The Cultural Ambassadors Program (also known as the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program) is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport. Every year as many as 2,500 North Americans are placed through the scheme into elementary or secondary schools across the country to work as assistant language teachers. As Spain can be a difficult place for non-Europeans to secure an official work visa, this program provides a great opportunity for Americans and Canadians to legally live and work in one of the world's most popular teaching destinations.
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The program is open to American and Canadian citizens aged between 21 and 60, although the upper age limit for placement in the Madrid region is 35. If accepted, participants are assigned as assistant English teachers in an elementary or secondary school from early October until May 31 (June 30 in the Madrid region). The position requires you to work a set number of classes per week in return for a stipend of 700 euro per month, health insurance coverage, and a long-stay work visa. Airfares and accommodation costs are not included. During the application process you can submit preferences for the cities or areas where you would prefer to be located, but there are no guarantees regarding your allocated place. The majority of positions are located in mainland cities and towns, with a smaller number available in the Canary and Balearic Islands. Successful applicants will be notified of their destination in April prior to departure. As this is a very competitive program there is no guarantee of acceptance. An applicant's suitability is evaluated on the following criteria:
- A practical demonstration of Spanish language skills (college transcripts, high school records, and Spanish language certificates can be submitted to provide extra proof)
- Physical and psychological suitability (a medical form is required)
- Academic achievement (BA or BS minimum, university junior, senior, or graduate)
- Previous teaching experience
- Experience working with children
- Experience living abroad
- TEFL/TESOL qualification (not compulsory but highly beneficial)
For the most up-to-date information regarding the application process you should visit the official website of the Cultural Ambassadors Program. To complete the application you will need to supply the following documents:
- 250 to 300 word 'statement of purpose' in English
- Copy of a reference letter from your employer or university
- Copy of your degree/diploma, or an official academic record
- Copy of valid U.S. or Canadian passport
While not compulsory, completing a TEFL/TESOL certification course before applying for the Cultural Ambassadors Program is highly recommended. As there are a limited number of places available each year and competition is usually very strong, the addition of a teaching qualification to your application form will give you a distinct advantage over many other applicants. The practical skills taught during the course, such as classroom management and error correction, will also help to make your time in the classroom far more productive and enjoyable for both you and your students.