Unsurprisingly, the British media generally concentrates on news stories about people who have come to the UK to work illegally, rather than experiences of other countries. However, this situation has recently been flipped on its head with reports that the Chinese government is considering a crack down on the estimated 250,000 people working in China illegally as English teachers.

Strict Visa Requirements

China has very strict rules about what types of people can be employed in the country as English language teachers. Visa applicants must be native speakers of English, have a university degree and a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language. Teachers also need a health check, and a police criminal records check. All this paperwork takes time, and therefore it’s no surprise that some agencies are happy to bend the rules for applicants. There is a very high demand for English teachers in China, and experts estimate that as many as 60% of the teachers currently in China are not there legitimately.

Potential Crackdown

Anyone considering taking a job as a teacher in China should be aware that they are taking a risk. Although the Chinese middle classes are desperate for their children to learn English, the increasing problems caused by poor quality teaching or exploitative job advertisements are leading to the authorities considering a crackdown. Chinese legislation allows for fines of up to £2,200 for working illegally, a fortnight in prison and then deportation. In theory it’s the school employing the teachers which is responsible, but in practice, it’s the foreign teacher who pays the fine and ends up in prison. Is it worth failing foul of the law in order to get a couple of years working overseas? Given the wide availability of information online, could being deported come back to haunt you in years to come when a UK employer decides to Google your name?

UK Comparison?

In the UK we don’t import English teachers, and illegal working in the education sector is not an issue in this sector. However, there are several other sectors in which illegal workers are found more often than others. Restaurants, the hotel industries, beauty salons and other small service businesses often employ more illegal workers than larger multinational organisations with professional HR departments.

However, being a small business does not opt you out of your obligations to check up on the people who are applying for a job in your organisation. All employers have a legal duty to verify the nationality of the people working in their business. Most will do this by asking to see a copy of a passport, showing nationality and any immigration stamps and visas which might be relevant. Just as with the situation of the teachers working in the grey economy in China, there are stiff fines for illegal workers in the UK too, although the business pays rather than the individual. Legislation around checking the identity of those who you employ is always changing, and will change even further depending on what happens regarding the Brexit process.