Work Permits

by Katie on September 5, 2006

by Katie | September 5th, 2006  

The details of work permits will vary, perhaps greatly, from country to country, but basically, a work permit is “permission” for an employer to employ you, a foreigner. In general, employers are required to find a citizen of their country (or in many parts of the EU, a citizen of any EU country) to fill a position before hiring a non-citizen, and if they can’t or don’t, they generally need to show why you, a foreigner, are better qualified than a local. Fortunately for native English speakers, one “requirement” for teaching in many schools is merely being a native English speaker, but your BA and TEFL certificate help show that you are qualified beyond having the good fortune to be born in an English-speaking country. Employers and expats talk about work permits in many ways, but generally a work permit is not something you “get” for yourself and then go work wherever you’d like – it is very often connected to and valid only for a particular employer.

Connected to a work permit is residence, which more or less official permission to reside in the county. The requirements again vary from country to country, but often include the offer of a job that pays a living wage, proof that you have no criminal record in your home country, a signed lease, and proof of health insurance. Sometimes there is a catch for teachers who go overseas to do their course: you are supposed to apply for the work permit at a consulate in your own country – but if you haven’t completed a TEFL course or traveled recently to the country where you’d like to work, you are unlikely to have a job offer or a signed lease.

There are often ways around this, such as applying for your permits at a consulate outside the country you intend to work in but in a neighboring country (e.g. if your job is in Hungary you go to the Hungarian consulate in Austria). If you don’t have a signed lease, you may be able to get a written statement from a local with housing that they will accommodate you.

It’s rarely simple, but be warned that the requirements for working or even traveling in the US (and other English-speaking countries) are probably some of the strictest and most rigid in the world, so be careful before you publicly complain about regulations in another country.

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February 6, 2008 at 8:30 am


Ian Naidoo July 28, 2007 at 1:46 am

hi i have trying for a year to secure a TEFL post in China, but it seems like there is a scam going on…people called me but when i call them back they are unavailable. in one xase the agent changed his particulars.
if i am wrong please give me a reason to believe that there is a school that will help me as i have studied and wasted my money

thank you

Katie July 28, 2007 at 4:34 am

Hi there, I’m not sure why you left this comment on the post about work permits. I don’t know a whole lot about China, but I have a sense that trying to arrange a job over the phone – especially when the employer does something odd as you describe – can be a risk. I have no idea if the situation you describe is an elaborate scam of some sort, but in general scams are not unknown in the field.

Many people opt to take a tefl course in the country they want to work in, or go there in person, and this eliminates some of the risk of arranging things remotely. Of course it is also a large financial risk to just turning up in a place because you might not find a job. Maybe ask the providers of your course for advice, or see what people are saying on the China boards at Dave’s ESL Cafe. It may also be worth it to investigate opportunities in a few different countries.

Good luck


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