The modern and vibrant territory of Hong Kong is a very popular destination for TEFL qualified teachers as English is commonly used and all the Western style comforts are available within this unique and fascinating part of Asia. The biggest downside of choosing it as your teaching destination is actually its popularity which means that the competition for each job is usually very strong. To have the best chance of getting a good position there are a few things you need to be aware of.
What do I need to teach English in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has had quite strict requirements for foreign teachers for many years, although they have only started to be rigorously enforced in recent times. Essentially, it is now very difficult to legally work as an English language teacher without a university degree and two years teaching experience and/or a TEFL qualification. As well as these official restrictions, individual employers are free to set any other requirements they see fit.
What type of TEFL employer will I work for in Hong Kong?
If you have a high level of qualifications and experience you might be eligible to apply for a limited number of university jobs. These typically require a master’s degree in English, TEFL, or linguistics, a general teaching qualification from your home country, and a minimum of two years teaching experience. The lucky few who fall into this bracket can expect to earn a very competitive salary and a range of extra benefits.
In reality, the majority of EFL teachers will find their best options lie in private language centers that can be found all over Hong Kong. These come in all shapes and sizes and are aimed at adult learners and/or children of all ages. To apply for this type of position you will need to meet the official minimum requirements, which are a bachelor’s degree in any subject, plus a TEFL certificate or two years of classroom experience. Although your nationality is not necessarily an issue, some employers will only hire native English speakers.
Another popular option is to be placed in a state run school via the Native English Speakers Scheme (NET). If you want to follow this route into employment you will need to be a native or fluent English speaker with a degree and a TEFL certificate. As the NET scheme is often over subscribed, you will be at a real advantage if you also have previous teaching experience or a teaching related degree. The potential salary you can expect through this scheme is dependent on your level of qualifications and experience.
What about visas for teaching English in Hong Kong?
The standard visa for EFL teachers in Hong Kong is a Z visa which the employer should organise for you. If they try making excuses or are in any way unhelpful in this regard, it is probably a sign that it is not an officially registered school and you should simply walk away. The requirements for gaining a Z visa are essentially those previously mentioned, i.e. a degree in any subject and either two years teaching experience or a TEFL certificate.
What is the process for getting a visa to teach English in Hong Kong?
Once you have received a job offer, the employer should act as your sponsor and therefore take care of most of the paperwork for you. In order to do so they will require several documents from you, including a scan of your passport, evidence of your degree, and a copy of your teaching certificate or evidence of your previous teaching experience. After sending in all the required paperwork the school should be able to obtain an invitation letter and a Foreign Expert Certificate that will be forwarded to you in your home country.
As soon as these arrive you will need to visit a Chinese embassy or consulate where you can make your formal visa application. If you are short of time or just don’t want the hassle, you can go through an agency who will make all the arrangements in return for a set fee. As long as all your paperwork is in order, you should receive your Z visa within about a week. The Z visa will allow you to enter Hong Kong where you will then be required to convert it into a residency permit within one month of arrival. To do this you will need an official background check from your home country. One final thing to be aware of is the official retirement age that currently stands at 60 for men and 55 for women. Anyone over this age will find it very difficult to secure legal employment in Hong Kong.