Live Session: Overview of All the Documents You Will Need to Teach English Abroad


Hi guys, Linda here from ITTT with another live session. Super excited to be here again, thanks so much for tuning in today and if you're listening to this as a podcast episode thanks so much for the download, we really appreciated it. We turn all of our live sessions into podcast episodes and you can find them on all major podcast platforms like iTunes, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. Just search for the TEFL and TESOL Podcast by ITTT and you will find all our episodes there.

Hi Tiana, thanks so much for tuning in today. How are you? I'm so excited to be here again and I think today's topic is going to be really interesting for people who want to go abroad and teach. We're going to talk about all the documents that you will need. There's quite a lot of different documents that you need to arrange and some of them you need to get a little bit earlier in your TEFL journey. Others you will be able to get once you are in the country of your choice. So we're going to talk about all that so that you know exactly what you need to prepare.

I just want to wait a little bit and give other people a chance to join in because they're probably going to get a notification, so I just want to wait a little bit. I think today's topic is really important. Thanks so much for tuning in, I'm also doing really great thanks Tiana. It's Friday 10:00 a.m. I have my iced coffee here today because it's getting really hot in Korea and I'm sweating already. Mikey's here from Taiwan, hi there. Where in Taiwan are you from?

Hi Gwen, good morning, how are you? So we go live twice a week. I go live on Fridays, or maybe Thursdays where you are, and my colleague Liza goes live on Tuesdays. She's a non-native English speaker from Russia. She's taught English in China and I think a little bit also in Thailand and she has a lot of really great insight about the non-native English teaching side of things. So that might be really interesting to you as well, so I highly recommend tuning in. Please don't forget to like and subscribe to our YouTube and our Facebook page, and wherever else you find us, so that you never miss any of our live sessions.

Also, we are offering a 30% discount during the live stream and we only share that here. So that's the best deal you can get. I highly recommend checking it out if you're not yet TEFL certified or if you're looking into getting the diploma course or a specialization course. You can scan this QR code in the upper right hand corner at any time and this will lead you to the application page where you can fill out the application and then receive the discount. Or we also have a link which is the same thing and I'm going to share that with you in the comment box so you can just click on that whenever you're ready to sign up for your course and receive a 30% discount.

Yes Mikey, I am in South Korea. I'm about an hour and a half south of Seoul in a city called Cheongju. It's kind of in the center of South Korea and I've been here for almost six years. Hi Brad, good to see you too. Brad says, this is a big one. I hope I have all the appropriate docs as I don't want to make a mad scramble at the last minute. I have less than two months before my course starts.

Awesome, so keep watching for the documents and let's jump in now we have a good group of people. Some new faces and some familiar faces. I love seeing you guys here today. Let me make myself a little bit smaller so we can see the slides better. So again, today we are looking at the documents that you will need for teaching English abroad. But first I always like to introduce myself for the new people watching. My name is Linda and I'm on the one hand a travel writer and content creator under my own handle, Linda Goes East. I'm originally from Germany/USA and I have a huge passion for Asia as I have been living here since 2012. I have lived in China and South Korea where I am still, you can find my own website at and on Instagram at Linda Goes East. I love sharing my content on Instagram so if you're interested check that out.

Like I said, I'm from Germany and the USA. My mom is German and my dad is American, but I was born and raised in Germany most of the time. I finished school in the States and I've been based in South Korea since 2015. Before that I was in China. I am also a TEFL and TESOL marketing professional at ITTT. That stands for International TEFL and TESOL Training and you can find us at and on Instagram at International TEFL Training. We are a leading TEFL course provider that offers a wide variety of different courses.

Hi Joey. Joey says, my passion is Russia and I've been there nine times teaching.
That's amazing, have you watched any of Liza's live sessions? She's from Russia, so maybe you're interested in that as well.

Okay, let's jump into today's topic, all the documents that you will need for teaching English abroad. So what I have done is grouped different documents into three categories. The first one we're going to call the Essential Documents. These are the documents that everybody needs to have for teaching English abroad. The second group is the Just in Case You Need Them Documents, so some countries will require them and some countries won't. Or it's just nice to have them just in case you need them at a later point. The third category is the Wait Until You Arrive Documents. These are the documents that you typically get when you arrive in the country. So groups one and two are the documents that you're going to get usually before you leave and then the third category is the documents that you will get in the country on arrival.

We're obviously going to start with the first category, the Essential Documents. So everybody who wants to go abroad to teach is going to need these documents. Let's have a look, so first off we have a passport. You're going to need a passport and it's best if it's valid for at least two years. Most countries will actually not let you in if your passport has less than six months validity, so you need to make sure that your passport is valid. We recommend two years as usually at least a year is required when applying for visas and work permits, and it can be a little bit tricky to renew a passport from abroad. Usually a TEFL contract is for one year but obviously the passport validity is not going to 100% match your contract date. So having at least a two-year validity on your passport is going to give you enough room to figure out the next step. Do you want to go back home, do you want to stay in the country, are you going to do a little bit more traveling after your year abroad?

I recently had to renew one of my passports. I have two passports, a German passport and an American passport. I had to renew my German passport and there is a German embassy in Seoul so that's typically not a problem. But it is more expensive to renew your passport abroad and it also takes a lot more time because they make the passport back home then they have to send it to that country. Having two years is just a good thing.

So that's probably the most important thing that you need. Another very important document is a high quality TEFL based CV or resume. So you need to make sure that your resume is up-to-date and relevant for the type of jobs you are applying for. I think that pretty much goes without saying, but if you apply for a TEFL teaching job you need to modify your resume to match that position. You want to highlight your TEFL qualifications, you also want to highlight any observed teaching practice during your TEFL training, and the lesson planning involved. Definitely highlight what the TEFL training entails because there are many different TEFL courses and some do not include certain topics or lessons.

So it's a good idea to mention the most important things that you've learned on your TEFL course and then also any volunteer work, tutoring, any management experience, or working in a team environment, any of these things should be highlighted in your resume. If you don't have any previous teaching experience or even work experience, you can always find little things that you can add so that you can tailor it to a teaching position. Let's say you were a chef in a restaurant and now you want to go and teach English abroad, you need to tailor your resume to reflect that and show the employer that even though you were a chef you have the skills to also be a teacher. Working in a team, high stress environment, things like that.

If your previous work experience is not related to teaching at all you should still put it on your resume. I think it's too small but this is actually my resume. I put it up because, especially for Americans, you will find that teaching resumes tend to have a lot more personal information on them than you might be used to. What I mean by that is, for example, you definitely need to put a picture on your resume. You also typically have to put your date of birth on it and where you're from. If you apply for larger schools, teaching companies, big recruitment agencies, or government teaching programs, they will probably send you a resume template that you need to fill out. Some might even include things like weight and height, things like that, so it can get really personal. That's pretty common, especially in Asian countries. So be aware that your resume is probably going to look a little bit different than back home.

Great question from Tiana. Do our resumes have to be in Korean?

Typically no, they don't have to be in Korean. You can just submit an English resume. Sometimes if you go through a recruiter the recruiter will take your resume and translate it into Korean to give to the school but you don't have to worry about it.

I actually made this resume with Canva. Canva is a really good tool. I also make my slides in Canva for our live sessions. It is basically a web design platform where you can create images and slides and all kinds of things. They also have really great resume templates that you can use. I believe they have a lot of different options, so you can take a look at that.

Gwendolyn asks, which should take priority on our resumes, relevant education certifications or teaching experience? Should we include non-teaching work experience on our resumes?

So typically with a resume you want to keep it to only one page long and typically you would list your most recent work experience. But obviously you want to make it tailored to a teaching position so whatever you think is worth mentioning for that you can put on there. Also any non-teaching work experience is good to add, although it depends on whether your teaching experience section, work experience section, or your education section is longer. Some people apply and go abroad right after college so they have very little work experience, so it's going to depend on how long each section is. I would definitely put non-teaching work experience on there. Any work experience that involves other people, so you have things like working in a team environment, management experience, even if you had a big school project and you were the leader of the group, you can put that on there.

Tiana says, should we include a maximum of three to four items per section?

I'm not a resume expert and also things change all the time in terms of resumes in my experience. Typically they're not that strict about resumes with teaching jobs abroad. Like I said, a resume should not be longer than one page typically, so it depends on how many items you can fit on one page. It shouldn't look too cluttered. I feel like mine is a little bit full. I listed, as you can see, education, work experience, and then my certifications here. That's how I structured it but there's many different ways you could do that.

Joey says, you are right Linda. I used to critique resumes in a previous job.

Cool, so maybe you can give us some more insight. But also because you're applying in a different country their resumes typically look very different, they don't have the same style as we're used to back home. That's why I mentioned you're going to see a lot more personal information on resumes with a picture, with your age and things like that. But I will say that the resume is not the most important thing you need to worry about when it comes to teaching English abroad. Also, if you work with a recruiter they're going to look at your resume and help you with that.

Let's see what we have next. We still have some essential documents to go through. The next point would be a unique and meaningful cover letter. Here it's important to avoid using a standard template. I know most of us go on Google and search for a cover letter or teaching cover letter and then we just take the first one that we see and modify it a little bit. But guess what, all the other applicants are probably going to do the same thing. So the employer is receiving the same or very similar cover letter many times and it just tends to get boring.

So in your cover letter you should highlight why you want to teach abroad, why you have chosen their country and why you want to work for that school or that company in particular. You should make it a little bit more unique with your own stamp on it.

Then you also want to have some reference letters. It's very common in a lot of countries that they want to see two or three different references. This can be a reference letter from a former teacher, a college professor, or a workplace manager, and that can really add some weight to your job application. Don't be afraid to ask people for a reference letter and also don’t be afraid to tell them what the letter should say. Point them in a certain direction. Most people are going to be flattered that you asked them for a reference, so don't be afraid to do that as it's really going to help your application.

When I moved to Korea one of my references was my school in China and they did actually call the school where I was working at in China. They're not afraid to make a call and really ask if it's a real reference, so don't just make anything up, it needs to be a real person because they do check. So those are all the essential documents I think. If there are any questions about these you can ask them now or later during the Q&A session.

So a quick recap. The passport ideally has a validity of two years and then we have a TEFL oriented resume. If possible, we have a unique and meaningful cover letter and some reference letters. Okay, that is the simple part for sure, but this is what everybody needs for teaching English abroad, these are the essential documents.

Next up we have the Just In Case You Need Them Documents. Not everybody's going to need these but certain countries require them. The first one I have listed here is a criminal background check. You'll definitely need this for Korea and I also think for a lot of countries in the Middle East. I think more and more countries and schools actually do want to see a background check, I also think you need one for China. If you need it your employer will tell you and also if you work with a recruiter they will also let you know in advance.

The name of this document varies from country to country. In the States it's called an FBI background check, it also needs to be federal level, not state level for Korea. Also, especially now with the pandemic, these kinds of things take a long time. How I did the FBI background check for the United States was I printed out this sheet of paper and then went to a local police station where they took my fingerprints. Then you send those fingerprints in to the FBI and they do the background check. That takes three or four months I believe. So if you need that document you want to get started with it real early. What this does is prove that you have a clean record with nothing to hide. If there's something on your criminal record, some countries are not going to let you work as a teacher.

You might also need a university degree apostilled and notarized. So what is an apostille? An apostille is an international certification comparable to a notarization in domestic law and normally supplements a local notarization of the documents. Basically, it is a stamp that is used to verify documents internationally. This is what it looks like, this is from the state of California. As you can see it would be on the back of your document. With a university degree you get a copy and somebody signs it and it has this golden stamp on it. That's what I needed for Korea. It's really easy, there are apostille services that you can use and they also have express services. Obviously it's not free, it costs money also the criminal background check costs money. I don't really know how much, it's not too much, but the whole thing, all these documents are probably going to cost you a couple of hundred dollars in total, including your passport.

Brett says, Live Scan did it pretty fast, electronic fingerprints.

Okay, I have never heard of Live Scan before, it's cool that they do electronic fingerprints. I had to do it with the actual ink because I was not in the U.S at the time. I had to do that abroad at a local police station and then send it to the United States. If you need it, maybe you can check out Live Scan.

Gwen asks, does every copy need to be apostilled because I've heard they can cost a bit of money?

Yes they do cost a bit of money, but not every copy needs to be apostilled. You don't have to apostille your resume or your cover letter, things like that. Usually it's just your university degree, so only one document.

Gwen says, sorry I should clarify. I meant if I were to apply to five jobs should I have five copies of my degree apostilled?

No. This is generally just required when applying for a work visa so you would only need one because you're only going to go to one job. So that would be a document you're only going to need in the final phase of the job hunting process. Once you have done an interview and they tell you okay we want to hire you, you will then be told exactly what you need to apply for the work visa. So you would only need one, you don't have to send that in with your initial application.

Another thing about the application process nowadays is that it's all online so you don't even have to send an actual paper application, you basically just need PDF versions of your resume and TEFL certificate etc.

Okay, so some countries also require sealed university transcripts. They're not widely necessary, but they are necessary in South Korea and also most countries in the Middle East. They look like this. To get those you would contact your university and ask them to send you sealed university transcripts. Typically you will have to pay for that. I don't remember exactly how much it was, but this is what it looks like. So it's sealed here and you cannot open them. Do not open them as that's for the visa people to open in order to verify that this is your actual degree.

Another thing you will probably need is passport photos because passport photos are usually required with every official form or document that you have to fill out. So the visa application form is one that will certainly need photos. Once in a foreign country you will also need them for an id card or to register yourself in the country or whatever. So you want to have some extra photos just in case and it's important to remember to have a white background and to dress in a professional manner. Of course you can always get new ones taken but it's better just to get more in your initial passport photo session.

Now we can move on to the last category which is the Wait Until You Arrive Documents. So these are the documents that you typically get when you are already in the country of your choice. This also depends on the country where you go. For some countries you are going to enter on a tourist visa and then you have to do the work visa process once you are there. In other countries, like China and Korea, you need to do this before you leave home. So you have to go to the local Chinese or Korean embassy in your country and fill out the work visa things before you leave, you cannot go on a tourist visa and then do it there, you need to do this in your home country. This varies from country to country.

Once you are in the country, and I have China and Korea here as an example, you get either a work permit card or an id card. So this is what the Chinese card looks like and this is the Korean foreigner id card. It says your name and your visa status on it. Usually the employer helps you with that so they would take you there because they helped other teachers before so they know the process. Usually you need to bring your work contract and also your resume and things like that. You should confirm what specific documentation you need to bring for that so that you can bring it with you, but typically your employer is going to walk you through that so don't worry.

Next are medical tests. So sometimes you need to do a medical check before you leave, but more often than not there will be medical checks in the country once you arrive. For example, a work permit application in Thailand requires a test for syphilis and in Saudi Arabia you might need a test for HIV/AIDS. I know that in Korea and I think also in China you have to do a health check once you are there. You would go and they do blood tests, I think also an eye exam, all kinds of things. It's all tied to your visa, they just want to make sure you're healthy I guess.

You should also think about any vaccines that are recommended for your chosen destination. Depending on where you're going you might need some shots. Just do a simple online search and then make an appointment with your doctor. You can ask them what they think and tell them where you are going and if there are any vaccines recommended.

I think that is it. Let me see, yes that was it, those are all the documents that we need for teaching English abroad. As you can see it really depends on the location where you're going, except for the essential documents. The essential documents are needed wherever you go. All the other ones really depend on where you're going. I just want to mention how you can find ITTT online. So I said before that you can find us at, that's the main website. Also on Facebook, many of you are watching from Facebook so you already know how to find us there. We're also on Twitter and on Instagram, so check us out and give us a like and a follow so you don't miss any of our upcoming live sessions or our other content that we share on social media.

Now we are opening the Q&A section so you can ask any questions that you might have. I just want to mention the 30% discount link again which looks like this in the comment box and maybe I'm just going to drop it one more time for some people who haven't seen it in the beginning. It looks like this and you get 30% off any TEFL or TESOL course. We only share a 30% off link in our live sessions and nowhere else, so this is the best deal you can get, so make use of it. You can also scan the QR code in the upper right hand corner here for the same 30% off.

Crystal says, thank you Linda. Super informative as always. Thank you so much Crystal. Marvin has also asked about the criminal background check. I talked about that earlier so if you missed that part you can just watch the replay. It was in the second category because a criminal background check is not needed in every country.

Gwen asks, what should I do if I can't fit my resume onto one page. I tried but the closest I've got is 1.5 pages.

It really should be one page so you could either rearrange it a little bit layout wise or maybe change the format and/or font size. Also, check out and their resume templates. Then you could just remove anything that's not really important, just cross it out.

Also, Juliana, three pages is way too long, it should be only one page. Only the most important things should be there. You can make the font a little bit smaller and like I said you can maybe rearrange it a little bit. You don't need to list anything from elementary school, only maybe high school, college, that's it. You don't have to mention every single school, every little job. Maybe adjust the margins, but it shouldn't look too super full either. You can find a lot of good examples online, just Google how can I make my resume shorter or something like that. I'm sure there are a lot of really great suggestions out there. Also if you have to cut out some things you think are still relevant you can include them in your cover letter instead.

Gwen says, thank you so much for all the useful tips today Linda. Thank you Gwen, I hope it was helpful. I think this topic is really helpful because documents are one of the things that people are most worried about. They just don't really know what documents they need and where to get them. So I hope that today's session was a little bit useful. Of course it's hard to make it tailored to everyone because all the countries are different and require different documents and the process of getting documents is different in every country. But I hope you got the general gist of it.

Gwen says, I have to run to teach now but I'm so happy I got to catch you today. Thank you Gwen, have a good class. Juliana says, thank you so much I learned a lot from this live session. Thank you, I'm glad. You can always watch the replay as the videos of the live sessions stay on our YouTube channel and also on our Facebook page. If you have any additional questions you can either message me directly at Linda Goes East on Instagram or you can just write it in the comments here and we will get back to you that way.

Nate asks, are there a lot of countries that don't require a university degree as I just have a college diploma?

Yes there are countries where you don't have to have a university degree. I believe my colleague Liza did a live session about that, but we also have a lot of information about that on our FAQ page. Let me share the link with you and you can find that question in there and get some useful details. Typically, countries where you don't have to have a degree are places like Southeast Asia, so Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, maybe also Thailand. Then there's also Latin America where most countries do not require one.

If there are no more questions I might sign off. You're very welcome Nate. That's why every week I sit down and think about what topic we can talk about this week because I just want to make it super useful for you guys and because we do have a lot of regular people coming every week I don't want to talk about the same topic week after week. I try to come up with new topics every week, we're also probably going to have a guest soon. I don't want to say too much because it's not finalized yet, but someone who has been living in China forever and who might help us with questions about teaching in China and what the situation looks like at the moment. So if you're interested in teaching in China I highly recommend that to you. I will keep you updated about when that's going to happen.

Thanks so much for tuning in today. Thanks so much to all the people who come here week after week, I really appreciate it. Please also check out my colleague Liza's live sessions on Tuesdays, there's a lot of really great info there. She has a lot of tips about teaching online and teaching abroad as a non-native English speaker. But there are also a lot of really great things for native English speakers. I learned so much from her, she knows a lot about online teaching, lesson planning, and how to make really fun and interactive activities for your students. So please don't forget to like and subscribe guys.

Brett asks, should I message you if I have more complicated questions?

Sure, hit me up on Instagram, absolutely. My Instagram is here at Linda Goes East, so just type that into Instagram and you can find me there. I'd love to get in touch with all of you if you have more complicated questions or just random other questions, that's fine, just message me.

I hope to see you again next week, it was really nice being here with you today and exchanging information. I hope you learned something and if you have any topic suggestions you can also send me an Instagram message. Have a wonderful weekend and I hope to see you again next week with another live session. Stay happy, stay healthy, have a wonderful day. Bye, bye.

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