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How Do I Prepare for Teaching English in China?

Teaching is one of the most rewarding career paths you can take; you are helping to shape the minds of your students and instill in them the wonders of the world on a daily basis. Not everyone’s teaching journey takes the same direction, however, and you may need to expand your horizon while searching for an opportunity. For a growing number of teachers, this opportunity is teaching English abroad, and many find that China holds the challenge they are searching for. Teaching in China offers the opportunity to discover a whole new culture, explore the architecture and history, and to make your teaching experience to aid others in learning English. Once you have decided this is the path you wish to take you need to make sure you are fully prepared for your move; you need to have a teaching position, all the necessary paperwork, and somewhere to stay. This short guide should help you on your first steps towards successful teaching career in China.

Getting Your Z-Visa

In order to begin teaching in China, you need to have a Z-visa. To obtain one, you must first have an Official Invitation Notice from the school at which you will be employed. This document needs to be sent through the post, as faxes or email copies are not acceptable. You will also need a Foreign Expert Work Certificate, and depending on where in China you are going to be teaching this may require a local physician completing a Physical Exam Record for Foreigners before the certificate can be issued.

When you have these documents, you will need to obtain a visa application form from any visa service website. One of the questions on the form concerns whether you have a criminal record in China or any other country. The form does not make a distinction between misdemeanors and felonies, and you better be honest about even the smallest incident; if you are thought to have lied you will automatically be disqualified from obtaining a visa.

Once you have filled out the form you will need to take it, along with your other documentation and your passport, to your local Chinese embassy or consulate. You can use a professional visa service to do this on your behalf; this will involve paying a fee. The process usually takes about a week to complete, from when the documentation reaches the embassy.

The Z-visa is valid for entry to China for 90 days after it is issued. The legal duration of your stay is then 30 days, and, within this time, you must report for work and apply for residency.

Physical Examination Record for Foreigners

When moving to China to teach English, you will be required to undergo a physical examination before your residency permit can be issued. Generally, if your basic health allows you to complete routine daily activities unaided, you will pass the examination. The only caveat to this is if you are in the last stages of a terminal illness or have a communicable disease.

Needing daily maintenance medication for illnesses such as diabetes or high blood pressure will not stop you from passing the examination; as long as you are able to teach a fair amount of periods of English a week.

Immunizations and Vaccinations

There are no formal requirements in relation to immunizations and inoculations when teaching English in China; however, when travelling anywhere you want to spend your time enjoying yourself and learning from your experience rather than feeling ill.  It is recommended that you have a Hepatitis A and B vaccinations and refresh your tetanus and tuberculosis immunizations, as well. Swine flu is a concern for some, and it is also recommended that you get the H1N1 vaccination before you go; especially if you already suffer from chest problems.

Packing to travel

After all the paperwork and your preliminary medical examination, you are facing an even bigger problem; what do you take with you? You will want some of the items that are important to you; photos and keepsakes that you would like with you wherever you teach. You might also want to take the basic materials for hobbies that you have.

In terms of clothing, it is suggested that you have clothing for about a year, including formal clothes for gala events. Even though, you can source clothing and shoes reasonably easily, especially in the major cities, you may find it a little more difficult if you need larger sizes or special fit shoes.

Books can be a little tricky to source, but sites like Amazon do deliver to China though it can be quite expensive, and an alternative is to share teaching material with other teachers you are working with.

Teaching English in China

Teaching English in China can be the most fulfilling decision you will ever make. With some planning your transition will be smooth, as long as you complete all the appropriate paperwork in a reasonable time, are honest with all your answers, and get all your jabs before you go. The final phase is to enjoy your time teaching English and making new memories.


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