In the TEFL world, there certainly are some challenges. Over the last decade, we’ve seen major shifts in how governments grant working visas; some more liberally, others less so. The pandemic caused every nation to think about how it receives talent from other nations, and as the world’s doors reopened when the virus became more contained, those debates re-entered the public sphere.
Now, how does this all relate to TEFL? For many who wish teach English as a foreign language, the goal is to teach abroad. While there are many who enjoy teaching online from home, there are just as many – maybe even more – who find TEFL alluring as a ticket to the rest of the planet.
How possible is it, though? The immigration landscape in Europe is ever-changing. More countries are joining the European Union, which offers freedom to live and work within its member states. Others, like Britain, have left, while there’s discord between the goals of the EU and some of its member states.
Maybe you’ve come across someone who was engaged in a bit of under-the-table work while overstaying a tourist visa. While this is not unheard of in many parts of Europe, it isn’t legal and you can land yourself in trouble – this could be in the form of a fine, a criminal record, or even a ban on entry and deportation. That’s never good, so it’s worth researching how to keep things above board.
We’ve compiled some information about a few countries in Europe where there are options for non-EU citizens to legally work teaching English. This is by no means an exhaustive list but, hopefully, this will give you an idea of some avenues you can explore.
The best countries in Europe for non-EU citizens
According to the EU themselves, specifically the Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Commission: “Non-EU nationals may have the right to work in an EU country or to be treated equally with EU nationals as regards conditions of work. These rights depend on their status as family members of EU nationals and on their own nationality.”
EU citizens have the freedom to live and work in any EU member state, but things aren’t so straightforward if you don’t hold an EU passport. Unfortunately, the truth is that working in Europe can be a bit tricky for non-EU citizens, but don’t fret! There are still some great opportunities in some of the biggest and best-known European nations for non-EU citizens.
Citizens of the USA, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the Republic of Korea are able to apply for a residence permit for work purposes after entering the country. If you are a citizen of any other (non-EU) country this process has to be carried out before arrival.
The process of applying for a work visa in Germany takes some time, during which you will need to be able to financially support yourself, and involves the somewhat daunting task of dealing with German bureaucracy – you will need either a decent knowledge of German, a German-speaking friend, or to hire a translator to assist with the process.
The process for visa application means – like everywhere else – a lot of documents. You’ll need proof of residence, an employment contract, a valid passport, application forms and more, all handily detailed on this handy guide to German Visas.
So, it’s best to ensure you have a solid offer of employment and accommodation sorted before you finalise your visa application.
The Czech Republic
The beautiful, historic and somewhat overlooked Czech Republic is another great destination for non-EU citizens to find work. If you hold a passport from Canada or New Zealand, you can apply for a working holiday visa, which gives you a great start if you’re moving from either country.
For others, the process involves obtaining a ‘živnostenský list’. This is essentially a trading license, meaning that you can work as a teacher even if you’re not an EU Citizen, before obtaining a working visa. A means to an end, if you like.
There are some complications with the Czech visa process. For one thing, all the work that goes into getting a Visa needs to be done in Czech, at a Czech embassy. Also, you’ll need the equivalent of US$6000 if you’re planning on staying long-term, according to this guide to Czech work permits.
You’ll need to provide evidence that you don’t have a criminal record, and have that evidence translated into Czech, and you’ll need notarized proof of accommodation for a long-term visa. For the živnostenský list, this isn’t necessary, but for longer-term stays, it’s a must. Again, it all has to be in Czech. Then, you’ve got to wait for your visa, show it to the relevant authorities, and a tady jsi (there you are!).
TEFL in France is very competitive and there are few non-EU teachers working in the country. Non-EU citizens need to apply for a ‘visa du long sejour’ (a long-term visa) from their country of origin and a school or employer will need to sponsor this visa, which they can only do if no qualified EU citizens can do the job. Sponsorships from schools can be hard to come by, so it’s worth bearing that in mind.
What a lot of non-EU TEFL teachers do is enrol on a course in a French educational institution, and secure a student visa that they can teach part-time on. If you’re able to, it’s a smart idea; doing a French language course comes with its own obvious benefits if you’re planning on living there long-term.
Americans can try their luck applying to the Teaching Assistant Programme in France. TAPIF is run by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States, and is a 7-month teaching program for US TEFLers. Approximately 1,500 student teachers head over every year.
For more on teaching English in France, check out the TEFL Org Guide to France.
Beautiful, diverse and culturally inspiring Spain is a popular destination for TEFL teachers – obviously – and that’s just as true for non-EU citizens as it is for Europeans.
The best bet with Spain is applying for a teaching program, or on a student visa, like France. TEFLers from English speaking countries are encouraged to apply for the Escuelas Católicas de Madrid program, which takes on language assistants in Catholic schools around – you guessed it – Madrid. Or, there’s good old Meddeas, which lets you choose whether to live independently or with a host family in Spain.
Spain, like the other countries listed here, has its own Visa rules for non-EU citizens, which are very handily detailed via Spain Visa.
Much like the rest of the countries listed here, the options can look fairly limited for non-EU citizens on the surface, but that’s not to say they don’t exist.
Like Spain, it is very uncommon for Italian schools to sponsor work visas but non-EU citizens may be able to teach in the country on a student visa – again, it’s a more expensive option, but it can be off-set by the ability to teach English. This involves registering on a recognised course, which allows you to legally work for a restricted number of hours each week.
If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada or New Zealand you may be able to obtain a working holiday visa. If you’re looking to secure a working visa, you need to obtain a nulla osta from the Italian Immigration Office. There’s a limit – know as the Decreto Flussi – to how many non-EU citizens can apply for working visas. Luckily, you can use this Visit Italy resource to find out what applies to you, based on what you’re looking for, and what applies to you.
In short: it can be done. Italy, compared to other European countries, has an enviable number of different kinds of visas available.
TEFL in Europe as a digital nomad
Being a digital nomad might sound like something out of the Matrix (10/10 for contemporary references, there) but it’s a fantastic option. Essentially, the name is what it describes: a digital nomad is someone who works online and is location independent.
The phrase “working holiday” is thrown around a lot, but if you’re a digital nomad teaching English online, you can maintain an occupation but essentially move around as and when you like. The nature of the work doesn’t change, but you can find yourself working from a Parisian balcony or the hot springs of Lake Hévíz – though it’s best to check if there’s an internet connection there!
The way teaching English online works means aren’t necessarily wed to a location. Obviously, what’s important is maintaining a quiet teaching environment and a strong internet connection, so a youth hostel or a busy city centre café probably isn’t the best idea. However, if you want to combine working with being able to move around freely, the digital nomad lifestyle should be very much up your street.
The visa rules for freelancers are different, but there a smörgasbord of European nations offering excellent visa options for freelancers who work remotely. Georgia, Croatia, Luxembourg, Iceland, Portugal and more should all be on your list of European travel musts, and it’s an option well worth considering if you don’t want to commit to one country for too long.
If you’ve got the itch to explore but enjoy the flexibility of teaching English online, a digital nomad experience across Europe is more than worth considering.
For more on the TEFL digital nomad experience, check out our guide here.
TEFL outside of Europe
Europe’s not the only continent, you know?
Latin America and Asia in particular are vastly popular TEFL spots. The south and south-east of Asia, particularly Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, have all grown exponentially as English teaching destinations in recent years, with schools being encouraged to grow their language departments and take on more teachers from overseas. Cambodia is particularly popular because you don’t need a degree to get started, while Vietnam has bustling cities like Ho Chi Minh where English teachers can set themselves apart with their skill-set.
Post-pandemic, more Asian countries are opening their doors to foreign talent. Singapore, for example, has recently announced new visa rules. As ever, each country has its own idiosyncrasies, but for prospective residents and digital nomads alike, there are boundless opportunities for TEFL teachers.
Latin America is also coming into its own as a TEFL landing spot for non-EU citizens. In some countries, you don’t need a Visa to secure temporary work, just a particular passport. For example, if you wanted to teach English in Argentina, and you have a passport from the UK, South Africa, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or America, then you can either waltz in to teach English or pay a small fee, dependent on the passport. If you want to stay longer term, receipt of employment and accommodation should see you through.
Countries like Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have the same outlook, and TEFL teachers are in demand. Check out our guide to Latin America for more information.
Please note: Visa and work permit requirements and processes can change frequently so while the information in this post was up-to-date at the time of publication it is recommended to contact the consulate or embassy for the country you wish to work in to get the most recent information about work permits and visas.