Requirements for Teaching English Abroad

Teaching English as a Foreign Language, otherwise known as TEFL, is a great way to travel the world whilst also gaining teaching experience. Whether you would prefer to explore Europe, have an awesome Asian adventure, hit South America, or anywhere else, there are schools everywhere looking for teachers; providing you with the opportunity to live and work in a whole new place.

This week, we are presenting a guest blog post from Andrew Lynch, Director at They are a specialist teaching and TEFL jobs platform for overseas recruitment in the UK.

When you are first considering TEFL, the whole thing can seem a little daunting. However, there aren’t many essential requirements when it comes to teaching English abroad. Plus, requirements often vary by country and continent. So, if you do not meet the grade in one place, there is always a chance that you can find work in another. If you are thinking about starting your TEFL journey, read on for our in-depth review of all the basic essentials.


The qualifications required to teach English will depend on where you will be living and the individual school that you choose. Either a degree, or alternatively four years of college study is often a legal immigration requirement. Most countries will request that their teachers hold a BA degree, but this can be in any subject. However, some schools may prefer it if your degree is education or English related, particularly international schools.  If you do not have a university degree, it is still possible to find work, especially if you have relevant experience and an accredited TEFL certification.

Providing you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture, getting a TEFL qualification is your first step on an international adventure that will transform the way you teach. An accredited course that includes observed teaching practice such as the CELTA or TESOL may be specified. However, these are expensive, and not a necessity.  Some schools state that they require no qualifications or experience, but this can be a red flag and you should do some research into the company before you accept.

Passport and Visa

You will not get very far without your passport, and it should be valid for at least six months with a minimum of two blank pages. However, requesting a new passport from another country can be difficult, so it is advised to ensure that your passport will last for the duration of your trip. The visa process differs wildly amongst the countries, with some requiring lots of additional information and interviews and others being relatively simple.  For example, finding work in Europe can be a challenge if you are not a European citizen. Schools often prefer to hire those with the right to stay, such as UK nationals, rather than sponsor someone from the United States.

When you are applying for your visa, you may have to visit that country’s embassy in your home country. Some countries may also require a criminal background check or a medical examination for the visa process. This will depend on your country of origin as well as your destination. It is important to ensure that you have the right visa so that you are able to live and work in the country of your choosing. A tourist visa will only grant you a short stay, and so it is always advised that you do some research into which visa is the right one for your needs to avoid trouble later down the line.

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The English Language

It was once assumed that you need to be a native speaker to teach English abroad but this is certainly not the case, and many countries welcome non-native English teachers with open arms. In fact, if you are looking for work in Europe, it is actually illegal for schools to specify that they are looking for a native speaker only; in line with EU legislation regarding discrimination. However, you must have a near-native level of English proficiency and pronunciation, and you should also have a basic knowledge of English grammar and how to teach it. Unfortunately, native speakers are at a significant disadvantage because we do not necessarily learn our own grammar, and the first couple of years can be a steep learning curve. Do some research, buy a grammar book aimed at TEFL teachers, and keep practicing.

Plans, Games, and Fillers

Although planning will vary from school to school and there may not be much prep you can do, having a few ice breaker classes aimed at the age groups you will be teaching can be a great start. It is also advised that you do some research regarding basic teaching techniques and methods, as well as an idea of some of the challenges that you may face. When you are first starting out to teach, one of the hardest concepts can be timing. Working out exactly how much time each activity will take can be a challenge, and it can significantly vary from class to class and student to student. Have a selection of go-to games prepped and ready to go so that you can always fill the gaps.

The Right Attitude

The most essential requirement for teaching English abroad successfully is undoubtedly the right attitude. Choosing to take up a position in TEFL offers you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and gain exciting new experiences and opportunities. Friends become family as you navigate around a new city, country, and culture. You must have an open mind, especially when it comes to accepting and embracing cultural differences. 

It is also important that you possess a desire to teach. In the past, TEFL has been seen as a cheap and convenient way to travel, but now, there is a significantly increased focus on the importance of education. As a teacher, you have the potential to transform lives, and although one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, it is also one of the most difficult. Whilst it may seem obvious, having the right mind-set for your new adventure has to be the most essential component.

If you are planning on taking a TEFL position abroad and require a legalisation service for your documents, get in touch with the dedicated account manager for Teaching Abroad Direct for advice. You can give Emma Thompson a call on +44 (0) 1924 917343 or via email directly on

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Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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