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The legal requirements for ESL teachers in China

Updated: May 4, 2019


If you've spent any time looking for jobs in China, you will have seen that is a wide variety of conflicting information surround the requirements for teaching English in China. We are here to tell you the current recommended requirements as set by the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA). These requirements are set on a national level, and local provincial governments may or may not choose to enforce these requirements.


The Requirements

  • Have a Bachelors degree or higher

  • Have 2 Years of teaching experience

  • Be a native English speaker (A valid passport from U.K, USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand)

  • Have a 120+ hours TEFL/TESOL qualification

Bachelors Degree

The bachelors degree can be in any subject field, but must be awarded before a teacher begins teaching in China. To verify that the bachelor degree is legitimate you will need to submit the original certificate to your school/institution.

Native English Speaker

According to regulations by the Chinese government only passport holders of the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland can legally apply for a work visa in China.

2 Years Experience

A common theme seen amongst job posts from schools/institutions is that they may state that they prefer teachers that have '2+ years of teaching experience'. It is true that in China there is a huge market of high paid jobs for ESL teachers that match this criteria, but it's not necessary. Many credible institutions/schools will alternatively accept ESL teachers that have a relevant "TEFL/TESOL" 120-hour teaching certificate.

TEFL/TESOL Qualification

A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English Speaking to Other Languages) are the only two accepted teaching certificates for foreign teachers within China. Both the TEFL and TESOL are offered by a number of different organisations across China. It is important to note that to teach in China, teachers must receive a certificate that has 120+ hours of training and isn't labelled as 'online'.

If you are interested in teaching in China and match this criteria then check out our Year Programme.


We always try to keep this information updated; if you spot any mistakes please leave a comment below so we can update the information accordingly.

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