Gayle Aggiss blog writer for Hello Teacher!

Updated November 17, 2019
By Gayle Aggiss

Teach in China scams

You’re all packed.

You’ve Googled where you want to go. You’ve spoken to the people at your school and learned what to expect.

Then you get to China and experience that sinking feeling. Nothing is like you expected it to be.

And that’s not in the sense that the culture and the country are different than you thought.

It goes deeper than that. You’ve been scammed!

Teach in China scams go on every day. And the effect they can have on your trip and even on your life can be catastrophic.

So, if you’re planning on teaching in China, this blog is for you.

Common teach in China scams

Schools in China are screaming out for English teachers.

This is great if you want the experience of living in China. It means you’ll basically have the choice of awesome sounding jobs.

But it has also given rise to scams. These scams are pretty similar and usually take the following forms:

Pay to teach

Unless you’re doing an internship, where you should be getting extra for your money, never pay to apply for or take a job. Chances are that the recruiter will disappear with your money.

The only thing you should pay for is your visa and flights (your flights will be reimbursed when you complete your contract).

Wrong visas

This is one of the biggest teach in China scams.

You cannot teach in China on a tourist, student or business visa. You must have a Z visa.

Being on the wrong visa is a typical teach in China scam

You need a Z visa to teach in China.

Otherwise you could get into trouble with immigration or the police, and even get deported.

Shady recruiters

This is another one of the most common teach in English scams.

You get your job through a recruiter who promises you everything you want. And then you get to China and they’ve disappeared.

At best, the school has disappeared or has no idea who you are. At worst, you’re there on the wrong visa to be exploited.

Fake apartments

You see pictures of where you’ll be living before you get to China and then you get there and it’s a dump that you share with five other teachers.

Unfortunately, this is all too common.

Paying under the table

You should always have a legal teaching contract that stipulates how you get paid.

Never accept pay under the table in China. This practice is the mark of a sketchy school or recruiter.

And if you get caught, they’ll disappear, and you’ll be deported or arrested.

Unclear contracts

You need to check your contract very carefully.

It should include everything from wages, timing of wages, hours, extra duties, which school you teach at, your accommodation, and holidays.

Unclear contracts is a typical teach in China scam

English teachers in China should check their contracts carefully.

If anything is missing, get it added. Otherwise, you’re leaving the door open to get abused.

If you have a clear contract, you at least have legal recourse if something goes wrong with your school.

Signs of a scam

If you’re going to avoid being scammed when you teach in China, then here’s what to look out for:

Unsolicited approaches

Don’t trust anyone who reaches out to you on social media and offers you a job. This kind of eagerness usually covers up bad things.

Changing or no qualifications necessary

To teach in China legally, you need a bachelor’s degree to get a Z visa, the only visa you’re allowed to teach on. Full stop, the end.

You’ll also need a teaching certification like TEFL. And you should never believe anyone who says otherwise.

You need a Z visa to teach in China

Beware of anyone telling you that you don't need any qualifications to teach in China.

Generic email addresses

Emails from your school or recruiter may come from the free sites that everyone uses, like Hotmail, Gmail or 163 (Chinese).

While this is common, be on guard if they don’t also have a proper work email address.

No Z visa

You must have a Z Visa to work in China. This means that you’re a legal teacher with rights.

If you don’t have this visa and something goes wrong, you have no recourse. You could also get into trouble with immigration!

So, never agree to work in China on any other visa, no matter how attractive they make it sound.

Too good to be true

If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Don’t believe anyone who promises wages that are much higher than the norm or a ridiculously small number of hours.

You’ll probably end up working hours of overtime without pay or something.

Just don’t do it.

No contract

China is very regimented and loves paperwork. Which is why one of the most common teach in China scams is to withhold the teaching contract.

Contracts are taken seriously in China. If you don’t have one, then your employers can pretty much make you do whatever they want, and you have no right to complain.

So, get it signed and sealed.

Unclear contract

Make sure you read through your contract carefully. It should promise everything that was verbally promised to you.

You should also check when you get paid, so you don’t end up teaching for months without pay.

Teach in China scams are common including dodgy contracts

Before teaching in China, make sure your contract is clear.

Make sure your hours are what you expected and look for a probationary period.

Not every school gives a probationary period, but if they do then make sure you aren’t liable for more hours or duties after you pass it.

Vague escape clause

There will be an escape clause in your contract. It will tell you how much notice you have to give and what to do if you need to leave.

Peruse this part very carefully. If the terms aren’t very clear, get it re-written or walk away.

At most you should have to give a month’s notice before leaving.

There should also be a section telling you what will happen if you don’t give notice.

This should be written out in detail, so make sure you find the terms acceptable.

Ideas for staying safe in China

It’s always a bit of a risk when you move to another country to teach.

No matter how smart you are, and how careful you are, you could still miss something and get caught up in one of the teach in China scams.

Or, even worse, your recruiter could be so good that there isn’t a single red flag!

You can’t control this side of your experience. But you can set yourself up from the start so that you’re as safe as possible.

Reading up on the latest teach in China tips, and taking the following steps before you leave your country, will hold you in good stead.

Have some savings

You should always have some savings before you move to another country.

Some schools will offer you an advance on your wages, but you should have enough money with you that it isn’t necessary.

A small cushion will get you back home without begging your parents.

And it will prevent you from getting trapped in China like these poor teachers did.

Talk to other teachers

One of the best ways to evaluate a school is to talk with foreign teachers who are currently working there or who worked there previously.

Talk to other teachers to avoid being scammed in China

Find out about other teachers' experiences in China.

Get all the answers you need to feel safe.

Do your research

Research your school and the recruiter extensively. Glassdoor is great for reviews from past employees, but you should also check out the school’s website.

Compare what you know about the school and its teachers with what’s on the website.

And if you notice any discrepancies, don’t be afraid to ask.

Use Skype

Legitimate schools will always use Skype to interview you.

This gives them the chance to see you and it will give you peace of mind as well.

Be wary if they won’t schedule a Skype call.

Keep your passport close

Your passport is worth more than anything else when you’re overseas.

It’s the only way to leave a country and get back home.

Stay safe in China by keeping your passport with you

Stay safe in China by keeping your passport with you.

You shouldn’t have to hand it over to anyone, except the Public Security Bureau when you register that you’re living in China.

Get the right visa

This bears saying again; you can only work legally as a teacher in China with a Z visa.

Lots of schools and recruiters try to get around this by promising you a business or tourist visa.

This is not legal and will leave you without recourse if something bad happens with your school.

Do not try to enter China as a teacher until you have that Z visa.

Don’t be afraid to walk away

If red flags go up at any time during the process, then don’t be afraid to question them or to walk away.

There are lots of opportunities for English teachers in China. This makes you the boss of the process, so stay in control and listen to your instincts.

Choosing a reputable recruiter is key

Avoiding teach in China scams can be difficult.

It can seem like a lot of work when you just want to get over there and enjoy the new experience.

That’s why it’s a good idea to go with a recruiter that’s reputable like Hello Teacher!

It’s the best way to ensure you have a safe, fun and legal experience teaching in China.

Have you experienced any teach in China scams? Share your story below.


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