Having been working in the field of ESL teacher recruitment for several years, I recently found an interesting phenomenon-there are more problems for those who have already had a work visa in China to renew the work visa.
In the past, if a teacher already holds a work visa, then he can easily get a new work visa. The procedures are very easy. But nowadays, we all know that the visa requirements are getting more and more strict, it should have been that teachers outside of China are harder to get a work visa. However, the reality is just the opposite. Teachers who have never been to China before are easier to get the visa. So why is that?
First, the expiration date of current residence permit. Usually the residence permit is valid for one year because the contract is a one year contract. But for many public schools, the contract length is actually shorter than one year because they have summer and winter holidays. Suppose you start working in September, then your contract will end in June or July instead of September in the next year. Consequently, the work permit also ends in June/July, the same date as the contract ends. But if you continue to work in a public school, you will start in September, but the residence permit already expires in July. There is a time gap between July and September, which you don’t have a visa to live in China. Your new employer can transfer the visa, but it needs to be done before the residence permit expires. And you need to get some documents from your current school. Some schools are unwilling to give those documents too much earlier. They are afraid you won’t work hard there after getting those documents since you will go to another school next year. So usually they will tell you that the documents will be given to you on your last day of teaching. But if so, there won’t be enough time for your next employer to transfer the visa. You have to go back to your country to apply for the visa again. This causes many problems and costs much time and money. So remember this, if you are going to work for a public school, negotiate with the school before signing the contract to make the residence permit longer to September so that you won’t rush to find another school when it is finished.
Second, asking for reference letter. Many foreigners who had worked as an ESL teacher in China before didn’t ask for a reference letter from the school when they leave. They just thought that is not important. But when you want to find an English teaching job in China again, you will see it is necessary. To get a work visa, many local governments require a two year teaching reference letter. You may can still contact the previous schools to get one,but it takes time,because you are no longer there and it all depends on the school to give it or not. Some big cities like Beijing and Shanghai require the signature on the reference letter should be handwritten. A printed scanned copy doesn’t work. You need to get an original one. I have a teacher met this problem recently. He worked in Beijing one year ago and now he found a job in Shanghai. He contacted the school in Beijing. After several days, he got the reply that they can make him a reference letter, but they won’t mail the original one to him. He needs to pick it up in Beijing office. If he could have asked for it before he left that school, everything will be much easier now. Some schools even won’t respond to your request since you are no longer their teacher and why would they help you. So be sure to ask for the reference letter before you leave the school even though you won’t teach in China for the next year. Maybe you will come back one day, who knows for sure?
Finally, cancellation of work permit card. Work permit is a card that recently issued which replaces the previous Foreign Expert Certificate. Here is a pic of it.
Some teachers even don’t know they have it because the school holds it. This card is very important. It MUST be cancelled when you finsih your work there, otherwise no schools can apply for a new visa for you. Some teachers may think that it will expire automatically, why does it have to be cancelled? IT MUST BE CANCELLED. I have a Canadian teacher. He left the school and didn’t get it cancelled. When he found a new school, the new school can’t apply for the new visa. The local government said it has to be cancelled by the school even though it was already expired. No school in China can make the visa for him. So at last, he had to go to South Korea to teach.
In a word, ask for three documents from your current school when you finish your contract there: reference letter, release letter and cancellation letter of work permit. It matters a lot.