Did you find a job in China that seems almost too perfect — your absolute dream China job? How can you make sure it isn’t a scam? As much as we all love China for being an amazingly safe and pleasant country (most of the time), there’s always a risk that the naïve could be tricked into taking a job that’s not what it seems. Let’s have a look at some of the more common warning signs of China job scams, as well as some tips on how to do due diligence on a prospective employer.
Common warning signs that your dream China job is a scam
It doesn’t matter where you find the job, whether online, from that Ukrainian dude you have on WeChat or somewhere else, there are some typical warning signs you should look out for if you want to avoid being scammed by unscrupulous employers. These include:
1) “You’re hired! Get a tourist visa and hop on the first flight to China – We’ll turn it into a work visa once you’re here.”
Chances are, you’ve heard this one before. And it doesn’t matter how many times this lie is perpetuated, it’s never going to become the truth. Getting a work visa for China is a much more complicated affair than some would have you believe.
Once you’re in China and want that work visa you were promised, you’ll probably be told some convenient lie: “Oh, the work visa? Sure, let me take a photocopy of your passport and I’ll fix it when the Entry and Exit Bureau is open again next month. In the meantime, you can go to Hong Kong and renew your tourist visa. It’s completely legal, don’t worry. Just don’t tell anyone about it”.
2) “We need someone like you. Can you start tomorrow? Actually, if you can come in and sign the contract today, that would be even better.”
Another classic warning sign: signing a three-year contract must be done immediately – if you wait too long you will lose this amazing job opportunity forever, or at least that’s what they want you to think. Never fall for this, and make sure to stall as much as you can so you can go over the details at your own pace. If they keep pressuring you, then just decline the offer. There are three possible explanations for this behaviour:
• They don’t actually want to scam you, but the company is hopelessly disorganised, and they realised they need your skills or foreign looks much too late.
• They really want you but aren’t willing to pay a decent salary, so will try to make you sign a contract for far less than you’re worth.
• The job is not at all what they say it is, and they want to lock you in quickly before you realise.
3) “Yes, the position is for an online marketing manager… Anyway, how are you with kids?”
The job listing said, “online marketing manager”, yet during the interview the recruiter seems to only be talking about English teaching. The fact that the interview is in a kindergarten doesn’t help, either. Yes, you’ve been catfished.
Save your dignity and walk out of the door. This is a relatively new type of scam, and one that could potentially be blamed on increasingly strict government regulations for foreign workers. The shortage of English teachers has created challenges for training centres, sometimes leading to them to mask the actual job responsibilities by giving the role a completely different title and description. The saving grace is that they might let you handle their Western social media feeds during the obligatory office hours in-between your classes.
4) Our salary is the highest in China*
If the salary is unrealistically high or the salary bracket is extremely wide, for example between RMB 6,000 and RMB 40,000, there’s usually something dodgy going on. That, or you can expect to only see the bottom end of that bracket.
Also, it’s worth keeping in mind that even if you sign on for a RMB 25,000 per month salary, you might find it’s composed of several different parts, such as an accommodation bonus, performance bonus, and other bonuses. Chances are you will never see any of them, and you’ll be stuck on your base salary forever.
Do your due diligence on the potential employer. Is the company well-known? If it’s a new company or a startup, chances are you’ve never heard of it before. If that’s the case, then Google is your friend. If that doesn’t work, try Baidu instead.
Another good way to find out whether a Chinese company is legit or not is to look for it on the Chinese government’s official website. Although completely in Chinese, they list every company registered in China, along with legal remarks, if any. Just make sure to search using the company’s Chinese name.
Asking around in your friend circle, WeChat groups and foreigner forums (such as our Answers section) is another great way of digging up dirt. Just make sure you’re able to differentiate between hyperbolic conjecture and facts. If drama-queen Dimitri is telling you that your potential new employer – his previous – tried to have him deported for being late, and the centre director smells like onions, you might want to take his story with a grain of salt.
Finally, if and when you get to the stage of signing a contract, READ THE SMALL PRINT. Insist on having the entire contract translated into English, but as only the Chinese version will be legally binding, have a long-suffering Chinese friend check it over for you, too. If anything seems odd or unclear, flag it up before you sign.
The old adage that “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”, still holds true, whether it refers to a suspiciously cheap iPhone on Taobao or a job opening. But if it’s any consolation, China job scams are easy to avoid if you’re careful, and won’t typically result in your life savings being stolen. They usually just result in you signing up for a role that’s vastly different from the one advertised. It’s not the end of the world, and you can always quit.
Always remember that the Chinese labour laws are designed to protect you as a worker rather than the employer. Just make sure you’re not going to run the risk of being held hostage at a sub-par job due to your visa, or lack thereof. None of the beautifully written labour laws will do you any good if you’re not legally allowed to work in China – quite the opposite, in fact.
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What is this nonsense about certified documents and having to have them translated into Chinese in your home country? I just got my new work visa today down at the PSB without having to do anything like that. Maybe it is stricter down in Beijing or where you live but it took all of 20 minutes to sign a few documents and hand in copies of other ones. As for the rules being not as strict in South Korea...I worked in S.K for about a decade and the rules for obtaining a visa there have tightened up considerably since then and there are now more hoops to jump through, especially if you want to work for a public school.. China is still much more lax. Bottom line: If you think China's laws are more restrictive than in S.K. you simply don't know what you are talking about. And I have spent 10 years teaching in S.K and 5 years teaching in China...so I do have the relevant experiences to offer an informed perspective. As for the "exodus" of teachers...the vast majority were probably illegal and unqualified "teachers". An experienced and certified teacher would have no real problems getting a work visa and dealing with the relatively few regulations.
Dec 29, 2018 15:57 Report Abuse
Hi Dracon44, you're probably right. China's new regulations are not as much becoming stricter, as they are just catching up to international norms. With that out of the way, what on earth are you talking about? The PSB can't issue visas, as that falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Not to mention that you are not able to apply for a visa inside the country. Actually nevermind, you are clearly misinformed or have no idea what you're talking about. I'll just assume you refer to your residence permit or your accommodation registration, which both falls under the Exit and Entry Administration branch of the PSB.
Jan 19, 2019 17:22 Report Abuse
a pretty good article containing a good percentage of accuracy. the mention of the Chinese Labour laws suggests the author knows what he is talking about. This organization is anyone's ace up their sleeve if a bad employer breaches conditions stated in a contract or anything untoward that has not been agreed to. The organization and help it provides is FREE and also relatively new making it still something of a hidden secret. The bottom line is though, is with the increased tightening of regulations for foreign workers - another good fact the author has mentioned - basically the makes of these laws have shot themselves in the foot. There has been a mass exodus of ESL and certified teachers in the last 18 months since the new regs came in. Most have either gone to other Asian countries like S. Korea or Taiwan, where the rules are strict but not as much as the Chinese ones. One more thing to mention. which the author has not is the subject of certified documents that are needed to either switch jobs inside China or to get the visa if a person is coming to work for the first time. These documents are firstly not cheap to acquire and must be notified and translated into Chinese in the applicants home country in advance - at the applicant's expense. So what that means for a person has been working here prior to the 2017 changes and does not have these documents a trip back home to get them is needed. Applicants will need to forward the documents, which lets face it are highly personal, in advance to a recruiter that an applicant from outside China will have never met because as the author rightly suggests, coming to work on a tourist visa even if it is just for one week is illegal and anyone caught doing this will get 2 weeks in jail and booted out of the country. So when you add all these things up, one has to ask (something the author does not) "is it really worth the hassle looking to work in China?". Under the current system many people think no it is not.
Dec 05, 2018 12:22 Report Abuse
I appreciate your comment and feedback, and you're absolutely correct about the unfavourable development for foreign workers since the new visa regulations came into play last year. I didn't mention anything regarding the process of obtaining a visa and all the documents that goes with it, as I've covered that topic last year: https://www.echinacities.com/career-advice/Chinas-Latest-Work-Visa-and-Resident-Permit-Rules (which is linked in this article). There will also be a new article covering the process of transferring a work visa coming soon.
Dec 05, 2018 14:00 Report Abuse