When you’re first starting out in the teach abroad field, there can be a steep learning curve when it comes to the hiring process in China. In your home country, hiring has probably been a fairly straightforward process. You interview, get the job, and show up for your first day of work in your nicest outfit.
When teaching abroad, things can be quite different. There are a few key things to know about the legal aspects of the process to ensure that you don’t end up incurring extra fees for yourself or wind up in a tough bind.
When you leave a school once your contract is up, ideally they will issue you two documents. The first is a release/cancellation letter which releases their hold on your visa. The other is a government-style reference document that asks whether your performance was good/satisfactory/negative. The vast majority of schools will provide both of these documents with a positive reference, ensuring that you’re able to get another work visa down the line. However, there are some situations to be wary of.
When a school hires you, they will begin to apply for a work visa for you with the Chinese government. This will require many steps, but the first step is to simply open an application using your name. The school can do this at any point from the time you sign your contract, even if you haven’t yet sent them the required authenticated documents. Once the school has created an application for you, they have a ‘hold’ on that application.
Say that another opportunity comes along once you’ve signed a contract with School A. School B is offering more money and is in a more desirable location. Unfortunately, because you’ve signed the first contract, there is a chance that School A has already opened an application for your visa. In this case, if you were to terminate that contract and sign with School B, School A might not ‘release its hold’ on your application – AKA, give you a release letter. This would mean that School B can’t open a visa application for you because there can only be one.
This is why it’s important to be certain about a school before signing any contracts, because it isn’t as easy to get out of them as it might be back home. In China, these contracts are taken very seriously, and once you sign with a school, that is a promise to the school that you will fulfill the terms of the contract. This is why it’s good to be sure about a school before signing a contract.
How to obtain a release letter
It varies from school to school on how you would go about obtaining a release letter and positive recommendation, and whether or not they would grant you one without issue in special circumstances wherein you leave your contract early.
The best way to go about it is always going to be case by case, but perhaps the most important thing to do is to be polite and always maintain a positive relationship with your employer.
Say, for example, that you’re partway through your contract and things are going well. You like your colleagues and students, and you’ve scored well on all of your performance reviews. However, something comes up unexpectedly and you need to urgently return home. You won’t be able to complete your contract. In this situation, the best thing to do is to be honest with your employer and tell them the situation. Explain that you need to leave to go home. Maintain open and clear communication with them, help them to find a replacement if necessary, and assist with the transition.
Since you’ve maintained a positive relationship with the school, they should give you a release letter and positive recommendation with no problem.
However, if you’re partway through your contract and another opportunity comes along that looks better and you take it, leaving your current school suddenly and without warning, the school will likely be hesitant to give you a release letter. This can put you and your new school into a tough spot because they won’t be able to get you a visa without the release letter, and it’s best to avoid this situation at all costs.
No matter what, it’s best to keep a positive relationship with your employer. This way, if something unexpected happens, you’ll be able to avoid any trouble. Should there be a situation wherein you’re having trouble obtaining the release letter, open and clear communication is key. Tell the new school what’s going on and they should be able to help as well – after all, they want you there!
Before signing a contract in the first place, be sure that it’s something you feel good about. If you have reservations or are unsure, don’t sign and hope that something better comes along, because this will open up more difficulties.