With a population of 1.4 billion people spread throughout a huge geographic area, China always has a vast amount of opportunities for foreign ESL teachers. However, there is one question that teachers continue to ask:
Can I teach legally in China if I don?t have a degree?
The answer to this question would have been yes until quite recently. Although individual schools are still not concerned with whether their teachers have a degree or not, it is government restrictions that have made the difference. It is now an official requirement for teachers to have a degree in order to be eligible for a Z (work) visa. As every teacher needs this visa to work legally, the answer is no, you cannot teach legally in China without a degree.
Can I teach in China with a different kind of visa?
If you don?t qualify for a Z (work) visa, you can visit China on another type of visa such as an L (tourist) visa or an M (business) visa. While some teachers do work in the country on either of these visaa, it is not legal and you risk a big fine, deportation, or even a visit to jail if caught. As there is such a massive demand for teachers in many parts of China, recruitment companies will do almost anything to entice people to come to the country, regardless of their legal status. If you are a teacher without a degree and you find job adverts telling you it is fine to teach on a tourist or business visa, it is best to ignore them and look elsewhere for your ideal teaching destination.
If schools are happy to employ people without a Z visa is it really that risky?
As there are often not enough teachers to go around, it is true that many schools will employ you regardless of your legal status. They are happy to take the risk on the assumption that they are unlikely to get caught as the authorities have such a huge number of employers to cover. There is every chance that you could work for a long time in one school without any problems. However, regular raids are carried out and if you found yourself caught up in one, your China adventure could well come to an unpleasant end.
Is there any other way for teachers without a degree to work legally in China?
If you don?t have a degree but you are set on teaching in China, there is an alternative in the shape of an X (student) visa. With this visa you are allowed to work part-time in an internship role. This type of position doesn?t pay the same as a standard teaching job, but you should still be able to earn enough to get by while also gaining plenty of valuable classroom experience. The X (student) visa is initially valid for only six months, although it is possible to extend it in some cases.