A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What documents do I need to have when applying for a TEFL job?

Should I send originals to the potential employer?

You will, of course, need a passport.  If you have earned a degree make sure you have it - and sealed (official) transcripts.

If you have taken any kind of TEFL training, have your certificate(s)/diploma(s) ready.  Prepare a good generic cover letter to change for each specific employer.  Keep copies of your resume handy as well.

Copies, not Originals

Employers will ask for your documents in the application process.  Try not to send originals, certainly not in the early stages.  There will be times once you are offered a position and have accepted it, when you may need to part with your originals. If at all possible, do not part with originals.  Send the copies.

Avoid Blackmail

Some potential employers may ask for your documents, pending your hire, and then significantly change their offer, once they have all your originals.  Some will claim to have "lost" your documents.  Don't allow yourself to get caught in such a situation. 

Every university and most TEFL schools will be happy to issue, for a reasonable fee - additional originals.  Order and keep spare copies of your transcripts as well (if you have a degree).  Sure, the cost adds up a bit - but you will never be stuck or held hostage by an employer.

I keep extra originals of everything.  Who knows?  I might have a couple job offers at one time some day, and take the one that really comes through.


Just my opinion - but never give your passport to anyone except an embassy or immigration official.  That said, there may be times when you might need to do so.  Just keep track of who has it, why, and how long it will be until you get it back.  When I worked in Saudi Arabia - it was standard for your employer to hold your passport.  Kind of weird and scary - but so it was.  You could either quit or give it to them.  I chose to give it to them and save some serious money for five years.

Other Documents

Such an odd array of things can be asked of you, that it is hard to completely prepare ahead of time.  You may be asked for a local police clearance (that you are not "wanted") or a wide variety of medical clearances (many of which you will just have to do again when you get there!).

Be patient, provide what they ask, it will all work out.  You won't be the first person to be scared or intimidated by the mountain of paperwork required.  Personally, I always wonder if I can get through all of it!  But I always do.


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