One of the most common questions that we are asked by teachers following their initial application is ‘How long will the whole process take until I’m actually teaching in China?’ It’s an understandable question, as most teachers would like a rough time frame for when they’re likely to be leaving for China so they can forward plan things, such as handing in their notice with their current employer.

In this blog post, we break down each step involved in the process of moving to teach English in China, explaining how long each step takes as well as highlighting things that may speed up or slow down the process.

1. Apply Now to Offer Acceptance – 2-3 weeks

The first step for most teachers in our process is to Apply Now to indicate an interest in teaching English in China. Typically we respond to most applications within 48 hours to arrange an initial call. Once we’ve spoken to you and found out what type of a position it is that you’re looking for, we get to work in trying to arrange interviews with appropriate schools. Typically our partner schools respond to us immediately with feedback on any CVs that we submit to them, and if you have the required skills and experience you’ll be invited to attend a first stage interview within 3-4 days.

Most of the schools that we work with have a two-stage interview process, and it will typically take one week for both interviews to be conducted and an offer to be made to you if you’re successful. Once you’ve received an offer then our team here at Teach English Global will take 1-2 days reading through your contract with you, and answering any questions that you may have before you officially accept your offer.

2. Document Authentication – 4-6 weeks

Once you’ve accepted an offer then you’ll start the Chinese Z Visa process. The first stage of the visa process is for you to get all of the necessary documents authenticated. These documents are Bachelor’s Degree, TEFL Certificate, and Non-Criminal Record Check. We explain in greater detail what needs to be done with these documents and how this process works in our Chinese Z Visa Guide.

The length of this process can vary slightly from teacher to teacher due to several reasons. Firstly, in some countries, such as the UK, the time taken to obtain a criminal record check is extremely quick, whereas in the USA this process can take longer. We advise that all teachers who are set on moving to China apply for a criminal record check before even applying for jobs. Secondly, when it comes to getting the required documents authenticated, you can either complete this stage by yourself or with the help of an agent. Doing it with the help of an agent is slightly more expensive, but will drastically reduce the amount of time taken. Finally, depending on which Chinese city you’re going to be working in you may be required to have a medical check done prior to flying out. For example, teachers who are moving to Beijing will be required to have a medical beforehand, whereas teachers who are moving to Shanghai will not. Booking and then attending this appointment can potentially add some time to the process.

On average, the time taken for this step of the process is 4-6 weeks.

3. Work Permit Application – 6-8 weeks

Once you’ve authenticated all of the required documentation, you will then send scanned copies over to your school so that they can begin your work permit application in China. This typically takes around 3-4 weeks. However, as a result of Covid-19, the Chinese government has introduced a further step to the visa process and schools must now also apply for a ‘PU Letter’ after the work permit has been issued. This takes a further 3-4 weeks.

4. Obtain Visa – 2-4 weeks

After receiving both your work permit and PU letter your school will send scanned copies over to you and you’ll be able to go and obtain your Z Visa from your nearest Chinese embassy. Similarly to the document authentication process, the time this step takes will depend on whether you use the help of an agent or not. Most visa agents have contacts at their local Chinese embassies and are able to book appointments quickly, meaning that with the help of an agent this process will take 1-2 weeks. If you decide to do this final stage on your own then it can take 3-4 weeks.

5. Prepare to Fly2-5 weeks

Once you’ve obtained your Z Visa you will be able to fly to China. How long this stage takes will completely depend on the teacher. Some teachers will want to fly out a week after obtaining their visa and may have already pre-booked a flight after receiving their work permit and PU letter from their school. Other teachers, may only want to book their flight after they’ve received their Z Visa. As a result, the time taken at this stage of the process can vary depending on the individual teacher, and how quickly they hope to get out to China.

6. Arrive in China 3-4 weeks

As a result of Covid-19, once you arrive in China you’re now required to undertake a two-week hotel quarantine. In normal times this does not exist, and it is expected that once the pandemic nears an end this will be eradicated, but for the time being, it means that teachers have to wait a little longer until they can start teaching.

Once your quarantine is over most teachers usually have 1-2 weeks, depending on their school, to find an apartment and explore their new city before their first day at their new school.

Average Timeframe = 24 weeks / 6 Months

On average the current time frame from ‘Apply Now’ to your first day teaching English in China is 24 weeks / 6 months. 

As you can see from this blog post, there are a variety of factors that can both help or hinder the speed that this process takes. For some teachers who use the help of a visa agent, already have their criminal record check prior to making an application, and book their flights to leave for China as soon as they have their visa, the overall process may only take around 4 months. Whereas, for teachers who decide to do their document authentication completely by themselves, and only want to book their flight after their visa is in their passport, it could take up to 8 months.

Furthermore, as a result of Covid-19, there have been a couple of additions to the process which are quite time-consuming. The first being the PU letter application, which takes around 4 weeks, and the second being the hotel quarantine which takes a further two weeks. Once the world returns back to normal, so too will the process involved with entering China, and the average time that it takes from ‘Apply Now’ to your first day teaching in China will be significantly lower!