The Safest Way to Quit

All across Asia, whether you’re teaching in China, South Korea or Thailand, the ESL industry is notorious for missing pay. You’re a foreigner, your working situation might not be completely legal, few of you are proficient in your country’s language, and 95% of you will be leaving eventually. Let’s face it, foreigners are the perfect mark for any type of scam, and just because you’re at your job doesn’t mean you’re safe. Sometimes companies short you on teaching hours, while others forget your overtime, but the worst way they rip you off is when you’ve decided to quit before you’ve finished your contract. Leaving a job can be financially dangerous for an ESL teacher; it’s incredibly common for your former employer to keep your whole paycheck and any other remaining benefits or pay, without any justification other than you’d quit. While this is predominantly a problem for part timers and people working under the table, it could and has happened to people working with a proper Z VISA. For the most part this is done out of spite, but plain old greediness has a huge role in it as well.

Any company that doesn’t pay you upfront or after the session will pay you monthly, usually half way into the next month, and if they decide they’re not going to pay you, you could be losing up to 6 weeks of pay. How much you’ll lose will obviously depend on your timing, and unless you’re in legal danger I highly suggest that you hold out until your next pay day to reduce the amount of money they could steal from you. Just because you have a penalty free resignation clause in your contract doesn’t mean you’ll be safe either, it’s fairly common for them to ignore the 30 day or 2 week notice you’d put in and screw you anyways. They might make up excuses about how your resignation hurt the company, or they might just tell you to fuck off, because they know at the end of the day that there’s very little that you can do to fight it… If anything. Unfortunately, this practice has become an accepted way of doing business for many ESL companies, and it’s an unavoidable evil you’ll eventually encounter if you’re not working on a Z VISA for a reputable employer.

Sometimes true, but often just a way to get you to sign with them

TL;DR “We’re going to screw you if you leave”

A common tactic Western teachers use to protect themselves and minimize their losses, while probably reinforcing why the Chinese even do this, is to quit abruptly after they’ve been paid. Any work they do between the end of a pay period and pay day is for money they will never see, so they act normal until the end of the month, then do anything they can to avoid working afterwards. Some common methods include calling out on their busiest days, faking illnesses, and even taking vacation time. Food poisoning, or laduzi, is an excuse that works every time, since the Chinese know how terribly their food can affect a Western stomach. The soon to be gone teacher bides their time working as little as possible while acting content, careful not to let on that they’re unhappy and planning to leave. And once they’ve gotten their money, they quit or disappear as soon as it’s convenient. When they do it this way, they end up forfeiting only half a month’s pay as opposed to the potential 6 weeks worth, and depending on how much work they’d ducked out of, they might’ve lost even less.

I know this comes off grimy, and your conscience may get the better of you, but I’ve seen too many people who’d quit the noble way get robbed. I’ve honestly come to believe that this is the best way in most situations, or at least the safest. Some companies might be honorable, but most don’t have to be and therefore won’t be. Keep yourself safe and get taken advantage of as little as possible.

The F VISA and All of the Headaches That Come with It

One day in Hong Kong, I’d been waiting to pick up my passport in the office of a VISA agency. As I waited, I listened, and in the three hours I’d been there, I’d heard 4 different people scream, cry, and ultimately walk away fucked over… All because they’d had an F VISA. The F VISA is a business VISA, intended for factory visits and business meetings, and essentially the poor man’s work VISA. Not only do you have to do a VISA run to leave and re-enter China every 30 to 90 days, but it’s also still illegal to hold a domestic income, and if somebody tells you differently, they’re either lying or have been lied to. Another problem with the F VISAs is that it doesn’t change laterally, meaning that you can only extend one or apply for a tourist VISA, and if you’re planning to change one into an X or a Z VISA, then you’re looking at an expensive flight back to your home country to process it there! There’s a rare exception that allows some nationalities to process it in a country that isn’t directly adjacent to China, such as Thailand or Malaysia, but they 100% aren’t American or British. Worst of all, having had a lot of F VISAs will give you a dirty passport, and this is a massive red flag at the Chinese Embassy. When you’ve been consistently living in China on business or tourist VISAs, staying the absolute longest you could on each, and then immediately reapplying for a new one without ever taking break from your ‘business meetings’ or ‘tourism,’ it’s incredibly obvious to even the most naive of embassy workers that you’ve been doing something shady and probably shouldn’t be in China anymore. A dirty passport will cause any future tourist or F VISA to be heavily scrutinized, more likely rejected, and almost always shorter. Eventually you’ll be denied altogether, forced to find a more legitimate way to live in China. It’s fully understandable why so many people had either broken down or flipped their shit that day, having had no clue about how this VISA worked until it was too late. 99% of the jobs that suggest you work on an F VISA do it for one of these two reasons; they’re either too cheap to pay for the expensive Z VISA process, or too unqualified to legally sponsor you for it. A school that insists on an F VISA is generally one that you should avoid, often an indication that they either don’t value you and won’t treat you well, that they have absolutely no clue what they’re doing, or that they’re operating illegally. If you absolutely feel the need to accept one of these jobs, skip the headaches and complications of the F VISA and enroll in an HSK school instead, where you’ll the X, or student, VISA and a residency permit. Working under either of these VISAs is illegal, but at least as a student you’ll receive a residency permit and Mandarin classes, and since you’ll never need to do a VISA run on the X VISA or risk denial and a flight back home, you’ll definitely be saving money in the long run even after tuition. Take my advice and avoid the Fuck you VISA at all costs.