Teaching English in Mexico is an enriching experience that will allow you to get to know Mexico more deeply than you would by just traveling. It can also offset much of the cost of a long-term stay. But how do you go from dreaming the dream to teaching a class in sunny Mexico?
It’s really not as overwhelming as it may seem. This article will guide you through the major steps involved in getting a job as an English teacher in Mexico. In part one we’ll go over what you can do while still in the U.S. in order to ensure a smooth transition. In part two, we’ll show you how to navigate the process of finding a job teaching English in Mexico. Parts three and four will focus on teaching techniques
Part 1 – Pre-Mexico
Making Plans and Gathering Documents
Choose a City
As you begin to imagine your trip, research the cities that most catch your interest, then find out which schools exist in those areas. You can do a Google search on “Centro de Idiomas” along with the names of the cities in which you are interested. To avoid getting results focused on Spanish classes for English speakers do your search in Google Mexico at www.google.com.mx.
Stay at Least a Year
In order for professional schools to take you seriously you must plan to stay at least a year. There is a cost to the school for training you and doing the paperwork necessary to hire you, and they won’t incur those costs without knowing they will be able to count on you for a substantial amount of time.
Plan to come in the busiest month for hiring depending on the type of classes you would like to teach (more on the types of classes you can teach in “Your Options” in part 2). While English classes open and close all year round throughout Mexico, there are still monthly patterns in the numbers of classes open.
For language centers, the best month to try to find a job is August, in preparation for September, and the worst month is November because in December people spend all of their time and money on Christmas vacation. For elementary, middle and high school students, the school year generally starts during the last week of August. If you want to work with children, you should begin your job search in July. If you can’t come in July, you could try December or the beginning of January. A few teachers have to quit over vacation and schools may be looking to fill a position before the second semester starts up. Also, schools that provide classes to young learners (i.e. elementary schools and some language centers) offer summer courses for young learners. These are similar to day camp in the U.S. and take place during the months of July and August.
Like all job searches, finding a teaching job in Mexico can take a while. Plan about a month for yourself to find a place to stay, get a message phone, and find and contact schools. After a school hires you, you will then begin the slow process of getting permission to work in Mexico.
Permission to Work in Mexico
In order to work in Mexico you will need to get immigration permission from Instituto Nacional de Migración. This is issued in the form of an FM3 ( Forma Migratoria 3). You may have heard that it’s possible to work under the table, but times are changing in Mexico and that is no longer true. Depending on your school’s payment policies you may also have to become an active tax payer with receipts called recibos de honorarios.
Since business is conducted on a face-to-face basis in Mexico, you probably won’t have a job before you cross the border, so you can enter Mexico on a tourist visa. When you enter Mexico, ask the immigration official to give you the maximum length of stay, which is six months. Once in the city you’ve chosen, you can go to visit the schools in person. After one of them commits to hiring you, you will start the process of applying for your FM3.
Currently, the cost for processing your FM3 application is just over 1,600 pesos or approximately 150 USD. Most schools will not pay this fee.
The school you choose to work for will tell you in what way they can assist you in obtaining your FM3. The minimum your school will have to do is to provide you with certain documents required from the hiring institution, which is generally a letter stating that they want to hire you and a copy of their most recent tax declaration. Some schools will allow you to begin working before getting your FM3 approved. You just have to “pretend” that you haven’t started yet when you go to the immigration office.
Most schools will help you to get started, by connecting you with someone, such as another foreign teacher who has personal knowledge of the process, but few will actually do the process for you. If you can speak at least a little Spanish, it is something that you can do for yourself. If you are incapable of applying alone and they really want to hire you, they will work with you on an individual basis to get you the help you need.
As you are going through the process you may feel temporarily overwhelmed by the steps required to gather and present your application packet. Just relax and take one thing at a time. It’s important to know ahead of time that doing paperwork in Mexico often means making many trips back and forth. If you start the process expecting a few detours and delays you’ll be able to remain calm when they come up.
Before you leave for Mexico, you can prepare the necessary documents for your application for the FM3.
You will need to bring your passport, your college degree with an apostille, and (depending on your circumstances) marriage and divorce certificates with apostilles. It is also a good idea to have your college transcripts as well as your birth certificate (with apostille).
An apostille is an authentication of official documents by your state government for international use. It is actually the second step in a two-part process. Your state government office can tell you what you will need to do in order to get your apostilles. If you are from the U.S. you will find the listings for the state Authentication Authorities at https://travel.state.gov/about/info/customer/customer_312.html. If you are Canadian, you will have to take your documents to a Mexican Embassy or Consulate for authentication; see https://www.embamexcan.com/CONSULAR/LegalizationDoctos.shtml for information.
If in doubt about whether or not you will use a certain document, get an apostille for it. There is a cost for international authentication, but don’t be tempted to skimp. Once you are in Mexico and earning in pesos you definitely won’t want the cost and stress of getting it done from thousands of miles away. You’ll be glad that you have the documents.
When you are finally in Mexico and go to the local office of immigration, they will tell you which documents you will need to gather and turn in to them, both from your files and from your school. At this point you will be glad that you’ve brought all of your important documents and gotten apostilles for them, because you will already be half way done with your application for immigration. Some of your documents in English will have to be translated by a local, certified translator. Immigration will give you phone numbers of the certified translators in your area. There will be a cost for this service, but it is something you will have to pay once you are in Mexico because only some translators are certified to translate documents for immigration.
Training Yourself Before You Head South
Many People assume that because they can speak English, they can teach it. These are two very different things, so while it is not necessary, you may want to take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages) course to prepare yourself. One such school is ITTO – the International Teacher Training Organization – with courses offered in Guadalajara as well as in the U.S.
Not all language schools in Mexico provide training for their teachers and even if they do, it is often very minimal. You may find you are more relaxed and more effective if you learn how to teach ahead of time. This would also provide you with some ideas and connections of places to teach.
You may also want to study Spanish before you come, but this, too is not necessary in order to be able to teach English. Most schools require that only English be spoken in the classroom so, in that aspect, being monolingual would be an advantage. Since language schools are full of bilingual people, your employer will be able to communicate with you even if you don’t speak Spanish.
Some people combine their English teaching experience with studying Spanish, often at the same language center. You could consider trading classes taught for classes received. Many schools are happy to work out such a deal.
Next month in Part 2 you’ll read about marketing yourself, selecting a school from among the various types that offer English classes, and being successful in your new work environment once you arrive in Mexico.
The series: How to Make Teaching English in Mexico a Reality
- Part 2: Marketing Yourself
- Part 3: How to Plan Realistic, Communicative Practices in the ESL Classroom