Teachers who have families and wish to teach abroad must consider not just their own wants and needs, but also those of their partners and dependants. Moving abroad can be a rewarding and life-changing experience for all involved, but if it goes wrong, the consequences can be difficult for those you care about most.
Teachers with married partners must consider three things when going abroad with respect to their spouses:
Immigration and Visa
Most teachers assume that if they get a visa to work in a foreign country, this will automatically mean their partner can accompany them, but this is not always the case. Some schools will happily provide spousal sponsorship but with some countries it is not possible. Sometimes the teacher is sponsored by the school, and then the teacher can in turn sponsor his/her spouse and dependants. In some countries women cannot sponsor their husbands or children, making it impossible for female teachers to be the main breadwinners for their family.
Schools provide overseas sponsorship and overseas employment packages for teachers who are not host nationals, but should you marry a host national either before or during your stay, you might jeopardise that benefit.
Housing and living costs
Schools often provide housing as a benefit for teachers, but this might be shared with another teacher, making it unsuitable for a teacher with a spouse or dependent children. Other schools will provide larger, suitable housing for families of up to 4 or 5 so it's important to find out before applying. Financially, a non-working spouse will add an additional strain on finances and the teacher’s salary must be adequate for a standard of living that is suitable. It is not reasonable to expect your spouse to sit at home in a tiny apartment without any social outlet or means of getting around, so this will cost money. Some schools don't select teachers with non-working spouses for this reason.
Finally, for social as well as financial reasons, most spouses expect to work at least part time whilst they are accompanying you abroad, but it is important to understand their employability in a foreign country. Those who are in trades, for instance, who do not have the ability to speak and read the local language will not be able to communicate with clients, co-workers or their bosses, and are unlikely to find work. Those whose professions require licensing such as doctors, nurses, solicitors, etc need to first investigate the requirements to practise in a foreign country, and whatever the case, the inability to speak/read the foreign language in a non-English speaking country is sure to limit their employability.
Edvectus usually advises teachers with spouses who would like to work to first investigate where their spouses can find employment before finding their own teaching jobs.
Marriage provides a legal bond between two people that is verifiable, internationally understood and government sanctioned. An unmarried relationship, however, is not easy to prove nor is it acceptable in all parts of the world. In some countries, for instance, it is not legal for two people of opposite gender to live together unless they are married, and most countries will not extend a spousal visa to your partner without a valid marriage certificate.
This means that an unmarried partner must be able to get their own visa in order to go abroad with you, and most schools are not willing to assume the process will be straightforward or easy. In addition, many countries actively prohibit unmarried couples from living together, so your unmarried partner would need to secure his/her own housing as well.
The lack of a legal bond between you and your unmarried partner also raises questions for schools – what happens if things go wrong? Statistically, unmarried partners are four times more likely to break up than married partners, and schools are quite aware of this. Will you be willing to continue working abroad if you and your partner break up? If not, you might want to reconsider your choices.
As with married partners, for these reasons, we recommend your unmarried partner first research and find a job with his or her own visa and housing benefits before you attempt to find a teaching job abroad. Very few schools will take a chance on you until you have fully investigated and resolved your partner’s situation.
As with spouses and partners, a teacher with dependent children will need to consider several additional aspects about teaching abroad:
Immigration and Visa
Teachers with dependent children need to be able to provide proof of their relation to their children. Normally this will be a birth certificate or an adoption certificate. These documents need to be verified by your home country and are used to allow you to sponsor your children. It is important to note that some countries are not willing to provide visas for children who were born out of wedlock, and if you and the child’s other parent are not still together, you will need to get their legal permission to take the child with you to a foreign country.
In some countries, it is not possible for a female teacher to sponsor the visa of her dependent children, and therefore those countries need to be avoided by female teachers who are the breadwinners for their family. Edvectus will be able to give you guidance on which locations are suited to your situation.
Housing and cost of living
In addition to the legal hurdles, it should come as no surprise to any parent that children are expensive and teachers need to make sure that their salary will support their children. Whilst it may be practical for a teacher in their home country to take advantage of low-cost social and sporting opportunities for their children locally, a parent abroad must understand that these opportunities will be more limited and probably more expensive.
International schools often provide housing for teachers, but this is often suitable for a single teacher rather than a teacher with a family. It is very important to understand the housing provided by the school and how any increased housing cost might affect you. In some parts of the world where housing is very expensive, it may not be feasible for teachers to work unless they have an additional source of housing or income.
Schooling and social outlets
School fees are another big issue for teaching parents, because a lot of international schools do not provide free school places for teachers of children. Teachers might often be provided with a discount of 30% or 50% but the fees and associated expenses might still account for more than half of their salary. Even if free or highly discounted places are offered, fee-paying schools rely on school fees to operate and every free or discounted school place they give away to a teacher means less money for the school, so they will often give preference to teachers without dependants.
Furthermore, you need to consider if the school to which you are applying is the right fit for your child. If the students are 99% non-English speakers, how will your child be able to integrate and make friends if they cannot speak the language? If the curriculum is different, will the move set back their academic progress? The concept of 'job fit' becomes more complicated with children.
If you have a young baby and are a single parent or if both parents intend to work, it is important to research child care in your focus countries. In some cases, finding a local nanny will be easy, but in other cases it might be next to impossible or unaffordable. Don't assume that the same support systems you have at home exist elsewhere.
That being said, there are several jobs that Edvectus calls Family Friendly, and we suggest that teachers with families look closely at them as they are best suited for teachers with children.
Note about older children: Children under the age of 18 are almost universally considered 'dependants' without question. Children over the age of 18 are not normally allowed as dependants, though in some cases unmarried female children under 25 can be sponsored in some Gulf countries though there are many rules around income level, health etc that may apply. We recommend you speak to a specialist in immigration if you wish to bring children over 18 abroad with you permanently and know that it will limit your choices abroad.
Many teachers ask about sponsoring parents and in-laws and the rules for this vary by country. In some countries it is impossible because the schools sponsor the visa for the teacher and his/her family and are not happy to extend this to parents. In other countries such as the UAE, the teacher's visa/residency is sponsored by the school, and the teacher then sponsors his/her spouse and dependent family's residency. However, current rules state that the teacher must make over a certain amount to be allowed to do so. In the UAE, for example, the teacher must make more than appx 6000AED per month to sponsor children but this figure rises to 19,000-20,000 AED per month to sponsor parents or in-laws. This figure is not usually within the grasp of a classroom teacher.
If you require to take your parents or in-laws you should discuss the issue with your Edvectus consultant as it will severely limit the choices you have, and in many cases will effectively prevent you from teaching abroad at all. Because of this, having your parents visit temporarily on a visitor visa and then sending money home to support them in their home country is the option that most teachers choose.
Many of us come from cultures that value companion animals and we find it hard to believe that not all cultures follow suit. But pets are actually one of the biggest impediments to teaching abroad that we face.
First consider that in many developing parts of the world, what we consider a pet, they consider a nuisance, a pest or even food, and the mechanisms for importing pets are complicated and expensive because it is rarely done. Schools are not willing to provide funding for your pet’s visa and associated medical forms, or airfare for your animal, all of which can cost many thousands of dollars. Along with one-off costs, you will have to bear the significant ongoing cost of leaving the heating or air-conditioning in your apartment set to a comfortable level whilst you are at school.
Pets can cause big problems when finding housing because most housing provided to teachers is rented, and landlords are often unwilling to rent to teachers with pets or will do so only at a very large added expense. We recommend you contact some letting agents in your focus countries to test the cost and supply of housing for tenants with pets compared to those without. Don't assume becuase it's easy at home it will be easy abroad to find a rental and that a typical housing allowance offered by schools in the region will cover the pet-friendly housing you need. A non-refundable pet fee of hundreds of dollars may be charged.
Travelling during breaks is one of the real benefits of teaching internationally. Pets will almost certainly lessen your ability to do so. Kennels can be non-existent and certainly very expensive in most parts of the world where pets are not common, and it is unlikely that your fellow teachers who will also wish to take advantage of the many low-cost travel opportunities will wish to pet-sit for you.
Teachers must consider the wellbeing of their pets abroad. Many countries require a quarantine for pets which can be weeks or months, and is certain to be traumatic for any pet. Dogs,in particular are seen as unclean in some parts of the world, notably the Middle East, which means teachers with dogs will find themselves facing many social hurdles. Where will you walk your pet if you are not allowed to bring them to the manicured parks nearby? In hot countries you may only be able to walk your dog very early in the morning or very late at night because their paws will burn on the pavement.
All this requires you to ask yourself - Is this move in the best interest of your pet?
For these reasons and more, we recommend you leave your pets at home with friends and family members during your time abroad. They will probably have a more enjoyable time, as will you. As hard as it is to separate ourselves from our furry or feathered friends, the realities of life abroad for them are not always sunny.