6 things expat teachers must find out before saying YES to moving abroad!

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

The decision to move abroad and teach has completely changed my life. It has allowed me to experience a brand new culture, achieve rapid career progression, make lifelong friends, travel extensively, and save over €164,000+ to date. Therefore, my mission is to empower all future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially empowered lives! Before accepting any teaching job abroad, here is my list of 6 things you must find out before saying yes...

1.What is the teaching package like?

DO NOT accept a job until you’ve seen the contract- that’s perfectly normal here and you can’t say yes to a 2-year commitment without knowing all the nitty gritty details! Once you get the contract, read it carefully and see if it is an ideal teaching package.

  • a good international teaching package should include: 

  • a competitive salary.

  • furnished accommodation or a housing allowance, which varies depending on your status, i.e. single, married, or with dependents (children). 

  • medical insurance (check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children).

  • visa costs (check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children).

  • an annual flight allowance, including your flights at the beginning and end of your contract (again check if it is just for you or for your spouse and/or children). I have heard of some schools only offering one return flight (at the beginning and end of your contract) and not each year (which is the norm here), so check your contract carefully!

Some packages include: 

  • shipping and/or baggage allowance.


  • check how long the probationary period is. In this time, your contract can be terminated if the school feels you are not meeting their expectations, so it is important to be aware of the timeframe.

  • note how much notice you must give your employer if you decide to resign.

2. If you have children, does the school provide free places for them?

Schools abroad used to always provide free school places for up to two dependents (sometimes three!) or a tuition allowance if your dependents cannot attend the school where you work (e.g. in the case of Dubai’s Ministry of Education schools and other government/public schools that are attended only by local or other Arabic-speaking pupils). However, as some schools are now run as businesses, this cannot be taken for granted any more, so please always check with the school before accepting the job. School fees are sky high, so you really need this help from your school employer. Otherwise, it really wouldn’t be worth your while coming out here in terms of financial gain.

3. How can I research the school to find out what it is really like?

I cannot stress how vital research is because there are so many schools around the world, all with different ways of treating teachers. If the school has issues, you need to know about them beforehand, so you can make a fully informed decision. You can do this by:

  • Googling the school name + reviews /employee reviews to see what you might find! 

  • Asking current expat teachers general questions on the Empowering Expat Teachers private FB group – join here!

  • Checking the comprehensive (and free!) Dave’s ESL Cafe International Job Forums to get honest reviews about schools all around the world.

  • For schools in the UAE, joining the Dubai Teachers’ Network, Brits in Dubai, and the Dubai Irish Exchange FB groups, to see recent teaching vacancies, as well as a place to ask about different schools.

  • Becoming a paid member of the International Schools Review or the International School Community to see how past and current teachers rate their workplace.

  • Using the Which School Advisor website and their sister site Schools Compared to find out about schools in the UAE.

  • Remember that the teacher review websites like Dave’s ESL Café International Job Forums, the International Schools Review (ISR), and the International School Community (ISC) host teachers’ opinions of the schools and its working conditions. Remember that these are subjective, so do not necessarily take one negative review as being reflective of every teacher’s experience there. Check out a few of the other options above before making a fully informed decision.

4. What is the nationality of the majority of the students?

If the majority of students at your school abroad are British, Irish, American, Australian and/or other speakers of English as a First Language, you can continue teaching as you normally would in your home country. However, if most of your learners are local and/ or speakers of English as a Second Language, you will definitely have to adapt your teaching to cater for their language needs. Most likely, you will be a language teacher first and a subject teacher second. Would this suit your teaching style, strengths, & priorities? 

5. Where is the exact location of the school?

Always double-check the exact location of the school by Google mapping it! Some schools abroad claim to be in a central part of a city, but are actually quite a commute away, especially with traffic. I would also recommend asking about the location on the supportive Facebook groups I mention in No.3. If the school provides accommodation, I advise you to ask for its exact location too, so you can use Google Maps to gauge your daily commute each day.

6. Which documents do you have to get attested in order to get the work visa?

One vital part of the process is getting your documents legalised and attested for your school abroad. You need to complete this process before you arrive to your new country, in order to get an employment visa. It involves getting them legalised (verified and stamped) by a relevant authority in your own country (e.g. the Foreign Commonwealth Office in the UK) to confirm that they are genuine. Then you bring/ send the legalised documents to the relevant embassy, where they will be endorsed/ attested. These documents include:

  • Your undergraduate degree

  • Your teaching certification

  • Some schools abroad also ask for the legalisation and attestation of:

  • Your Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT certificate)

  • Your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) certificate

  • Your birth cert

  • Your marriage cert

  • Your postgraduate degree

  • Your background check (e.g. in the UK, there is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, previously called the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks or an Irish Police Certificate)

Always find out the exact documents required by your school, because this process isn’t cheap, and you don’t want to waste money unnecessarily legalising and attesting documents. Some documents should be first authenticated by a solicitor or notarised by a Notary Public before legalisation and attestation. This may or may not be the case for you, so check with your school.

I hope these tips help and don’t forget you can join Sorcha's supportive Empowering Expat Teachers FB group and follow Sorcha on her blog and Instagram

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