So as you may know, for some time I have been teaching English in a training center in Nanjing. Even though I was a student with a student visa, I could work because I applied for a work-study visa. Originally, I planned to stay here for a semester or two more and save some money. However, things got a little bit complicated.
I had just kind of assumed that after graduating, I will be able to apply for a working visa. Especially since I had heard some things about a point system in which you get extra points for having graduated from a Chinese university. I had even started taking a TEFL course to become more competitive in the job market in case my school didn’t want for me to stay. However, in the end, I found out that I wouldn’t be possible for me to stay. Why? Because as far as I know, it’s not legal to teach English if you’re not a native speaker (at least here in Nanjing) and I am not one.
First of all, I was a little bit annoyed with how my company handled things. I talked to my supervisor shortly after coming back from my two-day trip to Wuhu and she said that the company would be glad if I stayed and continued working there. Then, we started discussing the details and she stressed how little time there was before my current visa expires because from her experience, processing a working visa application requires a long time. I agreed and then I sent all of my documents (like my graduation diplomas and the template showing how my future TEFL certificate would look like) to HR. And I focused on progressing with my TEFL course as fast as I could.
I didn’t think much of it at the beginning, these things take time, I thought. But then one of my coworkers sent me a message saying that there was something wrong with the template of TEFL certificate that I had shown them. She didn’t know what the problem was, just that “something was wrong”. So obviously that stressed me out further. So after waiting for a few days, I approached my supervisor and asked her about it. She said that it was true, that “something was wrong with it” but she didn’t know exactly what, and that the girl from HR that was dealing with it was on leave so no one took care of it yet. Now, that was around 10 days after I first talked with my supervisor. I started searching for some information about it online to confirm whether or not I could apply for working visa with the course I was taking, and I found some sources saying that I could, so I showed them to my supervisor. However, they weren’t official sources, just some websites. So she said that I could go to the office dealing with this kind of work permits and ask them because “it would be easier to talk to them in person than to try to confirm something on the phone”. In my mind, I screamed “so why won’t any of you go there?! Obviously, it would be easier for you to talk to them than for me!”
I went to the office after all because I don’t like sitting and waiting around, and they told me up straight – if you’re not a native speaker, you cannot get a working visa teaching English. They then pointed me to a specific law that talks about it for me to check out, and surely, it does say that only native speakers can teach their language. Now, as far as I know, some places might have some preferential policies where they allow people with degrees in English or people that have studied in English-speaking countries to teach English – in that places, the local policy overrides the state policy. However, this is not the case in Nanjing.
I then went to see a friend that deals with this kind of stuff – finding foreign teachers for schools, getting them working visas and so on. So from what she told me, what they can do is that they get a foreigner (non-native) a working visa, but in the work permit or whatever papers that come with the visa, they put another occupation, not a teacher. For example, a consultant. Or a math teacher. So on paper, you’re not teaching English, but in reality, you are. And while this allows a person to have a working visa, I feel like this is not a good solution. First of all, if the police come to check the school (as they sometimes do), you and your school will have to explain why you are teaching English. Companies providing visas can “train” the school and tell them how they should talk with the police, for example, they can say you are just a substitute for one day or something, but would they always believe? Also, the police can check the tapes if your school has surveillance.
In the end, I decided that there was no point in trying to stay in China at all cost. The first reason is that I do believe that recently, China has been stricter with enforcing laws concerning foreigners and there are more articles about foreigners getting tested for drugs in clubs, getting caught for working illegally or even articles about foreigners working illegally without realizing (like when the school gets a work permit for a teacher but on paper they do something else, and the teacher doesn’t even know about it – check the article here or here). Also, I’ve been getting calls from the police station in my neighborhood (they called me four times) and they’ve been asking about where I work, where I crossed the border last time I entered China, if I live alone, etc. It’s stressful enough as it is but if I was doing something illegal then I would be seriously freaked out.
Another thing is that I don’t really have anything that’s really keeping me here. I could find another job here, but I feel like I don’t have a sufficient reason to try to stay here now. If I want, I can come back to China and I think at some point I will. Also, for me China became my comfort zone – I speak the language, I know how to get around, I know how things work and I have the patience to deal with the annoying things here. So maybe I should try and challenge myself to leave that comfort zone. Also, I will continue writing about China as there are many places that I haven’t described yet.
Anyways, I applied for a work and holiday visa to Australia. If I’m granted with it, then I will go there. In the meantime, I want to go to Southeast Asia first to travel- I have never been there. My first stop will be Hanoi, Vietnam. I will keep you posted!