China Visa Gamble

Good news: One hundred fifty teachers and more than 60 schools with multiple available positions have so far registered for the upcoming Shanghai Virtual Recruiting Fair. The odds of landing a teaching position in China are looking strong! Bad news: The odds for Obtaining a Visa for China at the current stage of the pandemic are not looking good.

Issued by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Office, the first step in the China Visa process is to obtain a PU letter, essentially an invitation to apply for a Visa. Companies apply for the letter in the name of their foreign employees. Individuals and agents cannot. With a PU letter in hand, Visa candidates visit the nearest Chinese Consulate/Embassy in their home country to complete the process. Herein lies the problem.

With the pandemic muddling up the works, many Chinese Consulates/Embassies are closed until further notice, or simply refusing to process Visas at this time. An ISR member reports that an open Chinese consulate refused to process her Visa, even though she had a PU letter. Teachers waiting for a PU letter have not been guaranteed a date of issuance. The word is it could be June before Visa processing resumes, with the most likely applicant to receive a Visa being a single teacher or teaching couple. A trailing spouse and/or dependent children could be denied.

The odds of landing a teaching position in China look like a slam-dunk. The odds of entering the country to assume that position, even with an invitation letter, look like a gamble. It’s a waiting game and one that strongly suggests teaching candidates have a viable plan “B” ready to roll should August come around with China still on lockdown.

Comments? Questions? Please scroll to participate in this ISR Discussion

19 thoughts on “China Visa Gamble

  1. All that has been said here about jobs in China is accurate. It might be the year to land a plum job in a tier 1 school, but forget about it if you have children or a trailing spouse – chances are you won’t even get an interview. Anyway, the tier 1 schools have already finished recruiting.

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in this article or comments, though, are the changes to the tax laws that commence in January 2022 when expats will lose their tax free benefits. This will make it significantly less financially attractive to work in China. Candidates need to ask A LOT of questions about how their school will be managing the drop in net income that these changes will cause.


  2. I pulled my contract from my new posting in China last fall (mutually agreed upon with my school and did not harm my career). The process of getting into China was so tedious and I simply couldn’t take the wait. The school was cutting salaries until teachers were in-country. I tried to renegotiate the terms of my contract, but the school refused. I would have still gone to China if the school had renegotiated my terms, and now I bet this school is kicking themselves as getting replacement teachers is impossible. Glad I’m not stuck there!


  3. I’m at a bilingual school in China and they have told us point blank that our employment will be terminated if we leave the country. A colleague recently broke contract to return home and reunite with her husband and son after they were denied a family reunification visa. I been in the country for over one year at this point. Travel within the country has been discouraged or outright disallowed for most school holidays, so many of us have been in the same city for months if not a full year. Many schools seem to be focusing on hiring from within China due to the difficulty of bringing new hires in from overseas. Border controls are supposed to remain in place for the remainder of 2021.


  4. This is really an important issue to consider. I worked in China for 2 years and I am hoping to go back. I have an offer, a work permit but due to the current situation, I am not sure if I should hold on to the possible position or have a plan B and C. I was supposed to go back in October, but then China decided not to issue any new PU letters for my nationality. Although I can say that I enjoyed working in China, and I do believe there are some great schools and good opportunities. It is a risk and should be carefully calculated before making a decision. What if China does not fully open its borders this year …. And it is true that several teachers are ‘stuck’ there right now because of the risk that if they leave they might not be able to return. Also, their border procedures for foreigners entering the country are becoming more and more interesting (new testing methods, the 2-3 weeks quarantine, etc.) There is a reason there are so many opportunities in China now. If you do consider an opportunity, ask the school lots of questions. Will you pay for my quarantine time? Will the school honor their contract with me even if it takes longer to get there? What support can I expect from the school to help me through the visa process? Due to the new rules and regulations, how long does the process take? etc…..


  5. I work in a tier 1 international school in Beijing. I have two young children. My husband and and I haven’t seen our families in over 1.5 years, and the grandparents never met our youngest. Even now that the pandemic situation seems to be slowly resolving, our school has been very blunt about teachers facing consequences if they travel abroad. If you do leave with plans to return there are strict (up until recently at least) quarantine restrictions when coming back….. 2 weeks in a random hotel not of your choice followed by one week’s home quarantine. It’s not fun I promise.


    1. And that’s even if you can get back in and pay a lot of money for plane tix! It’s scary..


    2. I would gladly do the quarantine if it meant I could go back to the UK to see my wife (who I’ve not seen since December 2019) and be allowed back in. You seem to imply that your school are confident that you WILL get back in – is that right? Maybe BJ has more pull with allowing teachers back than SZ where I am. I think the longer this goes on, the more teachers that are going to look outside China for work, leaving Chinese HRs even more worried about filling already-empty vacancies and more. Or maybe this is what the Chinese govt wants, secretly, I don’t know!? Good luck with sorting something out.


  6. I think the CCP is seizing upon an opportunity to discredit and annihilate international schools in China. If they cannot staff because the gov’t prevents them from doing so (due to regulations that don’t make any sense), they are effectively dead. While the gov’t chastises the nations of the world if they try to be less globally-minded (in excluding China in any affairs), they do the exact opposite with regard to their own. It’s called hypocrisy and it’s a mainstay of how the Chinese gov’t operates.


  7. Most of the schools attending the fair haven’t kept up with salary increases. The good ones who are attending only have 1 or 2 niche positions left to fill. Someone from the US/UK can come to China with a TEFL and make 21-24k/rmb a month. It’s not an accident that ISB, SAS, the schools that pay well aren’t attending. They’ve already finished hiring. Why would any certificated teacher move to a Tier 3 Chinese city now, when the best case scenario is an anal swab and the same pay as a TEFL teacher? These schools are on that list because only desperate people will take what they’re offering.


  8. China isn’t the only Asian country that has closed its borders to foreign teachers because of the pandemic.


    1. To be clear, it is because they were seperated as Covid took hold, him in China, his wife and child in another country, and they still wont let them in a year later.


  9. China is coming to an end. The CCP is trying to do away with so called international schools, as they promote western values, and soon the only jobs will be in International Schools for foreign passport holders and at language training centres as Western monkeys.

    In any case, President Xi’s ascendance has enabled bullying and incompetence to become rife, so anyone who values their sanity and career will give China a wide berth.

    All the best to everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. on that respect now they promote so called “bilingual schools”. So they , basically fulfill chinese curriculum requirements and than students prepare national exam or international one (AP/Alevel/ IB) . Schools are bolder and respect for teachers in decreasing/ more and more blackmailing /firing/ abuse. It is a trend in the country..


  10. I taught in China for four years, enjoying the classrooms and the students. I would have stayed – since I had confirmed job offers – but the Foreign Experts Bureau began enforcing a long-ignored ban on “old” people, i.e., women over 55 and men over 60. The pandemic has made things even more difficult.


  11. Most school hiring only teachers already in mainland. Some hiring outside also but already “offering ” termination” to current teacher if they travel outside china! People must think twice before accepting if they have an alternative .


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