COVID-19 and expatriation in China

Hello everybody,

The COVID-19 crisis inevitably impacts China, between closed airports or periods of containment in some cities or even the entire country .
We would like to hear from you during this unusual period, to find out what the consequences of this pandemic are on your expatriation or expatriation project in China.

Does the current crisis call into question your long-term expatriation project?
If you are already settled in China, do you plan to return to your home country?

How are you living through such an uncertain period, especially if you are far from your loved ones?

Have any of you ended your expatriation in China unexpectedly?

Paradoxically, has this crisis brought you closer to some people?

What are your plans for the future?

Thank you very much for your feedback.

Hope you are doing well.


This is an interesting topic because I am sure each of us can tell a different story.  I was contacted by my college to write an article for their on-line magazine.  They wanted to hear a first hand account of what it was like to return to China after the COVID-19 outbreak, which I did on Feb. 6th.

Here is a link to that article if anyone is interested.

I went into my 14 day quarantine on Feb. 6th and it was over by Feb 20th and I am still here with no plans to return back to the US.  People back home told me I was crazy for coming back to my job in Feb.  (We haven't been working since Feb. 5th and we still don't know when we will return to the classroom)  However, now some of those same friends are telling me I was wise to go back.  What a difference a few weeks have made...

All I can say is if everyone could just stay put that might be helpful to containing this thing.  If people would do what has been recommended, that too would help.  As long as the general public doesn't heed the advice and continues to push an individual agenda, instead of adopting a corporate attitude of care and concern..then we are in for a long protracted fight.

I feel total safe in my area of China and with the protocols the Chinese have put into place.  Has it been tough, at times.  It's hard not having my usual work to keep me sane, not having a paycheck, being confined to my neighborhood and home, but in the long run it will pay off, until then there's little that can be done to change our current situation, other than obey the rules and stay safe and well.

Such a great topic as for myself well I was living in Shanghai China but I had to leave in feb due to the situation . I work as a teacher and I was suppose to come back in April however doe the the borders being closed down that kind of ruined my plans to come back for work so it has been such a negative impact on my career and living in China again .

Long term, if anything the virus has made me consider staying in China longer than I actually planned on. I am currently settled in Dalian, however if the ban on travel lifts-its a sign that things are better back in Canada-in which case its likely I'll head back home. In the event that the ban does not come to a close, I'll likely be staying here through the summer.

Living through this experience has been difficult because I live with my loved ones, without them its likely I would have gotten sick, returned home at the first sign of the epidemic or volunteered services to the front line prevention causes.

Currently, I am taking advantage of being in China and looking for any teaching position vacancies that can't be filled because of the travel ban on foreigners.


If you are currently holding a Z visa and you have a current contract then you may have problems finding a new employer unless your current employer is willing to let you go.  If you are not holding a Z visa (work visa) then you can't work legally and doing so in this current situation puts you at risk.  I wouldn't do it. 

If you would like more info on getting a working visa for China you can check out our company website   Good luck.

I appreciate your concerns, that is basically what I am currently looking at-is dumping the current employment in the following year.

I don't need advisory as I am working through the schools to maneuver moves as needed. Not my first rodeo, but thanks.


Thanks for starting this thread. I really wanted to get a feel of the situation on ground rather the news media. I am waiting for the US airlines to resume and airports to start taking in foreigners. While I have not entered China yet, I have a job offer hanging. Very strangely some friends recommended me on traveling to Shanghai late Feb. My family and I are closely tracking the situation and would like to hear more from you.

The behavior of the Chinese towards foreigners has been a bit ridiculous though, crossing the street and refusing business towards anyone who isn't Asian.  A bit ironic considering how hurt Asian-Americans get when they receive racist treatment or hear the virus called the Chinese virus.

Nice, ya I was looking at job opportunities there. Things are picking back up to normal pace. The schools are still hiring preparing for the borders to open up again.

I know SUIS (Shanghai United) is still looking for a Humanities teacher-if you or anyone you know is still interested in coming back to China.

Hey, are you actually still experiencing this? Wow. Ya here in Dalian (LiaoNing Province), we are not experiencing that at all.

It was an interesting sentiment considering it was in...Guandong or ...Gaunxi? That some folks from a smaller village were originally first refusing to wear masks as a sign of belief that the government will get so far ahead of the virus that it wouldn't reach their was never reported what happened afterwards :/

But you should get on that wechat "legal services" ID: gh_5b787ac93f0

They post some interesting and pretty relative articles/information on legalities and rights of civilians/employees/foreigners here in China

Actually the rules in regards to Chinese citizens and foreigners have NOT changed it's just a reminder to all what rules are in place.  The bottom-line is if you're NOT Chinese you need to remember you're in China therefore Chinese Law applies period. 

You need to carry your passport (or a certified copy) and your visa (which is in your passport) at all times.  The only thing NEW is you must follow the virus protocol, wear a mask, follow instructions that are given to you from anyone who is in authority, like putting on a mask if told to do so, and if your phone is app capable you need the newest app that records your health status and when asked you will need to scan that to take public transportation or enter certain locations. 

Finally, if you interfere with ANY medical personnel as they are doing their job you can be arrested, fined and deported.  Oh, if you are caught passing along rumors or fake info you can also be arrested, fined and deported...piece of advice, curb your desire to re-post stuff that you haven't personally vetted.  Just common sense folks.

Nothing here is that new except for the virus issues.  BTW the incident that seemed to have sparked this was in Guangzhou.  Be safe and stay well

I currently live in Thailand and like to return back to Shenzhen.  Does anyone have an idea about when China will allow foreigners to go in?  Thanks

mimi84843 :

Such a great topic as for myself well I was living in Shanghai China but I had to leave in feb due to the situation . I work as a teacher and I was suppose to come back in April however doe the the borders being closed down that kind of ruined my plans to come back for work so it has been such a negative impact on my career and living in China again .

The earliest possible lifting of entry of foreigners is end of this April, but with strings attached for sure.  You are likely to be asked to take the virus test and quarantined 14 days.

Realistically, some time in May, China will open again for foreigners on the condition that US and Europe do not worsen.

Good luck to you.

I am hearing from a few of my friends in Shanghai that life is resuming to normal. I wrote to the visa agency in USA in order to apply for a new visa. They suggested that the china embassy in USA is only accepting emergency visas and should wait till Early May for applying visa to China.

Early May for US citizens to China is possible but seem optimistic at this point in time.  I guess it will be early June or later for US citizens seeking tourist visa.

You can see China priority for the news below.  Business, technical and then something else.
China to ease entry ban on foreigners with South Korea 'fast track'
AFP Relax NewsApril 21, 2020, 7:59 PM GMT+8
The Asian giant has tightened controls on returning travellers and drastically cut international flight routes after largely bringing its virus outbreak under control in recent weeks.
The Asian giant has tightened controls on returning travellers and drastically cut international flight routes after largely bringing its virus outbreak under control in recent weeks.
China has reached an agreement with South Korea to set up a "fast track" for businesspeople to travel between the countries as Beijing looks to ease an entry ban on foreigners imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With the deadly disease spreading globally, China last month blocked almost all foreigners from entering as authorities fretted over cases being imported from abroad.

Beijing is also in talks with other countries including Singapore to set up a similar channel to stabilise economic cooperation and ensure supply chains run smoothly, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a press briefing Tuesday.

The virus, first discovered in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December, has since spread like wildfire and killed more than 167,000 people worldwide with cases reported in over 190 countries.

But there are signs that China is looking to relax some of its controls as the measures used to curb the pandemic place a huge economic strain on nations worldwide.

"China is in talks with relevant countries to set up fast-track channels allowing... business and technical personnel to travel," Geng told reporters on Tuesday.

"The purpose is to stabilise important economic and trade cooperation... and to ensure the safe and smooth operation of international industrial and supply chains," he added.

Beijing has reached a consensus with Seoul on the fast-track channel and both sides are working to implement the plan, Geng said.

China and Singapore have also discussed personnel exchanges via video conference, he said, but Geng declined to elaborate on which other countries authorities were negotiating with.

The Asian giant has tightened controls on returning travellers and drastically cut international flight routes after largely bringing its virus outbreak under control in recent weeks.

There are signs that the dramatic steps are working, with only four new imported cases of coronavirus reported Tuesday.

due to COVID-19  and the timing of it, I was on holiday in my country when it occurred.
My school had me work 1 month writing curriculum. Then decided my first graders were too young and my class to hands on to teach online, so they stopped paying me, breaking contract.

Meanwhile my president stopped all flights into China. And they tried to backdoor me In with no concern for my safety. And no guarantee of payment until schools reopened.

China then stopped letting foreigners in. I was willing to return and wanted to, despite them breaking contract.

Given government closures and no for certain return fly in date, they stopped renting my apartment and removed all my personal belongings. They refused to mail me my belongings, so at this point I have found Chinese employers to not be the most ethical. I learned a huge amount through this experience.

1. Take anything of value with you when you leave China for even just a holiday.
2. Never give the schools your work, once they have your work, they don't need you.
3. Contracts mean nothing to them, so always look out for your best interest.

I doubt it is different than in any other country, but live and learn

Hey buddy,

Sorry to hear that. For what its worth you worded that quite diplomatically. I would have lost it personally I think-

Nonetheless, which school is this if you don't mind me asking. I am really curious as I am on the market (still living in China), I want to know where to stay away from.

I have had a complete opposite expereince to be honest, but I do know that there has been a mix of expereinces across China.

I would recommend you to look up "legal service" on wechat. The wechat account is run by a lawyer and has posted articles that are clearly determing the situation (as you described it) as illegal.

I would sincerely reach out and follow through as ya-you got shafted hard and I KNOW that there are schools in Shandong that are still paying and keeping ESL teachers/Canadian Curriculuym Teachers on payroll even through all of this.

If you need more info or help, let me know. Unfortuantely I can't fly to Shandong and argue your case, but ya-good luck with everything-hope things turn around for you.

Thought I'd add my 2c to the conversation.  Currently living in Lanzhou on an L visa which was graciously extended without request as it doesn't make sense to cross boarders just to keep the visa status.  Currently waiting on a passport renewal as my current passport expires in November.  Everyone at the Chengdu Consulate was very nice, informative, and extremely helpful.  I plan on working with a now undetermined employer to apply for a Z visa once the renewed passport is granted but, due to the pandemic, I was politely informed to expect delays which is understandable.

As for my personal experience, 95% has been extremely positive.  Generally i notice people staring with understandable curiosity as I'm an obvious foreigner with long naturally strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes.  I'd describe it as if you saw an albino squirrel in Central Park, as curiosity would get the best of you, and you couldn't quite look  My worst experiences are minor at best in the form of light heckling, people putting their masks on as they see me approaching, and a couple people who politely said they would take the next elevator when the doors open and they saw me.  In their defense, I would be a little skeptical/cautious as well if I heard the same news that America/Europe wasn't doing so well dealing with the pandemic.

Generally, people are very curious and most street food venders are both surprised I like/can eat the spicy food and shyly ask to take a photo or video with me.  I can only guess if it's for PR or just to share with their friends. :)  Either way I don't mind the attention.  Some even throw in a little extra food so we can try it free of charge or even offer us not to pay but we always insist on paying as its the polite thing to do. 

I have started the habit of visiting the public parks to study mandarin every few days and am very surprised that I can't get through a half hour of studying without at least one older couple (its always a couple) bold enough to say hi.  I'm nowhere near fluent yet so we have a short conversation through a translator (google translate works well) with generally the same few questions.  Are you a teacher/student/missionary?  Do you like China?  Why are you in Lanzhou? etc.  Personally I feel it is very welcoming that people are comfortable enough to say hello as it is pretty lonely not to have anyone to talk to (outside of my wife and friends back home thru facetime) until I learn Mandarin better.

In closing, China has been very welcoming since we've moved here, things are open and it feels like a safe environment compared to the stories I've heard from friends around the world, and keeping a positive perspective seems to be the best policy to help with the inevitable culture shock.  I can't speak for much other than my experiences in Lanzhou, but would kindly endorse anyone thinking of moving to the area as a pretty friendly place for well mannered foreigners.

Open for questions if anyone wants to chat more about what its like here.

P.S.  Lanzhou has a pretty solid drinking culture so beware of the baijiu or Chinese alcohol.  If you're not at the college frat party level of drinking, it's advisable to just pass on the drinking all together.  ;)  Fair warning.



I’m actually in the same position as most of you I’m currently back home and I have a valid working visa was in China last Jan and had to leave now I’m waiting till China opens it’s borders again and it’s already 20th of May I hope they can open soon so I can get back to work and plus I miss the hot pot .

I think July is very likely to be the month China will open entry for foreigners.  International airlines are planning to reopen in July. It would only make sense of both China and the other country open up at the same time.

I am in constant weekly follow up with my relocation support firm. I think end of June or July time period is the likely time when foreigners can try to gain entry. I know United Airlines is trying to launch flights to three cities in China (Beijing Shanghai Chengdu) as soon as the ministry allows.

Check out the Beijinger,  they just released an article that you may not find encouraging in your wait but help you plan accordingly.


Oh boy!! It could be true. I am finding it tough to gain access to my country in the first place. Limited flights for another few months.

I still don’t believe the article I’m certain they will open sooner maybe in June

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