“Under The Table”

under_the_table_320x200_21.jpgWorking illegally, or getting paid “under the table”, does happen frequently in the TEFL world, and often teachers and schools are not caught. Typical arguments against working illegally include the mere fact that it is, obviously, illegal. Some people argue that people who work illegally are taking jobs away from qualified people and doing so at a lower wage which lowers wages that employers are willing to pay for everyone. These are clearly heated issues in the US now and to a lesser extent in many other countries.

People who work illegally, or those who don’t oppose it strongly, point out that the paperwork and requirements are tedious and time-consuming, and they would in fact be granted a work permit if they applied, but only after months and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in related costs. Teachers argue that schools are not going to give native speaker positions to locals. Employers’ knowledge about how to get around labor laws may surprise you, and frequently teachers who work illegally, even if they are paid in cash, do end up paying taxes or even paying into pension funds (much like illegal workers in the US who use fake social security numbers) though they will not reap the benefits of these.

In the end, the greatest risk of working illegally probably falls on the teacher. If you are caught, the school may have to pay a fine, but you will be out of a job. You may have to make expensive or time-consuming trips out of the country every three months or so to get a new tourist visa, and if it is somehow discovered that you are working illegally when you try to re-enter the country, you may not be allowed back in. The details of your passport could be noted and you might have problems traveling to that country in the future. Finally, because while the school may ultimately be held responsible, the more serious consequences of being caught may fall on you, and this may leave you open to exploitation by the school. If they don’t pay you (on time/at all) or if they violate the terms of your contract (by requiring you to work an ungodly number of hours, or to finish at 10pm and start again at 7am the next day regularly), it would be difficult if not impossible to complain to any authority.