How do I get a job teaching English in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a traditional favorite with many teachers as it is a modern, vibrant place where English is commonly used and most Western style comforts are readily available. The downside of its popularity is that the competition for the best positions is generally very strong. To give yourself the best chance of success, there are a few things you should know.

What are the requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong?

Although there have been government guidelines in place for many years regarding foreign teachers, these have only recently begun to be properly enforced. The result of this is that it is now very difficult for anyone without a university degree and two years teaching experience and/or a TESOL qualification to find a legitimate job. On top of these basic restrictions, each employer is free to set their own requirements for jobs they advertise.

Who are the main employers of English teachers in Hong Kong?

Universities provide a few options for teachers with a high level of qualifications and previous experience. To qualify for these positions you will need a master?s degree in English, TESOL or linguistics, a teaching certificate from your home country, and at least two years experience. If you are able to meet these requirements you can expect a high rate of pay and some excellent extra benefits.

Private language centers are the most likely destination for the majority of foreign teachers looking for their first job in Hong Kong. These are widespread and cater to children or adult students. To be eligible for these positions you will need to meet the basic government requirements of a bachelor?s degree in any subject, plus a TESOL certificate or two years of teaching experience. Many employers also prefer native English speakers, although this is not necessarily a deal breaker.

Placement in a state run school via the Native English Speakers Scheme (NET) is another popular choice. To join the scheme you must be a native or fluent English speaker with a degree and a TESOL certificate. The NET scheme is very popular so anyone with previous experience or a teaching related degree might find they have a strong advantage if places are tight. It is also worth noting that the salaries paid are based on qualifications and experience.

What are the visa requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong?

To work legally in Hong Kong you will need a Z visa. The school should be happy to organise this for you, so if they refuse or make flimsy excuses then it is probably a sign that they are not an officially registered school and should therefore be avoided. The official requirements for the Z visa are essentially the same as those for most teaching positions i.e. a degree in any subject and either two years teaching experience or a TESOL certificate.

What is the visa process for teaching English in Hong Kong?

The school that employs you will act as your sponsor and should organise most of the paperwork required to apply for the Z visa. You will need to provide several documents including a scan of your passport, evidence of your degree, and a copy of your teaching certificate or evidence of your previous teaching experience. By submitting these documents your school should be able to obtain an invitation letter and a Foreign Expert Certificate which will be sent to you in your home country.

On receipt of these, you will have to visit a Chinese embassy or consulate to make the formal visa application. There are also several agencies who can take care of this for you in return for a set fee. Providing everything is in order, the Z visa should arrive within a week. With the Z visa you can enter Hong Kong and then this needs to be converted into a residency permit within 30 days of your arrival. A basic background check from your home country will be required at this stage. One other point worth noting is that the official retirement age in China is 60 for men and 55 for women, and anyone over these ages will probably struggle to find a teaching position.