China Visa Rude Awakening

Considering China for a Career Move?
An ISR Member Recounts Their Failed Ordeal

“I was interviewed and offered a job in November, 2021. I’m based in the UK. I was interviewed via Skype. I really liked the director and was looking forward to joining the school.

The paperwork process began and 3 months later I had all the necessary document legalizations from the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCOD) and the Chinese Embassy, as well as a new police certificate. I spent hundreds of pounds travelling back and forth to London, invested lots of time and energy, and also lost pay for the days I took off work to attend legalization appointments.

A week prior to receiving the Chinese legalizations, I came across the required steps for entering China after receiving a work visa. The school had not informed me of these steps – they had only outlined the steps to get the visa. After visa approval, there would be a number of hurdles to overcome.

At the time of research, there were no direct flights to China from the UK. Direct flights leaving Europe were £1700-£4000 one way at the time. Indirect flights from the UK involved 1 or 2 transit stops. Indirect flights would not have been an issue until I understood the Health Declaration Certificate (HDC) required in order to receive an approval to fly. The flight allowance was 6000RMB (£719 / $943US).

Obtaining the HDC would involve receiving negative PCR and antibody COVID tests from medics approved by the Chinese Embassy in the UK. There are very few on the list and the test costs around £300. If someone has had Covid, there are extra PCR and chest X-ray tests to undergo at least 4 weeks before your flight at a cost of around £400. Add to this the need to do the PCR tests again in any transit city at that country’s Chinese-approved facility and these medical check costs could end up being well over £1000, especially if I’d had to stay in a transit city to attend an appointment or await results, etc. This is after already paying the legalizations and visa costs (£600+).

Having had Covid I was starting to worry that these upfront costs were unaffordable, given that I’d also learnt I needed to pay the 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival and later request a refund. I was also concerned that I might not be able to avoid a reinfection within 90 days of the flight as it is very hard to avoid in the UK, especially in schools.

I raised my concerns with the school and they immediately offered to buy the flight and possibly pay the quarantine on arrival. When I shared the details of the possible costs and my concerns about paying all of them upfront with the risk of being refused entry into China (I’ve heard this has happened to some), they said they would get back to me with the level of financial risk I might expect. Instead, they came back to me saying that since I had had Covid, the PU letter needed to apply for the visa would likely be rejected. They then reneged on the job offer as they now thought I would be unable to enter China (or so they said).

If I couldn’t get into China after recovering from Covid, why hadn’t they told me that having had Covid was a deal breaker when I interviewed in November? If people who recover from Covid can’t get into China, why does the Chinese Embassy require an extra medical step for these people?

To be fair, the school did refund the cost of the legalizations but not the travel and all the other costs incurred. This is something, I guess.

This is a message for anyone thinking about interviewing who is NOT already based in China: I would advise you to check the steps to entry carefully on your country’s Chinese Embassy website and decide how much effort you’re willing to expend and how much cash you’re willing to risk in the event you can’t get into the country.”

ISR asks: How does your experience compare with the author’s?
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25 thoughts on “China Visa Rude Awakening

  1. Visa issues? How about the teachers in Shanghai who are stuck inside their homes with no food, some already a month or more, under threat of being separated from their children and dragged off to ‘fangcang’ mass quarantine facilities? Other cities are now opening their own fangcang. You should be warning people about the conditions in China, because the schools sure aren’t going to be open about it when recruiting!


  2. Disagree with the above poster: it sounds like the school has treated you well and done their best to be upfront, even reimbursing your documentation costs (you couldn’t really expect them to cover travel expenses!). The truth is, China’s a nightmare right now. I was there for an extensive period of time, only leaving last year, and consider myself fortunate to have left when I did. With covid, regulations are growing even more draconian, and rules change on a whim. Good schools do their best to keep up, but much of it is out of their control. Count it as a lesson learned and move on.


  3. During this era when countries are closing borders and schools getting trickier with contracts, you need to proceed with caution. Contracts issued from overseas can easily be canceled even on the last minute and you have no recourse. Never pay out upfront for any document verification etc. I have heard of several teachers having China and Hong Kong contracts yanked before arrival.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. In the pre-covid days, it cost me 1600GBP of my own money to get all the paperwork done related to the visa for COMMUNIST China. The country is a nightmare of rules and regulations which are constantly changing and impossible to predict in advance. This is true even when you live and work there. What was allowed yesterday is not allowed 1 month from now. I bought a scooter that was legal when I bought it but then government suddenly said scooters with that size batter would be illegal. Result, confiscated scooter at a loss of 500GBP. People who live in democratic countries do not understand life under communism until they go there. You have experienced a small taste of it and whilst you lost some money you didn’t lose as much as you could have. My friends who are still there are currently under a huge lockdown. If you test positive you are dragged off to a location beyond your control. Their government seeks for total control over the population. In normal times you can keep your head down, etc. But you are unable to protect yourself against the roulette of testing positive for COVID. Consider the fact you didn’t go as good luck!


  5. Got completely screwed over by Mount Kelly in Hong Kong. Eight expat teachers were hired and worked online while all the onerous paperwork was processed. Some of us paid a great deal of money to get documents certified, police checks etc. After 6 weeks, the evil woman who owns the school decided expats were going to cost too much and cancelled our contracts without salary. After numberous threats with various government entities, some of us received partial salary but no recompense for all the outlay in applying for visas and HK teacher accreditation. Disgusted does not begin to express my feelings or those of my fellow teachers who were burned and cheated. Be wary of anywhere in China – including Hong Kong.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Living here the hard part is that it changes so fast and you don’t know. So maybe what you were told in November was correct but then it suddenly changed. I think you need to know if you plan to come to China your not going to be able to LEAVE China during the duration of your contract. You can suddenly be in lockdown and you or anyone in your school won’t be told. Some people can handle that and some can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hindsight is 100 percent, if I could go back I would NEVER have come to this country. Granted, COVID has made things worse, but to turn your country into an utter police state has been a nightmare. The Chinese do not care one whit about making life harder for those with medical issues, when even getting water is hard. My advice, stay away!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly but some people are still locked in contracts here. Been here since the beginning of covid and this place has really changed in the 4/5 years I have been here. Horrible place.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m, in China and turned 61 and have been here 11 years and 95% of schools won’t talk to me as they feel they can’t renew my visa because China doesn’t like old people working. Many schools can’t offer letters. My advice , thus is one Asian country to avoid. They don’t care and as stated one little problem and they won’t think of a solution. And this is how their education works.


    1. Ageism sucks and is rife across Asia. We all get to 60 one day and will face discrimination. The trend is young and cheap.


    2. When I left China in 2018, at the age of 62, I still could renew my Foreign Residence Permit before it expired. But I could no longer apply for a new Z visa if I had to leave the country. Fortunately, I managed to find a new job at a private state-run school in Uzbekistan where I taught Primary Subjects for two years. However, I’ve noticed many schools in all parts of Asia that set the maximum age limit at 40. A recruiter told a 45-year-old friend of mine that the average age of NETs in South Korea is presently 27. I had no problem finding a good job there until I turned 55 in 2010. It was at this point that I traveled to China to teach.


  9. As someone who is employed as an international school teacher here in Shanghai, the OP experience sounds pretty legit. We have been informed that if we even try to leave (even with a working visa in hand) coming back in would be very risky. Hiring outside of China right now is almost a no win situation. Many will be jumping ship from Shanghai as this lockdown continues. I know of students who are even leaving the country since we are back online – they or their families don’t want to be in another locked down situation with no end in sight. Some people have been locked down for 4 weeks- preceding the original claim of a 5 day lockdown (we are on day 12). Getting food is a big deal.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. The issue schools are dealing with, as I am in China, is that the rules keep changing. Even in the best of years, read the horror stories of people trying to get visa’s into China. It has always been difficult for those trying to enter.

    With COVID restrictions in place, all of China is beholden to Beijing. Plus, each region has very different requirements based on that region, and they vary greatly. The restrictions have changed almost weekly. I don’t blame the schools for all of these issues, some yes I do. But it is very difficult for anyone trying to get in to China. Even the local Chinese can not renew passports and travel. They are subject to the same restrictions as everyone else as well.


  11. Yes China is n0t a place to go if you are outside looking in. The Rules vary greatly across the country. Principals are totally clueless and really have NO idea want is happening. I have had a couple of really strange experiences with Chinese schools IE Business Owners. China has fallen greatly in the last 3 years as a place to go to teach. Schools there now are really challenged to hire staff for 2022. I did spend 8 years in China and had amazing run. Now with Winnie the Pooh China is to be avoided. Also I suspect they will crush the IB and A-Level and AP programs in the next couple of years. As this is a real threat to China and Winnie the Pooh. Just take a look Dulwich College DCI and the locations of there recruitment process. Seven years ago they recruited only at the top draw locations. Now they have ads everywhere. Blame it on Covid or Winnie the Pooh it all speaks to the rapid decline of education in China. Buyer beware. Read those contracts carefully. Sad to say it is not the kids at fault but once again adults who can not work together. Tough sledding for the IB suspect.


  12. I’m not shocked considering the ongoing response the government is taking there. They’ve got Shanghai effectively in a state of paralysis, so why would they be letting outsiders in? China has never been on my list personally and it definitely never will be. I can’t imagine why anyone would be interested in going now. What’s the allure?


  13. This sounds like the school simply did you over. I have a British teacher friend who just entered China having had covid at New Year. There was the 3 month wait requirement before he could enter. And yes, I had all the costs mentioned 12 months ago but with the added stress that the visa centre opened very few days a week and the verification was delayed. My university archives were closed and it took a long time to verify my degree etc. I needed two police checks as the first surpassed the 3 month requirement. In fact, now, the few designated clinics offer packages to meet the Chinese requirements for testing. All my costs including my testing, quarantine and hotel at Amsterdam airport transit were reimbursed. My school made me aware of all the costs before I signed…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Um…. Kind of your fault for all of this. Sorry but I don’t think you’re the victim in the situation. It’s been widly advertised since March of 2020 that the Chibese are not playing when it comes to covid. You never should have shouldered any of the costs up front knowing there was a possibility of not getting a visa. If the school wasn’t paying for everything and instead putting the risk on you it should have raised flags. I hope you learned a valuable lesson from all this.
    That being said, I do sympathize with you and wish you all the best in your job search. You’re clearly ambitious and any school would be lucky to have such a committed educator, the Chinese are no doubt missing out.


    1. Cold Erik, they should be thinking of what could go wrong, it’s called planning. They don’t do much here so everyone beware.

      Liked by 1 person

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