Recruit teachers from overseas

Check what you need to do to employ teachers who are non-UK citizens.

Applies to England

1. Check the rules on visas and immigration

Applicants for teaching jobs from overseas need a visa or other immigration status allowing them to work in the UK. This includes those from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. Non-UK citizens who have completed initial teacher training in England will also need a visa or other immigration status giving them the right to work.

Applicants already have the right to work in the UK if they:

Most other applicants will need a skilled worker visa, which their employer must sponsor. The sponsor can be the school where they work, the local authority, or an academy trust. Sponsors must have a ‘worker licence’, sometimes referred to as an ‘employer licence’.

Your school or organisation may already be a licensed worker sponsor. Check the register of licensed sponsors: workers.

If you’re not already a sponsor, you can either apply to become a sponsor, or recruit applicants who don’t need to be sponsored.

Apply to become a licensed worker sponsor

You can refer to UK visa sponsorship for employers to learn more about how to become a licensed worker sponsor.

To become a licensed worker sponsor, you will need to:

  • show you’re suitable to be a sponsor
  • appoint a member of staff to manage the sponsorship process
  • supply supporting documents
  • pay your licence fees
  • meet your responsibilities as a sponsor

Recruit applicants who don’t need to be sponsored

Applicants with the following visa or immigration status will not need to be sponsored.


People who have permission to live in the UK as a dependent (usually partner) of someone on a visa will not need to be sponsored. They can work without a sponsor for the duration of their partner’s visa.

2. Check visa and immigration charges

You will not pay any fees to recruit someone with a visa or immigration status who does not require sponsorship.

The cost of international recruitment that involves sponsorship depends on the size of your school and is made up of the following charges.

Skilled worker licence

This costs from £536 to £1,476, depending on the size of your school and whether it is a registered charity, and is paid every 4 years. It covers all teachers recruited in that period.

Certificate of sponsorship fee

This is a one-off payment of £239 for each teacher sponsored and is only paid again if the visa needs to be renewed.

Immigration skills charge (ISC)

This costs from £364 to £1,000, depending on the size of your school and whether it is a registered charity. It is paid upfront for each year of a teacher’s visa (unless they are switching from a student visa).

Total costs

For example, a small school employing their first overseas teacher on a 2-year visa would need to pay £1,503, consisting of:

  • £536 sponsor licence
  • £239 certificate of sponsorship
  • 2 amounts of the £364 immigration skills charges

Multi-academy trusts are charged a single fee for each skilled worker licence (not a fee per school within the trust).

Visa fees are paid to the Home Office. You will pay:

  • the licence fee when you make your sponsorship application
  • the certificate of sponsorship fee and ISC when you assign a certificate of sponsorship to each teacher prior to their visa application

For more information about costs, visit UK visa sponsorship for employers.

You can use Teaching Vacancies to advertise teaching jobs and other school roles to applicants from all over the world. It is free to use for schools and applicants.

When you create a job listing, you can select whether you:

  • offer skilled worker visa sponsorship for the role
  • would be willing to apply for a sponsorship licence to sponsor a candidate

You can recruit teaching staff from overseas for any subject and most age ranges, as well as special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) practitioners.

To attract high-quality overseas applicants, you should be clear that English schools require teachers with qualities beyond academic excellence and subject knowledge, for example:

  • the ability to offer pastoral care
  • an appreciation of the ethos of your school
  • communication skills
  • willingness to participate in the extra-curricular life of the school

International relocation payments

The international relocation payment (IRP) incentivises non-UK teachers of languages or physics to come to the UK by helping with relocation expenses. It can therefore be used as a marketing tool for schools recruiting in those subjects overseas.

The IRP is made up of two £5,000 payments from the Department for Education (DfE) which do not need to be paid back. Teachers can apply to DfE for the first payment once they have secured a job and arrived in the UK. They can apply for the second payment at the start of their second year of employment, if they are still eligible. DfE then contacts the relevant school to check their employment status.

Learn more about international relocation payments.

4. Shortlist and interview

Many schools now shortlist overseas candidates for potential employment using remote working technology.

You can:

  • set written tasks for candidates
  • ask to see lesson plans
  • request a video portfolio of applicants’ teaching practice
  • talk to referees over a video conferencing service like Zoom

Qualification requirements for teachers from overseas

Qualified teacher status (QTS) is a legal requirement in maintained schools in England. The majority of teachers in academies and free schools also have QTS.

The 4-year rule exemption

Overseas applicants do not need QTS to teach in maintained schools in England for the first 4 years of their stay in the UK, an exemption known as the ‘4-year rule’.

In academies and free schools, there is no legal requirement for teachers to hold QTS, at any point in their employment.

To be eligible for the 4-year rule, the applicant will need to have:

  • qualified as a teacher in a country outside the UK
  • successfully completed a course of teacher training recognised by the organisation that regulates teachers in the country where they qualified

If you are employing a teacher without QTS, including under the 4-year rule, note their salary will have to meet the minimum requirement for a skilled worker visa, which is slightly higher than an unqualified teacher’s minimum pay outside London.

The 4-year rule exemption does not apply to:

  • pupil referral units (PRUs)
  • alternative provision academies
  • alternative provision free schools, where QTS is required from the beginning of their employment.

Extending the 4-year rule period

Overseas teachers can extend this 4-year period by the amount of statutory leave taken for:

  • maternity leave
  • paternity leave
  • adoption leave
  • parental or shared parental leave
  • time off because of pregnancy
Exemptions for instructors and teaching assistants

Overseas teachers do not need QTS to teach if they are employed as instructors teaching vocational subjects that require special qualifications or experience. It is up to the school to decide whether an overseas teacher is suitable for an instructor role.

Overseas teachers do not need QTS to work as teaching assistants.

Getting QTS in England

We are changing the way we award QTS to teachers from overseas.

Since February 2023, eligible teachers with qualifications from more countries have been able to use our new digital service to apply for qualified teacher status (QTS) in England.

The current eligibility criteria are set out in Awarding qualified teacher status to overseas teachers. Any future changes to eligibility will be published on that page.

Our new policy ensures all non-UK teachers awarded QTS meet the same high standards, while also increasing opportunities for:

  • highly qualified teachers trained overseas
  • teachers in the subjects schools need

Other routes to QTS for overseas teachers

Teachers who qualified or gained experience overseas can also continue to apply for assessment only QTS.

Teachers working in England under the 4-year rule can apply for assessment only QTS alongside their work in school.

You can check whether an applicant has QTS using Teacher Services through DfE Sign-in.

Interviewing and appointing overseas teachers

Our research shows schools take a variety of approaches to final selection.

Some schools conduct interviews over a video conferencing service instead of in person. These online interviews are taken alongside all the other information provided about a candidate’s qualifications, experience and suitability to work with children. They can be a successful and reliable way of ensuring candidates are a good fit.

Other schools will make an annual visit to university recruitment fairs in their target country or countries. This generates a shortlist of candidates who can then formally apply.

Schools will also use recruitment agencies to support them through the whole recruitment process, including sifting and interviewing candidates.

When recruiting high calibre international candidates, in-person lesson observation may not always be possible. Especially in shortage subjects, schools may want to consider an alternative, online approach - for example, a lesson delivered via a video conferencing service.

5. Make a conditional offer and check suitability

Any applicant you wish to employ will need a job offer from you before they apply for their skilled worker visa. They can apply up to 3 months before they start work in the UK as long as:

Minimum salary threshold exemptions

Teachers are exempt from the new £38,700 salary threshold for a skilled worker visa, announced in December 2023. However,  they must earn the relevant minimum rate for teachers in England. These rates apply regardless of the type of school a teacher is working in and whether their employment is covered by teachers’ national pay scales.

Safeguarding checks for teachers from overseas

Individuals who have lived or worked outside the UK must undergo the same checks as all other staff in schools. They should also undergo additional checks related to international recruitment and training.

Schools can use a range of information sources and evidence as part of their safeguarding procedures for international recruitment, including the items included in this section.

We expect schools to draw on a varying range of sources on a case-by-case basis, depending on the individual in question. It is good practice to carry out a risk assessment, recording the evidence you have gathered to reach your decision and showing you have no grounds for concern about the applicant.

How to complete safeguarding checks for teachers from overseas

  1. Follow the statutory guidance in part 3 of keeping children safe in education.

  2. Apply for an enhanced DBS certificate with Children’s Barred List information on behalf of the applicant, even if the applicant has never been to the UK. Note that a DBS check can only be performed if the applicant can submit proof of right to work, for example a visa. This means that schools may need to make a conditional offer in order for a visa application to be approved and a DBS check performed.

  3. Check that the applicant is not subject to a prohibition order issued by the Secretary of State for Education in England, (the ‘Prohibited List’) via the Teaching Regulation Agency.

  4. Make further checks appropriate to applicants from outside the UK. This could include criminal records checks for overseas applicants. Where this information is not available, schools should seek alternative methods of checking suitability.

  5. Perform an online search on shortlisted applicants – anything you’re concerned about can then be raised at interview. This is particularly important as non-UK countries have different policies relating to the types of offences on a criminal record, and how long they are stored for.

  6. Request at least 2 references, one of which should be from the trainee’s most recent employment. References must be obtained directly from the referee, who should be a senior person with appropriate authority. ‘To whom it may concern’ references must not be accepted unless they are validated as genuine by the referee. References obtained via email must be sent from a verifiable email address. Concerns arising from the reference should be discussed with the referee and, where appropriate, the applicant.

  7. Request an employment history to investigate any inconsistencies and unexplained gaps in employment and, if the applicant is currently unemployed, contact their most recent employer to find out why they left their last job. Recent graduates do not need to supply an employment history, unless they have carried out part-time work, which they should declare.

  8. Request evidence of professional standing, for example, a letter from the organisation that regulates teachers in the country where the applicant qualified, confirming their status as a teacher. Ideally, this document should also confirm that the applicant’s authorisation to teach has never been suspended, barred, cancelled, revoked or restricted and that they have no sanctions against them. For countries where teachers are automatically eligible for QTS, see the list of evidence required for teacher qualifications and professional recognition. For everywhere else, the UK Centre for Professional Qualifications can give advice on the organisations to contact.

Recruiting teachers from Ukraine

If you’re carrying out safeguarding checks on Ukrainian citizens they can apply to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine for a criminal record check. This will be emailed to them. They can then contact the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK for a translation of the criminal record check and a letter confirming its validity.

You can find information about the Ukrainian education system at Enic-Naric - Ukraine and at the Ukrainian Ministry of Education.

Checking your applicant’s right to work

Whatever your successful applicant’s visa or immigration status, you are responsible for checking their right to work. You can do this online, or by checking their documents.

You do not need to do checks for existing employees from the EU, EEA or Switzerland if they came to the UK before 1 July 2021.

Irish citizens can use their Irish passport and passport card to prove their right to work.

6. Improve retention

You may wish to consider the following checklist as you prepare for the arrival of an international teacher.

As they plan their move, you can help with information about:

Overseas teachers may be unprepared for pastoral duties, the English curriculum and teaching to different abilities. Before term starts, you should:

  • allocate a mentor to offer personal and professional support
  • share teaching resources, lesson plans, exam specifications

You should also put together an induction pack including:

  • your school’s ethos and values
  • the expectations related to SEND, pastoral care, extra-curricular activities and other non-pedagogical responsibilities
  • school policies on safeguarding, behaviour management, data protection
  • professional expectations
  • school calendar and staff
  • performance management and probationary procedures

Overseas teachers can find information on training to teach in England if you’re a non-UK citizen.

Contact us

For more information, to give us feedback or to take part in user research, please email us We aim to respond within 5 working days.

The Get into Teaching website contains helpful information for non-UK teachers.

Published 16 September 2020
Last updated 8 April 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect a change in the visa salary threshold.

  2. Added information to 'Advertise your teaching job' about the option for schools to select whether they offer skilled worker visa sponsorship or would apply for a sponsorship licence when they create a job listing on Teaching Vacancies.

  3. Added information about minimum salary threshold exemptions for a skilled worker visa.

  4. Updated visa costs, and the 'Check the rules on visas and immigration' and 'Getting QTS in England' sections.

  5. Corrected the salary information in 'Make a conditional offer and check suitability' to show that this is for qualified teachers rather than unqualified teachers.

  6. Information on the minimum salary for teaching roles has been updated.

  7. Added information about international relocation payments.

  8. Updated information about how overseas teachers can apply for QTS.

  9. Updated to include information about the new 'apply for QTS in England' service.

  10. The guidance has been updated to include the high potential individual visa route, an explanation of visa costs for schools, more detailed safeguarding guidance and information about checking the right to work, remote interviewing of candidates and employing Ukrainian teachers.

  11. Information about 'Get help applying to become a visa sponsor' and 'Get support for overseas teachers' removed as these services are no longer being offered in their current format.

  12. We have removed the section on 'International travel during coronavirus (COVID-19)'.

  13. Updated with information about getting help applying to become a visa sponsor and the name of 'acclimatisation support service pilot' has been changed to 'get support for overseas teachers'.

  14. Updated information on the EU Settlement Scheme for those with pre-settled status, international travel during COVID-19 and helping teachers settle into school. Links also updated and information added about the acclimatisation support service.

  15. Removed information about the acclimatisation pilot scheme.

  16. Added updates to EU Settlement Scheme, international travel during coronavirus (COVID-19) and acclimatisation pilot scheme.

  17. Added Gibraltar to the list under Getting qualified teacher status (QTS) and a link to Qualified teacher status: routes to QTS for teachers and those with teaching experience outside the UK.

  18. Added information about the Acclimatisation pilot scheme.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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

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

  23. First published.