Work visa Search Associates ANZ image of passport front coverWHAT IS A WORK VISA?

Ready to work abroad? This step-by-step guide will help you understand the work visa application process and make it as smooth as possible. Work visas are for persons who want to enter a country for employment lasting a fixed period of time. These are not considered permanent or indefinite. They require a prospective employer to sponsor an applicant.

Each country has unique regulations when it comes to issuing valid working visas. Often, you apply for a working visa through the government in your home country, for the country in which you intend to work. How one country will treat its foreign workers is often reciprocated. For example, if Australia does not have a visa arrangement with citizens from Malaysia, then Malaysia may not offer visas for Australians.

To learn more regarding work visas, contact the nearest consulate or the embassy of your target country.

Will I need one?

Yes! It would be great to just turn up at an airport overseas and stay as long as you like. All countries however, have strict border controls. They regulate entry depending on whether you are a citizen, a tourist, or you have the approval to work.  Note: If you are lucky enough to have relatives from the EU and you have an EU passport, schools in Europe may find it easier to employ you.

How do I get one?

In general, to apply for a working visa 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, (possibly your marriage certificate)
  • another form of identification,
  • two passport-size photos,
  • and a fee

Some documents may need to be authenticated, and possibly translated, so keep this in mind and start the process as early as possible.

How long will it take?

Working visas can take anywhere from one day to several months to process. Long wait times have been experienced during the pandemic and vary from country to country.

What is a TOURIST VISA?Work visa Search Associates ANZ South East Asian outdoor food stall

A tourist visa is used to travel for the purpose of a short-term holiday or vacation. In Asia, some schools may 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.  You should not be overly concerned about this but do make sure you understand and are willing to accept what is involved if the school mentions this possibility.

There are downsides to this practice to be aware of:

It may be legal with a time limit, or might not be fully legal but widely accepted, and in rare cases, if caught, a teacher can be fined and perhaps deported.

You may be required to leave the country very briefly, one or more times (approximately every three months) to renew your visa; this is commonly known as a visa run. If this is required, the school should be responsible for the cost.

In some countries (like some 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 you are traveling to.

Work visa Search Associates ANZ businessman giving the thumbs up

Do your due diligence

Within each country, there may also be regional inconsistencies in visa enforcement. Because policies can suddenly change it’s always best, before accepting an offer, to ask questions about work visa requirements and specifically, pre-verifying your work-visa qualifications. Make sure to check with the recruiter making the offer to see if they anticipate any visa challenges. The school should be making you an offer on the basis that they are sure there will be no visa issues. You should also ask if you will have to pay for your own visa or if the school will reimburse you for it.

Consult your associate

It is important to remember that there are a very wide variety of international schools around the world. Search Associates probably register around 10% of the total number of schools that call themselves ‘international’. Even though Search registered schools represent the top end of the spectrum, there are still considerable variations in the quality of the schools you may be considering. The combined knowledge of the various members of the Search Associates team regarding international schools around the world is extensive and, wherever it is possible, we advise you to contact your associate for advice regarding schools/offers you are considering BEFORE you make a final decision. It is part of our service to help you find a school that is a good fit for you.

The pandemic created a whole new set of rules regarding the issuing of work visas. What was normal practice in many countries has now become more complicated. Consistent dialogue with your new employer is crucial in ensuring a smooth transition overseas. Generally, the school that hires you will do as much as it can, and will give you instructions on what needs to be done by you, but it is essential that you take all necessary actions within the time frame outlined by the school.


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