Visa regulations are never static. As the world continues to grapple with political or terror attacks and refugees and immigration woes, it’s not uncommon to find national securities across nations tightening their grips. But, what does this all mean for TEFL teachers abroad? One—it kind of sucks and can be a big source of stress. There’s just no getting around it (but we’re still 1000% confident that it will all be worth it once you’re living your glamorous life abroad). Two—it means more regulations—including the legalization or “authentication” of your TEFL certificate/degree.
Long gone are the days where a basic passport and/or other birth-related documents could be used to solidify your teaching visa in powerhouses like China (Z visa) and Vietnam. Governments like these want even more proof of—and confidence in—your compliance with their laws. Luckily, for motivated teachers abroad, the steps needed to do this are pretty straightforward. Like any red tape though, the process is still victim to government bureaucracy and grey areas (AKA you need time to thoroughly and accurately jump through the hoops).
At Premier TEFL, we’re all about making teaching abroad accessible to more people. That’s why we’re here to dispel the myths—once and for all—as well as give you confidence in legalization your TEFL documents.
What do you mean by “legalization” and “authentication?”
These days, you can print just about anything off the internet and try to pass it off as “proof.” This is great news for students keen to buy beers while underage, but bad news for governments trying to legitimize skills sets of foreign workers entering their country.
To “legalize” or “authenticate” your qualifications, you will take additional steps to justify the legitimacy of the documents themselves. This includes, but is not limited to:
1. Requesting your criminal background check (if necessary)
USA citizens – $18
Canadian citizens – $25
UK citizens – £25
Ireland citizens – Free of charge
Australian citizens – $42
New Zealand citizens – Free of charge
South African citizens – R114
*Prices updated March 2018
2. Arranging your document to be notarized by a local Public Notary or Solicitor
3. Do you need proof of no criminal activities? Be sure to notarize your background check (from step 1), too.
4. Send to the people with the Apostille stamp! (More on that later, and only if it is required in your teach abroad destination)
5. Go the Embassy with your shiny, freshly legitimized documents and (hopefully!) be issued your visa! Or, use a reliable company to offer this service.
What’s not obvious from that short-list of steps is the time that it can take to complete each of them. We cannot emphasize enough the need for you to budget time to complete this process!
What is an Apostille stamp?
An “apostille stamp” is basically a fancy way of saying “internationally notarized” versus simply notarized.
Understanding the Apostille stamp is important if you are planning to teach abroad in any countries that were not party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents (AKA the Apostille Convention / the Apostille Treaty). A list of countries that attended the convention can be found here. If you are planning on teaching abroad in China (on the Z visa) or Saudi Arabia, for instance, you will need to complete this additional step, whereas ESL teachers in, say, Chile or Taiwan, will not.
Fortunately, getting an Apostille stamp is a pretty quick and easy process in most countries, and we can help you locate your local resource to do so.
Who / what is a Notary Public?
A Notary Public is the guy/gal who is authorized to perform certain legal formalities, such as certifying documents. Often they are solicitors/lawyers and in most towns you’ll find notary services available. For many ESL teachers wanting to work abroad, you will need to submit papers to your local notary to confirm that your qualifications are not forged or fake.
What documents might I need to authenticate before teaching abroad?
Depending on where you’d like to teach abroad—and sometimes depending on the school placement itself—a variety of documents will have notary requests. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Your degree
- Your police record/criminal background check
- Your TEFL certificate
Keep in mind that getting notarized comes at a cost—and that you’ll need to cover these independently of your other expenses as you prepare to teach abroad.
How it works with Premier TEFL
Legalization of documents must be done in the country where the document originates. For regular Premier TEFL certificates, this is Ireland, and we can provide the service of certificate issuing plus authentication by Irish Notary Public and worldwide postage. In most cases, this does the trick. Happy dance!
However, it’s important to understand what exactly is required of you to obtain visa approval. For example, in China and Vietnam, due to a recent change in regulations, a TEFL certificate must now be authenticated by a government body. In this case, we would arrange a TQUK endorsed certificate (from our accrediting body) or through our training partner based in English, ie. issued in the UK, which would be authenticated at the Chinese/Vietnamese Consulate in London.
That might feel like a lot to take in, so please don’t forget to call us if you’re ever in any doubt.
The great news is that if you need your TEFL certificate authenticated; we’re here to help — and it can all be done from the comfort of your home (no need to change out of your jammies). Whether legalization needs to happen in the UK or Ireland, either our team will personally offer the service in Ireland OR there are a long list of companies offering this service in the UK. We personally (and confidently) recommend the following:
All academic documents require solicitor certification, this includes degrees.
Some police checks do require solicitor certification, this includes Disclosure Scotland and DBS, whereas NPCC ACRO certificates do not require solicitor certification as they have already been signed by someone of high enough legal standing.
We can handle the legalization for you for the small admin charge of £20. Phew, you can relax!
- TIME IS YOUR FRIEND!! You need TIME to get your paperwork in order—do not leave it to the last minute. Four weeks should be the bare minimum budgeted to complete this process.
- USE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS. Copies just ain’t gonna cut it when it comes to notarizing—you need your original certificate/document handy.
- IT IS COSTLY, BUT YOU CAN PLAN FOR THIS. As you budget your teach abroad start-up costs, just be sure to factor in ~100-200 extra pounds/euros/dollars for any hiccups that arise such as these. If you also require a work visa/permit, budget for this.
- RELAX. We know they’re not fake, you know they’re not fake. The notarizer is sure to also recognize your TEFL and related documents as legitimate. Just budget for money and time spent and you’ll be well on your way to the classroom in no time.
Ready to teach abroad?
Power down your Netflix. Uhh… we see you switching it to Hulu. No. Close your laptop, shut off your television and get to work on notarizing your documents to teach abroad. Just a few more steps and you’ll be the next Mr. Feeny in no time.