. I feel like I can’t just wait, because there’s a long timeframe to get everything completed. Because the situation is fluid I want to be ready to travel as soon as the ban is lifted and the travel window opens again”.

How things will work going forwards


It’s impossible for anyone to predict when things will return to normal, as the situation can evolve so drastically on a daily basis. There has been talk of the border in China opening up again to foreign nationals as early as January 2021, though this has been pushed back several times and nothing official has been released from the government. Others have heard talk of other possible dates for re-opening of borders, but it is certainly too early to tell.

“I am actually in China right now, I’ve been here for a year and changed jobs and needed this legalisation letter for my next job. Borders are still shut here as far as I am aware but there is talk of things opening up March 2021 but again, that is very much hearsay.”


A recent Vital Consular customer

Those who remained in China throughout travel restrictions are looking forward to being able to travel home again freely without having to worry about quarantining upon return to China.

With the news of several COVID-19 vaccines being released imminently, a return to normality is the closest it has been since the initial outbreak. Despite the possibility of quarantines still being a requirement for new arrivals in China, many seem more than happy to go ahead in order to start their new positions on time.

As soon as the green light is given for travel, everyone involved in the overseas recruitment process is confident that not only will demand for teachers return, but will far exceed that of the pre-COVID lockdown. With any form of overseas travel generally off the cards for most people, the desire to travel and experience the world has only grown during lockdown, and there will be more opportunities than ever for them to teach in China.

There is likely to be a strain on the application process once travel is allowed again, with appointments to be in short supply. Those who have already began the process will have an advantage as they will be ready to travel as soon as their visas are granted. It’s important however to find a recruiter who is flexible and willing to support you through your application with the possibility of a delayed start date if required. You’ll also need to be mindful that some documents required for China are time-sensitive; should you only be able to travel after a certain length of time, they may have expired and you will need to request new copies.

If you would like any advice on the document legalisation processes, wherever you are in the world, get in touch with us today. Simply visit our site and request a personalised quotation based on your requirements. You can also give us a call directly on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp, or e-mail us at sales@vitalconsular.com. Our friendly team of specialists are on hand to answer all of your queries.

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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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