While teaching in China is an incredibly rewarding experience, the process to do so legally is filled with paperwork and bureaucratic hoops that change depending on the city and region. One thing that is constantly asked (for better or worse) is whether or not you can teach in China with a criminal record – this post aims to answer the question once and for all.
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Does China require a Criminal Record Check?
The good news is that at the time of writing, China does not explicitly ask for a background check on the local or federal level. Unlike Korea, which requires an in-depth FBI check, most of China relies solely on your honestly when applying for a visa (more on this later).
As mentioned above, this can change depending on the city or region – for example, I once applied for a school in Kunming, Yunnan Province that wanted a background check from the where I had been living the past year – they said this was the only way they could process my visa. However, when checking with other schools I learned in typical Chinese fashion than a check wasn’t always necessary.
Can I Apply for a Chinese Visa with a Criminal Record?
You’re not in the clear just yet – the current Chinese visa application does ask whether or not you have ever been convicted of a crime and there have been reports from both sides of the fence on how much this actually affects your application. Anecdotally, I once taught with a guy in Guangzhou who told me his visa agent amended his application to remove his admission of a misdemeanor in the United States. We are in no way advocating you lie on your application, only warning you that your school or agent might try and take things into their own hands.
So What Are My Chances of Landing a Job in China with a Conviction?
I’d say not to worry too much until getting some advice from the school or recruiter. Be upfront during the application process and see what they say – if they say to do X, just document everything and (always) ask to speak to another teacher to confirm everything is on the up and up.
The long and short of it is that it’s not illegal to teach in China with a criminal record – it will depend on which city you wish to teach and what your school or recruiter has to say about it. They almost always know the system and rules better than you but never hesitate to ask more questions or follow up numerous times on the process and legality of it all.