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I assume this topic has been mulled over a million times.

I'm American, and I have my Bachelor's degree in political science (Jan 11) and I have studied 3 years of Mandarin Chinese.

I have been wary of entering contracts because I am in the midst of applying for some international jobs and I have a definite date of May 2012 for

Peace Corps if I choose. Not to mention, contracts seem like they can cause legal headaches for some.

The reason I want to private tutor is that it's very flexible. My main reason for going to China would be to learn about the culture and improve my language skills. In earnest, I just need to make enough money to defer my cost of living.

First Question: Is there anyway of getting around private tutoring being illegal according to visa protocols? Could I obtain a work or Z visa?

(I'd be very wary of risking years of imprisonment for something like this, I'm more conservative when it comes to risk assessment.

Second Question:

Any general thoughts on how to get started? Shanghai would be ideal for me, especially because I really want to seek out a good martial art establishment for Wing Chun,and Shanghai is the most prevalent place to find it. I also assume it would be easier finding clientele who would want private tutoring in the city.

So please, any advice would be great.


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Is there anyway of getting around private tutoring being illegal according to visa protocols? Could I obtain a work or Z visa?

No, you need to be sponsored to get a Z visa. From the Chinese embassy's website: "The original and a photocopy of the Work Permit for Aliens issued by Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security or the original Foreign Expert's License issued by the Chinese Foreign Expert Bureau." And, generally for a company to sponsor you, of course they'll want a contract.

I'd be very wary of risking years of imprisonment for something like this, I'm more conservative when it comes to risk assessment.

Maybe I'm just being unkind to think this, but if you're too wussy to risk a visa like this, I'm not sure China is the right place for you.

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There's no way to freelance in China without being a bit dodgy on the visas, bar perhaps setting up your own firm to act as an employer. A work visa requires a single employer, any other visa doesn't allow you to work.

That said, if you have some other plausible reason for being in China (taking language / martial arts classes) and you avoid working for schools and just have private clients, the chances of having any problems are slim.

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Thank you for the concerns. Trust me, I'm no wuss.

I just want not sure what the initial impression was about doing this.

I know most people who know less about the international world and China for that matter would probably make a reference to something like,

"You really need to be careful. Have you never seen the show, 'Locked-up Abroad?'

So this leaves me with two questions.

It appears then that I cannot get any form of a visa if I did private tutoring.

So, I would essentially be an illegal alien inside China while I stay there without any visa?

If that be the case, then I assume I would want to maintain a low profile?

Secondly, how would I get started? Should I try to make some living arrangements before getting there? (What would be the best approach to this?)

I have heard of things like putting posts on baidu.com to get private tutoring started.

What else should I know?

Honestly, I'm not really that worried about the culture clash. I'm one of the most liberal minded people I know, and when I say this, I mean open-minded or free thinking. I am 23 and have blonde hair and blue eyes, and I have the natural look of a genuine, trustful person. This has generally helped me get along with everyone no matter what ethnicity or culture. For example, I have been working in restaurants for years while I attended my 4 year university. I get along great with all the spanish cooks, and I try to use my limited spanish as much as possible.

Kind regards,


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Alright, thank you.

I will look into this tourist visa thing tomorrow. I know a Chinese study-abroad student here in NJ. She is from Beijing, but will be working at an entry level position in Shanghai sometime in the near future. If I get into any real bind, I could always contact her.

So just running the scenario here, if I get the tourist visa, and get this rolling, how should I begin?

I plan to look on ESLCafe for tips on teaching and I will try to read reviews on the best books for teaching English. For example, my intermediate Chinese book had an amazing structure, whereas my French book is all over the place. So I'll want to find a well-structured book to teach English.

What about housing? Should I try to look for places ahead of time online, or do the Chinese not really utilize the internet for room rentals? Would I be better of trying to find a local real estate agency in Shanghai and see what they have to offer?

The only issue I have with Shanghai is the cost of living is quite excessive. It's seems about the same as getting an apartment on the east coast. That is why I plan to be really aggressive about this private tutoring thing.

I really don't want to have to burn through to much of my savings on this trip.


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  • 1 month later...

I won't even get into housing and stuff like that here, it is a big issue an requires a lot detailed information.

I will say that the idea of going to Shanghai simply to tutor privately is a bit mad--it is hugely expensive, and flooded with foreigners. This means you will struggle, especially at first to find enough clients to sustain an income appropriate to pay rent etc. If you do decide to do this on a tourist visa (and keep in mind you might need to exit a few times and reenter, as additional costs--and it ain't cheap) I would have as a minimum 15,000-20,000RMB plus enough for a flight home. If you have that and are lucky, you might find enough students after you find your feet to start to sustain yourself.

The reason most people come on a z visa with a job is that: a) it gives you the right to stay, B) it gives you a secure income, c) it often provides free housing, airfare etc., d) it means when you realise you cannot make decent money tutoring you can still survive for a while without losing a ton of savings. If you didn't want to break commitments, you might try for a 6mth contract. Not as easy to get, but might be better for you.

The idea that contracts are too much of a legal headache so coming over to work illegally (while still trying to get an apartment, i.e. sign a contract for that but not really have much of a leg to stand on when it goes wrong due to your situation) sounds poorly thought through at best.

Oh, and if you are caught here illegally working, you are highly unlikely to end up in prison. More likely, you will be kicked out of the country and barred from returning for a few years. You might also need to pay a fine (and certainly will if you are here without a visa, or overstay on a tourist visa).

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Has anyone ever actually heard of a person getting in trouble for doing private lessons on any type of visa? Because I know lots of other English teachers in China who are not legally allowed to teach private lessons and do anyways, and I've never heard of anyone getting in trouble for it.

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I don't know anyone here on a work visa who has had trouble for teaching additional classes or tutoring outside of their workplace. However, if the school found out your were doing it and for whatever reason wanted you to stop, and you didn't, they could no doubt create some big problems for you (including you losing your work visa).

But I think the danger with coming over an L or F visa and hoping to tutor privately is that if and when it is not sustainable, the person might find themselves seeking work and doing actual classes on the wrong visa. This can open you up for all types of abuse, including not being paid, because your lack of a legal working visa means you cannot take much action against your employer.

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