Working Visas for TEFL Teachers
While many schools promise a ‘working visa’ to new teachers, sometimes they don’t deliver.
When a school brings on a new teacher they should provide legal working papers. However, there is a cost incurred every time a school processes a new working visa – the direct cost of the visa as well as the manpower allocated to this sometimes-lengthy process. That being said, schools often times will wait until after the mid-year break before processing visa paperwork.
The main reason for schools holding off on providing new teachers with a ‘working visa’ is two-fold. One, they want to make sure that their new teacher is going to be a good fit. They don’t want to invest in a teacher who just isn’t performing. Two, they want to make sure the new teacher is committed to staying with them. Teachers break contract all too often, which leads to the school hemorrhaging money.
The good news is that many countries have extended ‘tourist visas.’ Countries like Thailand and Indonesia offer renewable ‘tourist visas’ that can be renewed on a monthly or bi-monthly basis for extended periods. Thailand offers double-entry visas that are good for 60 days at a time with a 30-day in-country renewal following that period – for an additional fee, of course. This amounts to 6 months in country and you only need to exit the once.
There is a legitimate legal loophole in Thailand. If the school is “processing” the paperwork, you aren’t doing anything illegal. Even if the process takes half of the academic year it’s not your fault. The school is the only entity at risk of repercussions if the issue is pushed.
Leaving the country to renew a visa is very easy. If you’re living in/near Bangkok, you can take a bus to Cambodia to renew your tourist visa. If you’re living in/near Chiang Mai, you can take a quick bus ride to Burma. In either country you can renew for 15 days or activate your second entry (if you have a double-entry visa.) Here is a site with bus information: http://www.1stopchiangmai.com/getting_here.
Thailand requires going to a Thai embassy to apply for another double-entry visa. If you’re already in country, most people go to Laos. This option requires a 24-hour processing period but will result in, essentially, 6 more months of legal stay.
Don’t worry too much if you’re working without an actual ‘working visa’ for a bit. This is commonplace throughout SE Asia and I’ve never heard of anyone being deported or jailed. However, don’t let the school lead you on for more than the first term. After that you really should demand that they get moving on this!