Teaching Abroad, TEFL and Visas - What do I Need?

Authored by:
Amy S.

Amy S.

If you’re interested in getting TEFL certified or Teaching Abroad, you’ve probably run across the Visa.  So, what is this, and what do you need in order to teach in the country of your choice?

What is a Visa?

A visa is a document issued by a country’s government that authorizes foreign citizens to enter the country for tourism, education, residency or work. It is most often issued as a stamp in your passport, and often requires a process time prior to your departure. This is different depending on the country.

Not every country requires visas from various citizens, as governments often have agreements or relationships that do not require visas (ie. the European Union, American citizens traveling to Europe, etc.)

Do I Need a Visa to Teach Abroad?

Like most things related to TEFL or Teaching Abroad, the answer to this: It depends. It depends on the country you plan to teach abroad in, how long you’ll be there, and what program you’ll be teaching with. There are many kinds of visas, and each government has its own policies. The most important rule of thumb: do thorough research on the country’s requirements. A good place to start is with the country embassy’s website.

Work Visas

Most countries have legal requirements that require foreigners to obtain a work visa or work permit in order for them to work. This process varies, but most often you will receive an offer of employment, and the employer will work with their government agencies to issue you a work visa or work permit. Each country has different requirements for this, but you will most often have to have this visa processed in advance, and it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. You may also have to provide documents such as a copy of your bachelor’s diploma, background check, a copy of your TEFL certification, or medical forms.

In some countries like Thailand, Vietnam, or the Czech Republic, your work visa or permit will be processed locally. You will likely have to provide your proof of employment, application forms, TEFL certificate, diploma, medical forms and background check.

Again, it all depends on the country, your country of origin, and how long you plan to teach abroad.

Need an example?

In South Korea, American teachers must obtain an E-2 Visa. In order to obtain this, you must provide:

  • A copy of you bachelors degree diploma - Notarized and Apostilled by the Korean consulate (this process time can vary, but you should anticipate 1-2 weeks)
  • University transcripts - You can order these from your university. Each university has a different process time, ensure you check on how long it takes to receive them. Universities vary.
  • FBI Criminal Background check - this can take up to 3 months to complete and obtain (but most processes are much quicker)
  • Copy of your passport
  • Resume
  • Copy of your school/teaching contract
  • Four passport photos - in general, ensure your hair is behind your ears, no earrings, and ensure your shoulders and collar bones are covered
  • Completed application form
  • Fee


Always check the embassy’s website for more information. Each country is different!

Tourist Visas

These are most often for individuals traveling to or visiting a country with no intention of working, studying or moving there. Most tourist visas are 90 days or less, depending on the country. It’s important to note that it is not legal for teachers to teach in a country while they are there on a tourist visa.

Student Visas

Individuals who study abroad for more than 90 days are often required to obtain a student visa. Most often, students must be able to provide proof of enrollment in a government approved program at a university or educational institute. Some may also have to provide medical records, health insurance and financial resources to show you can sustain yourself.

But, wait there’s more!

As stated, each country has various visas for various requirements and various individuals for various circumstances! There are Working Holiday Visas, most often for people 18-30 years old that enables them to travel and work for one year at a time. Or there are Spousal/Marriage Visas where a spouse of a citizen on a work visa can live and work in the country. There are Dependent Visas where family members of a person on a visa are sponsored. Or, if you are traveling via cruise ship, are an athelete, there are others!


Visas can seem overwhelming or confusing, but don't let that get you down or deter you from teaching abroad! It's all part of the adventure. And CIEE can help if you have questions!


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