Am I eligible to teach in China?

The requirements for teaching English in China in 2024 are pretty straightforward. Except when they aren’t. The eligibility criteria for foreign teachers can sometimes be a maze of exceptions and special cases, leading to understandable confusion. But fear not! We’re here to guide you through every step of the way, ensuring you’re well-prepared for whatever surprises may arise.

The key requirement to teach English in China in 2024?


Getting a working Z-Visa is the essential step to teaching English in China legally. It’s the only visa type that allows you to work in the country, which means that the visa requirements dictate those to teach English in China.

In this sense, being allowed to teach in China is deceptively simple. If you can get a Z Visa, then you can teach. Easy enough. But getting this visa? Well, that’s where things can get tricky.

Eligibility Requirements to Teach English in China

To get a Z visa, you must satisfy certain criteria—from nationality and age to qualifications and a few other pivotal bits and bobs. It’s important to know that there are  exceptions to many of the below-detailed rules. For clarity and ease of information sharing, we’ll detail all those at the end of the guide.

Here are the primary Z Visa requirements:

1. Your Nationality

You must be from one of seven approved countries – UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand & South Africa

Officially, China only accepts teaching applicants from the seven English-speaking countries mentioned above.

However, due to a high demand for English teachers in 2024, they’ve added a few more countries to the list of accepted nationalities. Think places like Jamaica and Kenya, where English is an official language. But here’s the kicker: not every province has caught up with these changes. And even if they have, some school recruiters might not be in the loop yet, so they could still turn you down.

Staying informed about regional variations becomes crucial for navigating the teaching landscape in China!

2. You must be a native-English speaker

This is an extension of the first prerequisite, and it kinda makes sense, right? If you want to teach English to Chinese students, you’d better have an excellent grasp of the language.

There is scant evidence to suggest that teachers from French-speaking Canada or South Africa who speak English as a second language have problems getting a working visa. Sometimes, rule #1 still trumps rule #2. Go figure!

3. You must hold a Bachelor’s Degree

China’s stance on foreign teachers is clear: They require a Bachelor’s Degree.

The good news, though, is that it can be in any field, not necessarily teaching or English-related. It also doesn’t need to be from your home country—it doesn’t matter where you gained your degree as long as you have one.However, there’s a catch: a higher diploma could be accepted if it’s deemed equivalent to a bachelor’s degree based on your country’s qualifications framework. So, while a degree is a must, what you studied isn’t as important as having that diploma in hand.

Got a Bachelor’s Degree in Making Animals out of Inflatable Balloons? Fun!

If the degree is legit in your country, you can teach English in China!


4. You must have recognized and accredited TEFL certification (Teach English as a Foreign Language)

Having a TEFL certificate* is a must for teaching English in China. The good news is you can easily get certified online through reputable agencies offering top-notch courses. Plus, it’s pretty affordable! Getting TEFL certified is your ticket to kickstarting a fantastic teaching journey, not just in China but anywhere around the globe. It’s the perfect first step toward an exciting career in education.

*TEFL certificates: If you don’t have this certificate, you must get it before applying for a teaching job. In your research, you will come across three varieties of English-teaching courses: TEFL, TESOL and CELTA.

First up, this is what they stand for:

TEFL – Teach English as a Foreign Language

TESOLTeach English to Speakers of a Second Language (obtaining both TEFL and TESOL certification from the same provider is possible.)


CELTA Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (we guess TESOL was too hard to pronounce!)

Even though they may all seem similar, there are a couple of significant differences:

TEFL courses allow you to teach English to non-native speakers abroad, and this is what you need if you wish to teach in China. TEFL jobs are in foreign countries.

A TESOL certificate allows you to teach English abroad and to foreigners in your own home country (say, to brand-new immigrants). Yes, you can also apply for a Z Visa with a TESOL certificate.

Cambridge University (UK) offers the CELTA certificate. This thorough course includes plenty of theory and practice. Cambridge customizes CELTA primarily for teaching adults, so it’s not nearly as popular with those who want to teach English abroad.

In China, you’ll want to have as many options as possible, so it’s better to have a TEFL, which trains you to teach people of all ages.

Regarding the requirements for teaching English in China in 2024, remember you must have a 120-hour certificate. This means you complete the course over 120 class hours.

5. You must have a CLEAR Criminal Background Check from your home country

China takes a firm stance on foreign teachers’ backgrounds, and understandably so. To apply for a Z Visa, you must provide a clean Criminal Record (also called a Police Check), proving you have no prior convictions. Any blemish on your record could jeopardize your teaching prospects in China.

Technically, you must submit background checks from both your home country and any country where you’ve resided for six months within the last five years. However, employers typically only request the check from your home country. But remember that it must be squeaky clean, or your visa application will be rejected.

Find out how to obtain a Criminal Record Check in your home country.

Remember that once you have all your documents, you must notarised for the visa application. 


6. You must be between 18 and 60 years of age (men) and 55 (women)

Chinese schools typically consider a specific age range when hiring foreign teachers, mirroring the criteria for their local counterparts. They often prefer teachers between 25 and 45 years old, seeking a balance of experience and energy. For kindergarten positions, the age preference might skew even younger to match the dynamic nature of working with young children.

If you fall outside this age bracket, you should inquire about a school’s age requirement early on. Schools with rigid age restrictions might not fully appreciate the value that older, experienced teachers bring to the table. If an institution overlooks this, it may signal a lack of understanding of the teaching profession.

In such cases, you’re better off exploring other job opportunities. After all, age is just a number, and seasoned educators have a wealth of knowledge and expertise to offer. Find a school that understands and appreciates your experience.


7. You must pass two Medical Checks

China prioritizes the health and well-being of its foreign teachers, aiming to prevent the spread of illnesses into the country. As part of the application process for a Z Visa, you’ll undergo a comprehensive medical examination conducted by an authorized medical facility as soon as you arrive in China. This check screens for general health and specific conditions like HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis.

Your employer, however, might also ask you to have a medical check done in your home country before you leave for China. This medical check requested by the school is primarily to ensure that you’re fit to start work immediately and don’t have any infectious diseases that could hinder you from obtaining a valid work permit. While some jobs may insist on this check, it’s usually not for official visa purposes.

Either way, your employer will help you through the process, so don’t worry!


  1. You must have a valid visa and work permit

Having the correct visa and work permit is a must to work in China legally and safely. Working without proper documentation is risky, as authorities are cracking down, particularly in major cities. While it used to be common to work on business visas, this practice is becoming less acceptable, although it’s still somewhat prevalent in smaller cities.

Ensuring you have the proper paperwork is essential to avoid legal trouble and ensure a hassle-free work experience in China.

Eligibility Exceptions

Remember what we said about exceptions to the standard requirements? It’s true!

What if you are not originally from one of the seven approved countries but studied and gained your Bachelor’s Degree from one of the approved countries? Well, this is an exception in some provinces like Shandong but not in others. 

Here are some of the most common exceptions:

  • If your Bachelor’s Degree is in English literacy but you don’t have TEFL certification, you can apply for an exemption.
  • If you don’t have a lot of practical hours under your belt but found a job that doesn’t require it (say, a kindergarten), you can apply for an exemption to #5. The ‘practical’ requirement is subjective to each job offer so peruse them carefully. For the most part you can get a job with a degree and TEFL, even if you have no experience. 
  • If you are qualified to teach in your home country, have a Bachelor’s Degree and at least two years experience, you can apply for an exemption. This means that non-native speakers can teach in China. You will find qualified teachers in this situation working for top international schools
  • Also, you won’t need to have TEFL certification to teach a subject OTHER than English, so you can also apply for an exemption here too.
Teach in China_Am i eligible 2

Attributes to find a great teaching job in China

The above are the essential eligibility requirements for a Z Visa, and this working visa is the crucial requirement for teaching English in China in 2024.

Yet, a few more attributes can help you find a great and well-paid teaching job in China. Attributes that relate more to your personality and attitude rather than qualifications.

Here are a few we think are also essential:


1. A go-getter attitude

 proactive teachers with proven track records for being creative and sociable in the workplace do better at finding fantastic teaching jobs in China.

China is not a country that rewards timid, shrinking violets. The culture is well-suited to affirmative people who know what they want and make plans to achieve their goals


  1. Finding the right match

China has certainly come a long way in the last decade, but you will still come across job posts demanding a specific gender and race. Age-old notions still exist, unfortunately, but you need not let this get you down. Contact us, and we’ll help you find the right teaching job for you, no matter your sex and/or race.

There are PLENTY of jobs out there, and your aim should be to find a school and employer who truly values your skills, experience and input.

  1. Cultural sensitivity

To succeed in China and enjoy your teaching tenure, you must learn, understand and respect local cultural norms. This includes recognizing hierarchy, respecting authority, and valuing harmony.

Being culturally aware will help you build better working relationships and ensure your time in China is enjoyable and rewarding.

  1. Adaptability

Charles Darwin surmised that to thrive in one’s environment, one must adapt. How true it is for foreign teachers in China, where the education system is drastically different! Adaptability is vital to your success, so tweak your teaching methods to suit the Chinese context.

Being open to trying new approaches and understanding the unique needs of Chinese students will help you succeed in China.

  1. A strong work ethic

Working long hours and putting in plenty of extra time in and out of the classroom might be considered ‘overworked’ in the West. In China, it is simply see as a strong work ethic that you’ll be expected to emulate.

China’s super competitive education system demands long hours and a strong commitment.

  1. Prioritize student success

To succeed as a teacher in China, being committed to your students’ success is essential. Parents highly value education and expect teachers to be dedicated to helping their children achieve academically.

Earning the respect of students and their parents can be hard work in China, but when you commit to their success, you’ll gain it back in spades.

  1. Have a passion for teaching

At the heart of it all, a genuine passion for teaching and a drive to make a positive difference in students’ lives are the most crucial qualities of a successful teacher in China, just as in any other setting.

  1. Commitment to make it work 

Chinese schools recruiting foreign teachers will typically ask for a time commitment of between 10 and 12 months, as a minimum. Make sure you understand the commitment you are making when signing a teaching contract in China.

Recruiting foreign teachers takes time, effort, and money. Schools in China want to ensure their investment (in you) is worth it. Prove them right!

  1. Strong emotional independence

Even if it’s something you’ve been dreaming about for years, moving to China to work as a teacher is not easy. You’re bound to get homesick, culture-sick, and frustrated, especially in the first few months.

Being emotionally independent will help you navigate your new home and settle in much faster.

  1. Financial back up

Sure, you want to teach English in China because it’s a financially rewarding thing to do. But you need to initially spend at least USD 5,000, which is out of your pocket. Although you should definitely negotiate your teaching contract to include reimbursement of your expenses (like flights, visa application fees and moving costs), know that you won’t see these funds reimbursed until months after you’ve arrived.

Find out what moving to China to teach English will likely cost you!

China Teaching and Visa Restrictions Update –2024

Getting visas and travelling to China has become easier recently, with many previous restrictions lifted. Getting a working visa and securing a fantastic teaching job in this dynamic, fascinating country has never been easier. 

Do your research, talk to your employer or reach out to us if you have questions.

Things are about to get a lot more interesting!