Don’t forget to ask for reference letter


In recent ESL teachers recruitment, a new problem comes up and becomes more and more obvious. That’s is reference letter. We all know teachers need to get a work visa to teach in China. And they need to prepare some necessary documents to get the visa. One of them is a reference letter. Many ESL teachers don’t ask for reference letters from their previous employers when they finish the contracts. They are not aware that it will be needed later if they want to teach ESL in China.


State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) has requirments for contents in the reference letter. The reference letter should be related to teaching experience. It is from your last employer, the more recent, the better. It should indicate your employment period ( from which month which year to which month which year), position, responsibilites and other teaching related experiences, with the company/school official seal and the signature and the contact information (emails and phone numbers and address). If it’s from a school/company outside of China, then the referee can just sign the letter, don’t need to stamp, sicne it isn’t common to stamp the letter abroad. As for the working period, it’s better 2 years and abve, not very short like several months, at least a full year.


Here is a sample of reference letter that you can use to apply for work visa in China.


To whom it can concern,


I’m very pleased to write to you about my experience working with XXX. As the Director for Foreign Affairs for XXX school, I have had the pleasure of working with XXX both inside and outside of the classroom. XXX worked for XXX school from October 17,2012 to October 16,2014 as a full time English teacher. During this time he has proven to be an outstanding teacher but a professional and reliable employee.


XXX has demostrated great skill in creating clear and organized lesson plans that are both effective and beneficial for his students. He has excellent communication skills, which are necessary for creating a successful learning environment and an effective office rapport.


XXX has a friendly personality and a strong work ethic that will truly be missed by all of us at XXX school. I am happy to say that we have all benefited greatly from XXX’s experience and I hope for all the best in his future endeavors.


Please free feel to contact me if you have any further questions regarding XXX’s experience and qualifications.


If you currently teach English in China and hold a work visa, then you also need to get a reference letter which is a Chinese form. The school will stamp on it. Since it is in Chinese, make sure the school writes something positive. You can ask your friends or students for help. If they write something bad, then it will affect the renewal of visa. I encountered a case before. The teacher did have the offical reference letter, but the school wrote something like“ Teaching accidents happened during his teaching”. I tried many different cities and schools for them, but unfortunately they all can’t get him a new visa because of the recommendation letter. What the school wrote means that he is not qualified for teaching, so the application for work visa won’t aprroved. Therefore, this is a serious problem in searching for ESL jobs in China.


For those who currently teach English in China and want to leave their current school earlier before the contract ends, you need to handle it carefully. Even though you are not satisfied with your current school, even angry with them, please try to control your emotion before they give you the reference letter. Try to avoid any confrontations if possible. Usually when you sign the contract, it will write how long notice you need to give if you want to resign. You can try to negotiate with them, explain why you want to leave. And you won’t leave immediately, you can follow the contract and do your job well before leaving. Then most schools will give you the reference letter and other necessary documents. If you work for an agency rather than a school directly, usually agencies are not very cooperative in providing those documents. You need to be more patient then. If your new school said they can apply for a new one instead of transfer it, then the reference letter may be not needed.


All in all, reference letter is an important part of visa documents. Be sure to ask for it when you finish a contract.