Before you travel abroad to TEFL (teach English as a foreign language) you will need to secure the relevant paperwork and travel documents required for a prolonged stay. This process should be started ahead of departure in order to minimise stress further down the line. Documentation requirements can be complex and often subject to change. Each country has its own set of requirements so you cannot assume that your familiarity with one country necessarily prepares you for another. The embassy of the country where you want to work is the best place to start when determining what you will need. Make sure to keep up to date and check that regulations haven’t changed at short notice.
A passport is an official document issued by a government, certifying the holder’s identity (nationality/citizenship) and entitles them to travel to foreign countries under its protection. A passport for all individual members of a family is required in order to enter most countries in the world and you will not be issued a visa if you do not have one.
You can apply for a passport through the government website. Additionally, you should make sure your passport is valid for the duration of your stay. Some employers or countries might not accept a passport that is due to expire while you are still in the country. You shouldn’t send your original passport to any person or institution apart from the embassy or consulate. If it is required, send a scanned copy of the relevant pages. Remember, your employer also has no right to hold your passport.
A visa is an authorization by the government of another country (often in the form of a stamp in a passport) permitting a foreigner to enter that country for a specified purpose and period of time. It may authorize one visit or multiple entries.
Sometimes, you can simply present your passport to be stamped upon entry to a foreign airport and they will issue you with a visa there. In other cases, visa applications can be lengthy and complex processes that need to be started well in advance of travelling. You may be required to produce various documentation regarding your identity and details of your intention to live and work in the country. The notable exception is for citizens of the EU, who may travel freely between EU countries to work without a visa.
The good news is that your employer will often help you with your visa application and offer support. Otherwise you should contact the embassy or consulate of your chosen country which will process your application. For more general information on the situation regarding visas in different countries have a look at our TEFL Visas. For the visa requirements of a particular country, visit the Government’s foreign travel advice page and search for the country you are interested in.
In addition to passports and visas, a foreigner intending to live and work in a new country will usually be required to obtain a work permit. For this you will have to register with local authorities, and in some cases obtain a residency permit. As with all advice regarding paperwork for teaching abroad, make sure to check the details, as regulations of this kind can vary from country to country.
Check out the number of hours of TEFL training that is required for your TEFL job. Some jobs might accept a 20 hour classroom course although most will require a minimum of 120 hours of TEFL training. Make sure you have completed your TEFL course before you head out to teach as you will need to bring a copy of your TEFL certificate and letter of reference as proof of completion. You should also keep copies of your CV handy so that you can search for jobs in the country. Include a general cover letter focused on securing a teaching job.
As a visa requirement, certain countries may require that TEFL teachers hold a degree in order to issue a work permit to work legally in the country. If this is the case you will need to bring with you copies of your degree certificate and transcripts. Working illegally can result in a lifetime ban from entering the country and in the worst case scenario, a prison sentence. Do not worry if you do not have a degree, there are plenty of places in the world that you can still teach!
Additional requirements for teaching English abroad
You might be required to have previous teaching experience. Some jobs request a CRB check and having a criminal record might also make your situation a little trickier obtaining a visa a work permit in some countries. Some schools or countries might also require medical clearance.
Initially, it might seem intimidating when you are faced with a mountain of paperwork to get through in order to teach English abroad and live in your host country for a prolonged time. Give yourself plenty of time, and do some careful research you about what is required to teach English abroad in your chosen country. Good luck!
Feeling ready to search for a TEFL job? TEFL graduates can apply for jobs through our TEFL Jobs Centre.