Articles for Teachers
I have been asked this question many times. There are pro and con views to both. If you have decided in which country you would like to teach, if you already have your TESOL qualification, and if you are ready to go, you should apply from home. Read on and you will discover a very important reason for doing that.
If you are not in a hurry, such as still working on your degree, and have the opportunity to take a vacation, I would highly recommend holidaying in the place you think you would like to teach - especially if you have never been to that part of the world, indeed, that country, before. This will give you a chance to check out the country, food, ease of travel, friendliness and helpfulness of the people as well as such things as accommodation, schools and availability of school resources (textbooks, CDs, e.g.). If you are getting close to being available to teach, you may even take your resume with you and go to see some schools. Some people fall in love with the area they are visiting and make an instant decision to stay there for one reason or another. Teaching is often the easiest way to do this, stay in the country legally and earn a living. Here, though, is where you have to be careful and this is the main reason why it is better to apply from home.
If you apply locally (such as while on vacation), the school may consider you as a 'local hire' and be reluctant to pay return airfare, settling in allowance, housing allowance and/or a contract completion bonus. You want to try for as many of these benefits as you can get in your contract because the value adds up. If the school is willing to pay for a trip home every year, or even every second year, this is a benefit well worth having. Airfares are often more than a month's salary (unless you are working in an international school). Once you have these benefits in your contract, they will form part of your renewal benefits as well. If you apply from home, it is much easier to negotiate these benefits into your contract.
Another reason for applying from home is that it is often easier to go through the visa process. For example, teachers going to Thailand, start by getting a 90-day non-immigrant B visa in their home country. This allows them to travel to Thailand and work as a teacher while their papers are processed locally. The school then has this converted to a one-year visa, obtains a teacher's license from the Ministry of Education and a Work Permit from the Department of Labor. It is a time consuming process. Schools with a number of foreign teachers on staff generally have a good working relationship with the various government departments and the process is quite painless. You may also need a letter from your local police department stating that you are not on America's Most Wanted or anybody else's list. Some countries, such as Thailand, insist on seeing your original diplomas and supporting documents. Here is another reason to apply from home since you are not likely to take these on vacation with you. South Korea, on the other hand, accepts copies of diplomas provided they have been certified by the nearest Korean Embassy or Consulate. Again, this is easier to do from home.
In summary, when you are ready, you are usually best to apply from home. Find out first exactly what you will need to take with you. Schools can tell you, or the local embassy or consulate, or the recruiter if you are using an agency. There is never a problem with having too much knowledge.
Dr. Robert Taylor has been teaching English in Thailand for close to ten years. He also teaches the online TESOL course for Sunbridge Institute of English http://www.teachesl.org