Melissa Langley is an ESL educator, travel blogger and freelance writer.
How to Get Your Working Visa in HK: Teacher's Edition
Teaching English in Hong Kong is an adventure of a lifetime. As you prepare for your new career and exploration of an exciting and inspiring city, it can be cumbersome to deal with the logistics of each process, especially when it comes to applying for a Hong Kong working visa.
Whether you are obtaining a governmental teaching position, working for a private international school, or taking on a role as a university professor, there are specific rules to follow for scoring a teaching visa.
As Hong Kong’s visa requirementsfor ESL teachers are quite extensive, we recommend you visit the official Hong Kong Government Immigration Department website for the latest guidelines.
However, you can find an overview of the different options, broken down by teaching level, below:
If you are looking to enter the public school sector, the Hong Kong Education Bureau’s NET programme affords teachers a comfortable salary and healthy benefits package. However, there are many different tiers of requirements and qualifications in order to obtain a NET visa and these will depend on your desired teaching level.
The primary level requires the least amount of certification for teaching English. As long as you possess a bachelor's degree, you can be accepted into the NET scheme.
Secondary level teaching requires both a bachelor degree and a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. In order to earn a higher wage and move up the NET scheme as a master teacher, however, it’s beneficial to have relevant teaching experience in addition to ESL certification.
A degree in Education will also be a tremendous advantage for acquiring such a position. Those with a bachelor's degree and a teaching certification may also, enter the private school sector. In addition to education, certificates and experience, applicants are also required to be a native English speaker from Canada, USA, Australia, England, New Zealand, or South Africa. Keep in mind that most teaching contracts are one year commitments with, renewal depending upon annual performance.
When applying to an international school in Hong Kong, holding a degree in Education, or an equivalent qualification, is an exceptional advantage for obtaining a work permit. These private schools teach a wide of array of students whose primary focus is not just on learning English. If you do not have an English degree, but have been teaching your subject for over 2 to 3 years, the lack of a degree may be overlooked. In high demand are those with experience in teaching under the IB curriculum, especially STEM and Music teachers.
Teaching at university level is competitive and comes with a bigger set of working visa requirements. Whilst university teachers benefit from fewer teaching hours and a highly regarded job title, this position comes with the minimum requirement of holding a master’s degree in your chosen field. A MEd, or Master of Education, or any other specialized Master’s degree would contribute to the applicant’s eligibility for an employment visa.If you do not have a post graduate degree, your experience may be taken into consideration.
General Employment Policy
Foreigners searching for employment in Hong Kong, will need to obtain a General Employment Policy (GEP) visa. Luckily, for English teachers, this process is fairly simple once you have secured a job with a school. The Hong Kong Government requires that companies employing foreigners first prove that the position cannot be filled by a local person.
This documentation will be provided by the school itself so you don’t have to worry about that, but you will need to provide a clean criminal background check, proof of your education background, a completed visa application, a passport with at least 6 months left of validity, two or three passport photos, and travel and health insurance. The entire GEP visa process will take about six to eight weeks to complete and you will then be required to leave Hong Kong in order to validate the working visa. The easiest way to achieve this is to take a short ferry ride from the Hong Kong harbour over to Macau. The GEP visa is valid for a year, but can be renewed continuously at your employer’s discretion.
There are many different kinds of teaching opportunities available in Hong Kong. With its eclectic mix of Western and Eastern sensibilities, a job here can not only be described as an incredible opportunity to explore the local culture, but also to make a positive impact on Hong Kong’s next generation.