Can I get a work visa to teach English in Vietnam?

In recent years Vietnam has gone from being a possible teaching destination for the future to being a fully fledged TESOL hotspot that is attracting a growing number of teachers every year. First-time teachers, and those with some experience, are drawn to the country for a variety of different reasons including the strong demand for foreign teachers, a relatively low cost of living, competitive salaries, world famous cuisine, and the warm and friendly atmosphere that is evident wherever you go.

Who is eligible to legally teach English in Vietnam?

Although it was once possible to turn up in Vietnam and find a job teaching English with no qualifications and no experience, those days are firmly in the past. Government requirements and those of individual schools have become much stricter in recent times, leading to an increasingly professional approach from all concerned. While this might be inconvenient for some potential teachers, it is certainly good news for local students who can now expect to receive high quality English classes from teachers who have received real teacher training. The most important thing to be aware of from the start is that you will need to possess a university degree in order to work legally in Vietnam.

For information on salaries take a look at our post: How much can I earn teaching English in Vietnam.

What are the requirements for teaching English in Vietnam?

  • A university degree: As mentioned above, it is now a legal requirement to have a degree if you want to get hired as a teacher in Vietnam. Some schools might insist on it being in the field of education or the English language, however, most will be happy with a 4-year degree in any subject. During the application process they will expect to see the original degree and not just a copy.
  • TEFL certificate: Although it is not a legal requirement, the majority of schools across the country will expect their job applicants to have completed a reputable TESOL certification course. Some schools might still be OK without one, but these might not always be the best places to work.
  • Native English speaker: Once again, this is not an official requirement, but many schools will only hire native English speakers with a passport from certain countries such as the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
  • A valid passport: Your passport needs to be valid for a minimum of six months from the date you expect to start teaching. However, it is highly recommended that you have over a year left on your passport to avoid having to renew it while overseas.
  • Criminal background check: This needs to be from your home country or country of residence and has to be less than three years old.
  • Teaching experience: Most schools have no requirement in this area, although it can be required when applying for more professional schools that offer better deals to their staff and better levels of teaching for their students.

What visa will I need to teach English in Vietnam?

First things first, it is illegal to work in Vietnam on a tourist visa. Many people still try to go down this route and some schools are happy to let you do it. However, without the proper paperwork you are in real danger of being exploited by your employer as you will have no legal standing if something goes wrong. It is all too common for teachers in this situation to be fired without notice or reason, or to have their final paycheck held back. Of course, it is not just problems with your employer that you have to worry about. Working illegally means you are always in danger of being found out, which can lead to all manner of problems with the authorities.

In order to work legally you first need to apply for a business visa and then a work permit. How you go about this is determined by whether you secure your teaching job before you arrive in the country or after arrival. If you land a job before arrival, your employer will help you with the 3-month business visa application that you can then enter the country with. Once in Vietnam, the employer can apply for your work permit which can take some time to go through. However, it is fine to start work while you are waiting for the permit to be processed.

If you plan to arrive in the country first and then look for work it means you get to visit the schools and meet potential employers before committing to a contract. However, it also means that you will arrive on a 30-day tourist visa that doesn’t give you enough time to find a job and then get the business visa that you need. In this case you will most likely have to leave the country at some stage and then return on a fresh 30-day tourist visa as they cannot be extended from within the country. Although this might seem a little complicated, it is common practice and will not affect your chances of getting the job you want in the location of your choice.

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