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How Do Americans Get Visas for Teaching English Legally in Europe?
Written by: John Bentley
Last Updated: December 23, 2020
It is a common misconception that US citizens cannot obtain legal work visas or permits to teach English in Europe. Although it is more difficult in some countries than others, below are several countries in Europe where acquiring a work permit or visa to teach English is possible for US citizens.
Misinformation is pervasive simply due to English teachers not knowing their options or from TEFL schools who don't work in Europe and just don't take the time to investigate the laws.
Here are some of the most popular countries in Europe to work legally:
NOTE: There are thousands of foreign English teachers in Europe from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and elsewhere who live and get paid to teach English without a work visa. Some hold a student visa that provides working privileges which are common in Spain, Italy and France.
Here's an overview of what work visa options are available to Americans interested in teaching in some major job markets for teaching English in Europe.
The Czech Republic
Although some schools in the Czech Republic sponsor American English teachers for visas, it is much more common for U.S. citizens who teach English in the Czech Republic to apply for a Zivnostensky List or Zivno for short. This type of visa is essentially a type of trade license that legally allows you to work in the Czech Republic. Read more about the process for obtaining a Zivno here.
While there are a few exceptions, it is not common (though not impossible) for Americans to get work visas to teach English in France, however those who participate in the Teaching Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) do receive a visa to teach English in France within the framework of the program. Some Americans do teach English in a student visa, which requires enrolling in an approved language program and getting a visa processed in the U.S. in advance.
Americans who teach English in Germany can obtain a “free-lancing visa” to legally work. The process entails establishing residency, filing for a tax number and health insurance, and gaining an offer of employment.
Read through the links below for explanations on how to obtain a free-lancing visa for teaching English in Germany:
Getting a Work Permit to Teach English in Germany – A firsthand account of getting a work permit for teaching English in Germany by ITA Alum Noah Franc.
Participants in the CTEP program, which places Americans as English teachers in elementary schools, high schools, vocational colleges and even universities, do receive a visa for teaching English in Hungary.
For Americans teaching English in Russia, most schools sponsor work visas for their teachers once they are hired. You employer will assist you with the process and provide guidance once you accepted an offer of employment.
Poland is a great market for English teaching and you can secure a work visa through this process.
In the past, the majority of Americans teaching English in Spain worked under the table on tourist visas, but this is no longer the case as authorities have cracked down and schools are far less likely to employ teachers illegally on a tourist visa. Currently, recommended visa options include teaching on a student visa, which provides the ability to work legally.
In addition, those participating in government programs for teaching English in schools - such as the North Americans Language & Culture Assistants program - do receive a work visa.
Getting a Student Visa to Legally Teach English in Madrid or Barcelona:
If you are interested in teaching English in Spain legally (and not having to be assigned to a random city as you do in the government assistant program) and want to learn Spanish, check out International TEFL Academy's Student Visa Programs in Spain & Barcelona. enables you to enroll in a year of part-time Spanish lessons and receive a Student Visa that enables Americans and other non-European Union citizens to work as full-time English teachers. Participants also receive personal job placement assistance on the ground in Madrid.
- Learn more about ITA's Madrid Student Visa Program
- Learn more about ITA's Barcelona Student Visa Program
It is common for schools in Turkey to help their teachers arrange for work visas and residence permits once they accept a position. Some foreigners gain residency and then work without a work visa, particularly if they work primarily as a private tutor or free-lancer.
The countries listed above are just the largest and most popular job markets where Americans teach English in Europe. From Poland and Ukraine to smaller nations like Slovenia, there are also countries where Americans can and do teach English.
John Bentley is Co-Founder & Senior Writer for International TEFL Academy (ITA), the world leader in TEFL certification for teaching English abroad. A graduate of Harvard University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern, John is a recognized expert in the field of TEFL. His articles have appeared across the field's top websites, including GoAbroad.com, StudyAbroad.com, InterExchange, GoOverseas.com, Adventure Teaching, & many others. He has also spoken as an expert on Teaching English Abroad & TEFL certification at major conferences like MeetPlanGo and Lessons from Abroad (LFA) in Portland & San Diego.
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