Many native speakers of English are considering a fulfilling career as language educators in Asia. This is not surprising at all, given the high demand for ESL/EFL (English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language) teachers in the thriving economies of the region and the reeling job market at home. In fact, quite a number of people from the US, UK, Australia, and other English-speaking countries have already made the decision to leave their home nations and seek more satisfying careers elsewhere in Asia.
There are additional benefits to teaching English to Asian learners on top of the generally decent monetary compensation. The experience of living in exotic locations and becoming personally immersed in distinctive socio-cultural environments are bonuses that can be worth much more than the financial aspects of the arrangement.
If you intend to teach English in an Asian city or town, you may do so as a short-term digression from your usual career just to try out the unique experience, or you may decide to come on board for the long haul. If that's the case, securing permanent residency status in the particular country in which you wish to teach will be a priceless advantage that you should diligently pursue.
Different Asian countries impose different sets of requirements on foreigners seeking permanent residency status. Most offer work visas to individuals who are specialists in a designated area, and these work visas can lead to residency. Teaching is one of these specialist jobs for which nearly every Asian country will issue a work visa. Some countries even have their own work visas strictly for teaching.
When you go as a teacher, you can stay as long as your work visa is valid (as with any country and any career). Additionally, many opt into other careers after having relocated as a teacher, since the process of obtaining a work visa is then much easier. This also allows for a local job search once in country.
NOTE: If your goal is to gain permanent residency in an Asian country, there are several ways to do so in each jurisdiction. For example, you'll notice in many of the countries below, one way to get residency is to marry someone and become a citizen. HOWEVER, if that is the only reason for the marriage, it is considered a crime. In most cases, you must contribute to the society of your new country and show "financial stability," which usually means having a job and/or money. Each country defines these terms in their own way and on a case-by-case basis. If you do intend on getting residency in any of the countries below, do your own due diligence and enlist the services of a professional who can help you.
Based on my experience and research, I have compiled the following list of Asian countries where demand for ESL/EFL educators is high.
As of this writing, these are the basic guidelines for gaining permanent residency status in each of these countries. More specific details may be obtained by researching the immigration agency of the particular country in which you have an interest (see Editor's Note below).
This small but oil-rich country is located on the island of Borneo. ESL and EFL teachers who wish to relocate to this welcoming and peaceful state will be living just a stone's throw away from rainforests and the sea. The population is small with an active expatriate community of Brits and Aussies as well as a sprinkling of other Western groups. The sultanate government actively seeks native English speakers to educate the public.
The following persons of foreign nationalities may apply for permanent residency status:
A woman who has been married to a Bruneian citizen for at least two years and who has been residing in Brunei for at least the same amount of time
A woman who has been married to a man with a Permanent Residency status for at least five years and who has been residing in Brunei for at least the same amount of time
A man who is married to a Bruneian citizen
A child at least two years old and living in Brunei for at least the same period and whose mother is a Bruneian citizen
A child at least two years and six months old and living in Brunei for at least the same period and whose father is a permanent resident
- Investors and professionals who contribute to the country's economy
To become a permanent resident of Brunei, foreigners must first secure an International Certificate of Identity (ICI), which requires the following documents:
1. Original and a copy of Identity Card
2. Original and a copy of the birth certificate
3. Original and a copy of the Resident Permit
4. Three passport-sized photos
5. Copy of the passport
In addition to opening up its economy, China is also widening its doors for the entry of tourists, investors, and professionals who wish to contribute to and profit from its fast-paced development. English teachers, in particular, are in demand due to the preference of the growing middle class to have their children tutored by native English speakers.
Foreigners who intend to acquire permanent residency in China must follow Chinese laws, as well as acquire medical certification and relevant law enforcement clearances. The following foreign nationals may apply for residency:
An investor who has directly infused funds into a local company and has been doing favorable business in the country for more than three years
A professional who has assumed any of the following positions, has good revenue records and who has been living in China for at least three years:
- Assistant general manager
- Factory director
- Associate professor
- Assistant researcher
A person recognized by the government as one who rendered exceptional and outstanding contributions or service to China
The spouse and unmarried children (less than 18 years old) of persons that meet the qualifications of numbers 1, 2, or 3
- A person married to a Chinese citizen or a permanent resident for more than five years and who is living in China for at least 9 months in a year. The person should have a guaranteed source of livelihood
Note that individuals who wish to maintain permanent residency status should stay in China at least three months in a year or at least one year in five. Otherwise the status will be revoked.
The exotic culture, cosmopolitan cities, advanced technology and natural wonders of Japan make it an excellent choice for individuals who intend to teach English as a second or foreign language. While there is still a recession, the demand for qualified English teachers is significant, and enterprising professionals can still reap the rewards of working in Japan.
Gaining permanent resident status in Japan, however, is not easy. Unless a foreigner is a spouse of a Japanese citizen or has contributed greatly to Japanese society, a foreigner must exhibit lawful behavior, possess sufficient assets or abilities, and reside in Japan for at least ten consecutive years. This time frame is reduced if one meets the following requirements:
- Marry a Japanese and stay married for at least five years
- Secure a certification from a Japanese employer to show that you have a steady job
- Provide an annual earnings form to show that you possess financial stability
- Provide a family register form that indicates your relationships with your spouse and your dependents
- Fill out additional government forms and pay tax stamps and other associated fees
The author, Michael G. Hines, is an educator living in Thailand with 10+ years teaching abroad experience. He is also the owner of Icon Group Thailand, a group of ESL websites offering a wealth of teaching abroad information for English teachers, schools and students around the world, with a focus on Asia: Total ESL, TEFL Jobs Overseas, ESL Articles, ESL Space, ESL Newsletter
For further information regarding the specific immigration rules of each country covered today, you may want to visit these sites: