MKL Q&A Forums

Professional advice
when you need it

Click Here

What We Use in China


Section I: Teaching English in China continued

Changing Jobs or Employers

(Updated to Reflect May 2008 Changes in Regulations)

In order to change employers, you will need two documents: a chopped "letter of release" and, as of May 2008, a letter of recommendation that, at the very least, specifically addresses whether the employee is "worthy of continued service in China," according to one provincial foreign affairs office official.

As of May 2008, entry Z-visas can no longer be obtained by "visa-runs" to Hong Kong or Taiwan.

Prior to May 2008, the school was under no obligation to provide the foreign teacher with a letter of recommendation, nor was it technically required by the new employer: The "Letter of Release," which is just an official government document completed by the school indicating that the terms of the contract have been fulfilled, was entirely sufficient for continued employment with a new school. It no longer is. It has been reported from reliable sources that new employers applying for a residency permit on behalf of a foreign teacher must present a letter of recommendation from the current employer (technically from the school that has sponsored your current residency permit) to the PSB along with the letter of release and that this reference letter must include some statement regarding the character of the foreign teacher.

Unfortunately, what this new regulation means is that if your current employer is very unhappy with you, you may—in fact—have enormous difficulty procuring employment with a different school.  This also completely eliminates the possibility of pulling a "midnight runner" unless one plans to leave China permanently. In light of this new requirement, foreign teachers are strongly advised to make certain that they leave their current schools on good terms only. Another manifest effect of this new regulation, perhaps quite deliberately so, is that it now forces any foreigner who has been working in China on anything but a residency permit to return home with the required paperwork for obtaining a Z-visa before being able to accept employment at a school authorized to hire foreign experts.

Furthermore, it is imperative that you coordinate the timing of your relocation to a different province so that you will arrive at the new school at least one week prior to the expiration date of your current residency permit (assuming you arrived in China with a Z-visa to begin with). Under no circumstances, should you ever allow the former school to downgrade your residency permit to an L-visa (tourist visa). With the only exception of two or three provinces that we are aware of, you will then be required to return to your native country for the purpose of obtaining and returning with a new Z-visa (i.e., only two or three provinces will agree to convert your tourist visa back into a Z-visa). More often than not, as "visa runs" to Hong Kong are no longer acceptable, the time involved in having to return home to obtain a new visa will typically result in the loss of your new job.

Physical Exam Record for Foreigner and the Certificate of Health Examination

Depending on the province and the guanxi established between your school and the PSB, your medical exam may be good for just one year (which is technically what the law stipulates), or for as long as you work for the same employer (one old-timer, at a public middle school, received only one physical exam in the five years that he worked there, while other teachers at a local private school, in the same province and just down the road, had to go through this procedure every year). If you are moving to a new school, and it's been more than one year since your last physical exam, you will typically be required to have the Physical Exam Record for Foreigner completed and returned before you actually move to your new school and/or province. It costs about 290 RMB (costs may vary by location).

If you will have at least two weeks left on your residency permit upon arrival to the new school, they may accept a digital copy of your Certificate of Health Examination in the interim and then have you reexamined at a local facility after you arrive. By the way, this health certificate is useful when traveling outside the mainland for expediting reentry into China (past quarantine) and should be brought with you whenever you leave the mainland.

Foreign Expert Certificate and Foreign Residency Permit

Your Foreign Expert Certificate (FEC) belongs to the school and should be returned to them upon departure. Before having accepted your new position, you should have been very clear from the onset that you will not accept anything less than another one-year extension of your current foreign residency permit (FRP). Verify with existing teachers that they are working on a legal residency permit.

You need to ensure that your current employer provides you with the documents needed by the new school before you finish your contract so as to provide the new school with at least seven working days to extend your current visa. If you are unable to do this, then you must ask your present employer to extend your current residency permit by one month (this can be done for an extra fee).

As of May 2008, entry Z-visas can no longer be obtained by "visa-runs" to Hong Kong or Taiwan. Z-visas can only be obtained from the Chinese embassy or consulate within the country that has issued the foreign teacher's passport. So it is imperative that you properly coordinate the timing of this transition. If you run out of time, you will then have to return back to your native country and apply for a new Z-visa from the Chinese consulate there. The PSB will no longer convert L-visas into residency permits if the former residency permit has expired.

Moving Your Acquired Belongings

Thirty plus years ago in China, it was customary for citizens to grow up, become educated, get married, work, retire and then die in the same city and province they were born in. Commuting to work and school or visiting relatives was a simple matter of just taking a walk or perhaps a brief bicycle or bus ride. Times have changed in China.

In 1987, it was estimated by the Research Center for the Rural Economy (RCRE) that only 3 percent of all working age adults were migrants: this figure rose to 23 percent in 2003 (de Brauw and Giles, 2008). Another estimate released by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) predicted that, by the end of 2008, there will be approximately 125 million citizens who will have domestically migrated within China (de la Torre, 2005). Today, it is not uncommon for students to attend universities quite some distance from their hometowns, to remain in those new cities after graduation, and for recent graduates to accept employment in a different part of the country altogether.

As domestic migration has increased significantly over the years, so too have moving and relocation services. Years ago, when domestic migration was virtually unheard of, it was common for those who had to relocate to another city or province to simply sell off everything they owned and start anew. Today, there are several options for moving your belongings if you accept employment in a different city or province.

Virtually every city now has local branches of a national network of several different moving companies that will come to your apartment, pack up your belongings, and truck them to the train station where they will be met and picked up by a sister branch in the destination city and, in turn, delivered to your new apartment. Others have reported more traditionally Western moving services comprising a crew of men who will load your belongings onto a truck, which will then travel to your new location for delivery. Shipping and moving costs tend to be considerably less than they are in the West, so if you have accumulated a great deal of belongings and you plan to relocate within China, it really isn’t necessary to sell off everything you own at cut-rate prices to other foreigners. Have a Chinese friend inquire on your behalf about what your options are in your particular city for moving and relocation. You will most likely be very pleasantly surprised.


About Us

Middle Kingdom Life is the premier award-winning educational website for foreign teachers and Western expats in China. It was founded by an American professor in psychology and sociology for the purpose of disseminating valid and reliable information about living and teaching in China. The site's mission is to protect and enhance the interests and social welfare of foreign teachers and Western expats in China.

Read More


Link Partners

Website administrators are invited to partner-up with MKL. Our link directory supports text links or banners and features thumbnail photos of your home page.

Add Link