Everything You Need to Know About China’s Z Visa

Thursday 21st November 2019

Here at TEFLwork, we sometimes post job adverts for positions that require the candidate to be a native English speaker. This isn’t because we think that native English speakers make the best English teachers. Not at all! Instead, we will only post adverts like this for countries that require English language teachers to be native English speakers in order to issue the appropriate visa, such as China. This is, then, a legal requirement and helps to prove it is a legitimate opportunity for teachers.

Because there are additional hoops to jump through for positions in China, we wanted to help you through the process. Here, we’ll look at requirements and regulations surrounding the Chinese Z Visa. We’ll also give you some tips for determining if a job listing is legitimate. It’s important to remember, though, that we’re not immigration experts, so it’s essential that you look up the most up-to-date requirements and consult your local embassy or legal advice should you need it. For example, Americans can find detailed information on teaching English in China on the US Embassy and Consulate in China page. While this information is specifically for Americans looking to teach in China, teachers from other countries may find some of the information it offers useful.

Z Visa Requirements

The Z Visa has several requirements, beginning with sponsorship. This means that you need to find an institution that is able to sponsor your visa to work in China. You cannot get a Z Visa without first being offered a position. You’ll need a visa notification from your potential employer and a work permit in order to apply for the visa.

You must also hold a passport from a native English-speaking country. This means that only applicants from one of these countries can be issued a Z Visa to teach English in China. This is not a requirement by the school or position, but rather the government. There is no way for schools or agencies to get around this requirement, so don’t believe an opportunity promising a work permit if you’re not from an English-speaking country.

Finally, you’ll need to show a 120-hour TEFL (like the CELTA) and at least a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to submit a medical check and background check. Again, these requirements come directly from the Chinese government.


The Z Visa can only be issued while you are outside of China, so don’t believe agencies or schools that tell you they can issue you a Z Visa after you’ve arrived. You must obtain the Z Visa before moving to China, or else you will need to leave the country while the visa is processed.

Once in China, the Z Visa gives you 30 days to obtain your residency permit. This is what allows you to live and work in China; the Z Visa is only valid for 30 days while you secure the permit. You must get your residency permit after arriving, otherwise any work being done isn’t legal.

China also requires visa recipients be under the age of 55. Again, while this may seem biased, it is a government regulation, so there is no way around it.

What to look for

If a job promises you a Z Visa even though you don’t fit the requirements, it’s probably too good to be true. As we mentioned, these are stipulations from the Chinese government, so there is no way that a recruiter or school can offer you employment if you do not fit the criteria.

Similarly, the Z Visa is the only route to teaching legally in China. If a job asks you to go to China on a tourist or business visa, this should be a red flag, as the Z Visa is the only legal route to teaching English in China. There are many stories of teachers who are fined or even detained and deported for teaching illegally in China, so it’s important that you ensure you are working legally.

Some schools also have other criteria they are looking for. If these requirements seem off to you, trust your gut and look for a different school. Find reviews of the school online, consult your local embassy, or check into forums for English teachers in China. This can help you verify if the school you’re interested has a good reputation as an employer. Always do as much research as you can before signing a contract. If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, ask the school. If they can’t give you a satisfactory answer, then it probably isn’t the best place to work. You shouldn’t jump into any job teaching abroad without doing proper research. Be sure to also translate any part of the contract written in another language; don’t just assume that it says the same thing in English.

Z Visa China

Teaching in China can be a rewarding experience for English language teachers. But for some teachers, it has turned into a nightmare. Avoid this by adhering to the rules, getting a Z Visa and doing your due diligence when choosing the school where you work. The visa process is a big part of planning to work abroad. Be sure to go through the process before making any concrete plans – you never know what might happen.

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