Times in the United States have become more challenging for American teachers as more teachers protest low pay and education funding shortfalls. Moreso in Arizona where teacher pay is $10,000.00 less than the national average of $59,000.00.

But what is too low for American teachers is a dream come true for Filipino teachers looking for U.S. Visas. At $40,000.00, the salary offered for teachers in Arizona is ten times more than what they would have made back in the Philippines doing the same job.

The difficulties in finding American teachers to work for the pay offered has made school districts more creative and innovative in recruiting, looking to foreign teachers to fill the gap. The foreign teachers that the schools recruit enter and work temporarily under the J-1 visa, a visa that offers no path to citizenship. The J-1 visa for teachers lasts for three years, with the option to extend twice for one year.

In 2017, more than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived in the United States under the J-1 visa. The top sender was the Philippines, sending 472 teachers under the J-1 visa, followed by Jamaica and China sending 324 and 321, respectively.

School districts found it easy to find and recruit qualified teachers from the Philippines as they speak English, are willing to work and are purposefully trained to easily pass muster from licensing authorities in the United States.

To qualify for a J-1 visa, candidates must:

  • Meet the qualifications for teaching in primary or secondary schools in their country of nationality or last legal residence;
  • Be working as a teacher in the home country or country of legal residence at the time of application, or, if not working as a teacher, otherwise meet the eligibility qualifications and (a) have recently (within 12 months of application) completed an advanced degree and (b) have two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years;
  • Have a degree-equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in either education or the academic subject field in which they intend to teach;
  • Have a minimum of two years (24 months) of teaching or related professional experience;
  • Satisfy the standards of the U.S. state in which they will teach;
  • Be of good reputation and character;
  • Be seeking to enter the United States for the purpose of full-time teaching as a teacher of record at a primary (including pre-kindergarten) or secondary accredited educational institution in the United States (pre-kindergarten teachers must teach full-time, and at the pre-kindergarten level, may teach only language immersion at an accredited host school);
  • Possess sufficient proficiency in the English language.

In the Philippines, the applicant for a J-1 visa must have their documents processed in the Philippines Overseas Employment Administration so they can be issued an Overseas Employment Certificate, which serves as the Overseas Foreign Worker’s travel exit clearance at the airport and immigration centers.

The documents required for processing are:

  • Passport
  • Work visa or work permit
  • Employment contract that has been verified or authenticated by the Philippine embassy or Philippine consulate in the country of destination.

Aside from paying the fees, the applicant must also undergo a medical examination by a clinic or hospital accredited by the Department of Health and attend a pre-departure orientation seminar.

Interested teachers should consult with a lawyer or an immigration consultant for more information on American immigration.

Ryan Barshop