As it is a modern, vibrant city where English is a common language and most luxuries and comforts are available, Hong Kong is naturally a popular destination among TEFL qualified teachers. The city is a cultural melting pot where almost every language on Earth can be heard and there is an impressive number of major skyscrapers dominating the skyline, two reasons why it is sometimes referred to as the New York of the East. Due to its popularity, Hong Kong has strong competition for the best teaching jobs, so to have a good chance of landing one there are a few things you need to know.
What are the requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong?
There have been government guidelines for employing foreign teachers in Hong Kong for some time; however, these have not been rigorously enforced until recently. These days it is very difficult, and ill-advised, to find a job in the territory unless you have a university degree and two years teaching experience or a TEFL/TESOL qualification. Your degree can be in any subject, while the TEFL certificate needs to be at least 120-hours in length. Other than these basic requirements, each individual employer is free to set their own prerequisites for teaching applicants.
Who are the main employers of English teachers in Hong Kong?
There are a small number of job options in universities, but these will require a high level of qualifications and experience. A master’s degree in English, TESOL or linguistics will probably be expected, as well as a teaching certificate and a minimum of two years teaching experience. If you meet the required standard, the pay and benefits should be very good.
For the majority of teachers, a private language center is the most likely employer. There are plenty to choose from that cater to children of various ages, as well as some aimed at adults. The majority of students use these schools in preparation for external exams. The prerequisites for these jobs are generally in line with the basic government requirements of a bachelor’s degree in any subject, and a TEFL/TESOL certificate or two years of teaching experience. Although it is not a necessity, native English speakers without strong accents are often preferred.
A third major option is to teach in state run schools via the Native English Speakers Scheme (NET). These jobs are open to native English speakers or fluent speakers who have a degree and a TEFL/TESOL certificate or teaching qualification. This is a very popular scheme so those with previous teaching experience or a teaching related degree may well have a distinct advantage when applying for a position. You will also earn more as salaries are based on qualifications and experience. If you prefer to teach young children, it is worth noting that these positions almost always go to female teachers in Hong Kong.
What are the visa requirements for teaching English in Hong Kong?
The standard work visa required to teach legally in Hong Kong is known as the Z visa. The school should be able to sort this out on your behalf, but if they say they can’t or make excuses then you should think twice as it is probably a sign that they are not an officially registered school. The requirements for the Z visa are basically the same as most teaching positions i.e. a degree in any subject and either two years teaching experience or a TEFL certificate.
What is the visa process for teaching English in Hong Kong?
Your employer will act as your sponsor for the visa and should take care of most of the paperwork for you. To start the process you will need to supply scans of your passport, evidence of your degree, and a copy of your teaching certificate or evidence of your previous teaching experience. Using these documents the employer will be able to obtain an invitation letter and a Foreign Expert Certificate which will be sent to you in your home country.
Once you have these documents, you need to visit a Chinese embassy or consulate and make a visa application. You can also pay an agency to take care of this part of the process for you. As long as all the paperwork is in order, you should receive your Z visa within a week. The Z visa is essentially to allow you to enter Hong Kong and it must then be converted to a residency permit within 30 days of your arrival. Please note that a basic background check will be required. As long as you have a reasonably clean criminal record there should be no problem. Also, teachers over the official retirement age in China might find it difficult. This is 60 for men and 55 for women.