Recruit teachers from overseas

How schools can hire teachers who are not UK or Irish nationals and get help using a Department for Education (DfE) programme.

What will change from 1 January 2021

The UK will introduce a points-based immigration system from 1 January 2021 which will change how you employ teachers who are not UK or Irish nationals. All overseas nationals arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021, including those from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, will come under the UK’s points-based immigration system. Immigration routes will open later in 2020 for applications to live, work and study in the UK from 1 January 2021. Employers can prepare for these changes now.

Irish citizens will continue to be able to enter, work and study in the UK as they do now.

Teachers from outside the EEA and Switzerland may already need a visa to work in the UK. They can check if they need a visa under the current immigration system.

Recruit by becoming a visa sponsor

Skilled Worker visa

Overseas teachers can apply for a Skilled Worker visa under the following conditions:

  • you as the employer are a licensed Home Office employer sponsor and have offered the overseas teacher a teaching job
  • the overseas teacher can speak, read, write and understand English
  • your role pays at least £20,480 or the relevant minimum rate for teachers in England, whichever is higher (minimum rates for teachers are on the Get into Teaching website) - if you work part time, pro-rata rates will apply as long as you earn at least £20,480 a year

Become a licensed sponsor

You need a sponsor licence to hire a teacher from overseas on a Skilled Worker visa.

You can be the employing local authority, multi-academy trust or school to hold the sponsor licence.

If you are already a licensed sponsor, you will automatically be granted a licence under the points-based immigration system.

You can check if you are already a licensed sponsor. You can become a licensed sponsor by following this step by step guidance. This guidance covers further information about being a sponsor, including your responsibilities.

Recruit without becoming a sponsor

Graduate visa

The Graduate visa will be available from summer 2021 to international students who have successfully completed their degree in the UK and been sponsored by a Home Office licensed student sponsor. This includes certain postgraduate courses such as initial teacher training at universities.

Those on a Graduate visa will be able to study, work or look for work in the UK at any skill level without a sponsor for up to 2 years after completing their studies (3 years for PhD students). This includes working as a teacher.

Teachers on a Graduate visa will be able to apply to switch to another visa route such as the Skilled Worker visa without having to leave the UK if they meet the requirements for the other visa route.

Youth Mobility Scheme visa

This type of visa lasts for up to 2 years and is for young people aged 18 to 30 who have certain types of British nationality or are from certain countries. Teachers can work on this visa without a sponsoring employer.

Teachers on a Youth Mobility Scheme visa may be able to apply to switch to another visa route (such as the Skilled Worker visa) without leaving the UK. They’ll need to meet the requirements for the other visa route.

You can find out more about the Youth Mobility Scheme visa under the current immigration system.

Other visas

Teachers on other types of visas may also be permitted to work in the UK. You can find out more about Family visas and the UK Ancestry visa under the current immigration system.

You can find out more about the various documents that can be accepted when checking a job applicant’s right to work.

EU Settlement Scheme

Any citizen of the EEA or Switzerland living in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. This will allow them to continue living, working and studying in the UK after 30 June 2021 without having to apply through the points-based immigration system.

International travel

Global travel, including to the UK, may be affected by coronavirus (COVID-19). Overseas nationals should check their country’s travel advice as well as UK travel advice to keep up to date with travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements. The UK government has also published guidance about what to do if you need a visa to travel to the UK and has a coronavirus (COVID-19) immigration help centre.

Further information is available for those affected by changes to UK immigration and borders due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

International teacher recruitment programme

The programme will continue to recruit international teachers for the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

To register your interest in joining the international teacher recruitment programme to start in January 2021, read the following guidance.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

Due to coronavirus (COVID-19), we’ve decided to focus on recruiting international teachers to start in January 2021 rather than September 2020. This is in case travel restrictions and the closure of visa application centres are still ongoing.

What schools can get

State-funded secondary schools and academies in England can get help from the international teacher recruitment programme to recruit maths, physics, computer science, general science and modern foreign languages teachers from:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • France
  • Germany
  • Jamaica
  • New Zealand
  • USA
  • South Africa
  • Spain

All teachers recruited through the programme will:

  • be experienced teachers, qualified in their country
  • have been screened to meet safeguarding and quality requirements to teach in England
  • receive a free acclimatisation package to help with settling into life and teaching in England, including a residential acclimatisation event paid for by DfE
  • receive a free continuous professional development (CPD) programme, covering topics such as behaviour management, safeguarding and the mastery curriculum


Register your interest with one of our 4 recruitment agencies. They all offer the same high level of support but may vary in where they place teachers in England. The 4 agencies are:

The recruitment process

After you register with an agency, they will:

  • contact you within 2 working days to give further information on the programme
  • provide a consultation to understand your recruitment needs
  • give you access to candidates who match your requirements
  • help you arrange interviews with your shortlisted candidates via Skype or similar software
  • help you manage the contract signing process
  • provide support and advice with visa processes
  • link you with an acclimatisation provider


DfE will fund:

  • recruitment costs, including a DfE appointed recruitment agency
  • an acclimatisation package and an ongoing CPD programme during the teacher’s first year, delivered by a DfE appointed acclimatisation provider

Schools will need to fund:

  • the teacher’s salary
  • supply cover costs to support CPD days (at least 1 day a term) and mentor training
  • visa or sponsorship costs
  • Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

Schools must appoint an experienced in-school mentor to support their overseas teacher.

Programme evaluation

Schools involved may be asked to participate in our evaluation to support ongoing development of the programme.

Teaching vacancies

Schools can also advertise teaching roles free on DfE’s Teaching Vacancies service.

Getting qualified teacher status (QTS)

There are different arrangements for overseas teachers who want to get QTS.

If the teacher has a degree but has limited teaching experience, they can train to teach on a course that will give them QTS. There is also guidance on becoming a qualified teacher if they’re not a graduate.

If they have a degree and more than 2 years teaching experience, they can achieve QTS by completing the assessment only route without doing more training.

If they are a qualified teacher from the following places, they can get QTS without having to do teacher training or assessment only:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • the EU
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • New Zealand
  • Northern Ireland
  • Norway
  • Scotland
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Wales

There is more information about QTS and how overseas teachers can get into teaching in England.

Privacy policy

To comply with data protection laws, DfE is the data controller for personal data processed as part of our international teacher recruitment programmes. There are separate privacy policies for candidates and schools.

Employing overseas teachers without QTS (the ‘4-year rule’)

Overseas teachers can teach in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools in England without qualified teacher status (QTS) for up to 4 years. This is called the ‘4-year rule’.

It is illegal for overseas teachers to continue working as a teacher in a maintained school or non-maintained special school in England for longer than 4 years without QTS unless there is another legal basis to teach.

The 4-year rule applies to overseas teachers who meet all of the following conditions:

  • they have qualified as a teacher in a country outside of the UK
  • they have completed a course of teacher training that is recognised by the competent authority of that country
  • they are employed in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools, but not a pupil referral unit

What you need to do

If you are employing an overseas teacher, you should tell them:

  • about the 4-year rule when you employ them
  • that they need QTS (or another legal basis) to teach longer than 4 years in some types of school

There is guidance for overseas teachers who want to get QTS at qualified teacher status (QTS).

When overseas teachers can teach for longer than 4 years without QTS

Statutory leave

Overseas teachers can teach longer than 4 years without QTS if, during that time, they have taken one of the following forms of leave:

  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • adoption leave
  • parental leave
  • shared parental leave
  • time off because of pregnancy

If they have taken statutory leave, then overseas teachers can teach for longer than 4 years for an equivalent period of the statutory leave that they have taken.

Example if they took 34 weeks of statutory maternity leave during their 4-year period, they can then teach 34 weeks longer than 4 years before having to get QTS or teaching under another legal basis.


Overseas teachers can teach longer than 4 years if they are employed as an instructor. Instructors can teach subjects, including vocational training, that require special qualifications or experience (or both).

There is no definition of special qualifications and experience. These are matters that the local authority or governing body need to be satisfied with. An overseas teacher can only be employed as an instructor if they have the special qualifications or experience needed for the instructor post.

Overseas teachers can also work as teaching assistants (without QTS) for any period of time.

Safeguarding checks for teachers from overseas

Candidates from overseas must undergo the same checks as all other staff in schools, including obtaining an enhanced DBS certificate with barred list information. This still applies even if the candidate has never been to the UK.

When recruiting, schools:

  1. must follow part 3 of Keeping children safe in education (KCSIE) statutory guidance, which sets out the safer recruitment checks schools must conduct.

  2. must make any further checks they think appropriate so that relevant events that occurred outside of the UK can be considered - the Home Office provides guidance on criminal records checks for overseas applicants.

  3. can ask candidates for a teaching position to provide proof of their past conduct as a teacher as issued by the professional regulating authority in the country in which the applicant has worked - where available, this can be considered together with information obtained through other pre-appointment checks to help assess suitability.

  4. should, until 1 January 2021, check for teacher sanctions or restrictions imposed by an EEA professional regulating authority.

Acclimatisation support and induction

Help teachers from overseas to become familiar with our curriculum and the systems and policies specific to your school. You can do this by:

  • helping to secure local accommodation
  • allocating a mentor to support with lesson planning, behaviour management strategies or peer observations

You may also want to offer a detailed induction that includes:

  • details of key staff, timetable and tutor group (if applicable)
  • behaviour management strategies for the classroom, the school’s behaviour policy - rewards and sanctions, what support is available and when it should be sought
  • tour of the school
  • health and safety
  • safeguarding policy
  • use of computers and software (for example, General Data Protection Regulation, acceptable use policy, whiteboard training, staff email)
  • management information system training (for example, SIMS) to include taking registers, behaviour and rewards, student progress data
  • school day and calendar (for example, lesson times, hours, staff meetings and briefings, term dates, inset days, parents’ evenings)
  • key school policies to include behaviour, sanctions and rewards, assessment, teaching and learning, special educational needs and disabilities
  • reception and visitors to school protocols
  • shared resources (for example, teaching resources, exam board specifications, schemes of work and lesson plans, equipment, stationery)
  • CPD and staff training
  • protocols for absence and illness reporting
  • professional expectations (for example, dress code)
  • performance management and probationary procedures
Published 16 September 2020
Last updated 14 October 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added links to the data protection policies which govern the international teacher recruitment programme.

  2. First published.