Is it hard for foreigner to work in China?

Choosing to work in China is no easy task. Before you buy the aircraft ticket, you'll need to be sure: What jobs are available? What should I do? What must I do?

Can you simply fly here and work it out? No, thanks. Pre-pandemic business and tourism permits are no longer available.

This may change in the future, since China's visa restrictions have been tightening since 2012. Previously, many visitors to China arrived with merely a hazy idea of finding work.

Many individuals interviewed on 3-month tourist or business visas, then made a “border run” to Hong Kong to change their visa to a “Z” work visa after they found a job. Those days may be gone for now.

On the plus side, if you locate the perfect position with a respectable company, they should be able to assist your move.

Getting Started

First, you apply for jobs and (hopefully) get some responses. Then they set up an online interview and give you a contract.

Already there? You will be contacted if you meet the qualifications.

There is a way to get a job in China, but it entails lengthy application processes and bureaucratic bureaucracy.

Schools throughout the country are clamoring for skilled foreign instructors.

Unless you are recognized an expert in your industry, companies outside of academia are unlikely to hire from abroad.

Visa requirements change often, so be sure your company is managing your application for you (don't attempt to do it yourself!).

Whether you are applying from abroad or inside China, expect some documents to be handled locally and then shipped overseas.

General Work Visa Requirements

Regardless of your full-time career plans, these papers are a must:

A college degree (at least an undergraduate degree)

Employer's invitation letter sealed/stamped

A certified health check at your local hospital

Passport valid for 9 months or longer before expiry

Experience of 2 years, notarized by prior employers

This documentation is seldom translated into Chinese. It's fine.

TEFL and Other Subjects

The criteria for an ESL visa vary by location and employment.

A bachelor's degree (does not have to be specific to teaching or in education)

Passport from an official English-speaking nation; must be US







2 years of work experience unless...

Have a degree in education,

• A native English speaking country teaching license or an international ESL teaching credential with the appropriate hours


Age 60-65, depending on area or employment

No criminal record as shown by a home country check

For Non-Native English Speakers

Tests of English language competency such as IELTS, TOEFL, and others

For foreign schools or higher education institutes, a master's degree is frequently necessary.


DO NOT work in an English training facility, school, or institution unless you have a valid English-speaking passport. This is a federal crime punishable by penalties and/or deportation.

Teaching Visa Requirements

Similar to all of the above

No requirement to be an English-speaking passport holder.

International school teachers must have their own teaching license.

2 years of teaching

If teaching in a university or college, a relevant college degree is required.

Background Check

A criminal background check in your hometown may be necessary, even if you haven't lived there in months or years.

Depending on your nationality and place of origin, the full procedure might take 3 to 6 months. Begin as soon as feasible.

If you need assistance having your criminal background check notarized in the US, Teaching Nomad can help.


Aside from your native language, most occupations need you to speak English at varied degrees.

A rudimentary familiarity of Chinese culture and etiquette can help ease your adjustment. Our studying Chinese guide may help you prepare for life in China.

Work Permit vs Work Visa

People often confuse a work visa with a work permit.

Work visas allow entrance into China, but once there, you must apply for a work permit to stay for six months to a year. It's a book, not a page in your passport.

The housing registration certificate will be required when applying for a work permit.


All foreign talent in China must be in good health.

Whatever brought you here, anticipate to repeat your health check even if you did it in your native country.

Hospitals or public health authorities usually conduct health checks. A Chinese-speaking assistant may be required depending on the city.

Unless otherwise advised, your employer should send someone with you to the hospital.

See our guide to Beijing hospitals for additional information about Chinese in Beijing hospitals.

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