Preparing to Teach English Abroad: Visa & Travel Documents
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Preparing to Teach English Abroad: Visa & Travel Documents

In order to legally work in most countries, a work visa is required. A visa is a travel document obtained from your destination country, allowing you to live and work there.

Types of Visas

Work Visa
Working Holiday Visa (WHV)
Spousal Visa
Student or Tourist Visa

Work Visa

The process of obtaining a visa is different for each country. Often, you must apply for a working visa through the government in your home country, for the country in which you intend to work. Some countries even require that you apply for the visa from home.

What you need
In general you will need a letter of intent from your employer, a copy of your contract, return airline tickets, a copy of your degree and transcripts (if applicable), your passport, your birth certificate, another form of identification, two passport size photos, and a fee.

Working visas can take anywhere from one day to six weeks to process. Each country has unique regulations when it comes to issuing valid working visas. To view visa information for specific countries, visit our Country Information section. 

For more information regarding work visas, contact the nearest consulate or embassy of your target country. Visit for a complete directory of the world's embassies and consulates.

Working Holiday Visa (WHV)

A Working Holiday Visa is an agreement between Canada and another country that allows Canadian citizens to go to that country to work and travel. In turn, Canada allows citizens of that country to work and travel in Canada.
Most of these agreements are for the period of one year and often have an age limitation (generally 18-30).
Japan and France are popular countries for Canadians to teach English on the WHV.
To find out where Canada has WHV relationships, visit

Spousal Visa

A spousal visa allows applicants who are married to a citizen of another country to live and work in their spouse’s  country of origin, along with their dependents.

Working on a spousal visa depends on the country. For instance, if your spouse is Japanese, you can legally work in Japan on a spousal visa. In other countries, you may have to apply for a secondary working visa. If your spouse is also a foreigner, you will need to secure a separate working visa in most, if not all, countries.

Contact the nearest embassy or consulate to find out the exact requirements. Visit for a complete directory of the world's embassies and consulates.

Student or Tourist Visa

A tourist visa is used to travel to countries where you are taking a holiday or vacation.  This visa is used for short-term purposes. A student visa is used to travel to countries where you intend to study or participate in an exchange program.

It is possible to work on a student or tourist visa; however, this practice is illegal in most countries.

In Asia, many schools will ask you to come on a tourist visa, especially if there are time constraints involved. The school will secure you a work visa upon arrival. This practice may require you to do a visa run to a nearby country. If this is required, the school should be responsible for the cost. You should research this thoroughly prior to your departure.

In some countries (like those in Latin America), it is very difficult to obtain a working visa, so working on a tourist visa is common practice. Tourist visas are usually valid for about 90 days depending on the country that you are traveling to.

There are many downsides to this practice:

  • It is illegal and, if caught, a teacher can be fined and perhaps deported. In some countries the fine will be charged to the school.
  • You may be required to leave the country often (approximately every three months) to renew your visa; this is commonly known as a visa run.

To ensure you have all of your supporting documentation to teach and travel abroad, refer to the Preparing to Go Checklist for a complete list of things to consider prior to departure.