Published 23rd September 2021


DON’T PANIC! China is open for business teaching!

You may have heard a few things about the current situation in China right now for TEFL teachers. We’ll be honest, it’s a lot to get your head around and it can be a little confusing – even for us! So let’s clarify a few issues.

China is still a very good option for TEFL teachers who want to experience the beauty of this mysterious country. If you look on our jobs board you will find loads of job advertisements from Chinese companies, Chinese schools and recruitment agencies looking for foreign teachers to teach in China.

Yes, they want you!

Plus, we have had numerous TTA alumni who have, even through the pandemic, successfully found jobs, organised visas and made their way to cities all over China, from Shanghai to Suzhou to Shenzhen.

But if you’ve seen the news you would know that recent regulations passed by the Chinese Ministry of Education have caused huge reactions all across the world as they look set to change the face of teaching English as a Foreign Language in China.

So, what’s changed?

Teaching English in China

First, let’s look at the requirements for teaching English in China.

In order to teach English in China, you need a Z-visa. In order to get a Z-visa, you need:

  • to be a male younger than 60 years old or a female younger than 55 years old
  • to be a citizen of one of seven countries (the UK, Ireland, the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa)
  • to be a native speaker of English, or have a very high (proven) level of English
  • a bachelor’s degree (in any field)
  • a TEFL certificate of at least 120 hours
  • a PU, a letter of invitation from a school offering employment
  • a clean background check
  • a clean medical exam

Read more: 11 Weird and Wonderful Things about China

Teaching English in China during COVID-19

As we all know, China was the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Schools were closed and learners were home-schooled, often by their parents. They attended online lessons with their classmates and, as well did, tried desperately to keep to the usual curriculum. However, with the extra time Chinese learners found they had, they turned (even more than before) to online English learning, often topping up their English studies with online learning through companies such as VIPKid and Magic Ears.

Schools have since opened up again and it looks like things will return to normal soon.

So, how have things changed?

However, recent legislation has been put into place which affects online schools which teach core school curriculum subjects i.e. English. In addition to this, these schools can no longer teach in the evenings, on weekends or during holidays. Online tutoring is forbidden for children younger than six years of age.

This is apparently as a result of the competitive nature of education in China. Excessive tutoring placed severe cognitive and emotional demands on students, while simultaneously placing financial demands on Chinese parents. All this served only to exacerbate the inequality in society, with education becoming expensive and the average salary being low. This meant that the more well-off students who could afford extra tuition were doing better in exams, being admitted into better universities and getting better jobs.

At the same time, the Chinese government has stated that they would like to increase the birth rate in China, which was severely affected by the one-child policy of the 1970s. President Xi Jinping hopes that these restrictions will save parents money, so they are more likely to be able to afford to have bigger families.

But the regulation which will affect the TEFL industry the most in China is the banning of hiring foreign teachers outside of China to teach in profitable companies. This means that no new foreign teachers (i.e. teachers living outside China) will now be hired to teach English for online Chinese companies to Chinese students.

The good news is, if you are an online teacher there are loads of companies you can work for, teaching students of all ages and nationalities – even if you are working for a Chinese company. Many of these companies are now looking to expand their reach to a more international audience to sidestep these regulations.

In other words, there is still plenty of work online, if you want it!

What does this mean for you?

In a nutshell, if you are online teacher who is not living in China, you won’t be able to get a job with an online company teaching Chinese learners. If you are already teaching Chinese learners, you will be able to complete any lessons already paid for your students or their parents. But you won’t get any new Chinese students.

If you are already working for a company, no doubt they will have already explained their situation and the future of the company, which probably involves you teaching students of other nationalities.

If you are not currently living in China but would like to teach in China, you will need to make sure you meet the requirements for a work visa. This means that before you hug your mom goodbye and jump on a plane, you need to get a letter of invitation from a school which you need to provide to your local Chinese embassy, who will issue you with a visa. But your school will help you through this process.

Then you can hug your mom goodbye!

Language schools teaching adults should see very little change in their operations. If you are teaching in a school or teaching Young Learners, your class times will be regulated. Your lesson materials might need to be adapted to fit into the new education policy and you might find yourself teaching debate or drama or science instead of teaching straightforward English lessons. Which, if we’re honest, is not that dissimilar from teaching English in other countries.

Bear in mind, the regulations from China are changing regularly. There are no blanket requirements we can apply to all teachers of all nationalities. You will need to do your due diligence and find out what the current status is of your country and what exactly you need to do to get a working visa.

Contact your local Chinese embassy to find out exactly what’s what – and we’ll see you in China!

Please note: This information is correct at the time of posting. We are keeping an eye on developments and will update this post when or if regulations change.

  1. Can you you give the current up date on vaccination with the covid going to china and if schools are requiring you to have them, as i could be looking to go there myself but i do not wish to have any vaccinations due to medical and religious reasons, i have seen a few jobs online and they are not asking for anything like this and getting into the country seems to be only a negative test, could you confirm anything more on this please

    1. Hello, The Chinese Ministry of Education has outlined a new plan regarding the online English teaching industry. It has been presented as a way to reduce pressure on parents and students in China’s hyper-competitive education field.

      Some private education agencies in China have suspended some courses administered by foreign-based tutors, as the company moves to comply with new regulations for the private tutoring sector. If you have any further questions in relation to this, we recommend contacting your local Chinese Embassy as they will be able to provide the most up-to-date information in relation to TEFL teaching in China. Louise 😊

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