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Your Central America Guide to EFL Teaching Overseas

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ESL TEFL TESOL Central America Central America (Latin America)
Teaching English in Central America

Teaching English Abroad in Latin America

The Practical Information You Need to Get Work

by Michael G. Hines

Countries in Latin America offer some of the leading tourist destinations in the world. Spanish, Portuguese or French are the native languages which is why the influx of foreigners has increased the importance for citizens to learn English. Increasing numbers of expatriates and their families are choosing to make Latin America their home, causing the number of international schools and educational institutions offering academic courses in English to increase. Teachers who meet country requirements have a good chance of finding jobs in this region. Amongst these, Cost Rica and Brazil are two of these countries which have high demands for teachers.

Visa Requirements


Brazil is located in the South American section of Latin America. Business transactions are usually conducted in English primarily due to its vicinity to the U.S. Some companies even hire English teachers for their employees for this very reason. Most Brazilian companies and institutions do not require a TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language), a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), or a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) from teachers they hire. Their only educational requirement is a Bachelor?s Degree in any field because all hired teachers, with or without certificates, must undergo in-house training programs. Moreover, some knowledge of Portuguese is extremely handy (Simmons, n.d.).

Teaching in Brazil legally is relatively difficult primarily due to the local sponsorship requirements. An applicant for a work visa needs a sponsor and most companies are averse to providing sponsorship for their teachers because the process is quite expensive and complicated. An applicant may be willing to shoulder the expenses but the employer still has to agree to issue proof of sponsorship. Once this issue is settled, a teacher who wants to work in Brazil can apply for a visa under the category of Cultural Visa ? Temporary Visa I. The following documents are to be presented when applying for this type of visa: a passport with 6 months validity; duly accomplished visa application forms; letter of invitation from the educational institution employing the teacher; proof of financial support and a police clearance from the applicant?s area of residence (Embassy of Brazil ? Ottawa, n.d.; Simmons, n.d.).

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is located in Central America and has a comparatively high demand for English teachers. The educational requirements for an English teacher are less stringent in this country provided that the applicant is personally interviewed by the prospective employer. In this is the case, a non-native English speaking teacher may be allowed to teach the language even though he or she only has a Bachelor?s Degree in non-Education courses and does not have a TEFL or a TESOL certificate. On the other hand, teachers who apply for jobs from their home countries are required to have Bachelor?s Degrees and TEFL/TESOL certifications (Simmons, n.d.).

A passport with six months validity and a pre-paid ticket or proof of financial capability to purchase a 1-way ticket out of Costa Rica are the basic documents needed to legally enter the country. However, those who wish to work legally must obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Immigration and Naturalization Services. The EAD is only valid for six months and has to be renewed accordingly thereafter. Foreign teachers who have special contracts with educational institutions are also encouraged to apply for the Conditional Costa Rican Residence Permit to avoid frequent renewals of the EAD. Documents to be presented by teachers for the EAD are: authenticated EAD application form; notarized letter of request for an EAD; Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social Employer Certification (CCSS); employer?s tax identification; photocopies of passport; and a guarantee deposit. The following additional documents are needed to be able to obtain a Conditional Costa Rican Residence Permit: duly completed application form from the Immigration Department, a guarantee deposit, and a certification from the prospective or current employer containing the details of the contract (CostaRica.Com, Inc., n.d.).

Working and Living Conditions

Working and living conditions in Latin America vary greatly from country to country and from one institution or company to another. Excepting certain international schools or companies, most teachers are paid salaries that are just enough to provide them with a comfortable lifestyle for the duration of their contracts. Added benefits such as free accommodations and air fares are not automatically part of the teacher?s contract (English International, 2009). Teachers planning to work in this region would do well to get as much information about their destination country as possible. They should also clarify the terms and benefits of their contracts before leaving home. Living in Latin America, however, can be a very positive experience because of the colorful and varied histories and cultures. In general, the cost of living in this region is cheaper and the pace of work slower relative to developed countries such as Europe and the U.S. Even though most of the region is peaceful, security can be a major concern in certain regions. The important thing is for the teacher to be positive and make the best out of their experience in Latin America.

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