Sunday, 27 January 2013



To work overseas, you need the right documentation. Well, it’s logical, innit? You can’t have every Tom, Dick, and Harry wandering into the country and getting a job, now can you? There’s just one small problem here. Many a host country just doesn’t want to issue you with the right documentation. Why is that I wonder? I have two theories about it. One, the authorities resent seeing expatriates earning far bigger money than the locals. Two, by making the red tape required to secure a work permit or resident permit as arduous and complicated as possible, the applicant will be willing to shell out tons of moolah in order to get it done. Moolah which goes towards the bureaucrat’s down-payment on a new motorbike.

Some of the bigger and better schools will assist with teacher documentation, employing a full-time Documentation Person to get it done. All the teacher needs to do is provide copies of CV, references, qualifications, health clearances, police clearances, birth certificates, parents’ birth certificates, pets’ birth certificates, milkman’s birth certificate…. Oh, and don’t forget to get all those documents verified, authenticated, validated, stamped and translated. That’s a sworn translation, thank you very much.

If your school doesn’t provide documentation assistance, then it’s up to you to untangle the red tape and jump through all the hoops to get yourself legal. My advice? Don’t bother. It’s a sure path to stress, frustration, sleepless nights and eventual dementia and insanity. No, instead of that, work without a work permit. That’s what most teachers do. It may be easier said than done in much of Europe, the Mid-East and China, but elsewhere it’s par for the course. It’s said that in Brazil 95% of the expat teachers there are working on tourist visas. Now there’s a chance, a very remote chance, that your school will be chosen as a scapegoat in a documentation crackdown, but like I say, that’s pretty unlikely. Every now and then the newspapers will announce an imminent crackdown on illegal workers. If you miss it in the papers, you’ll see your boss working himself into a lather, or hear about it from troubled fellow-teachers. In the Asian country where I currently work, there have been five much-heralded crackdowns announced in the past five years. Not one of them has affected me an iota. I’m still happily employed sans paperwork. As are 90% of my fellow-teachers. The sole reason for the threatened crackdowns is to up the ante on the bribe money that school managements or permit applicants have to pay.

Work permit? Schmirk permit!


My new book, EFL minus the B.S., has a country-by-country break-down of countries you can teach EFL in, and also includes chapters on Documentation, Management and Mismanagement, and Applying for a Job. EFL minus the B.S. is available on Amazon as of next month.

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