Whatever your reason for entering another country, you will require some form of visa in most cases. As the visa options and the requirements for getting them vary greatly from one country to the next, you should contact the relevant embassy or visit their website to make sure you are aware of the most current information. Below are the most common visa options available in most situations.
How do I get a tourist visa?
Tourist visas are the most common option for visitors with no plans to work or study during their stay. These come in several different categories depending on the destination and your own country of origin. The 'upon entry' tourist visa is the most common and these are routinely issued in the form of a passport stamp on arrival. For example, teachers from the US who arrive in destinations such as Spain, Italy or France will receive a tourist visa stamp that is valid for 90 days. Although most tourist visas of this type are free, you may be charged a small fee of around $20 to $30 in some countries, such as Turkey and Cambodia. In some situations it might be necessary to apply for a tourist visa before you leave home. This is particularly common in current or former communist countries such as China, Russia and Vietnam. To apply you will typically need to supply an application form, passport photos, and the required fee. To make sure you have the right information, simply visit the relevant embassy website.
Is it possible to teach English legally with a tourist visa?
In many countries where obtaining an official work permit is expensive, time consuming, or just very complicated, it is common for teachers to work with only a tourist visa. While this is technically illegal in most cases, it rarely causes problems for schools or teachers in areas where it is common practice. This approach is particularly common in Latin America where excessive bureaucracy is widespread. Many teachers in this region enter their country of choice on a 90-day tourist visa which can then be renewed by simply crossing into a neighboring country. This scenario is also common in European countries such as Italy and Spain, where American teachers routinely work with nothing but a tourist visa in their passport. However, this does not apply to other countries in the region such as Greece and France, so it is vital that you do plenty of research before setting off.
How do I get a work visa for teaching English abroad?
Some form of work visa is normally required to gain full legal status in most countries. The application process obviously varies from one country to the next, but in many cases you will need a job offer before you can get the ball rolling. In countries such as China, South Korea, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, your application must be made before you leave home. In contrast, teachers in Thailand, Vietnam, the Czech Republic and Germany, will need to apply for a work visa from within the host country, once they have accepted the offer of a job. To make the application you will require a range of documentation, which might include proof of employment, a TEFL certification, university transcripts, medical forms, and a criminal background check.
Is it possible to teach English legally with a student visa?
Another option for some teachers in countries where obtaining a work visa is difficult, is to apply for a student visa after enrolling on a study program in the host country. This type of visa often allows the holder to work a limited number of hours each week. For example, in France, Italy and Spain, you can get a student visa with work privileges by signing-up for a local language course.
How do I get a working holiday visa for teaching English abroad?
Certain nationalities might find they are eligible for a working holiday visa that allows them to work under certain conditions in a specific foreign country. Australia, New Zealand and Canada have many arrangements in place with popular TEFL destinations, including major teaching hotspots such as Italy, France and Germany. This type of visa is usually restricted to certain age groups (typically 18 to 30/35 years) and applications must be made from within your own country. Proof of financial resources and a homeward plane ticket are also common requirements with this option. US citizens will find they have few options in this category as the only current agreement is with Australia.