Teaching ESL – so you got the job!
A language school abroad has offered you your first teaching position. Great!
So, what happens next?
The answer is – it depends.
Every situation is going to be different, depending on your own personal circumstances. It also depends on which country you’ll be going to because there will be different things to consider depending on your new location.
Let’s start with the contract.
When they make you an offer, they will probably send you a contract to peruse. They may even ask you to sign it and return it to them. While it’s ok to do that, and if you don’t then the school might not be able to complete some formalities for your visa application, it is probably not binding at this stage.
Yes, that’s right. The contract you sign before you arrive is probably not binding.
This means that at any point before you arrive there, they can rescind their offer. They probably won’t, after all, they need teachers. But anything can happen.
Read the contract and understand everything in it. And if there’s something you don’t understand, or don’t agree with, then this is the time to ask about it or make negotiations.
Not after you arrive.
So, make sure that everything is clear and you’re happy with the conditions.
Check carefully the conditions such as reimbursements eg. airfares, visa costs etc., holiday entitlements and the number of hours you’re expected to teach and do administrative or other tasks each week or month. This will differ widely depending on which country you’re going to and which school you’re going to work for.
Once you’ve done that, and you’re happy with the conditions of your contract, let them know that you accept the position. Try and let them know as quickly as you can, or you may miss out because they got somebody else for the job while they were waiting for your answer.
Don’t accept the job if you’re not happy with the contract conditions. If you go there and start complaining that the salary is too low or you’re working too much, you’re not going to have a very happy time there.
And remember, living and working conditions aren’t going to always be the same abroad as they are at home. For example, at home, maybe the average time it takes for people to get to work is 30 minutes. In your new location abroad 90 minutes might be normal and acceptable.
So, if the school asks you to travel 60 minutes to a lesson, it might be something that you’ll have to accept as normal, even if it seems excessive to you.
Put it down to cultural differences. And there’ll be lots more of them to deal with.
They may also ask for a scan of your passport photo page. Now, some people get all funny about sharing their passport photo page. They worry about someone stealing their identity and cleaning out their bank account.
I have two things to say about that.
1. If you don’t send them a scan of your passport, they probably won’t be able to get you an invitation for your visa application (depending on where you’re going and the requirements). And then you won’t get the job after all.
2. If you’re the kind of person who is afraid of someone stealing your identity from your passport scan, then maybe teaching English abroad isn’t for you. Stay at home where it’s safe.
Now, we have two areas to work on. Number one, getting the visa and making sure all your documents are in order. And number two, finalising things at home before you leave.
Let’s look at number one first.
It’s going to be impossible to cover all scenarios here, so I’m not going to try or we’ll be here all day. I’m going to cover the main points.
Every country and every embassy will have its own rules and requirements regarding the visa process.
For example, for some countries you might only need a tourist visa to go there, which will be converted into a working visa after you arrive.
Or, you might need some special document, usually called an invitation, which your new employer will obtain for you, before you can apply for your new working visa in your home country. This document might be required in the original, or a copy might be ok.
It all depends on where you are and where you’re going.
Some other variables are:
- You might have to apply to the embassy online, or you might have to attend an interview at the embassy or at a visa agency to lodge your visa application.
- It might take 10 days for your visa to be processed, or you could pay extra and get it done in one or two days (check with your new employer if they will reimburse the cost of an express visa service. Often they will only reimburse the standard embassy fee). Or, the embassy you use might not offer an express service.
- There may be a special visa agency for lodging your visa application. In some places you can’t contact, or go to, the embassy personally.
- For some visa applications a current HIV certificate will be required, sometimes evidence of medical/travel insurance will be required – and sometimes it won’t be.
You will need to find out all this and anything else that’s required, by either contacting the embassy directly, or asking at the visa agency if you have to use one.
One important thing to remember is that in some countries, you may not be able to make a visa application if you’re not a resident of that country. So, if you’re just a tourist and have limited time there, you may not be able to get your visa there. Check this carefully – you may have to go back to your home country, if you’re somewhere else, to make the visa application.
You’ll need to make sure that your passport expiry date is far enough in the future not to present any issues. If you don’t have enough time left on your passport, your application may be rejected and you might have to delay your trip while you organise a new passport.
I suggest you have at least two years validity on your passport (if your contract is for one year). But ideally, get a new passport if you think that you will be spending more than a year abroad. You don’t want to have the hassle of having to get a new passport in a foreign country, you’ll have enough to worry about without that as well.
Your new employer might be able to answer any tricky questions you have about applying for your working visa. After all, they’ve employed teachers before so they know what you’re going through.
Things to do before applying for your visa:
- Check your passport expiry date. Get a new passport if you have less than a couple of years’ validity.
- Check your passport for blank pages. Some embassies require three blank (and sometimes consecutive) pages in your passport for the visa. Get a new passport if you don’t have enough blank pages in your current passport.
- Check what other documents the embassy or visa agency needs for your application eg. HIV certificate. There should be some kind of check list on their site.
- Make the necessary appointment for lodging your application, either at the embassy or the visa agency. Give yourself plenty of time in case there’s a problem which causes a delay in getting your visa – don’t leave it until the last minute.
- Keep in touch with your new employer and let them know about the progress. They’ll want to know that everything’s on track for your estimated arrival date.
When you finally receive your visa, check it carefully to make sure the details are correct. Check it before you leave the embassy or the agency. If they’ve accidentally made you male, and you’re female, they won’t let you past passport control at the airport and you won’t be going anywhere. (This has happened).
Now, to other matters. What do you have to do at home before you go abroad to teach English for a year or more?
The answer is – it depends.
It depends on your own personal circumstances and in which country you live. So, here’s a list for you to check things off if they apply to you. If something doesn’t apply to you, then just skip it.
- Quit your current job.
- Give notice to vacate your rental property. Or, if you own your house, find tenants/family members to occupy your house or flat while you’re away.
- Arrange for your utilities to be disconnected eg. gas, water, electricity, landline phone etc. so you don’t continue to get bills in your name after you’ve left.
- Get your mail redirected or ask someone responsible to collect it for you.
- Sell your car, or change the ownership to someone you trust to look after it while you’re away. If you decide to keep it, make a decision on whether you need to continue paying insurance for it or not.
- Notify your bank, insurance company, stock broker, and any other professional services you use, that you’re leaving the country. You may need to cancel your accounts with them, but probably not. Make sure your bank has contact details of someone responsible if they need to discuss something urgently. Consider setting up a power of attorney using someone you trust (parent or other close relative) for banking/financial needs while you’re away – it’s hard to attend to these things when you’re on the other side of the world.
- Check out your tax obligations. You might have to continue making annual tax declarations which include your teaching salary from abroad – so make sure you are ready for this. Or, you might have to declare yourself a ‘non-resident for tax purposes’, in which case you won’t have to pay tax on your foreign income at home. Speak to a professional about it well before you leave and know your obligations.
- Have yourself removed from the electoral roll. This is probably only necessary in places where voting is compulsory – like Australia. However, if you would like to continue voting from abroad, don’t do anything and when there’s an election in your home country you can contact your embassy and arrange to vote through them.
- Cancel your home internet account.
- Cancel your mobile phone account. It might be best to set the cancel date for a week or so after you arrive in your new country, in case you don’t manage to get a SIM when you first arrive. Check any roaming charges though so you don’t get a nasty surprise when you get your final account.
- Visit your extended family before you go. You don’t have to have a big party, but make sure to see your loved ones like grandparents and siblings before you leave. You’ll miss them when you’re gone.
- Check what clothes you’ll need. Check the local weather and do some research online if you’re not sure about appropriate clothing. Find out if the school needs you to dress formally or casually. You don’t want to take suits if everybody wears jeans. You also might be in for some weather which you’ve never experienced before so you should be prepared.
- If you are on any medications, check with your doctor, and find out if you can get the same medication in your new country (ask your new employer to help you find out). If you can’t get the same medication, you might have to take enough with you from home for your entire contract. In this case, get your doctor to provide a note saying that the medicine is for your personal use. Be aware that a different brand of the same medicine might not work for you – do your research thoroughly.
- Have a general health check-up. Now, I’m not a fan of the medical profession, but it won’t hurt to have a general check-up to make sure you’ll have no nasty surprises while you’re away. If they find any problems, you will hopefully be able to deal with them before you leave.
- Likewise, see a dentist. Just for prevention – it might be difficult to find good dental care in your new location.
- Have your hair cut. You don’t know when you’ll have time for one after you start your new job.
- Same goes for eyebrow and leg waxing if it’s something you usually do.
- Check if you need any vaccinations for the country you’re going to. These days I think there aren’t many places which require them, but it’s better to check.
- Make copies of all your important documents eg. diplomas, university degrees, teaching certificates. Scan and store them on your laptop or in the cloud. Keep the originals somewhere safe in your home country if you don’t need them in your new country.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of things to finalise before you leave home for your new adventure teaching English abroad. Take your time. Make sure you have everything covered. You should be absolutely ready by the time your leaving date comes around.
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If you’re already a teacher, and have experienced relocating for a teaching job, let me know in the comments below how the experience was for you. And let me know if there’s anything I’ve forgotten (it’s been 12 years since I went through this myself!).
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All information is intended as a guide only. Borninacar.com does not offer taxation/legal or medical advice. Check with professionals for all taxation/legal and medical advice regarding moving/working abroad