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Teaching English in Asia

Teaching English Abroad in Asia
The Practical Information You Need to Get Work

by Michael G. Hines

The current economic boom being experienced in Asia presents numerous opportunities for the teaching profession. Economic development is creating better educational opportunities which consequently increase the need for English, academic, and special subject teachers.

Visa Requirements


The combination of the population size and the economic upsurge being experienced by China is increasing the importance of English communication amongst the Chinese. As such, the bulk of the demand for teachers in China is for English instructors who may or may not speak Chinese. An employment visa (Z Visa) is needed by an applicant to be able to teach in the country. Documents that are needed for this are: passport with at least six months validity; completed Visa Application Form; a visa notification from an authorized Chinese unit; and a Work Permit for Aliens from the Chinese Labor Ministry. Visa processing usually takes four working days to complete (Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the U.S.A, 2008). Every teacher working in China is required to have an employment visa. Regardless, there are many schools that will employ teachers without ever going through the process of obtaining the necessary visas but this is highly dubious and such schools should be avoided.


Similar to China, Japan?s economic success on the global market has made it necessary for people to learn English, which is why opportunities abound for native English speakers. In order to apply for a working visa in Japan, the teacher has to present the following: passport; passport pictures; completed visa application forms; and supporting documents showing that the applicant will be in Japan to work as a professor or as an instructor. These supporting documents include proof of the applicant?s educational license, professional career, duration of activity, job position, remuneration, and the outline of the employing institution (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, n.d.).


Teachers applying for jobs in Korea need to obtain either the E-1 or the E-2 Visa. The E-1 Visa is the working visa for English teachers who plan to work in schools bigger than a junior college while the E-2 Visas are for conversation instructors. These visas may be obtained through Korean embassies in the applicant?s country of origin. The following must be sent to the employing school so that application for a working visa can be facilitated: job contract, degree notarized by the Korean embassy, academic transcript of records, copy of passport information page, resume, and four passport-size photos. A sponsorship from the employing school is also needed before a visa can be issued. Once the passport has been stamped with the appropriate visa, the teacher must go to a local immigration office upon reaching Korea to obtain his or her residence permit. The residence permit must be acquired within 90 days of entering the country otherwise the teacher will be considered illegal (ESLjob, 2007).


There is a misconception that working permits are not required to work in Taiwan. On the contrary, potential employees have to obtain working visas in combination with residence visas to be able to legally work in this country. To obtain these documents, the applicant must present a valid passport; medical reports showing that the applicant is physically and mentally healthy; a police report from the home country showing the applicant?s criminal record; and a minimum one-year contract. Therefore, sponsorship [by the employer] is also needed by the teacher to obtain proper documents. The Resident Visa can only be obtained after an approval from the Bureau of Education. Once the applicant?s passport has been stamped with the Resident Visa, an Alien Residence Certificate (ARC) can be applied for so that the applicant can teach in Taiwan for a year. The ARC has to be renewed annually for as long as the teacher continues to work for the sponsoring institution (HESS Educational Organization, 2006).

The HESS Educational Organization (2006) pointed out that the Taiwanese Bureau of Education requires ?a Bachelor?s degree in any discipline or an Associate?s degree with a TEFL / TESOL Certificate? from applicants for teaching positions. Any other certification is not recognized by the Bureau unless the school from which the applicant obtained the certification can sufficiently prove that it is equivalent to a Bachelor?s degree. Applicants are further limited by the Bureau of Education?s requirement for Native English Speakers whose passports are from native-English-speaking countries (HESS Educational Organization, 2006).

Working and Living Conditions in Asia

The requirements for teachers vary among different countries in the region. Taiwan, for instance, effectively limits teaching positions to applicants who are native English speakers with passports that were issued from native English-speaking countries. Moreover, Taiwan?s Bureau of Education stipulates that a Bachelor?s degree in any field or an Associate degree with a TEFL / TESOL Certificate is necessary for teachers. Employment packages within each country may also differ depending on the employing institution. Some contacts may offer housing for their teachers and flight expenses at the beginning and end of the contract. In addition, salaries may be slightly lower in primary and secondary public schools (Teach Anywhere, 2008).

Despite globalization and economic development, most Asian countries remain quite traditional. Women are still treated with slightly lesser importance in much of the region. Foreign women may even experience what Westerners may consider sexual harassment. Female teachers thinking of working in Asia should be prepared to adapt to the more traditional cultures. In addition, the mode of dress required for all foreign teachers differ among the countries but continues to be conservative, though language schools may have a slightly more relaxed dress code.

Article Courtesy of Transitions Abroad - Work Study Travel Living (© Transitions Abroad)
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