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Your Europe Guide to EFL Teaching Overseas

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Teaching English in Europe

Teaching English Abroad in Europe

The Practical Information You Need to Get Work

by Michael G. Hines

Many professionals want to work in Europe because of a sense of historical connection and the rich local culture. Contrary to popular belief, teaching legally in this continent is not very easy in spite of the high demand for English teachers. There are certain regulations to navigate that European Union (E.U.) member countries apply to non-EU nationals and vice versa. The requirements to work legally in Germany and Switzerland in combination with their working and living conditions are two examples of typical situations and potential obstacles within the continent.

Employment / Visa Requirements


ELTA (English Language Teaching to Adults) work in Switzerland is freelance or part-time, so it is rare for job vacancies in this field to be advertised in the local media. Foreigners wanting to teach in the country have to obtain a work permit, a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults), or a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) qualification and must have the required length of teaching experience. Most language schools are reluctant to obtain work permits for foreign teachers because of the nature of the industry and the tedious process of justifying the employment to the government. A work permit can only be issued if the employer is able to prove that neither a Swiss citizen nor an EU national is qualified for the job (English Teachers Association Switzerland, n.d.).

Application for a work permit differs between an EU national and a non-EU national. Both work and residence permits are still needed by an EU applicant belonging to the newest eight EU member states (EU-8) during the period of transition lasting until April 30, 2011. Work permits are no longer necessary for applicants from the original 15 EU states plus Malta and Cyprus (EU-17). However, a residence permit must be obtained by both sets of EU applicants even after the transition period. Applicants from non-EU states generally have to follow the procedure described above involving justification doe hiring. Aside from passport, academic credentials and resume, applicants have to inquire regarding other requirements based on their country of origin (Federal Office for Migration, 2008).


As a non-native English speaking country, there is a high demand among Germans to learn the language to conduct business transactions with foreign companies. There is a moderately high demand for native-speaking English teachers especially from smaller cities in the country. The conditions and requirements to work as assistant teachers, language assistants, or as full-time teachers in schools vary from location to location. Moreover, German Federal States (Bundeslaender) have some differences in their regulations regarding the profession. Foreign applicants for teaching positions in Germany have to verify the specific requirements of the Land where they intend to work. The primary requirements for full-time teachers are knowledge of the German language and qualifications to teach at least two different subjects. An aptitude test may be administered to the applicant to prove said qualifications (German Embassy? London, n.d.).

Requirements for working and living in Germany vary between citizens of EU states and non-EU states. For teachers from EU states, a visa or work permit is not necessary but a residence permit has to be obtained once he/she starts to work in Germany. Teachers from non-EU states planning to work in Germany should first obtain a work permit through their employer before entering Germany. The following documents have to be presented to obtain the resident visa for teachers under the Specialist Professional category: duly accomplished residence permits application forms; passport size pictures; original and copies of passport; proof of professional expertise and experience; employment contract containing details of employment (German Embassy? London, n.d.).

Working and Living Conditions

As mentioned above, requirements and conditions vary from one country to another. In the same manner, compensation and added benefits may be relatively higher in Germany but quite low in Greece. Housing is rarely part of the employment package, though temporary accommodations may be provided if permanent lodging is not yet available when the teacher arrives. Children of teachers are sometimes given free tuition or education subsidies, while contracts are usually for the length of one year with the option to renew (Teach Anywhere, 2008).

The EurActiv Network (2003) conducted an analysis of the teaching profession in 30 European countries. Some of the findings cited in the analytical report were: job security is relatively high; working times are closer to those in other fields; teamwork is encouraged in most countries; base salaries are generally low with minimal increases; in-service training is perceived as an obligation and the responsibility for such training is shared among different administrative levels; there are hardly any official arrangements to help teachers with problems (EurActiv Network, 2003). This report simply emphasizes that working in Europe is no bed of roses, but that teachers who get the opportunity to work in this region should make the most out of it.

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