If you are planning on teaching English in Asia, one of the things you will need to take care of before you leave is a work visa. Just about every country requires a teacher to have one and, if you teach without it, you are technically working illegally. An expensive fine, possible imprisonment and deportation are just some of the consequences of doing so.
As a former teacher in Thailand, who has applied for and received more work visas for teaching than I care to remember, I can confirm they’re usually not difficult to get nor should they be particularly expensive, In fact, if the school you will be teaching at includes the cost of your work visa in their contract, you shouldn’t have to pay anything at all.
Here are a few things you need to know about a work visa for teaching, no matter which country you’ll be teaching in, and how to go about applying for one.
Most work visas should be applied for before you leave – Many countries do not allow you to apply for a work visa once you’re in the country, so you should apply for a work visa before you leave.
If you have already accepted a teaching job, you can apply for your work visa at the embassy of the country you’ll be teaching in. Do find out how long processing of your work visa will take before you send your application, and allow enough time to receive it, as they can take 2-6 weeks to process. In Thailand, the visa you need to teach is called a non-immigrant B visa, and that’s what you should apply for at a Thai embassy or consulate.
It must be stamped into your passport before you get on the plane.
If you haven’t already accepted a teaching job at a school and are traveling to the country to look for one, you won’t be able to do that. Instead, you’ll have to arrive in the country on a tourist visa, find a job, and then leave the country again to fly to a neighboring country before you can begin work. Here you’ll be able to apply for a work visa at the embassy of the country you’ll be teaching in.
Which documents will you need for your work visa application? – When you teach English abroad, it often feels like all you ever do is complete reams of paperwork to enable you to do so. Applying for a work visa for teaching abroad is no exception.
For every teaching job I have had in Thailand, I have had to take a packet of information with me when I went to the Thai embassy for my work visa.
This always included a letter from the school stating I had a job offer and listing the salary I would be making. A copy of the contract between the school and myself was also in the package, along with a copy of my BA degree and transcripts, my TEFL certificate and my birth certificate. Copies of my passport also had to go into the package, and three photographs of applicable size of myself wearing appropriate professional attire.
I also had to make sure every copy of every piece of paper was signed by me to verify that it was accurate and legitimate.
Fees for a work visa for teaching abroad – Finally, a fee must also be included with the application package. If your school is paying for the cost of your work visa, you will normally have to pay the cost upfront, keep the receipt you will receive from the embassy, and then apply for a reimbursement once you arrive in country.
The fee for the work visa for Thailand, for instance, is currently $200 for a multiple-entry visa, which is valid for one year and allows you to leave and re-enter Thailand as many times as you want.
Most other countries require a similar list of items, all of which you will find on their embassy’s website. Embassy World has an excellent database of just about every embassy and consulate for every country worldwide, and each website should list the steps you will need to take to apply for your work visa.