329 Ways to avoid getting Ripped Off in China

Teaching Around The World, The ICAL TEFL Blog


Stealing it’s never been so easy!

There have been a lot of problems with teachers getting ripped off in China by unscrupulous agents and illegal agents.

In fact, one reliable estimate from the CFTU (more on them later) is that only around 20% of agents in China are authorized and legal – the other 2,000 or so agents are illegal and unauthorized!

And these illegal agents are making a LOT of money out of teachers. Sometimes they’ll take the money to find you a job and then just disappear with it. Other times they’ll take a very hefty chunk of your salary each month for finding you work (in some cases over 50% of your wage packet goes to the illegal agent each month). And either way, you’re badly out of pocket.

Teaching in China can be a rich and rewarding experience but do please follow these simple tips to avoid the worst that illegal agents can do to you.

329 Good Agents

Right now there are 329 honest, good agents in China. There are also thousands of illegal and dishonest agents.

But how to tell the difference? If you go onto a forum or answer an employment post there’s no way you can see if the agent posting it is an upright citizen or someone operating from a laptop in their prison cell.

It’s not hard. Here’s how:

1. Ask for their Details

Ask them for:

  1. A scan (front & back) of their Ministry of Education or SAIC licence number.
  2. A scan of their Chinese ID card (front & back).
  3. Their full phone number & address (dishonest agents tend to operate from mobile phones with no fixed office; remember this).
  4. Their website/email address (if you don’t already have them).

Any honest agent will have no problem in sending you this information. A dishonest agent will baulk at this which means it’s time to walk away.

2. Fee

Ask them EXACTLY how much they will charge for getting you a job and when it will be paid.

3. Background Check

Do your own background check. Quite simply this means getting online and searching for the agent’s name and/or address and/or company name and seeing what comes up. Try this in conjunction with words like scam or ripoff and see if that makes a difference.

Next check on this list of blacklisted agents/schools and see if the name appears: CFTU Blacklist


Finally, remember that you should check of the contract carefully and need to have a signed, sealed and dated copy (along with your Z-visa) in your hands before you even book your ticket to China.

Remember that Z-visa comment. That’s the only type of visa which allows you to work legally as a teacher in China. If an agent suggests anything else, politely tell them what they can do with the job. (Or not politely, that’s your call!)

Much of the information on this page comes from the Chinese Foreign Teachers Union. The CFTU is a volunteer organization composed of foreign teachers working in China dedicated to promoting creative and progressive education as well as protecting the interests of foreign teachers in China. It is well worth checking out their website and contacting them directly if you’ve any questions or problems concerning teaching in China.

Useful Links

Teaching English in China – an overview of TEFL in China and how to work there

Beware TEFL Scams‏‎ – what to look out for

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