Obtaining a work visa or permit that allows you to legally live and work in a foreign country can be relatively straightforward in some countries and extremely complicated in others. However, in many countries where the process is difficult, it is common for TEFL qualified teachers to work without the officially required documents as the demand for their services is so high. Around the world, many thousands of teachers are fully documented with the correct paperwork, a similar number work unhindered with no formal work visa or work permit.
Is a work visa required to teach English in Europe?
Italy and Spain are two of the most popular TEFL destinations in Europe and in both it is common for Americans and other non-EU nationals to teach with only the standard tourist visa they were issued with on arrival. With this visa you are given a 90 day stay with no option to renew it. Despite this official restriction, many teachers simply overstay the visa and continue teaching until they are ready to return home or want to move to another country.
In contrast to these examples, countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Russia all have relatively straightforward processes that allow foreign teachers to secure the official documentation required to work legally. Another popular option that allows you to get an official work permit is to sign up for a government recruitment program. This option is available in some European countries, including France and Spain.
Is a work visa required to teach English in Latin America?
Across much of Latin America the demand for TEFL qualified teachers is very high, but the funds are often not available for schools to sponsor the applications of foreign teachers. Because of this it is common for schools in this region to employ teachers without any official work permit. Notable exceptions to this can be found in Chile and Mexico where schools routinely provide their teachers with the correct permits. However, in popular teaching destinations such as Argentina and Costa Rica, it is normal for teachers to work with only a standard tourist visa in their passport that they renew every few months by crossing the border into a neighboring country.
Is a work visa required to teach English in the Middle East?
The Middle East region is well known in TEFL circles as the home of large and lucrative job markets for foreign teachers. Typically, this is one of the most organized regions where the correct visas and permits are obtained efficiently by the employer in most cases. If you secure a job with a reputable employer in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar you will almost certainly have all the official paperwork sorted out for you. However, this might not always be the case with some jobs in countries with a smaller market for teachers such as Jordan and Egypt.
Is a work visa required to teach English in Asia?
Asia is home to many of the largest markets for foreign teachers anywhere in the world. In these countries, that include China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea, the vast majority of TEFL jobs will include an official work visa or permit. Outside of these major teaching destinations, obtaining a work permit can be more tricky. In these areas it is relatively common for teachers to work without the official right to do so.
What are the pros and cons of teaching English without a work visa?
For employers in less wealthy areas, taking on teachers without having to provide a work permit can make financial sense as each application can be costly and time consuming. For the teacher it also means you can work tax free which can be a big help in locations where the average salary is not high. On the down side, in this situation you will probably have little access to government services such as health care, or the security of a legally binding contract. However, while teaching without official documentation can never be completely risk free, in most cases there are not likely to be any ramifications for either the teacher or the employer.