Applying for a TEFL position in China – Protecting your paperwork

After an amazing response from our previous piece giving ESL teachers wishing to teach in China advice on what to watch out for in their job contract for China, we have a follow up post with even more hints and tips on staying safe in the world of TEFL employment.

What We’ll Cover

  • What to look out for in a Chinese work contract

  • When and how to supply personal documentation

  • Things to be wary of when you arrive in China

In this post we are happy to present some very useful information from TEFL specialists in China – The Ehizojie Firm. There are many things to be wary of when going through the process of accepting a position and signing contracts for your first position in China, and some simple ways you can protect yourself from falling into these traps.

I’ve applied for a position – how do I know my job contract in China is legitimate?

The employment procedures overseas are generally different to what you may be used to, and China is no different. It stands to reason that you’re likely to be much more stringent in checking details in a contract for a position you’re about to undertake in a new country, as opposed to one at home.

Below is a list of the points which should be covered in your contract as a minimum, but if there’s something you don’t feel comfortable about or you feel should be included, don’t be afraid to approach your HR contact.

1. The Length of Your Contract
2. Agreed Salary – And whether the figure stated is before or after tax.
3. Payment Date – Whether this is monthly, weekly and how it will be paid.
4. Accommodation Arrangement – by law your employer should either arrange accommodation or a fee to cover it for you.
5. Work Hours & Work Days – These should be stated explicitly and be split in to “work hours” and “teaching hours”.
6. Overtime Pay – If you are ever expected to work overtime, the rate this will be paid at should be stated.
7. Insurance -You should be advised if you will be given the minimum accident insurance or a full medical insurance by your employer.
8. Holidays – How many paid holidays within your contract should be stated, as well as any unpaid holiday allowance you are granted.
9. Sick Leave & Personal Leave – If you are ill, you will need to know how you log your absence and the arrangement for sick pay.
10. Resignation Procedure – The amount of notice you must give as well as how you officially give your resignation, should you choose to do so, should be outlined in your contract.
11. Conditions for Termination of Contract – There will be guidelines on situations where both employer or employee are able to terminate the contract if it is breached by either party.
12. Roles & Duties of Each Party – A list of responsibilities will be outlined which must be adhered to in order to avoid the breach of contract.
13. Condition for Renewal of Contract – If both parties are happy to renew the contract, the procedure as well as minimum notice should be given. If it is not renewed, the minimum notice should be adhered to.
14. Bonuses – Any agreed bonus schemes should be detailed and how the bonuses are paid to the employee.
15. Any other Verbally Agreed Conditions – Anything outside the scope of your standard contract you have agreed verbally must be included in your written document. You will not be able to enforce anything which was not included in the hard copy you sign and under Chinese Law you will have no rights of these agreements aren’t delivered on.

I’m not sure about accepting the position yet, should I send my documents anyway?

The way the hiring process works in China for expats requires you to be sure on which position you are taking before disclosing any documents or scans to the employer. Applications for work permits for foreigners are made on a central database, and any applicant is only able to have one live application at any one time. Once this process is completed, you work permit will be generated and you can then use it to apply for your Z-Visa.

The employer is responsible for submitting your application for the work permit onto the system and has complete control over the request once it is made. All they need to get this started is clear colour scans of your attested documents. If you send these to an employer and they begin applying on your behalf, should you change your mind, you will be reliant on them retracting the application before you can take up an offer from a different company.

It is not a common issue, but Dotun from The Ehizojie Firm has come across stories where recruits he has assisted have found themselves in limbo. Some recruiters have delayed removing applications from the permit system, knowing that they will need to start the hiring process again if the applicant has changed their mind. The application will expire automatically if it is not completed within a certain time frame, but this can be anywhere between 3 months and in some cases, a year.

What should you do if your employer wishes to see your documents before you’re ready to commit to the position? Dotun advises:

1. Make a Video of the documents.
2. Take a picture of all the documents together.
This way, they can’t use it to start an application for you without your consent.

Is there anything else I should be wary of when I get to China?

We have come across experiences of new expats reaching China and facing difficulties in navigating the employment world once they’re out there. It can be nerve wracking questioning a new employer when you’re unsure of the cultural norms. Dotun has put together a list of things to look out for, what your rights are and when you should seek further advice:

1. It is illegal for your employer to hold your original documents or passport without your consent.
3. Probation period for a 1 year contract shall not exceed 1 month. For a 2 years or longer contract, this is extended to 3 months.
4. In event where you decide not to renew your contract, it is illegal for your employer to refuse to grant you a reference letter confirming that you worked at their organisation or ask you to pay a fee for such letter.
5. No part of your contract may be changed or cancelled without your express consent.
6. Your employer cannot on any condition automatically renew your contract and residence permit upon expiration without your express consent.

I’m ready to apply for a position, what do I need to do next?

To apply for a position in China and receive your work permit you will require your documents to be legalised in the country of origin. The process will depend on where your documents were issued, but this will include legalisation by the Foreign Office of the government, followed by the Chinese Embassy. For TEFL positions you will likely require at least a Police Clearance certificate, TEFL qualification and a degree certificate. Please get in touch with your HR contact and verify the list of documents you require before starting this process. You can read more about these stages here.

If you would like advice on processing your documents, wherever they were issued, our friendly team of legalisation specialists can help. 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 on mobile, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at Our friendly team of specialists are on hand to answer all of your queries.

key takeaways

Key Takeaways

Applying for a job overseas can seem daunting. With the process of job applications and work permits being a whole new experience, things can seem daunting and sometimes scary. Don’t be in a rush to accept a job and never be afraid to ask questions. A legitimate employer won’t have any issues with you wanting to know more. Always ensure any agreement you make is officially included in your signed contract, otherwise it won’t be binding if you have any problems in the future!

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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