I have been teaching English in China for the past few years we had a good quality of life and I would recommend it to anybody. However when things go wrong you realise just how far you are away from how. These are two of the horror stories I have heard.

Horror Story #1: “Illegal Immigrants”
Two teachers signed contracts with an agency working with a primary school in Northeast China, part of the contract stipulating that the teachers were to come to China on tourist visas and that the school would arrange proper work visas and residence permits within a week of the teachers’ arrival. However, after the teachers arrived, one week turned into two, two weeks turned into a month, and soon the teachers found their L visas about to expire and still no proper paperwork was in sight. At this point the agency told the teachers they could get them business visas through a connection – for a price of 4000RMB each, which the teachers would have to pay themselves. It turned out that neither the agency nor the primary school in question was authorized to hire foreign teachers and had lured the teachers to China under false pretenses. The teachers eventually left this school, but not without harassment and threats from the agency.

The Moral: The only way to be sure you’re going to get the correct visa is to leave your home country with a Z visa already in your passport. Legit schools are perfectly capable of applying for a Z visa before you leave, and if they tell you otherwise, be very wary.

Horror Story #2: “When Is Payday Again?”
A young British teacher and all of his co-workers at a private language training center in Beijing were forced to storm the headquarters of the school in protest after the school failed to pay the teachers at least three months in a row. The teachers were afraid to quit their part time jobs at the school, fearing that if they quit, the school would simply never pay them. Yet even though they continued to show up and do their work, month after month their bank accounts remained empty. Finally, after the teachers united together and showed up in force to demand their payment, they were paid partially. In a similar story, the owners of one Beijing private language school packed up in the night and emptied out the office. When teachers – Chinese and foreign – showed up for work the next day, the school was closed and the boss’ cell phone was turned off. The owners had fled, taking tuition money from the students and leaving its teachers unpaid.

The Moral: The majority of these sorts of stories happen to teachers working under the table at unlicensed schools. If your school is unlicensed, work at your own risk!