Can I Teach Abroad With A Criminal Record?

Can I Teach Abroad With A Criminal Record
Many countries where expats can find work as ESL teachers have strict regulations in place prohibiting employment to foreigners with a criminal record. If you are seeking opportunities to teach abroad but you have a criminal record, here are some options available to you.

Find out if you can teach abroad with a criminal record and what can be done if you have one

You have a criminal record. We aren’t here to judge. But, if you are interested in teaching abroad, you’ve probably figured out that your record may be a major obstacle. So, what you are probably wondering is if it is even possible for you to teach abroad. The short answer is that it depends. There are a few factors which must be taken into consideration before you completely discount the possibility. So, let’s take a look at what those factors are so that you can be better informed when it comes time to apply for teaching jobs abroad.

But First…

If your criminal record includes crimes against children of any form, you will not find a job teaching abroad. Any country where a criminal background check is a requirement for securing employment will not issue you a work visa. If a school requires a background check before being hired this will be a major red flag and your application will almost certainly be denied.

What Does Your Criminal Record Contain?

The first thing to get out of the way is to figure out what is on your criminal record. You might assume that anything you’ve done in your life for which you were arrested will show up. But, that isn’t always the case. 

For example, if you were arrested for something but never charged then there may not be a record. Or, there may be a record for an arrest but not a charge. If you have ever been arrested for anything, whether large or small, it is best to conduct a background check on yourself first so that you know what could potentially show up.

Be aware, just because you do an online background check, doesn’t mean you are seeing the full story. In order to secure a visa in many countries, you will be required to submit a background check from the appropriate government authority, which is typically the national police bureau. 

In the United States, for example, this will be the FBI. These checks are going to be much more thorough than an online background check. However, they may not include everything such as local misdemeanors. 

It is a good idea to go right to the source instead of using an online check which may not show the complete picture. Figure out which agency in your country you will be required to apply to for your background check and go ahead and get a copy for yourself first.

If nothing comes up, then obviously you are in the clear as nothing will show on the copy you send when applying for a visa. However, if something does show up, you will have to look at your unique circumstances to see what can be done.

Something Came Up. What Now?

Don’t give up hope on teaching abroad just yet. Depending on what it is on your record, you may still have a number of options for clearing it and getting your criminal record cleaned up. 

The first thing that you need to do is to talk to an attorney. Depending on what shows up on your criminal record, you may be eligible to have these records expunged. Only an attorney is going to be able to advise you on this matter so don’t just rely on online information. 

Expungement is not an option in all English speaking countries so you will need to first determine how local laws apply to your circumstances. If you are in the United States, or a country where it is possible to expunge your criminal record, make sure and consult with an attorney who specializes in this process to improve your odds success.

You should know that this process isn’t going to be cheap. The total cost for expunging criminal charges can run multiple thousands of dollars per charge. So, if you have multiple charges, it can get very expensive. It is important you weigh these costs against your longterm plans and potential earnings.

If, for example, you only want to go abroad for 1 year and your expected salary is only $800 per month, then this may not be worth it. However, if you are a skilled teacher and you are planning on making a long term career teaching abroad with expectations that you can earn a good salary, the time and expenses of expunging your record may be worth it. 

I talked with an attorney and can’t get my record expunged. What now?

All hope isn’t lost yet. Depending on what your charges are you may still be able to find a job teaching in certain countries. Most likely, you will be required to submit a criminal background check at some point in the process of securing employment abroad. 

The differences will be in who is looking at that criminal background check and what it’s for. If it is a background check to secure a visa then there is likely to be very little leeway given by the government of that country if something shows up. On the other hand, if it is a background check being requested by the school, they may give more leniency depending on what the charge is.

So, if you have a charge for driving under the influence of alcohol, and you are applying for a job in a country that does not require you to submit a criminal background check to secure a visa, you may be okay. The school may choose to overlook the charge and provide you with a job depending on how desperate they are to hire teachers. 

It should be noted that countries that do not require a criminal background check to secure a work visa will usually be at the lower end of the pay scale for ESL teaching.

Don’t give up!

Just because you have a criminal record, doesn’t mean that you are completely discounted from teaching abroad. As you can see from above, you may be able to get your record expunged, or you may be able to find a country where your record does not matter. It will all depend on what is on your criminal record. Talk to an attorney and figure out all of your options before you completely give up on your goal of teaching abroad.

Adil Vellani
Adil Vellani
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Adil Vellani is the co-founder of ESL Job Exchange. With more than 20 years of international experience in both the education and corporate sectors, Adil is devoted to sharing his knowledge and experience to help individuals and organizations connect and make a massive impact in the lives of ESL learners across the globe. Adil also lectures at the Sino-European Institute of Aviation Engineering, where he teaches aviation engineering students in an international degree program.
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