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.

The points-based immigration system

The UK introduced a points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021. This affects 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, come under the points-based immigration system.

Irish citizens can continue to enter, work and study in the UK under the Common Travel Area as they could previously.

Recruit by becoming a visa sponsor

Skilled Worker visa

Overseas teachers can apply for a Skilled Worker visa up to 3 months before they start work in the UK 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
  • the 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 the role is part time, pro-rata rates will apply as long as the salary is 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.

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

A Youth Mobility Scheme 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.

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.

You can also 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 who was 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.

There is also guidance for EU Settlement Scheme applicants in or outside the UK who have been affected by restrictions associated with coronavirus (COVID-19).

International travel during coronavirus (COVID-19)

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).

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.

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, you must:

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

  2. 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. carry out additional checks for teaching roles, which may include information about their past conduct, for example, by checking documents issued by overseas teaching authorities - you should also consider this evidence together with other information which you have obtained through other safer employment checks.

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 24 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Removed information about The International Teacher Recruitment Programme - this programme has closed to future applications and will not reopen. The current programme will continue to run until 31 July 2021.

  2. Updated 'Recruit by becoming a visa sponsor', 'International teacher recruitment programme', and 'Safeguarding checks for teachers from overseas' sections. Replaced the 'What will change from 1 January 2021' section with the 'Points-based immigration system' section. Other formatting changes have been applied to reflect the end of the transition period.

  3. Updated to reflect which visa routes are now open.

  4. Added links to the data protection policies which govern the international teacher recruitment programme.

  5. First published.