Japan is one of the most popular destinations for those looking to teach English abroad.
It’s not hard to see why. From the bright lights of Tokyo to the temples of Kyoto, the country is that perfect combination of being vastly different than what you are used to while also being technologically advanced, politically stable and safe. It’s one of those places where you can get completely outside of your comfort zone, with the only risk being that you won’t want to leave.
If a springtime picnic under the cherry blossom trees or a once in a lifetime trek up Mount Fuji sounds better than what you are doing right now, then it might be time to look into teaching English in Japan.
English is increasingly becoming a mandatory part of the school curriculum in this country of 127 million people, and plenty of adults are looking to learn the language in order to travel or further their careers, meaning English teachers are perpetually in high demand.
So if teaching nouns and verbs by day and drinking sake and singing karaoke with Japanese salarymen by night sounds like your kind of life, then read on, because these are the requirements to teach English in Japan.
You’re going to need a work visa.
Assuming you can’t obtain Japanese citizenship somehow, you’re going to need a work visa.
The two types of visas most relevant to someone looking to teach English in Japan are the instructor visa and the specialist in humanities visa. The two visas serve essentially the same function but allow you to work in different places, with the instructor visa allowing you to work in public institutions like elementary and high schools, and the specialist in humanities visa allowing you to work for private language schools or companies.
The requirements to teach English in Japan are essentially the requirements to get one of these two visas, because if you can’t get one, you’re out of luck.
So, what do you need to get one of these two visas?
You need to have a degree.
Japan’s immigration laws require you to have a bachelor’s degree in order to be eligible for a work visa. However, this degree doesn’t need to be in English, education or anything remotely related to teaching English abroad. You can’t teach with the JET program, for example, without a degree.
Any old bachelor’s degree will do. Finally that philosophy degree you worked so hard for can be put to good use! Because after all, if you don’t use that Philosophy degree, does it even exist?
You need to have a job offer.
In order to get your hands on a visa, you will first need to be hired, by either a public or private institution, who will then sponsor you during the process of obtaining your visa. Teach Away is a great job-hunting resource that can connect you with loads of great schools looking to hire potential English teachers just like yourself, who will then help you with the visa process.
However, getting the job required to obtain the work visa comes with its own set of requirements.
You need to speak English.
Well, duh. This one should go without saying. However, just because something appears straightforward doesn’t mean somebody didn’t create some rules about it!
Basically, your chances of not only being hired but getting a work visa will be greatly improved if you are deemed to be a “native speaker”.
In fact, in order to be eligible for an instructor visa for the purposes of teaching a foreign language, one has to have been educated in that language for at least 12 years.
When it comes to private schools, they have more leeway as to who they hire. Having a passport from one of the more prominent English speaking countries (U.S.A, Canada, U.K. Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is undoubtedly an advantage, and even then, citizens of some of those countries might be given preference over others if the school deems their accents preferred.
Still, a non-native speaker (or someone with a passport from a non-English-speaking country) can get a visa provided they find a company to hire them. It might be difficult, but a TEFL certificatee or previous teaching experience elsewhere might level the playing field a bit. So don’t give up, young Swede!
You might need a criminal record check.
Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and they would like to keep it that way. Though not a necessity for obtaining a visa, many, if not most jobs, won’t hire you without a criminal record check, especially if you are working with children. But hey, we’re sure you’ve all kept your noses clean thus far in life, right? If not, well you might have a harder time, even though we’re sure you’re very sorry for what you did.
Once hired, your English-speaking, TEFL certified, law-abiding self can then submit the requisite paperwork to obtain a work visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country, so you can arrive in Japan with your visa in order and ready go.
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You have to meet the age requirement.
Japanese people officially retire at 60 years of age, meaning it’s really difficult (although not totally impossible) to be hired by a school if you’re past that age.
Our final word of advice: A TEFL certificate = more job opportunities (✖).
Though not required to get a work visa, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate will undoubtedly increase your odds of finding an English teaching job in Japan. In fact, many of the more reputable (and higher paying schools) will require it, meaning having one will increase not only your options but possibly your paycheck.
So that’s about it. A degree in any subject and someone willing to hire you is all you need to teach English in Japan. Though meeting other requirements can make the job search smoother (and maybe even more financially rewarding), those two things, along with a valid passport, some paperwork and a sense of adventure are about all you need to start an adventure of a lifetime. So what are you waiting for?