So, you want to work abroad? Don’t worry because you’re not the only one hoping to find greener pastures. More and more Filipinos are now going out of the country to work and I’m proud to say I was one of them. But mind you, I’m not where I am now because of luck. I had to go through the eye of the needle, literally, just to land a job in China.
While most Filipinos go to the Middle East, Canada, United States and New Zealand, I decided to apply for a teaching job in China. I had been teaching in a public school in the Philippines for more than 10 years until one day, I decided to leave public service and go on a whole new adventure. It would mean leaving an established career and being away from my loved ones but I had nothing to lose. I wanted more and I deserved more.
China is one of the most interesting countries I’ve ever known. It has a very rich history and culture. It’ also more technologically advanced than our developing country. And, it was closer to home. I can take a plane and be back in the Philippines in a few hours. Most importantly, the country offers excellent employment packages to teachers.
Finding the Right Employer
Filipinos may not be native English speakers but we can definitely communicate like one. The first thing I did was look for prospective employers. The fact is many schools and training centers in China use different websites to post vacancies. You also need to download WeChat for faster and more convenient communication.
Just like a true-blooded jobseeker, you need to equip yourself with all the necessary requirements like a detailed CV or resume, application letter and copies of your passport, diploma and license. Once you have all of these, you’re good to go.
You can find tons of websites online, specifically job boards, where employers post their recent vacancies and the requirements needed for the job. They also include details regarding salary, accommodation, insurance and many more. Once you have found a job posting that interests you, start sending your application right away.
In my case, I found an opening in a school and immediately sent all the necessary requirements. Three days later, the school’s representative emailed me and asked for a demo lesson. I had a friend took a video of my demo, I was asked to tell a story, and emailed it to the school. Five days later, I had my live demo lesson via Skype and final interview.
I didn’t expect the whole hiring process to be that fast. After that, I was given a contract. It was an answered prayer. But my journey was far from over.
Getting the Visa
Since I’m not a native English teacher from the U.S. Canada or United Kingdom, the school contacted a recruiter to help me with all the paperworks. Thankfully, I didn’t need to process everything personally. I was still employed back then and being absent meant not getting paid. I asked a relative to have my degree and criminal background check authenticated at the Chinese embassy in Manila. After a week, I had my papers back.
I also underwent a medical check-up to ensure I was fit to work. I sent all the necessary requirements to the agent for the processing of my work permit.
The next few weeks seemed like the longest I have ever lived and finally, the agent emailed my work permit. I was ready to apply for my visa. I downloaded a visa application form online and filled in all the vital information.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to process everything again personally. This time I asked a friend living in Cebu City to process my work visa. I signed an authorization letter and mailed it to him together with my documents.
It was my first time to apply for a Chinese work or Z visa so the processing time was longer as I couldn’t avail of their express service. I had to wait for three days. And yes, I was always at the edge of my seat during those days.
I was very worried. What if my application was declined? What if I lacked the documents or requirements needed? Finally, the long wait was over. I was granted a Chinese Z visa.
The Long Wait
I finally had the long awaited Z visa. I can go, right? NO!
The moment the school learned I had my visa, they told me right away that they would book my plane ticket to China. I was up on cloud nine but it wasn’t long. I was immediately back to earth the moment I heard the bad news from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA). They won’t let me leave the country unless I have my Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).
I was completely unaware of this sad fact. I was told that I needed to have an agency in the Philippines because direct hiring was a no-no. I had to inform the school and the agent of this terrible news. But I was willing to do everything to work in China.
I started looking for a POEA-licensed agency online. I called several agencies that were willing to help me. I had everything set; I just needed that Philippine agency to work with the recruitment agency in China so I can have an OEC. But you know what? I had to pay them a month’s salary in exchange for their services!
It shocked, frustrated and saddened me all at the same time that I had worked so hard to process everything from finding that job to acquiring that Z visa and now I had to pay an agency for doing nothing at all!
Fortunately, I found an agency that charged lower. I thought all my problems were solved but it turned out there were more obstacles ahead. The Philippine agency was asking a lot of documents from my Chinese agent. There were papers that needed to be translated, legalized and authenticated. Only then can I be given the OEC.
My agent and I prepared everything. I paid a huge amount of money to process all the needed documents. All I knew then was that I needed that job and I was willing to do whatever it takes to work in China. Days, weeks and months passed.
I asked myself if this job was really for me. Was it worth all the trouble? I prayed endlessly and one day, I talked with a friend teaching in Indonesia. And everything changed. I was hopeful once again.
The Best Alternative
I never travelled abroad but my friend had been to several countries working as a teacher. It was from him that I learned there was another way out of the country without a work visa or an OEC. This time, my Z visa has already expired (yes, took more than three months to process everything that turned to ashes) and though my agent was more than willing to give me a new work permit to renew my visa, I told her no. Not yet.
I was determined. I worked hard to land this job and had already invested time, money, efforts and emotions to the whole process. I wasn’t giving up. After months of processing my papers to no avail, I finally decided to risk everything and go to Hong Kong.
Filipinos are privileged of staying in Hong Kong as a tourist for 14 days. Aside from this, I found out that I can actually apply for a Z visa to China. Maybe it was luck or God finally answered my prayers but it so happened that my agent also knew someone who can help me in getting my Z visa. They talked and everything was set.
Now all I have to do is to fly to Hong Kong. In order to get there, I had to face Philippine immigration.
Getting Pass Philippine Immigration
I took the risk and book a flight to Hong Kong. Days before the big day, I had to research the web for tips and other information on how to get pass immigration. I talked to friends and co-workers. I was going to Hong Kong as a tourist and since I wasn’t granted a leave of absence from work, I had to find a way to make the immigration officials believe that I would be coming back to the Philippines.
I booked round trip plane tickets, booked a hotel for three nights and brought a small luggage with me. I also prepared copies of my bank statement and business permit just in case they asked for proof of my income.
Two hours before my flight I was already at the airport. I was jittery but I didn’t want those officials to see I was dead nervous. As expected, I was subjected to secondary inspection. An officer took me aside and asked tons of questions.
I was asked about my family background. She asked about my mom’s job as well as that of my husband. She also asked about our business. I told her I had an online store (which was true, by the way).
I knew she wasn’t convinced so I told her I am a freelance writer. She got curious and asked me about my “sideline”. I told her I was employed by a Canadian company for the last six months and was receiving a specific amount of money for my work. I showed her my client’s certification and website. She asked me how I receive my salary so I showed her my PayPal account. Finally, that convinced her and I was running to catch my flight.
Long Wait is Over
The moment the plane landed in Hong Kong, I took a bus to the agency to process my visa. The agent was very professional and I was asked to prepare for an interview at the Chinese embassy the next day. The interview went fine.
The officer only asked about my occupation and a copy of my diploma. Fortunately, I have a photo of it on my phone. Three days later, I got my Chinese Z visa. I booked a flight to China and arrived there safe and sound. Finally, the long wait was over.
I know that many Filipinos like me aspire to work abroad. I never expected this kind of opportunity to come my way but with prayers, courage and determination, I’m finally where I belong.