China’s SAFEA

 

What is the SAFEA?

The State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) is authorized by the State Council. SAFEA’s main functions include:

“Designing the development strategy of foreign intellectual resources introduction, studying and formulating relevant policies, rules and regulations, approving plans of ministries and local governments for inviting foreign experts and overseas training programmes, and supervising their implementation; formulating, improving and supervising standards and the administration concerning foreign experts working in China, and overseas training of Chinese.” [SAFEA web site]

SAFEA is responsible for licensing schools that hire foreigners. Obtaining a proper SAFEA license to hire foreigners is a long and nontrivial process. It requires numerous on-site inspections. Many schools in China are not in fact SAFEA licensed. For this reason they ask teachers to teach on F Visas, (business visas) or worse, L Visas, (Tourist Visas) instead of obtaining the correct Z Visa. No matter what people tell you , this is not a legal practice.

Regardless of the “Everybody does it.” mentality, you lose important protections when you work illegally. Consider this, if you have a serious dispute with your school and need to go to the authorities, do you want the first item established to be that you are an illegal worker? How strong does that make your case?

Make sure that the school hiring you is licensed to hire foreigners. Ask them directly if you will be working on an F visa. Don’t fall for the line that you can work on an F visa as a visiting “lecturer”. If you are teaching and being paid for teaching services, you need a Z Visa, which must be used to obtain a FRP (Foreign Residence Permit) within 30 days.

There are numerous posters, posing as being knowledgeable, but in actuality serve as ex-officio “Ministers of Disinformation” on the various ESL forums. Anecdotal and third-hand hearsay is what they usually offer. Ask them how many visas they have personally processed, working directly with the PSB.

China has uniform laws which are often not uniformly enforced. What may seem “legal enough” today, may be utterly illegal tomorrow. Local officials change, headmasters and school owners change, and enforcement focus changes. Your safest bet is to ensure you are working legally.

About Ken Hayes, M.Ed.