So your dream ESL job in China isn’t everything you’d hoped it would be. In fact, it’s getting downright difficult to carry on with the day-to-day grind and you’re thinking about quitting – but what will happen if you do?
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why you may choose to quit your teaching job: poor management, breach of contract on the employer’s part, toxic work environment, illness, family emergency or some other external factor.
If you have found yourself in this situation, a foreigner teaching abroad in China, whatever your reason for quitting may be, just know that you do have options. You are not stuck, and by no means are you forced to remain anywhere against your will.
How to Quit Your Teaching Job in China
Most contracts in China are on salary, so familiarize yourself of all terms and conditions, and benefits. Contracts usually include housing, airfare, and a salary, among other things. Obviously, if you are getting paid on a regular basis, the flow of income will cease. Any airfare or return tickets may not be issued. Your housing contract may also be terminated early, and you will either be forced to vacate or pay for it on your own, depending on your housing situation.
It is most important to speak with whoever oversees the terms of your contract. Make sure you discuss any other consequences for an early termination, as some schools will require you to pay a fee. If they require a fee, pay it! You do not want to be in debt as this could severely affect your move to a different school or even your return home.
Be open and clear with your supervisors. Be courteous and give them an advanced notice of leave. If you are planning to stay in China, you’ll want to get a release letter from your current employer. This letter basically acknowledges that you no longer work for the school, but you departed on good terms. Obtaining a release letter is important in preparing you for the next step: what to do after terminating your contract.
Your Visa and Residency Permit
By now you would have decided if you are moving to a new school, staying in China to travel, or leaving the country completely. Find out how much time you have to legally remain in China. The terms of your work visa and residency permit would have been outlined by your current employers.
If you are choosing to work with a different school, your current employer will write you a letter of release upon your leave, which will allow your work visa and residency permit to transfer to another school.
If you are choosing to stay in China as a tourist, you will still need to obtain a letter of release which you will use to transfer your current work visa to a tourist visa. You do not need proof of residency for a tourist visa, but you do need proof of a return home (i.e. plane ticket information).
It is very important to try and leave the school on good terms, as your former employer has the ability to cancel your visa and residency permit early. Not only will you need those documents to legally stay in the country, you need them to move about as well.
If you wish to stay in China and are thinking about applying for a different visa, visit the website for the Chinese Embassy for more details on how to do so, including the contact information for the immigration in Hong Kong and Macao. Note which visas can be issued only from the Chinese Embassy in your home country.
If you have decided to leave China for home, hopefully, you left the school on good terms, have the release letter, and have some extra money to purchase a flight ticket home. However, if your school’s contract terms require you to pay a fee for terminating the job early, and you did not pay, you can be detained if you are in debt. Having the letter of release will prove that you fulfilled all the duties of leaving early. Do your best to cleanly end your relationship with the school so you can be free to move on.
Another option to get home is to simply vanish; you grab your last paycheck and literally run to the airport to buy a one-way ticket home. Vanishing on a “midnight run” may not be the greatest way to go, as your information could be reported to the government, thus making the possibility of ever returning to China extremely difficult.
Think also about the reputations of your home country, any professional contacts who may have recommended you for the job, and your teacher training alma mater before attempting any sort of vanishing act. Do not feel bad about having made the choice to leave, but leave in a civilized manner to maintain the integrity of your professional connections.
It’s China – There Are Always Exceptions
Perhaps you are married; both you and your spouse have legal verification to work in China. If you end your contract early but your spouse remains in the workforce, you can stay in the country on your spouses’ visa for the remainder of his or her stay. So long as you have a place to live, you’re free to travel the country or apply for other jobs. Still, try and leave the school on a good note, and make sure you obtain that letter of release.
If you are married to someone with Chinese citizenship, again, you can remain in the country if you stay married and are living together.
Remember, It’s Just a Job
Quitting your teaching job in China requires much more work on your part than leaving a job back in your home country. However, it is not impossible.
Make sure you take the time to speak with your employer about your plans to leave. Give them notice and maintain a sense of professionalism. It is very important that you have documentation of termination in the form of a release letter, as well as knowledge about the parameters of your work visa and residency permit. Maintaining an open dialogue with your supervisors should result in a smooth transition out of the school, and a safe passage home.
Making the decision may be hard, but once you know what you’re in for, the leaving process will not be so rough. This is probably not the first job you have decided to quit, and more than likely, it won’t be the last.