Teach English in Europe without an EU passport

To teach English in Europe is a popular dream for would-be English teachers all over the world. Graduates in America, Australia etc. imagine themselves wandering the streets of Madrid and Paris, visiting churches in Rome, hiking the Alps and riding a train through the capitals of Eastern Europe.

Becoming an English teacher in Europe is one way to realise that dream, but people from outside the EU are often disappointed to be hit with the red tape of visa requirements. TEFL jobs in Europe often ask for EU passports, because there are restrictions on employment.

Schools can employ someone from the EU without work permits or visas, whereas to employ a TEFL teacher in Europe without an EU passport takes a lot of time, paperwork and expense. Schools need to prove that there isn’t an EU citizen that can do the job, which for English teaching, is difficult to do. This means that it’s very hard to get employed by schools this way in many countries. 

There are many other places you can teach English, which our post on how to decide where to teach abroad will tell you.

All is not lost though. There are various different ways to get TEFL jobs in Europe without an EU passport. Here are some real stories.

Pinterest graphic for teaching English in Europe without an EU passport

Teach English in Europe on a Language Assistant Program

A popular way to teach English in Europe if you don’t have an EU passport is to join one of the many Language Assistant Schemes. The most popular place to do this is Spain. Darin Rickert tells us more.

Photo of Darren leaning over a fence in Spain where he teaches English in the EU

Spain is currently one of the best countries to teach English in Europe. It has a low cost of living and there is an abundance of opportunities. If you are a non-EU citizen, your best bet will be to apply to one of the Language Assistant Programs, in which they place you in public schools.

If you are looking to make money as a TEFL teacher in Europe, Madrid is where you want to be. You get paid 1000€/month and work 16 hours/week and there are lots of opportunities to get extra classes making 20€/hour or more. If you are looking for more of an authentic Spanish experience, then you will want to look in other regions of Spain – especially the north. You will only make 700€/month and work 12 hours/week, but there will be plenty of opportunities for private lessons and your costs of living will be lower. Both options include very good medical insurance!

How To Apply to teach English in Europe on a language assistant program in Spain

The Spanish Department of Education, Culture and Sports is the institution that oversees the program. That might be a good place to start perusing information. Already know you are applying? Then there is a separate website for the application. It is pretty standard protocol. Just enter your information. There are a few extra things you have to do like upload a photo of your degree/transcript, write a letter of intent and get a letter of recommendation. I honestly have no clue if they even look at that stuff, but you need those things uploaded in their corresponding spots.

How to get a visa for the Language Assistant Program in Spain

You will technically be on a student visa because that is the easiest option for both the Spanish government and for you. Therefore, your compensation is viewed as a non-taxable grant rather than a salary (even though it is pretty good money for the hours that you’re working). The process looks daunting at first, but if you break it down step by step and quickly accomplish the things you can easily do right away (like making a photocopy of your passport), then you can narrow your checklist down to the bigger things like getting the background check and the Apostille. Once you have all the required documents, it is important to make a visa appointment and schedule a flight.

Unfortunately, Spain requires you to actually go to the consulate instead of submitting the documents through the mail. You will have to find where your regional consulate is. It is most likely located in the biggest city near you, but this can occasionally be a couple states away for some people. In about 4 weeks you will receive your visa. From that point you are good to go. You will just need to obtain your residency card within your first month upon arrival.

Conclusion

It is a rather standard process of applying to the program, getting your visa and then enjoying your experience teaching English in Spain. I have a lot more detailed information on my website about applying, the visa, the residency card and everything else you need to know about Spain on my website – darinrickert.com. I have been to all 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities and I have lived in a few different parts of Spain. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

“Lo mejor está por llegar”

Photo of mountains in Spain to illustrate TEFL in Europe without an EU passport

You can find more about teaching English in Europe on the various language assistant schemes in Spain in our blog post.

Teaching English in Bulgaria on a US Government Grant

Another type of TEFL job in Europe if you don’t have an EU passport is a US Government grant program. Lindsey Mickles, from the USA, is currently teaching English in Bulgaria this way.

Photo of Lindsey teaching English without an EU passport in Plovdiv Bulgaria

I’ve been teaching English in Plovdiv, Bulgaria for a little over five months now and it has been a great experience thus far. I teach at a foreign language high school here in Plovdiv and it has been an absolutely fantastic experience. My time here is sponsored by a government grant and I highly recommend Plovdiv to those who are considering TEFL jobs in Europe.

I learned about the grant to teach English in Europe through a US government exchange website. The application process is quite competitive and starts each autumn. You must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent by the time the grant starts. I submitted my application and essays in September 2016, was interviewed in March, was notified that I was accepted in April, and started my in-country orientation in September 2017. If you are a US Citizen and would and are thinking about applying for one of the educational exchange programs, be sure to start early!

One of the things I love most about teaching in Plovdiv, Bulgaria is the high English level of my students. I fully know that I am at one of the top language schools in the country, but, there is a staggering difference compared with my experiences teaching in Asia. My challenge here is to create lessons that challenge my students enough. It is an interesting, welcome change and I am having a fantastic time with my bright students.

There are many things to like about teaching in Bulgaria, but a few things to consider as well. Pollution is high in this country, and you may have some difficulty during the winter as coal and wood is often burned to heat homes. In addition, approaches to classroom management, mental health, behavioral disorders, and social issues might be quite different than what you are used to in your home country. Be sure to read up a lot on this country’s rich and complicated history and culture, remain open-minded, and you’ll settle in just fine.

Plovdiv national dress dancing while Teaching English in Plovdiv Bulgaria,

Thinking of teaching English in Bulgaria? Feel free to read more and contact me through my blog at http://theneverendingwanderlust.com.

TEFL in Europe without an EU passport by working online 

Stef, from Canada, is teaching English in Europe without an EU passport by teaching online for VIPID. This means she can live and work in Spain and other countries in Europe.

Photo of Stef, Teaching English in Europe as a non-EU citizen as an online English teacher

I’m a Canadian ESL Teacher who’s always dreamed of working abroad. After teaching in Asia and South America I was introduced to the world of online teaching. I thought, “What a great idea! I’ll be able to teach from anywhere in the world at my leisure. All I need is secure Internet and I’m set.”

I work for a company called VIPKID based in Beijing, China. I started working for this company while living in Sevilla, Spain. The teaching hours are 6-10pm Beijing time, which is great for Spain (my hours were 10am-2pm). I then had the rest of the day to explore Sevilla and even plan a few day trips. I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of teaching online. I’m able to make my own hours and control my time. If I want to go away for a long weekend all I have to do is close off my availability for those days. I’ve done this a few times now and was able to see other parts of Southern Spain and Portugal.

VIPKID is a good company to work for. They’re reliable, pay $8-10 US/class; classes are 25 minutes long ($16-20 US/hour). The program is set up very well with a one-to-one learning environment. A webcam is used to allow you and the student to see each other and the other half of the screen is the lesson for the day. Lessons are prepared for you, which you review before class. VIPKID deals with children aged 4-14, so it’s very interactive and playful using props, gestures, songs and expressions.

VIPKID accepts teachers with online TEFL certificates. Find out which we recommend in our post on the best online TEFL courses.

Being a Canadian and wanting to work online as a TEFL teacher in Europe can be challenging when it comes to visas. Canadians are allowed a 90-day tourist visa under the Schengen agreement. There are 26 countries in the EU in the Schengen zone, which can make it tricky. However, countries like Croatia, Bulgaria and the UK are a few which aren’t included.

This just means, do your research and spend the following 3 months in one of these countries. After 3 months, you’re allowed back into the Schengen zone. For myself, I find an AirBnB (reliable Internet) for 1 month, see how I like it and either stay longer or move onto a new place. Having to leave the Schengen zone after 3 months and going to a country like Croatia for some time isn’t too bad!

Teaching English in Europe as a non EU citizen 2


Europe can be expensive, so it’s about finding affordable housing and living within your means. Take advantage of free walking tours, try to do things independently, cook at home etc. All of these are ways I’ve cut down my costs but still been able to afford living here while teaching online.

VIPKID pays monthly, so as long as you budget yourself right you should be fine. A downfall with VIPKID is that it is a slow process to building up a regular schedule. Your first six weeks you may only be teaching a few classes while parents and students become comfortable with the new teacher. Patience is vital. VIPKID also only hires North American passport holders. However, with the increase in online teaching there are many companies to choose from!

Getting a work visa to teach English in Europe

While many countries in Western Europe have restrictions on who they can employ, others in Central and Eastern Europe can be easier. There are non-EU citizens teaching legally in Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, to name a few.

In our post on Teaching English in Slovakia, Kerri, who teaches in Bratislava told us about how to do it as a non-EU citizen.

We teach in Ukraine, which is outside the EU and therefore possible for non-EU citizens. Read more in our guide to Teaching English in Ukraine.

Another option is Russia, which again requires everyone to get a work visa, regardless of passport. Tim, who teaches there, tells us the pros and cons of Teaching English in Russia.

Hopefully, these stories have given you some inspiration on how to get a TEFL job in Europe without an EU passport. If you are interested in other countries, including Vietnam and China, see our other Country Guides.

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4 Responses

  1. Kavita says:

    Interested. If get chance

  2. Johan says:

    Good morning,

    Thank you for your insight and willingness to share your experience and expertise.

    We are a South African couple, both Tesol and Tefl qualified and undergraduates with Siam International Bangkok and in the process of completing our BATESOL degrees.

    We have a year in classroom experience in South East Asia, Thailand and Vietnam, varying from Kindergarten English homeroom teachers, general and business communication teachers to being lecturers in train the teachers projects for the Vietnam department of education and desperately seeking to build a secure future outside of South Africa.

    We feel desperate and stuck in a moment to secure employment contracts whilst completing our degrees.

    Any help or advise through your fast experience would be highly appreciated.

    Sincere South African greetings

    Teachers Johan and Marius

    • KateandKris says:

      Hi Guys, feel free to send us a message through Facebook.
      If you are looking at Europe, then the academic year is September to June, so the best time to look for work is April/May. Look at our post on language assistant programs in Spain and see if that fits for you.

  3. Graciela says:

    Thanks! Absolutely useful! I want to add that Andalusia is an excelent place to live with plenty of opportunities to teach English. Moreover, the cost of living in the South is much lower than the North.

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