How Do I Get a Release Letter in China?

Learn When You Need a Release Letter and How to Get One

No matter if you’re returning home after your contract or merely switching jobs, having a release letter from your previous employer is invaluable.  It’s best to think of this little piece of paper as one of the i’s you need to dot in order to move on, whether that’s getting a new job or transferring your visa.

Usually, release letters in China are given without issue, but if you’re breaking your contract early or have rubbed your school the wrong way, it might prove more difficult than you anticipated.

 

What is a release letter?

A letter of release is a document written and issued by the school for which you’ve been working.  The contents of the letter should state that you have been legally working in China and are still on good terms with the school.  In addition, the letter should also mention that you’re in good standing with the law and are eligible to continue working and living in China.  

Per Chinese law, schools are required to give you a release letter upon exiting.  However, as we mentioned earlier, some employers may withhold the letter and make the transition a bit more difficult.

 

When do I need a release letter?

There really is no wrong time to get a release letter as it’s necessary when changing jobs and has proven helpful if you are thinking about returning in the future.  The information it provides can help you in the following situations:

  • If you’re switching jobs mid-contract
  • If you’re changing jobs after completing a contract
  • If you’re looking to change your visa from one type to another (for example, if you want to get a tourist visa after your contract so you travel a bit)
  • If you’re leaving the country completely

Again, schools are legally required to give you the release letter.  If you’re leaving the school to teach or work elsewhere, the letter will allow your next employer to renew your work and residency permits.  

China’s laws are very strict, and ensuring you stay within the laws and abide by all work and residency permit policies will ensure your safety and freedom to work and travel the country.

What if my employer won’t give me a release letter?

There are plenty of horror stories out there related to schools withholding release letters either out of spite or confusion.  While it’s easy to understand why a school would be mad about you breaking a contract or wanting to work elsewhere, they really have no excuse if you abide by your contract when it comes to parting ways.

However, if they still refuse to play ball, there are a few things you can do to let them know they are in the wrong:

  • Schedule a meeting with school administrators and come prepared.  This means printing out the applicable parts of the law and your contract to let them know they are obligated to provide the letter.
  • Contact State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) and file a complaint.  SAFEA has offices in various cities spread throughout the country and most of the time even the threat of getting them involved is enough to get the process started.
  • Ask your new job to get involved.  If you’re moving jobs then it’s in your new employer’s best interest to help you out, simply explain the situation and see what they can do.

 

When in Doubt, Know the Law

Familiarize yourself with policies regarding work and residency permits at the China Embassy website.  This guide is a comprehensive list of requirements and procedures regarding foreign work permits in China.

Though the task may seem daunting, knowing when you’re in the right will help you avoid any conflicts and headache in the leaving process.

92 Comments

  1. hello, i have been working for a school in China. i told them i want to leave and work elsewhere, i will have fulfilled my contract with them and not breach it either. but they are being difficult with me and asked me to pay a significant amount of money. i told them this is against the law and even had legal advice too. and i had meeting with the school last week and shown them the employment articles in law. i have found out today that a lot of schools are starting to do this in this City.in order to keep the teachers they threaten them with money. i just want to leave on good terms, i dont know what to do next.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea – what do they say the money is for? If you already have a new job or school the first thing Id do is ask them to come to your aid – oftentimes they know what to say on your behalf. If that doesn’t work then Id contact SAFEA and file a complaint as explained in the article – or, just tell your school you are going to do that if they don’t comply.

      Good luck, please let us know how it works out!

      Reply
      • Hello, i received an offer from a school in China which i accepted, they sent me the initial work permit and i got the z. They breached the contract before i entered, im still in my country. They told Me.they cancelled the initial permit. Do i need a release letter to get another school job and is my z still valid? Thank you

        Reply
        • Hi Petroula – Im unsure on this – if you’re looking for a new job it’s best if you ask them what they need on their end.

          Reply
        • I also experience what you’ve experienced maam, what I do is I look for another employer, and I ask my previous employer to cancel the notification letter, since the visa issued in the embassy cannot be cancelled, that is according to my new employer.

          Reply
    • I’ve never known an honest employer yet, in China (in 6 years) either in my experience orcanyone else’s.
      They are bully-babies, smart-arsed retards.
      Don’t let them steal your money: thisviscwhatvthey want the most.

      Reply
  2. What is the law here for release letters? Does anyone know? When do they have to give you one? Is it one month before it expires…etc?

    Reply
    • As you probably already know, the laws can be a bit ‘fluid’ depending on your city and there are plenty of employers who don’t like to follow them. Id suggest contacting SAFEA (start here http://en.safea.gov.cn/) and ask them for current rules based on your location – FYI it will be easier if you are legal and on a Z visa.

      Reply
  3. How does one find contact details for Safe? There are no email addresses, phone numbers, or physical addresses available on their web site.

    Reply
      • Hello. I am in the process of quiting my job and transfer the visa to a new employer. On monday i will need to go to sign the 离职证明 and then the company needs to start cancelling my working visa. I am living in the hotel of the company so on wednesday I will force to leave this place. My question is can I start to move my things to my company in the shenzhen. Or I need to be close to my company in Tianjin to receive the following documents like the release letter? Can the old company send to my new address or could it be done online?. Thanks in advance

        Reply
        • I believe things can be sent via mail but Id confirm with your employer first – you may need to sign something and they may prefer if you pick everything up in person.

          Reply
  4. Hi,

    Here I thought that this release letter was the most important document, but it seems that the cancellation Paperwork is just as important!

    Here’s my story..

    Can anybody explain to me how the cancellation process works. I’d like my cancellation Paperwork on my last day with my release letter….my HR claims they can only start the cancellation process the day after my contract(which will then take 15 days to get), but I will apparently for sure get the release letter….then I hear of this online cancellation process which takes about 4-5 days…I’m finishing my contract and obviously got a better job…
    Who or where can I go to?eg. A government department/SAFEA

    My last day/contract expiration day/date is 23 November, residency expires 27 November and I’m scheduled to start the 28 November 2018.

    My current school knows this, in the past 2-3 months, a total of 7 Teachers has left and no one re-signed. This is a training center (franchise)… Jiangsu province… I’m moving to another city in the same province.

    What proof can I obtain to show them that they can cancel the FEC before the time?…all these timelines and documents are frustratingly confusing…

    Can my current school cancel my FEC before my last day?where and how?? They claim I’ll be illegal… other people say it can be done.. I feel the current school just wants me to make Hong Kong runs, giving out money on flights, accommodation..etc, as if to get us back for some dumb ass close minded reason.

    Please help!

    Here’s my wechat : Fabian 180285

    Email: k.fabian@live.co.za

    I finish next week Friday!yay!

    Reply
    • Hi Fabian – the two schools (your old and new) should be working together on this and I would highly recommend leaning on your new employer to get things done. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if cancellation is necessary, you should be transferring everything to the new school and there is a defined process for that where you don’t have to go to HK.

      My advice would be to (1) contact your new school and explain what’s happening – it’s in their best interest to make it as easy as possible for you so that you can start work. If they are clueless, (2) contact your SAFEA branch (see http://en.safea.gov.cn/2013-08/28/content_16927554_3.htm for the Jiangsu location) and find out your options – you might need a Chinese speaker for this and Id suggest one that isn’t your current school.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  5. I am working for a school in China, but I’m employed by an agency. Do I need to get the release letter from the agency or the school?

    Reply
    • You need to get the letter from whichever company is linked with your visa – in this case, it sounds like it’d be the agency if you are employed with them but it should be stated in your contract.

      Reply
  6. Hi,
    In 2016 I worked for a school in Xi’an for 6mths and left because they didn’t pay according to the contract. My contract and visa have both expired. Do I still need a release letter, the employment agent is saying I do?

    Reply
    • To the best of our knowledge, you only need a release letter if you’re still under contract and are changing jobs. If your last job was in 2016 and you’re trying to return to China then the process should work as if you were applying for a job for the first time, ie no release letter needed.

      Reply
      • Thank you Quincy. That’s what I though but the employment agent is saying I need one.

        Reply
  7. Dear Quincy

    Thanks for all the great replies. I see the thread is fairly decent and so are some of the comments. I left China in 2016 and never received a release letter. My employer also refuses to give one as as some of the above people they were not paying me.

    As I understand you, I may now reapply for a new work visa without the need for a release letter? I would like to make certain so as to move forward with my interviews etc with the new school

    Reply
    • Hi Keith – thanks for the kind words. Yes, to the best of my knowledge, a release letter is only needed when moving from job to job when your visa and work permit are still valid. If you left in 2016 you will likely just apply as normal and have to redo all the paperwork, but I would definitely confirm with the school as each city and province often have different requirements.

      Reply
      • Sorry to bother Quincy. In addition to my case, I would be coming back to teach music and not English. Does this further help my situation?

        Reply
        • Hi Keith – the process is tied to the type of visa you have, not the job, so you will likely still need to reapply if your permits are expired.

          Reply
  8. Hello ,
    I have been working for one year in China. I spent 12 months , before three months I warned my boss that I will no longer renew the contract with his school … he wouldn’t like to let me go , he kept trying to convince me but I wouldn’t like because the salary is very low… so I told him I want to try somewhere . As I started preparing myself to get back to my country I asked him to give the release paper , but he refused … now what is the solution?

    Reply
    • Hi Jilan – sorry you’re going through this! As far as we know, your employer is obligated to provide the release letter and if they refuse I’d suggest contacting SAFEA (http://en.safea.gov.cn/) and asking for the next steps. You can also ask your new employer (if you have one) for help as they might have more luck with cooperation.

      Reply
  9. Hi everyone

    I would really appreciate your help.

    I recently left my teaching job and broke my contract (midnight flit). I’m not proud of it, but my employer was extremely bad). My former employer would like to employ me again, but the last school won’t issue any paperwork unless I pay them a huge amount of money. Reading above it seems like I just need wait until the contract I didn’t complete naturally expires and then I can apply from scratch in my home country (z visa etc.) without the need of the release letter. Can anyone confirm if that is correct? It would be a real weight off my mind.

    Reply
    • Hi Phil – this one is tricky as you broke your contract. First – did your contract outline a penalty for breaking it – if so, what? Second, Id reach out to your former employer and see if they can help – Im not sure if you need to wait until your contract is technically over or not, but they can likely talk to your bad employer more easily than you can.

      Reply
      • Hi Quincy

        Thanks for the advice. There is a penalty clause in the contract. Will that make a legal difference? I’ve been reading lots of information that states they are not enforcable.

        Thanks 🙂

        Reply
        • I have no idea about the legalities but my thought was that if you have a penalty clause you can offer to pay it (assuming it’s reasonable) and hope that remedies the situation. However, Id still get your former employer involved as it’s in their best interested to get you working ASAP and they might be able to work some magic.

          Reply
          • Thanks for the sensible advice. The penalty is ¥25000 hahaha

          • Wow, that’s steep!

  10. Hello. I signed a contract with a university. They emailed me the notification letter but I did request the visa because I knew that the university was a fraud with the contract with workers. So,although I signed the contract, I never got the visa and I never worked in China. Must I get a release letter? Can I have difficulties if I want to work with other school? Kind regards

    Reply
    • If you never got a visa then I do not think you need a release letter and it’s unlikely you’ll have any difficulties working with other schools.

      Reply
      • Hello. I posted on 21st February 2019 about the process with an university. The school told me that university applied the visa and they did not cancel it. How can I make they cancel? Kind regards

        Reply
        • Hi Ramon – Im sorry but I dont know the answer to this – I suggest contacting the school and asking them OR getting your new employer involved.

          Reply
          • Can you recommend me companies that help Foreign workers to cancel work permits when employers are making difficult the employment of that workers by keeping active the work permit? Kind regards.

          • Did you speak to your new employer yet? You can also try SAFEA (http://en.safea.gov.cn/), though you might need a Chinese speaker to help you. Otherwise, I don’t know of anyone, sorry.

  11. The SAFEA is useless. None of the ones I have contacted speak English – I don’t understand how they deal with foreigners but not know English. And they don’t even respond to emails. If you are lucky, all you get is an automated response.

    Reply
    • It can definitely be difficult – do you have a Chinese friend that can help you?

      Reply
  12. Hello. A Chinese school offerred me a position but I have no contract in Chinese. Only English. Is that normal? Kind regards

    Reply
    • Hi Ramon – it’s not uncommon but you can ask them for a version in Chinese or get it translated yourself and ask that they sign.

      Reply
  13. Hi, my wife and I worked for a terrible employer/training center and decided to leave without notice (as notice would have complicated the situation further and make matters more difficult for us). Naturally, we have no release letters as a result. A hr person from the school sent us an email stating that we were terminated due to “irresponsible working attitude” and when I scanned our FECs (which we took with us to our home country) it says our FECs have been cancelled. Can we reaapply to another teaching position in China with out release letters if we wanted to? We are back home in the US now.

    Reply
    • Hi Doug – yes, I believe you should be good to go but to double check, Id be upfront with every potential employer (I assume they will see the previous job on your resumes) just so they can let you know if there will be any hiccups.

      Reply
  14. Hi Quincy, I am in a bit of a tight spot and I’m hoping you can help me out. I am currently working for a training center in Hangzhou, China. The training center is well known for their malice behavior and making it extremely difficult for their employees to leave the school. My contract ends in August, but due to unforeseen circumstances in my home country I need to leave next month. I want to give them my months notice this week, but I’m scared that they will not pay me my full salary next month (I’m leaving a few days after payday) and I’m also scared that they will not give me my release letter. Can I leave the country without my release letter? And can they prevent me from leaving the country in some way if I don’t give them a notice and just leave?

    Reply
    • Hi Landi – sorry you’re in this position. In terms of salary, yes it will be a risk and if they are a bad school they could very well withhold the money knowing you’re leaving – you might just have to chance it. Re: release letter – they are legally obligated to provide that and Im pretty certain not having will not impact your ability to leave China. The risk comes if they decided to cancel your visa when you give your notice, in this case you might have to leave early, though this is unlikely. Finally, if you just leave without notice then they won’t know until you’re gone – I can’t really advise this as it’s not very professional, but it’s not uncommon when dealing with bad schools.

      Reply
  15. I am having some issues with my school refusing to provide my release letter. I am leaving the middle of my contract, but I have far exceeded the 30 day requirement for my resignation, giving about 4 months notice before my last day working for the school and about 6 months before they would need to find a replacement. My current school is trying to stand in the way of letting me to go to the new school, and has both told my new school they will not provide a release letter, and currently administration is ignoring my requests to meet to discuss the matter. It’s been about 5 days so far since I was informed by my new school that my old school is acting as such. Both of my schools are in Beijing. Though I mostly know who I can contact and such, further advice on agencies to seek out as well as how I should best go about this to ensure things work out for me. I’m getting advice from others, but any additional info would really be appreciated

    Reply
    • Hi Justin – the only official agency is SAFEA but they are notoriously hard to work with (consider having a Chinese speaking friend with you if you contact them). The other (and better) option is to have your new school go to bat for you – it’s in their best interest to have this process go as smoothly as possible. Have you met with them to explain the situation? If so, have you asked them to help?

      Reply
      • thank you, quincy, for you quick reply. First of all, if I needed to get SAFEA involved there would be no reason to find a friend. My wife is Chinese, and I speak Chinese pretty well myself. We had a chance to consult with HR from a third school (one my wife used to work for and still has ties to), and they really broke the whole situation down for us. Basically, there is absolutely nothing my current school can do to prevent me from starting work with my new school under my current visa. Even without a release letter. basically, if they refuse to provide it they would just be causing problems for themselves, so I really have nothing to be afraid of. Let it serve as an example for others though: If you live and work in China, you do have rights! don’t let your employer trick you into thinking they own you

        Reply
        • Great news, thanks for sharing! Hopefully, this will help other people as I know it can be hard trying to figure out what’s legal and what’s not!

          Reply
  16. Hello there! There is an issue I came across, my contract is until October. I have started with company 2+ months ago. I am having breathing problem in this city and its getting worse, I am on nose drops, otherwise I will die.
    Yesterday I was offered another job, in Shanghai and would like to move. My probation period is 6 months with current employer and I’ve read there is such law that if you are on probation, you can have a 3 day notice and leave. But according to my contract it is 30 day notice. I am sure my current boss won’t give me a release letter. What is the most practical thing to do? Go back to my country ? Will it help or any other suggestions? Maybe hire an attorney ?But I am not sure how much they usually charge for such services?

    Reply
    • Wow, 6mo probation is absurd – I think the law only allows for 1mo probation, but that’s beside the point. So, the first thing Id do is get your new school involved – it’s in their best interest to have this go smoothly so if you explain the situation they may want to help smooth things over with your current employer. Second, schools are legally obligated to give release letters so if give your 30 days notice you are in the right – they might fight you but legally they must provide the letter – again, this will be easier with your new school involved.

      Reply
      • By law, your employer is only allowed to implement a 30 day probation period, so if your school tries to say otherwise make sure to put forward that you are aware of this. also, so long as you give the 30 day notice you are fine. One tip I have: make sure you submit your resignation both physically and electronically. In my current move between schools there was something that didn’t quite add up. My new school informed me that my current school was refusing to provide the release letter, and they asked me if I had told my school I would be quitting. only after thinking about it for a while did I put the pieces together and realize that because I only provided a paper copy of the resignation my current school was just pretending they had never received it. make sure there is both a paper trail and an electronic trail

        Reply
  17. I have one question about how to force the school to hand over the release letter. going to try again to get my school to do it the nice way, but I feel like I need to prepare for the event that they wont do it. If I were to submit a new resignation for 30 days instead of at the end of the semester would my school have to provide the letter at that time, or can they hold onto it longer. my wife and I have some conflicting info.on this.

    Reply
    • Hi Justin – just re-read your previous comments and it sounds unlikely your current school will play ball. You also sound well-informed and able to speak Chinese – why not just move forward without them as you mentioned previously? If they can’t stop you then the risk is theirs to take – I have no idea if there is a time limit on providing a release letter or not, but at this point Id be leaning heavily on your new school to flex their guanxi to get the letter or start taking the steps to move forward without it.

      Reply
  18. Hi Quincy,

    I’m in a bit of a jam and I see the advice you’ve given others has been really useful. I’m currently under a contract that has a clause that says that I cannot cancel the contract without the school’s agreement. I have contacted a lawyer and sent them an official resignation letter, but they still maintain that they ‘do not agree’ to the cancellation and I will have to stay until the end of the term (July). Essentially, they’re holding me hostage. I know that Chinese law says that a contract can be cancelled on 30 days notice – does this trump the contract I’ve signed? Your help is really appreciated!!

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah – Im not a lawyer but Id suspect the law trumps the contract but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be as easy as telling your school about it. If you’re looking to cancel to move to another school then Id get them involved, if you just want to leave China and never return then you don’t need to do anything other than pack your bags, but it gets difficult if you want to leave China and return sometime. Which of these scenarios applies to you and what does the lawyer say about it?

      Reply
      • Hi Quincy, thank you for the quick reply! I am hoping that the law also trumps the contract, but so far the school is unresponsive to this and insisting on the validity of the contract. The trouble is that I’m looking to transfer to another position in another province. What can my new employer do about this situation?

        Reply
        • Hi Sarah – the only thing remotely similar to this that I’ve heard is related to probation periods – by Chinese law it can’t exceed 30 days BUT if you sign a contract stating a probation period of say 90 days then the contract stands since you essentially agreed to the increase by signing the contract – this could be similar to your situation since you signed the contract, but again Id ask the lawyer.

          Regarding the other school, oftentimes Chinese schools and companies can come to an agreement much easier than a foreigner could – it’s in your new school’s best interest to have the process go smoothly so if you explain the situation to them and ask for help they might have more luck. On the other hand, July isn’t that far away so if they can’t or are unwilling to help it might make more sense to just wait it out and try to end things with your current school on a good note.

          Reply
  19. Hi,

    I’m in the middle of trying to gain employment in China and I need to cancel a work permit with one school so I can get a work permit through another school. I don’t have a visa yet but I want to make sure I don’t run into complications with the school of my choice when asking them to apply for a work permit for me. I have asked the school I currently have a work permit through to cancel it but they are taking a while to confirm if they will cancel it and not reapply for another one. I want to make sure that I can get a work permit through the new school without the any complications. Does anyone know if I can let the new school apply for a permit without having complications with there already being a current permit? And is there a way to confirm if my current permit is cancelled?

    Reply
    • I should clarify, I need to know if I can get a different visa notification letter through the new employer without having the old visa notification letter cancelled. I am not in China yet and haven’t done anything regarding a work permit.

      Reply
      • Hi Ken – so Im not sure about this – you have a visa invitation aka work permit but haven’t gotten the visa – correct? And you want to get another permit/invite with another school, correct? I know work permits can be transferred but typically only at the end of a contract. Im not sure if your new school can issue another invite letter or not, have you talked to them about it? If not that’s what Id do first – you need their assistance as this is an unusual case – sorry I cant be more helpful.

        Reply
  20. Hi,

    I’ve been working in Shanghai for more than 9 months. The school fired because I am too expensive for them. They were claiming that they notified me one month in advance but they didn’t, in any form oral nor written. I know they are trying to avoid paying me one month in advance as it stands in my contract. Although manager was on my side trying to point out the truth, the owners are persistent in this and they denied to pay me. They promise to give me my release letter and recommendation letter as well this Friday, but I don’t trust them anymore. The problem is that I am leaving China the next day. But I want these papers in case I want to come back. Any advice what should I do if they don’t give me these papers?

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Hey Maya – you dont have a lot of options because you’re leaving China. They are required to hand over the release letter but you don’t have much leverage if you’re not here. If you stick around Id get SAFEA involved, but if you’re deadset on going you might be out of luck. However, if you want to come back, the main thing you need is the recommendation letter (the release letter is only if you’re taking another job immediately, I believe) so maybe consider asking for it OR writing one up yourself and having your manager sign it?

      Reply
  21. Hello. My name’s Graeme. I’m 62 years old and taught English in Japan for 24 years. Please advise if there really is an age limit for a Z visa, as some claim. I tried emailing Safea but got no reply. How strictly would it be applied if it does exist? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Graeme – I believe the retirement age for China is 60 or 65 but in my experience, it’s selectively enforced. I wouldn’t rely on SAFEA for this, instead, Id start contacting employers or recruiters as they will quickly be able to tell you if they have any opportunities.

      Reply
  22. I gave written notice on May 27th that I would be leaving on June 30th, 2019. My contract states that I must provide written notice 30 days in advance. I have never violated or broken my contract in any way. I’ve never even used any of my paid vacation days. With the exception of a week long stint in the hospital last fall where the school had to take me to the emergency department and the doctors told the school I couldn’t leave (during my first contract), I have never missed a day of work since I’ve been at this school. I’ve been a pretty model employee.

    During our meeting, my boss would not let me take a photo of my FEC card for my new employer. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to have or see the card while I’m under contract. (Red flag #1) I saw the card with my picture on it in the box with my contract, so I know it’s mine. My boss also told me that she wouldn’t be able to let me know if I’m allowed to leave right now. She said she would need to talk to her lawyer and figure out what the law is and it doesn’t matter what my contract says she will only do what the law says. (Red Flag #2) She told me that she would let me know her decision after 30 days and I refused and told her that was unacceptable. I told her I needed to know before June 1st. She claims that her lawyer is out of the country for 10 days. So I told her she could have two weeks, and no later. We had a lot of back and forth. I probably shouldn’t have said this, but I told her that we weren’t really going to be discussing when I’m leaving. I made it clear I would leave on June 30th with or without my release papers. She told me that if I left without her permission, that she would refuse to cancel my work permit/residence permit until March when my contract expires. (Red flag #3)

    My boss has fought with the previous foreign teacher, so I made it clear that I wasn’t looking to fight or have an argument from the very beginning. I just want to settle this as peacefully as possible and don’t want to have to get SAFEA involved. She told me that it didn’t matter if I contacted SAFEA because they wouldn’t do anything to her (Red Flag #4).

    I haven’t contacted SAFEA yet. I’m not sure when I should contact them and what I should say. I’ve heard that most offices don’t speak English and that you’ll need a chinese speaker. I’ve been very transparent with my new school. They haven’t really gave me much advice about this situation, just that “Please try your best to negotiate with your current employer and let them release you smoothly.” They’ve basically told me that if I can’t get my release papers myself, there is very little they can do to help me and they won’t be able to get me a visa.

    What are my options? Do I have any options? I’m literally open to any advice y’all can give me. I’ve had a friend in my city tell me I should hire a lawyer, but I’m not sure what that will actually accomplish other than waste my money.

    If my school isn’t going to give me my release papers, I plan on just returning home to America and taking a couple weeks to relax before trying to figure out what I would do next. I really enjoy working and living in China, and was looking forward to finally getting into an international school here. But if I go home, I planned on looking into working in Japan/Korea or taking a long term sub position/teach online until my contract runs out and I can start from scratch in China.

    If I go back to America, should I stay until June 30th and go then, or leave now? I was paid last week, and I’m not sure how likely they are to pay me at the end of June knowing I want to leave on June 30th. At the end of the day, staying in China isn’t worth my mental health, and if going home is the best option I’m fine with it.

    Reply
    • You’re right – lots of red flags here, but I can also see it from the point of your boss as it sounds like you haven’t even stayed 6mo – they have every right to be mad. In terms of what to do Id really lean on your new school to help you out, it will be easier than SAFEA and if you explain that you can’t work for them without their help then it might convince them. If you go with SAFEA you will need a Chinese speaker and it might not help in your short timeframe – I’ve never dealt with them personally but from everything I’ve heard they don’t move all that quickly. Have you considered just staying through your contract? It might be the easiest path forward here vs going home and hanging out until your visa/permit expires…

      Reply
      • I realize that maybe I wasn’t very clear in my first post. This is my second contract with my school. I’ve been working for them since April 2018 though my original contract started March 2018. I told the boss that I wouldn’t stay for the entire length of the second contract when I signed my second contract because the city is very small and I eventually want to work for an international school.

        My school has been going downhill for awhile. I’m really not happy with my current situation or the decisions the new management has been making in regards to the education my school provides our students. They continually make promises that they don’t follow through on, such as giving all teachers more time off. I wasn’t given any additional time off for the qing ming festival, even though the chinese teachers received an extra two or three days off in addition to their normal days off. I’m not allowed to use any of my paid time off days because I’m the only foreign teacher. I’m required to work extra hours during summer and winter classes but they refuse to pay me overtime. Instead they give me more time off in exchange which is fine, but I’m not allowed to use my time off because I’m the only foreign teacher. I’ve politely complained about this and basically was told I have no reason to complain because I make the most money. Training schools are a business, and that’s just part of education here in China. When I first started working here, education was the priority and most decisions centered around how can we make sure our students are actually learning and getting something from our school. I signed a second contract because of that. After my second contract started, the owner stepped in and fired 7 employees (all management/head teachers). The focus now is on how much money we can make and how many pictures and videos can we post on wechat during one lesson.

        Reply
        • Hey Roxy – thanks for clarifying – you’re definitely in a tough spot. I wish I had more advice but if your new school won’t step in and you don’t have time to go to SAFEA then your only option might be to leave and wait for your contract to expire. Another thought – if their motivation is money you might try and offer some for your documents. I normally wouldn’t even suggest this as it sets a bad precedent but you seem to know what you want (and what they want) and this could be an easy (but costly) solution.

          Reply
  23. Hey everyone, I’m living in Chongquing and two days ago my employer said he uploaded the document to cancel the work permit because I’m gonna move to Shenzhen to other work position. I need as soon as possible the letter but my current employer even answer my questions. Can I know by myself what is the status or download the letter on any website? Let me know your advice, what I have to do?

    Reply
    • Hi Ana – I don’t believe workers have access to this website but I believe the process is quick (less than 10 days). Your best option is to keep asking your current employer for updates – good luck.

      Reply
  24. I went to China on a year contract. On arrival There was zero induction from the school and was just hanging around reporting for duty not knowing whats going on. Aside from that I had to walk in the freezing cold 4-12km to the school as Wechat pay wasnt set up and Weall know China is cashless. After ten days of being hungry, lost and exhausted I notified the school whilst already at Shanghai airport that Im leaving and headed home. So I broke a contract after 5 working days.
    They refuse to cancel my work permit barring any other school to employ me. What other repurcushions are there? Trying to speak and sort things out in an amicable manner is impossible as i am this horrible person in their eyes.

    Reply
    • Hi Chayil – to be honest, you didn’t go about this in the correct way – you should have tried to work with the school according to your contract in order to improve conditions. No matter how bad the conditions were, you owed it to them as an employee to try and work it out before leaving so abruptly, I’m not sure you have many options as you’re already leaving China – if you’re looking to come back Id be up front with every school you talk to and see if you can get them to help get a new permit.

      Reply
  25. Hi q

    Tell me is there a database of sorts that a potential employee can take a gander at? .. So that one may side step these ” potholes” you call “bad schools”

    If we “named and shamed ” (even just amongst ourselves) .. perhaps schools needing our services might think twice about giving us the run around … A bit of leverage can do wonders in some of those situation!

    Reply
  26. How long is a release letter valid for? My old school let me go and cancelled my visa in April after only a month due to pay disputes. I have finally found a company I would like to work with, my visa is still valid until next year. Would my current company have to apply for another visa?

    Reply
    • Hi Sarah – I believe they will need to apply for a new visa if you original was canceled. The purpose of the release letter is to facilitate the transfer of a visa between employers, but since your visa has been canceled I believe the process will need to be started from scratch.

      Reply
      • I am still in China, just waiting for the new company to work on my visa but the waiting is making me anxious. I have not left China since my arrival, would that be a problem. Do you know if I would have to go back home to redo the whole visa again?

        Reply
        • How are you still in China if your visa was canceled? Regardless, some companies are able to transfer visas from within the country while others will require you to leave and go to Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. This is really something you should discuss with your new employer as they should know what the process will be.

          Reply
  27. As by my experience for release letter, id advise make contact with local civil affairs department and their one call can bring the employer in line, in case if you are on the right side and innocent.
    Show them the law by which the employer is obliged to give the cancellation letter.

    Another way is get the release letter ready in your hand before closing the work permit then for closing the work permit you the documents should be taken to the SAFEA, so better not to handover the card early to the school instead go along with them to the SAFEA office where the closing is done and they will stamp a work permit cancellation letter and give it, now here you can say that letter belongs to you infront of the SAFEA so that you take the original and give a copy to the employer.

    Reply
  28. HI,

    I have not worked in China as yet, however, a school I previously applied at had too many red flags, a big one, was the agent telling me to arrive in China with a tourist visa and then applying for my work visa when I arrive there. I told the school that I was not interested anymore and would be looking for another school.
    I applied for another school and thankfully got the job, had to resubmit all my paperwork and this was successful, however, when my new school tried to load my documents on the government system to apply for my invitation letter, they realised that the application from the previous school was still on the system.
    I have tried to contact the agent who helped me before and the team that assisted me to apply for the visa, but they are refusing to do the work, they are saying that the school is refusing to issue my cancellation letter.

    What can I do now?
    Who do I report this to?
    I really would appreciate all your help.

    Reply
    • The name of the school is Derui, and it’s in Hebei Province and the name of the agency that was ‘helping me’ is Harry Gice Kids Club, now none of the agents are answering my calls or responding to my messages or the messages from my new school.

      It’s extremely frustrating.

      Reply
      • Hi Vicky – sorry this happened. Unfortunately, Im not sure if you have any good options – you can lean on the new school to get involved and talk to the old one, they can oftentimes have better luck than a foreigner. Or, you can contact SAFEA and complain but that often takes time and is very difficult if you don’t know Chinese and are not in the country. I wish I had more suggestions, sorry, please let us know how it turns out.

        Reply
      • Hi Vicky! I’m having same problem right now. The agency says he can’t cancel the process until its done. He won’t pick my calls or reply. Let me know if you find any solution. I will let you know if I did

        Reply
  29. Hello, I have arrived to china 9 days ago to work with a school but the conditions were terrible and they didn’t offer anything that they promised. After I left today the priy sent me a msgs saying that the notifies the police and I can’t work I China anymore, is this true or does she only wants to scare me. And I’m only on business visa and they promised me to help me with the work visa but nothing worked. Can they still prevent me from working in china even thou we didn’t do any legal contract?

    Reply
    • Hi Rashes – sorry about this situation. My thoughts are that you should be fine given that you were on a business visa, but I can’t say for certain. Are you saying you didnt even have a contract? If so you should be ok – Id just look for a new employer that can offer a Z visa and make sure to explain the situation to them in full so they can help.

      Reply
  30. Hi Quincy I’m currently living in China and working I have a Z visa and residency permit recently there has been a lot of problems with my school. I am employed and have a contract with my agency where I signed but my school is saying I also have a contract with them when shown this contract it is not my signature but just my name written down as normal I did tell them that this is not my signature which they then said they have permission to sign on my behalf and my agent gave them permission which my agent did not!!… They failed to also pay my agents which then I almost left in September by my agents instructions after a lot of back and forth the school sent a legal document saying that they would pay by a certain date and if they failed my agents could immediately stop cooperation with them it is now November and the school failed to pay my agents have sent a letter to stop cooperation immediately with them… The boss and director have had me in the office trying to get me to sign with them directly but I will not do this they tried again to say I have a contract with them and once again I said no I don’t I only have a contract with my agents that day I received a message saying that they would be canceling my visa and residency permit and I would have to leave China I already have a new job lined up!!… My agents have told me that I can stop going to there school from Wednesday and go and stay by a friend for a couple of days… Would like to know does the school have any legitimate leg to stand on??… My visa was done through my agency!

    Reply
    • Hi Ryan – lots of moving parts here so Ill do my best. In short, you should have had a contract with your school – having one with the agency is not the correct way of doing things. This is likely due to your school not being able to hire foreign teachers and I doubt they have much control here – Id confirm everything with your agency and see about your options, it sounds like they got burned too and will likely be willing to help you to recoup some cost from a different school.

      Reply
  31. Hello, I want to quit as soon as possible because due an emergency I have to go back home. The problem is that my passport is still on the PSB because a few weeks ago I had no idea I would have to go back home and I was renewing my residence permit. So I’m planning to quit tomorrow because I can’t wait even a week, but I’m afraid that my boss won’t give me the release letter, she probably will argue that my passport is still on the PSB so they can’t cancel my resident permit or something like that. And by the way, I think I already overstayed 2 weeks of my residence permit because the psb still don’t give me my passport back. So what should I do now?

    Reply
    • Hi Marie – this is a conversation you need to have with your boss, you obviously need to get your passport back and only they can help facilitate that.

      Reply
  32. Good day
    Please advise.

    I arrived in China on the 07 November 2019 and I was meant to start teaching on the 09th. Upon arrival I was taken to the school’s apartment. The apartment was Horrid and disgusting to say the least. I down right refused to stay they and reported to my agent and booked myself into a hotel. I informed my agent whom a day later of failed negotiations with the school notified me that she will be transferring me to a different school day province and I should move once I’ve received all my paperwork from the current school. I have started at the new school on the 29 November 2019, and to date I still don’t have any of my documents (Permit /residency). Unfortunately I am not happy with the new school as well as I am the only English teacher , with 4 classes every of about 30 children. Upon my arrival at the school I was sent straight to start teaching with absolutely no induction. No body t the school speaks English , nobody has showed me anything or what they do on a daily basis , I literally have to find my own way and I’m a loner most of the time. The school accommodation is “okay” but to fate I have not received a refrigerator, microwave, tv , kettle amongst other things. And most importantly I haven’t received my documents from the old school. My visa expires this weekend 07 December 2019 and I have been informed by my agent that I have to travel to the old school again which is is the northern part and I am now in the South to complete my residency certificate. I spoke to my parents about this and they want me to leave and return home (I want the same as well, as I am exhausted from all the trauma, stress, excess money’ ). I wanted to know will it be wise thing for me to up and leave (like as in Tomorrow)? Will customs require a letter from my school or can I just book my flight back home and leave? Please note that after this I have absolutely no intention of ever returning to China.

    Reply
    • Wow, this is a tough situation and Im sorry you’re in the middle of it. The good news is that as long as you have your passport and have not overstayed your visa you can leave whenever you want without penalty. If you have your passport but have overstayed your visa then you can still leave but might have to pay a fine – this will be up to the immigration office at the airport. Hope this helps!

      Reply

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