Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. recruited me to work at one of their many "partner" universities throughout China. At this time in my life, my wife was pregnant with our second child and we were looking for someplace to settle down outside the hustle and bustle of the big city. The job offer from Yucui seemed quite promising. The location of the university was in one of the cleaner and less polluted cities in China, which also meant that it was also about a two-hour drive from any major metropolis. But for a university job, it came with a better-than-average salary, a comfortable housing allowance, and of course, a work visa and resident permit. The students, I was told, were taking my courses in preparation for a study abroad program in Australia. They would learn foundational English in China and then transfer to an Australian university.
So I signed a contract with Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd., and less than a month after my wife had our baby, we packed up all our things and moved to a new city. We looked forward to our new lives, and I eagerly awaited the chance to start teaching again.
The semester went off to a good start. I was complimented and praised by the staff for the richness of my classes and the way the content was delivered. Many of the students were eager to learn, and it was easy to see they were engaged in our classes. However, few, if any, had any serious plans to go to Australia.
My first month's salary from Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. wasn't delivered on time and only after multiple phone calls with my supervisor did they finally say the bank had made a mistake, and that they would make sure the money was sent right away. I gave them the benefit of the doubt.
Aside from the books I received, support at the university was next to non-existent, and even the head of the university's Foreign Affairs office didn't speak English. I never saw another foreigner on campus, or in the teacher's office. More often than not, it was the students themselves who would offer to help translate, and as much as I appreciated their assistance, I felt like a teacher's personal problems wasn't their responsibility.
Before I started working at the university, I asked Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. about my Foreign Expert's Certificate, work visa and resident permit. As any foreigner in China knows, those three things are needed for us to work in China. Since I moved from another city in China, the program's director, Philip Nash, said that all I needed to do was to transfer my resident permit from my old city to my new one. Yucui said they would get started on this as soon as possible, but because of new Chinese regulations, it could take up to a couple of months.
After almost three months, I called Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. and inquired as to the status of my work visa. They initially ignored me. After I kept pushing the issue, they finally confessed that they didn't have the legal authorization to issue me a work visa, but that they might be able to sponsor a 60-day business visa. At an official meeting with Philip, he even quietly admitted that all previous teachers who worked for Yucui at my university only had business visas, which under Chinese law was illegal. I asked some of my students about their previous English teachers, and although they were surprised to learn about their illegal work status, they said it explained why no foreign teacher taught them for longer than a semester. Philip Nash and other managers at Yucui including Charles Li, Sherry Tian, and Francis Gong promised they would try to ask the university to "sponsor" my work visa but first I would need to hand over my passport. Feeling somewhat sus*i*ious of their intentions I refused, and they said they would do their best to find an alternative solution. I asked the people at the school's Foreign Affairs office, and they said they couldn't sponsor my work visa since I didn't have a contract with the school. I left the meeting that day wondering what would happen next. Here I was, in a remote city, thousands of miles from my country, without a legal visa or any friends who could help.
When I arrived home later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover what had happened. My students sent me a message saying that Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. had informed the university that I was fired and that they would be sending them a new teacher. My students were confused. I was furious, not just because I was fired, but because it was my students who told me. I called Philip Nash, and he said the university made a mistake, that I wasn't really fired, and he promised to correct the misunderstanding. The next week, I was told by the school's Foreign Affairs office that I was no longer welcome at the school and that the students had a new teacher.
Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. broke contact with me shortly after that. They never gave me a termination letter or any severance pay, or even admitted any responsibility for what had happened. I now had to try to get another job in the middle of the school year, tell my wife and kids that we had to move all over again, and forfeit our rent deposit and all the money it cost to relocate.
I contacted a lawyer who said that because Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. didn't provide me with a work visa, the legal action I could take against them was limited. Even if the university agreed to sponsor my work visa, it would be under their name, and not the agency's, which meant that my that my contract with the agency would still be legally useless. The best thing I could do now was to report this incident to the police and proper authorities. However, if I went to the authorities I risked incriminating myself of the very crime I wanted to report.
In hindsight, I realize this may be why agencies like Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd. continue to exist. By having foreigners sign employment contracts with them instead of with the school directly, this agency and other agencies like it severely restrict the amount of legal action any foreign worker that has been mistreated can take. Their contracts are only given in English which makes complaining to the authorities doubly difficult. Essentially, Yucui can continue to send foreigners to remote locations and effectively strand them there, without any accountability or fear of legal repercussions.
After doing some more research on Shanghai Yucui Education Consultancy Co. Ltd., I learned that this company has been advertising multiple job positions like the one used to recruit me on online venues such as echinacities.com for over two years. Almost all of their postings deceptively promise comfortable salaries and legal work visas. Further online research showed that while most foreigners have kept quiet about this agency, there have been a few that have spoken out, including myself and those listed below.
In the end, I can only hope that what happened to me will be of some benefit to eager job seekers reading this post, and that my humbling experience will provide insight and a valuable lesson for those who happen to stumble across this story.
Suite 306, Building l, 106 Zhongjiang Road 200062, Shanghai, P.R.China.