Beijing, China- Recently I was approached for a job in Beijing. I won’t say who it was from because quite frankly it isn’t worth my time to get into details. Okay it was a company called GI2C and they are sketchy as they come. At first it looked like a good position. A good salary for Beijing, job description matches everything I want to get experience in and so far no bad English which is usually a good sign. Then one quick search online and I have uncovered a company who deal in shady internships for foreigners and tell them to arrive in China on tourists visas despite the fact they need work visas to legally work in China. The experience brought me back to a job offer in 2015.
For a lot of people who want to teach in China there is a massive amount of jobs which are going to present themselves as being this experience of a lifetime and to experience China through teaching children at amazing institutions. From reading the advertisements and website pages you would honestly think you had found your calling in life. Other times you would wonder where the hell did some of these people learn English.
In June 2015, I was contacted by a company called Expertise Education. I was emailed by a young woman called Yvonne. Her English was atrocious and she could not write in a professional manner. She told me that her company provides jobs for foreigners looking to teach English in Beijing, with most of the schools being kindergartens. What she of course left out was that they were an agency and were not hiring me directly, but simply being an outsourcing company to hire teachers for schools who otherwise cannot find English teachers. That right there is a red flag.
I decided to ask if i could see the business license of the company. This is a very important step to take when dealing with employers in China. Many companies operate without a business license. Many English schools don’t have the correct business license and would rather buy a cheaper one to save a few bucks. This is illegal and can see the owner prosecuted. Asking for the business license is standard question. I got back a swift reply. I did not change anything, it was written exactly like this.
“we have business license, but we cant send it to the individual cuz we are afraid that people will take it to do something which is not good for our company, hope you can understand. all of the information you can go our website to check it all as long as you are over 22 years , bachelor degree then no problem
This was perhaps the biggest red flag. A company that does not provide a business license upon demand is hiding something from you. At this stage I had already lost interest in working for them. I knew they were a pyramid scheme, but I really wanted to know just how bad they were. I then saw what they were offering and it was the same as working a minimum wage job in Ireland and frankly it didn’t look worth it if I was going to be reamed up the ass for pennies.
There were two contracts, one with accommodation and one without. Those with a bachelor’s degree were paid 500 yuan more than those without. What stood out from this was that they were bringing people to China on the wrong visa. As of 2013, to gain a Z Visa/Work Visa, you must have a bachelor’s degree. Without it you will not be able to gain a work visa unless there is some special circumstance. Expertise Education were bringing people to China on L Visas/Tourist Visas and making them work.
This is hardly groundbreaking news. A large proportion of English teachers in China are not on Work Visas anyway. The issue is that if you are caught on the wrong visa, at minimum you will be deported and at worst you could see yourself being detained for either a short or long period of time. Companies like Expert Education facilitate people to work in China illegally. For most people it can be chalked up to ignorance. A lot of people working in China do not know they are working illegally. With today’s climate of anti-foreigner sentiments stemming from the slow growth of the Chinese economy, foreigner teachers will be getting a lot more attention.
I decided I would take the Skype interview to see at least there was an office of some kind. I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning and received my Skype call. I was greeted by Yvonne who was at home. She had her laptop on her lap and behind her, I could see a man in boxers trying to sleep. It had taken me a lot to contain my laughter. I was talked through their recruiting process. When I asked about my visa I was told not to worry as long as I have a degree. After 10 minutes we finished with my promise of sending my documents. After 15 minutes I was sent a word file explaining the next process.
Everything I was being sent was hiding something. Missing from all this information is the fact that to gain a Z Visa in China you need two years post graduate experience in the area you want to work in. Either they were going to lie on my behalf about my experience or they were going to send me the documentation to get a tourist visa. I swept the internet for information on the company and what i found was telling. For starters, the salary offered and being paid are not the same. 5,000-6,000 yuan is what they pay their teachers. As well as that the apartments are located 2 hours from the schools. The apartments are also extremely derelict with little to no support from the offices to help employees. It was also obvious that wages were being skimmed and the actual wages of the teachers was missing 50-60% of what they should have been earning.
I did not send on my information and decided not to pursue these cowboys any further. Like a lot of people I want to return to China. At first I would have taken any job that came my way. After going through almost all job scams in China and not falling for them, I can safely say, go to China when you know you have a job that is secure. The second an employer states that you do not need a Work Visa is the second you should break off contact with them. In China, saying you didn’t know you didn’t have the correct visa will not get you out of trouble. Feigning ignorance is not going to help you.
As of 2016 Expertise Education’s website has been shut down. It’s Facebook page has no recent status’ and there has not been any mention of them on the message boards across the expat community in China. It does not matter if they were caught. There are a myriad of other companies who will take their place to scam foreigners into China with the prospect of gaining an experience and money. If something is too good to be true, it damn well is in China.
For anyone wondering why I know as much as I do, I’m Irish but I spent time in China and I speak a good bit of Mandarin. Throughout my time in Beijing I picked up an amazing bullshit detector and for most jobs posted online, the vast majority are there to take advantage of you, especially if you are foreign.
If your are interested in hearing the podcast on this topic, here it is.