4 Ways to Spot Job Scams in China

4 Ways to Spot Job Scams in China
Sep 15, 2020 By Alistair Baker-Brian , eChinacities.com

While employment opportunities are abundant in China, so too are scammers ready to take advantage of expats moving to the Middle Kingdom for work. Scammers will take advantage of anyone, whether you’re an English teacher, copywriter, IT employee or salesperson. So, before accepting ANY job in China, be sure to conduct thorough research and check your employer is legit. In this article, I bring you four ways to spot job scams in China.

man with binoculars
Source: mostafa meraji

The Visa Dance

As articles in this blog have stressed time and time again, the only way expats can legally do full-time work in China is with a Z-visa. Working full time on any other visa is illegal, so unless your employer is willing to get you a Z-visa prior to your arrival, you’re probably best to look for another job. Bringing employees to work on tourist, business or other visas “while the work visa is processed”  is a common job scam in China.

You may have heard stories of a friend-of-a-friend who works on a tourist or business visa. And indeed, as state-run newspaper China Daily points out, only around one third of China’s 400,000 foreign teachers were employed legally as recently as 2017. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter. By working on the wrong visa, you are making yourself liable to arrest, fines and potential deportation from China.

One 24-year-old Canadian known as “Laurel” found this out the hard way after taking a teaching job in Beijing. The Global Times reports that she took a job in Beijing after completing her undergraduate degree. As she had not yet received a physical copy of her degree (a minimum requirement to get a Chinese work visa), she flew to Beijing on the promise that her new boss would be able to get her a work visa later on as he “knew people”. When about to start a class one day, Laurel was picked up by the police who took her away for questioning. She was later ordered to leave China.

Even if your new employer suggests you come to China and NOT work while you wait for your Z-visa to be processed, bear in mind that this will take a long time, typically around three months. You’ll need to jump through a whole bunch of hoops before the processing of your Z-visa can even begin. All this takes time, so if you’re stuck in China with no income, your savings will deplete quickly.

Alarm bells should ring if your potential employer’s only interest is getting you to China as quickly as possible, regardless of what visa you are on. Remember that the employer may be willing to cut corners because it’s more convenient and less costly for them, but if you get caught working illegally, it will be YOU who bears the brunt of the consequences.

A Sky-High Salary

In short, if the salary for a job in China looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Let’s take ESL as an example. A junior English teacher may expect to earn the following based on jobs recently listed on eChinaJobs.com:

Some universities may offer a salary of RMB8,000-10,000 (USD1,000-1,400) per month with benefits such as a free apartment. This kind of salary won’t bring you a life of luxury in one of China’s first or second tier cities, but university jobs typically have relatively light working hours and great holidays.

Next comes training centres and international schools. Salaries range from around RMB10,000 to RMB25,000 (USD1,400-3,500), depending on qualifications and experience. Benefits such as accommodation, flight allowance and more may also be offered. Make no mistake, however, you’ll probably be worked be pretty hard. Training centres in particular normally require overtime during the summer and winter school holidays.

With a few years of experience and relevant qualifications under your belt, you may be able to progress to a senior teacher or management position in which you can expect a higher salary. As a beginner ESL teacher, however, (or for that matter as a worker at any level, in any industry) you should be wary of employers who offer eye-wateringly high sums of money. While some industries in China offer slightly higher salaries to expats than they might get at home, the difference will not typically amount to thousands of dollars per month. Be aware too of those who suggest paying you in cash “under the table”, as this may bring you legal difficulties when it comes to paying your taxes in China.

Upfront Service Fees

This is a common scam in which employers will demand money from new employees prior to their arrival in China. Applicants may be told that the so-called “service fee” (or however this is phrased) is necessary for processing their work visa or simply for other administration costs.

This happened to a group of English teachers from South Africa who were lured to China on the promise of teaching positions paying RMB20,000-50,000 (USD2,800-7,000) per month. Before their departure, the scammer demanded a down payment of between USD1,700 and USD3,400  to “ensure all went well”. But the scam did not stop there. Although the teachers started working on arrival in China, despite still only holding tourists visas, their salaries were paid directly to the agency which recruited them. The agency would then give the teachers only a portion of their salary, claiming the rest was being spent on obtaining their work visas.

Ultimately, there were no legal channels the teachers could go down to remedy the situation as they had been working illegally on tourist visas. Such a story only serves to emphasise the importance of getting a Z-visa prior to arrival in China. When the authorities got wind of what was happening, the teachers were placed under house arrest and told they may face charges. They were later allowed to return home after recruiting the help of a South African legal organisation.

The advice on paying any money upfront prior to arrival in China for work is simple: Don’t do it. While you might be expected to pay for the documents you need to secure yourself for your visa in your home country, you should never be asked to give a potential employer money. Once you’ve handed over a lump of cash in good faith, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that the money will be used for the purpose stated. If your potential employer is demanding money, look for another job.

Sketchy Reputation

Researching an employer’s reputation is by no means an exact science. Nonetheless, it pays to do due diligence.

The easiest way to check the reputation of a potential employer is to do a simple Google search. This may lead you to a plethora of feedback, reviews, blog posts and more from current and or former employees. Take some time to read through them, but be aware of the source and accuracy of the information you read. After all, you could just be reading a rage-filled rant from a disgruntled fired employee or glowing reviews written by the company’s HR staff.

Aside from Google, ask your potential employer to put you in touch with some current expat employees. Ask them as many questions as you see necessary. Are they working legally on a Z-visa? Does the employer demand overtime without extra payment? Anything you see fit.

If you’re consistently coming across reviews and feedback that point to bad practices by your potential employer, think carefully about accepting a job with them. Likewise, if they’re reluctant to give you the contact details of any current expat employees, they might have something to hide.

Scammers will stop at nothing to take advantage of expats eager to move to China for work. They know all too well that most will be unfamiliar with Chinese labour laws and are therefore ripe for the picking. While China is full of employment opportunities foreigners, staying vigilant against job scams will help you determine which opportunities are right for you.

Hot New Jobs recommended for you
K-12 English Teacher
Bright Scholar
  • 12,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Guangzhou
  • Full Time
ESL Teacher
Beijing New Talent Academy (BJNTA)
  • 18,000 - 31,000 CNY /Month
  • Beijing
  • Full Time
High School Literature Teacher
LiMai Chinese American International School
  • 22,000 - 32,000 CNY /Month
  • Beijing
  • Full Time
Social Media Manager
Anker innovations
  • 234,600 - 431,100 CNY /Year
  • Shenzhen
  • Full Time
Foreign English Teacher
Renmin University of China,Suzhou Campus
  • 13,500 - 13,800 CNY /Month
  • Suzhou
  • Full Time
Primary English Teacher
The affiliated high school of Peking university Haikou school
  • 19,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Haikou
  • Full Time
ESL EFL Teacher
Shanghai Zizhu College
  • 22,000 - 27,000 CNY /Month
  • Shanghai
  • Full Time
Premium Service Consultant
BE Education
  • 25,000 - 28,000 CNY /Month
  • Shenzhen
  • Full Time
Digital Content Manager
Shanghai Cimpress
  • 20,000 - 25,000 CNY /Month
  • Shanghai
  • Full Time
AP foreign teacher
Grandera Education Group
  • 20,000 - 40,000 CNY /Month
  • Beijing
  • Full Time
View More Jobs

Warning:The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.

Keywords: job scams in China


All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate.



Most Facebook teaching ESL page are loaded with fake agents, investment consultants. They are seeking all means to hunt for victims.

Nov 16, 2020 19:18 Report Abuse



Job scam also involves upfront payment. This practice applies everywhere whereby those who are interested with the job are requested to pay certain lump sum in advance with the promise in return to get the job.

Nov 01, 2020 08:02 Report Abuse



I have joined a number of Facebook teaching English in China group. Based on my experience , beside scam, they are more concern with money rather than delivering good service.

Oct 31, 2020 15:29 Report Abuse



Some agents request cv, documents or introduction video to be sent via wechat. I have a feeling that they are just fake agents. A genuine agent will request for cover letter which can be done by email.n

Oct 31, 2020 15:25 Report Abuse



I am doubtful with some of them who labelled them as recruitment agents. Some of them offer fast track if not short cut of obtaining a work visa, I remain skeptical whether it is genuine.

Oct 31, 2020 15:22 Report Abuse



There would be a lot less teachers working illegally if it didn't take so long to get a visa. Even if you're changing jobs while already in China, there's still a 2-3 month wait until the new work visa is ready. In the meantime, you have bills to pay, rent due and in some cases, kids to raise and your new employer will be desperate for you to start ASAP. So faced with the prospect of homelessness on the teacher's part and centres/schools having to close classes (and reduce essential income) while the visa is being very slowly processed, it's easy to see why teachers (with their employer's cooperation) work on illegal visas for a while, just to survive To ensure that all teachers work legally, the entire process needs to be shaken up to enable teachers to get visas much more quickly and easily. Train the visa officers properly and punish those who refer the process to expensive and shady agents. Streamline the process to eliminate at least some of the time and mountains of paperwork involved. Perhaps offer incentives for PSB workers and staff at local police stations who give fast, efficient and friendly service?

Oct 10, 2020 13:30 Report Abuse



It always pays to be careful. If you have even the slightest doubt whether things are on the up and up, then walk away.

Oct 08, 2020 03:26 Report Abuse



I find out that job scams may be everywhere, it is getting common in posting via facebook too.

Sep 29, 2020 10:25 Report Abuse



I talked to a friend who is currently working in China, he was granted a M visa, not sure as if this is legal or otherwise.

Sep 23, 2020 10:21 Report Abuse



another one: send an introductory video. Teaching recruiters use wechat to do it and gloss over a person's resume and ask for an 'introductory video' instead. if anyone is stupid enough to send an 'introductory video' to some faceless 25 year old who has probably never taught a class or any kind in his or her life, either the person is desperate for work or has no self respect. Do not apply for work via wechat and do not send videos of yourself to anyone. If the gig is real, you will be offered at least an interview if your credentials are good enough. Similar if you apply for online teaching - do not agree to do a 'trial class' (unpaid) if you have a good teaching back history already.

Sep 22, 2020 11:23 Report Abuse



agree with all of this

Sep 16, 2020 10:27 Report Abuse



yeah, true

Sep 15, 2020 23:38 Report Abuse



This was helpful.Thanks

Sep 15, 2020 20:23 Report Abuse



Thanks for this post, its very helpful for me because I’m looking for a first job in china.

Sep 15, 2020 14:50 Report Abuse



Good articles. There are many out there who labelled themselves as agent. I was told that some even request for payment upfront, this is kind of strange. It is important that foreigner keep themselves alert at all time and take extra precaution to prevent scam from occurring.

Sep 15, 2020 10:54 Report Abuse



never pay upfront

Sep 16, 2020 10:28 Report Abuse