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What Documents Will I Need to Teach English Abroad?

Looking for a TEFL job? Find out which documents employers may require when hiring you to teach English abroad.

It’s no secret that both international travel and searching for a new job require a wide array of personal, professional and academic documents. From passports to transcripts, it only makes sense for you to have important paperwork ready to go when accepting a job offer teaching English abroad.

That being said, there may be some documentation that you can only take care of once you are in your destination country. However, we recommend that you prepare your documents well in advance. Why? In many cases, you will need them for the interview process or to apply for a visa prior to your departure from your home country.

Document requirements for getting hired as an English teacher and moving to a new country will vary from country to country and even from job to job. Employers may inform you during the interview process which exact documents will be required for employment and relocation.

There will always be variations but we want to make sure you gather the right paperwork for moving out of the country to teach English abroad. Here is a brief rundown on what sort of documents will be required for you to teach English overseas:

Documents Necessary to Teach English Abroad

1. A Valid Passport

If you're asking yourself, 'do I need a passport to teach English abroad?', the answer is yes. To be granted entry into a foreign country, you must have a passport valid for at least six months after your entry into that country. In some cases, you may not be allowed entry into your destination country, or issued an entry visa, without holding a passport that will be valid for a full year.

For extended travel and teaching English abroad, we recommend that you travel on a passport with at least two years of validity remaining.

Americans can learn about applying for a new passport by visiting the U.S. State Department's Passport web page. Citizens of other nations should contact their ministry of foreign affairs to learn how and where to apply for a passport.

2. Visas (If Applicable)

You may or may not need to obtain a visa prior to traveling to your destination country. This will vary country by country and job by job.

To learn more about visas, please read: What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?

Basic Documents for your Job Search & Obtaining a Work Visa (where applicable):

3. TEFL or TESOL Certification

Some employers will insist on seeing the actual TEFL certificate. In other cases, a copy may suffice. In other instances, your certificate may need to be notarized or Apostille Authenticated (internationally notarized). This will vary from country to country and from school to school.

A TEFL students receiving her TEFL certification

4. Criminal Background Record Check (If Applicable)

Background checks are typically required to get hired and/or receive a work visa to teach English in Asia and the Middle East. In some cases, a state check may suffice but increasingly, the FBI Background Check is required by governments in major teaching markets such as Korea, Vietnam and many countries in the Persian Gulf such as the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. Individual schools in many other nations also require this check.

Background checks are not routinely required to gain employment teaching English in Europe or Latin America, but individual schools or government programs in countries like France and Spain, may require them. Even though a background check may not be required, it will always be safe to have one on hand and it can provide credibility for you as somebody worthy of employment as a professional English teacher.

U.S. citizens can learn more: How Do U.S. Citizens Get a Criminal Background Check for Teaching English Abroad

5. Professional References

Professional references can also play an important role in your search for a job teaching English abroad. Make sure you have the following paperwork:

  • Reference Letter(s);
  • Cover Letter - You may need to translate your cover letter into the local language for the country where you plan to teach;
  • International Resume - You may need to translate your resume into the local language for the country where you plan to teach;
  • Photos  - Make sure they’re professional-looking! Most jobs want 2 photos: 1 as a headshot and the 2nd as a full body shot (to see that you are dressed professionally). This is how you would look walking in their front door to shake their hand asking for a job and to teach paying customers.

Some Potential Employers, Particularly in Asia and the Middle East, Will Also Need Additional Documents, Including Some or All of The Following:

6. College Transcript and/or College Diploma (If Applicable)

In some cases, originals are required. In others, copies will suffice. For transcripts, they should be in a sealed envelope. Do not break the seal or they are not valid.  Contact your college or university to obtain these. You should order two or three to have a backup. They are about $6-8.

7. Medical Forms

In some cases, these may be required to obtain an entry visa. Forms and requirements may vary. In Saudi Arabia, for example, an HIV-AIDS test is required. Japan is known to require a TB test and chest extra. In other countries, such as South Korea, you may be required to undergo a physical and/or a drug test upon arrival.

8. Apostille & Notarization

In many cases, your documentation will need to receive an international notarization known as an apostille. Use Google or contact a local government body such as the secretary of state to learn where and how you can get your documents apostilled in your area or through an online service.

Next steps

Finally, Make sure you speak with your TEFL advisor about these questions before enrolling in a TEFL class.  All International TEFL Academy graduates are provided with an extensive job guidance manual with this material and also a full-time staff in the Student Affairs department to help you when looking for your English teaching job.


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