Do you really need a visa to teach English abroad?

So, you’re a young university graduate eager to see the world. Unfortunately, the wanderlust in your soul is much greater than the funds in your bank account. What to do?

Well, teaching English abroad is a great way to experience a foreign country and actually make money doing it.

Wondering what you need to teach abroad? If you’re an American wanting to experience the kimchi and K-pop of Korea, or a Canadian feeling drawn to the sandy beaches and hypnotic rhythm of Brazil, the visa requirements for teaching English abroad will heavily depend on where you’re from and where you’re going.

Recommended reading: What qualifications do I need to teach English abroad?

Visa requirements for teaching English abroad.

A visa is a document, often as simple as a stamp in a passport, that allows the holder to enter a country and specifies how long they are able to stay. A visa also indicates the activities the holder is able to participate in while in the country, so it is important to understand the various types of visas and how they relate to teaching English abroad.

Teaching English on a tourist visa.

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A tourist visa is issued to a person entering a country with no intention of working or settling there. Depending on where you are from and the country you are trying to enter, it can be issued at the border or require a lengthy application process beforehand.

Costs can also vary, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. For example, citizens of New Zealand can enter Turkey for free and stay 90 days, while Americans will pay $20, and Canadians and Australians three times that. The country you plan to visit will most likely have an embassy in your home country, and that embassy’s website can be a great source of info regarding visas.

However, tourist visas generally do not allow the visitor to work legally. One may be able to teach English under the table on a tourist visa, but doing so is almost certainly illegal and you would still have to leave the country before your tourist visa expires or face the consequences. Teaching English in China on a tourist visa, for example, is a big no-no.

Recommended reading: You can teach English in China without a degree (and 3 other myths people think are true)

Teaching English on a work visa.

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Those looking to teach English abroad legally (let’s hope that’s all of you!) will most likely need a work visa, which allows you to enter a foreign country and work while there. Much like a tourist visa, requirements and fees can vary greatly depending on what passport you hold and where you plan on teaching.

Getting a work visa in advance of teaching abroad.

In many of the most popular places to teach English abroad, such as China, Korea, Japan and the Persian Gulf (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates for example), a work visa should be obtained prior to arrival in the country.

In many cases, one would be hired from abroad and the employer would sponsor you and work with the various government agencies to obtain a work permit for you. Teach Away helps you find and apply for jobs from abroad, ensuring that you’re able to have a job and a proper work visa prior to arrival.

Keep in mind that documents, such as a TEFL certification, university transcripts or a criminal record check might be needed during the application process.

Getting a work visa while abroad in the country you want to teach in.

In some places, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Germany, or Turkey, it is possible for an English teacher to be hired while in the country, and then have the work visa granted while they are there. Just like obtaining a visa from out of the country, other documents, such as a TEFL certification or a criminal record check might be required.

This can be a great way to check out a country to see if it is for you before committing to an English teaching job there. It can also be a great way to check out a prospective employer and workplace in person rather than accepting a job sight unseen from the other side of the world.

Teaching abroad while on a working holiday visa.

Some countries have bilateral agreements that allow young people of a certain age to work and travel in a foreign country for up to one year at a time. Australia, Canada and New Zealand, for example, have agreements with non-English-speaking countries like Germany, Italy, France and many others.

Though a TEFL would not be a prerequisite for a working holiday visa, it would certainly make you more employable as an English teacher once you get to your destination. Again, the website of a country's embassy in your home country is a great source of info regarding working holiday visas.

The lowdown on teaching abroad and spousal visas.

You may be interested in teaching English, but do you speak the language of love? Many countries allow the wife or husband of a citizen to live, and often work, in their spouse’s country.

This type of visa is obviously dependent on one’s current romantic situation, or, in extreme cases, how motivated they might be to teach English in a particular country. As with most visas, rules vary from country to country, so be sure to do your research before making any rash decisions.

So, do I need a visa to teach English abroad?

Well, yes you do. However, the type of visa you get depends on your intentions, and the requirements depend on what passport you hold and where you want to go.

However, there’s no shortage of opportunities to teach English abroad, and, armed with a TEFL certification, those options become greater.

You’ve already done the hard part, working up the courage to go, now it is just about researching your options and making it happen.

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