What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?

What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?

As a passionate educator with a penchant to travel, teaching English abroad is perhaps the best option to travel and earn while exploring exotic places around the world. At this point, you might be wondering about the things you need to teach abroad. If you are willing to experience the serene beaches of Thailand or the diverse culture and traditions of Indonesia, a proper visa is mandatory. Visa requirements for teaching abroad mainly depends on where you are from and where you are planning to go.

So, to clear any further confusion, let us dig deeper into ‘What is a visa and do I need a visa to teach English abroad?’.

To begin with, a visa is a simple document, often as simple as a stamp in the passport that is issued by a government thus authorizing any foreign citizen to enter a country (under that particular government) for purpose of residency, tourism, education and/or work. In most cases, you will require a visa to teach English abroad, but not always.

Speaking of visas, there are many different types of it. Each government has its own policies in place regarding visas and entry of any foreign citizens to that country. It is, therefore, crucial to understand the various types of visas and the one you need to travel to any foreign location.

It is a reminder that the best way to acquire knowledge on visa requirements of a country is to contact their embassy or consulate in your home country. Embassy websites are an exceptional source of information regarding visa requirements. It is worth mentioning that sometimes, it is as simple as presenting your passport to be stamped upon entering a foreign airport. In other situations, visas demand a complex and lengthy process that may require you to produce various documents to prove your identity and the intention/reason to visit a particular country. Note: There are exceptions as well. A notable example will be the European Union, commonly known as the ‘EU’. It is a political and economic union of the European nations that permits citizens to travel without restrictions, stay and work in other member states without having to run helter-skelter for a visa or even the need to produce a passport.

Tourist visa: A tourist visa, as the name sounds, is typically issued to someone entering a country with the intention to visit it as a tourist or a guest, with no plans of working, studying or establishing residency. In most cases, a tourist visa is limited to a duration of 90 days or less, but it depends on the country and on your own citizenship. Normally, a tourist visa does not provide a legal permission to work or to reside for a long term.

Work visa: Most countries legally require a work visa or work permit for any foreigner working in that country. The requirements and ways to receive a work visa vary greatly, but in 90% of cases, an employment offer from an employer needs to be received beforehand, as they are going to be your sponsor. The employer will work as a liaison with government immigration agencies that will issue you a work visa or work permit. Processes, requirements and quotas for providing work visas vary greatly with each country. The various criteria are: in-advance and on arrival.

Student visa: If you are willing to study for an extended period of 90 days or more in a foreign country, it is imperative to obtain a ‘student visa’. As usual, each country will have its own policies and requirements for student visas. Normally, the basic requirement to go for a student visa is to provide a proof of enrolment/admission in a government-approved program at a university, institute or any educational organization. In most countries, you will need to provide proof of financial resources, health insurance and accommodations.

Here, it is important to clarify that most people consider student visas in the context of ‘Study Abroad’ programs at any foreign university for the first or up to second semester. For any short-term study opportunities under 90 days, be it a one-week cooking class in Italy or a four-week TEFL course in Thailand, a student visa is not applicable or required.

Student visas and teaching English abroad- So the question arises, what do student visas have to do with teaching English abroad? In certain countries that are quite popular, as e.g. Italy, France, Spain etc., it can become extremely difficult for Americans and other non-EU citizens to obtain a work visa. However, a student visa does provide legal working privileges in these countries, often up to 20 hours a week. This means that Americans willing to teach English in these countries can do so while on a student visa.

So, do I need a visa to teach English abroad?
Well, yes you do. Though, the type of visa you will need depends on your intentions and the requirements depends on what passport you hold and the country you are willing to visit.

To conclude, there is no dearth of teaching English abroad prospects, and if you are certified in any courses for teaching English abroad, you are in for a great deal. When you have done the hard part, gathering up the courage to go, half the work’s done. Now it’s all left to researching your options and making it real. Happy exploring!

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