Visa Query - Peter or others...

May 27th, 2004, 08:25 PM
  #1  
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Visa Query - Peter or others...

A group of us have been plannnig on going to teach English at a summer school in Beijing. It is one month long. We are paying our own airfare and the school is providing us with accommodations, food, tours and a 3000RMB salary. Since we are being paid, we were under the impression that we would require a working visa. However, the people from the school sent us the following when asked about visas.
"Please apply for a tour visa to China, we guarantee your legal work status. Please do not mention teaching when you apply for the visa."
This sent off some alarm bells. Should we be concerned? Does this sound fishy? Are we going to get in trouble? We would be teaching for 4 weeks (5 days a week) and in the country for 31 days including travel days.
Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks.
chia416 is offline  
May 27th, 2004, 09:46 PM
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To me it sounds fishy. A tourist visa doesn't allow you to work for compensation. Guaranteeing your work status is meaningless...they are guaranteeing that you don't have work status by not sponsoring you for the correct type of visa. Best case scenario...you get there and the accommodations, food and salary are as expected. Worst case scenario you get there and are faced with poor accommodations and receive no salary at all. It might be a great adventure. If you want to do it for the experience and aren't depending on the salary for anything (it's only about $350.00 anyway), then maybe go ahead and risk it.

On the other hand, it may not be worth the risk to you. You should research the regulations about visas to China and go from there I think. Maybe you would need a Z or F visa for your work there, both of which require a letter of notification from "someone" - company, sponsor or such. On your own, you can only get a sightseeing visa.

Kim
KimJapan is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 12:21 AM
  #3  
 
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This sounds very troublesome to me. The PRC does not have any sense of humour when it comes to being anything but a tourist on a tourist visas. They have kicked out people on visitor visas who the PRC believes were also acting as missionaries for Christian churches, albeit unpaid and voluntary ones. The fact that your "employers" told you not to mention teaching on your visa is a tip off IMO that they are not bona fide. I would ask your employer about this further and insist that they sponsor you for the correct visa. They may be operating the school illegally. They may fail to pay you when you arrive as they will claim you don't have the correct visa to be able to work.

Take a look at the website for the Chinese Embassy in the US at www.china-embassy.org, the US Embassy in China at http://www.usembassy-china.org.cn/, as well a\s the US State Dept consular info page for the PRC, at http://travel.state.gov/china.html. I note two parts from the latter:
"Americans considering teaching English in China should check that their contracts specify the maximum number of classroom hours per day and per week, maximum workdays per week, and vacation periods. Americans teaching in China, particularly at newly established private secondary schools and private English training centers, have often found their employers unable or unwilling to honor contract terms or to assist in obtaining Chinese employment-based visas and other permits required for foreigners to teach lawfully in China. Prospective teachers should always ask for references from other foreign teachers who have completed a contract teaching term and have returned to their home country. Prospective teachers should never come to China without first receiving the proper "Z" or work visa from the Chinese Embassy. Prospective teachers should not accept a promise by a school or organization to obtain the correct visa after their arrival."

" Americans who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their Chinese visas will be subject to a maximum fine of 5,000 RMB (approximately $600) and departure delays and may be subject to detention."
Cicerone is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 07:27 AM
  #4  
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I am not concerned about the working conditions, as we do have contracts. We have also received references from teachers that have returned to North America and seen pictures of our accommodations and classrooms. The visas are our only remaining concern. The organization we are teaching with sent the following iformation since my last post
"In China, only long-term teachers (teach here for 2 semesters) need to get work visas.
It takes some days and complexed procedure to prepare the visa documents for short-term teachers; in the past, almost all summer teachers taught in Beijing under tour visas; one of the sponsor of the camp is Beijing International Education Exchange Service which is affiliated to Beijing Education government, they approved that foreign teachers come here with tour visas."
Any thoughts on the above?
chia416 is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 01:08 PM
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> I am not concerned about the working conditions, as we do have contracts.

There's a certain charm to this statement, I must admit. But a contract is only of value is mechanisms and methods are available to enforce them. KimJapan above has it exactly right. If they refused to pay you, what would you do? What possible trouble could you cause them? Do you think there are worthwhile remedies in China itself? Is the salary worth the cost of trying to pursue them? They may in fact turn out to provide all that is promised, but the existence or non-existence of a contract has nothing do to with it.

>We have also received references from teachers that have returned to North America

This is really the only guarantee that's reliable. But you need to be sure of the people giving the reference, and make sure that they are genuine, that their remarks are of recent date, that they have no on-going business relationship with the school in question, and that their involvement with the school was on exactly the same terms (in the sense that the school had no more to gain or no less to lose by treating them well) as will apply to you.

>and seen pictures of our accommodations and classrooms.

The remarkable thing about pictures is that they don't age, whereas the things whose images they show, do. There's many a hotel room in China (and elsewhere) rather disappointing in comparison to the pictures taken at the time when the hotel opened.

>The visas are our only remaining concern.

I'd have to disagree. This may all go perfectly smoothly, but there are many ways in which it might not and there would be nothing you could do about it. All 'laws' and 'regulations' in China are routinely broken when it suits, and many are broken on an on-going basis because China wants to appear to be one thing to the outside world while actually being another. It's quite normal for there to be a way round inconvenient regulations which is widely known to individuals and the authorities, but is convenient to both parties. But when someone want to take control, or a bribe, or to have an excuse to change plans against your wishes, the relevant 'regulation' is suddenly produced. There are manage language schools which recruit backpackers off the street for short-term teaching, and get away with it. Payment is cash-in-hand, and all parties (except the more perceptive students) are happy. But by not complying with written rules, which require a Z visa for what you are doing, you put yourself completely at the mercy of others.

There are some specialist Websites for discussion amongst those teaching ESL in Asia, whose names I can't produce off the top of my head (I'm away at the moment), but the expressions 'eslcafe' and 'Dave's ESL' come to mind. Try Googling for those and post your queries there for a more experienced and authoritative reply.

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 02:54 PM
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"In China, only long-term teachers (teach here for 2 semesters) need to get work visas.
It takes some days and complexed procedure to prepare the visa documents for short-term teachers; in the past, almost all summer teachers taught in Beijing under tour visas; one of the sponsor of the camp is Beijing International Education Exchange Service which is affiliated to Beijing Education government, they approved that foreign teachers come here with tour visas."

Peter and Cicerone make very good points. The school...well...they are lying to you. It IS illegal to teach without the proper visa. A tourist visa does not allow you teach. Language schools all over the world, especially in Asia, are notorious for not meeting the terms of their contract, even for employees who have the proper visa. China is well known for being especially bad in the world of ESL in this way. Your contract is meaningless at best and illegal at worst...then school cannot contract you to work under any circumstances without a proper visa. You have no visa, your contract isn't worth the paper it is written on.

I would do some careful research about the school and the law before you embark on this adventure. Plenty of people do get away with working illegally in China (and all over the world for that matter), but plenty of people get exploited by their employers. Some are caught and the consequences can be dire indeed. Being deported wouldn't be fun, to say the least.

Another thing to consider...by agreeing to work illegally, you are actually allowing the school to continue the practice of hiring illegal teachers. It's cheaper and easier for them, so of course they want to. The practice is unfortunately fairly widespread in the language school world...and participating in it doesn't improve conditions at all for other teachers or students (who often believe they are being taught by a real teacher only to find they are being taught by a backpacker who ran out of money who has no interest, experience or commitment to teaching at all but just needs to collect enough money to move on). This process of hiring illegal teachers off of the street is a disservice to students, professional teachers, and legitmate schools who employ professionals.

Do some more research. If you want to work in China, you can and should do so legally.
KimJapan is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 08:07 PM
  #7  
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Let me start by saying I really, truly appreciate all of your honest comments. I was feeling really good about the program until a few days ago when we got the e-mail ref: visas. I too felt that someting was fishy and questioned the school for not supporting a z visa application; hence my posting.
A couple additional points I should have mentioned...
I am a certified teacher with a BA and a BEd. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity to see a new place while getting to know a small group of kids farily well. Since I already have permanent employment I also thought a month would be the ideal length. I'm not really concerned about the pay - I am quite concerned about my legal standing in the country.
I completely agree with you Kim, I don't want to be apart of a school that is anything that is illegible. As well, I don't think I want to work for an organization that won't support my visa application and ensure that its students get legal, professional instructors.
On another note, how long does it take to actually get a z class visa? I have read that there have been recent changes to the visa process and am worried about the time factor. I leave Canada June 24 to go to the States for a while and then head directly from there to China. Thus, I must have my passport (and visa) in my hands no later than June 23. I don't want to be waiting with bated breath every day as I check the mail praying that it will arrive on time.
I would hate to bail on the trip now as I have been looking forward to it for a while; however, I don't want to get myself in a "sticky situation" either.
Any additional thoughts would be welcome!
chia416 is offline  
May 28th, 2004, 08:22 PM
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Check with your nearest Chinese embassy or consulate to find out how long it takes to get the visa and the process. But bear in mind, without your employers sponsership, your chances of getting it are slim to none. If I were you, I'd certainly not cancel the trip, but not get involved with the school unless they agree to assist you in getting the proper visa. You have almost a month...perhaps you could arrange something else, or just be a tourist without working at all. Maybe there a volunteer program you could participate in. Since you are responsible for your airfare anyway, and I assume you've already bought it, whether or not you work at that school doesn't really matter so much. You can have a great trip without the school for sure.
KimJapan is offline  

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