BREAKING NEWS:  The China Public Security Bureau is now using China’s new “FALSE DOCUMENTS LAW” to arrest and deport fake teachers caught using fake TEFL certificates, counterfeit university diplomas, and phony police certificates that are being sold by some unscrupulous recruiters who are flooding China with unqualified teachers just so they can collect their placement fees (one month’s salary). And by bringing in all these unqualified teachers they artificially suppress the salaries for the rest of us legitimate teacher who have real degrees and documentation. Last month alone BTV news reported over 300 illegal teachers were arrested and announced a nationwide sweep in 18 provinces. 

Please pay close attention since most teachers with the illegal Z visa don’t even know it and there are only three ways to know if yours is legal or not…

The Z visa in your passport may be illegal.  Until you get arrested you may never know.   By Michelle P.

Only after one of our dear colleagues was recently arrested for “an illegal Z visa” did we realize that they are so common throughout China and that a huge black market exists to buy and sell them with an estimated worth of $3 million a year. 

REAL GENUINE Z VISAS: Are issued by the Chinese government’s Public Security Bureau at PSB offices in China, Chinese embassies abroad, and Chinese consulates abroad. (They are not sent to you to peel and stick into your passport by private parties)

They are issued by your ACTUAL EMPLOYER and not by a third party company that may be friends of, or cooperating with your company. Real visas are also linked to an invitation letter that is issued by your actual employer “ABC English ” (for example) not XYZ Culture Company (for example).

FAKE OR ILLEGAL Z VISAS: Are either sent to you by courier abroad in your homeland, or given to you by a private person in China with instructions how and where to stick them in your passport, or here is the tricky part…”are generated by a party other than your actual employer”, which is usually not a education facility but just some company that will sell this “favor” to your employer for a fee that may range from 10,000 yuan to 20,000 yuan. Then of course, there are just plain counterfeits that some clever Chinese scam artists create with Photoshop which may or may not be coded properly.

BY LOOKING AT THESE VISAS, YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE ABLE TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE!  But the PSB has a portable scanning device that is linked to their huge database by G4 and within a minute or two, they know if you are holding a legal Z visa or not.

So how can you tell? Just ask yourself 3 questions;

1. Was your invitation letter issued by your actual employer (the same Chinese & English name that appears on your contract and matches the red seal chop) and mention working dates that span more than 3 months?

2. Was your visa pasted into your passport at a Chinese government PSB office, embassy, or consulate?

3. Did you pay less that $200 for your visa?

If you answered yes to all of the above you have nothing to worry about. You are legally working in China assuming you also have a real university degree and are 22 years of age or older. If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you have a big problem that needs to be fixed ASAP, or like our colleague, you can be randomly asked at a subway station to show your passport to a uniformed or plain-clothes PSB agent, and within 45 days you will be back in your homeland following 30 days in a Chinese jail and a $2,000 fine. For more details about this scam and others that target inbound ESL TEFL teachers to China refer to  (click here>>>, or our monthly  blog here at… click here >>> without delay.

Enjoy your stay in the Middle Kingdom but remember the golden rule about Z visas – They are a mandatory Chinese government requirement to legally work in China – no matter what your employer or recruiter may tell you – even if you re doing private tutoring one or two hours a week. If you are asked to come work in China on a L, X, M, or F visa you are dealing with a scam artist who should be reported to your embassy or you can send us the details at [email protected] in strict confidence. In 2016, almost 3,000 expat teachers had expensive legal problems because they did not bother to learn Chinese law and depended only on their China job agent or recruiter for information.  


P.S. “Legal” teachers, we’re not interested in hearing you shit on other expats for working “illegally”.

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