In some countries there is a clear process for foreigners to obtain a work visa that provides full legal status to live and work. In others, the process can be expensive and time consuming or simply nonexistent. However, as the demand for English language teachers is so high in many parts of the world, the necessity of a work visa is sometimes ignored. The fact is many thousands of people work as English language teachers in countries all over the world without a work visa.
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In countries such as Spain and Italy, both extremely popular destinations, it is common for Americans and other nationalities to enter the country on a tourist visa and immediately start working as an English language teacher. A tourist visa in these countries is typically valid for 90 days and cannot be renewed so after three months many teachers simply overstay the visa and continue working. Elsewhere in Europe, countries such as Germany, Czech Republic, Turkey, and Russia all have a clear process for foreign teachers to obtain a work visa. Those who apply for government run placement programs in countries such as France or Spain will also receive full legal status via a work permit.
As schools in this region generally have a high demand for English language teachers but limited finances, it is very common for teachers to be employed without a work visa. The exceptions are Chile and Mexico where work visas are issued in the majority of cases. In Argentina and Costa Rica it is normal to work on a tourist visa that can be renewed by leaving and then re-entering the country before the original expires.
In the large and lucrative markets of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, it is standard practice for employers to provide their teachers with work visas. In smaller markets such as Jordan and Egypt, a small percentage of teachers may find jobs without a permit.
The vast majority of jobs across the region's teaching hotspots such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea, will come with the necessary work permit. Elsewhere, teaching without a work permit it not uncommon.
For the employer, hiring a teacher without a work permit means they do not have to pay taxes or social security contributions making it more affordable to hire the staff they need. For the teacher it also means no tax payments, however, you will consequently have no access to benefits such as national medical insurance or the safety of a legally binding contract. Although working illegally is not risk free, very few people ever have a problem with the local authorities. If for any reason you are caught without a visa the usual outcome is to be put on a flight back home, while the employer generally receives a small fine.