How to Make Teaching English in Mexico a Reality Part 1

First Published on Mexico Connect
September 1, 2006

How to Make Teaching English in Mexico a Reality
Part 1 of 4

By Julia Taylor

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.

Part 1 – Pre-Mexico
Making Plans and Gathering Documents

Make Plans

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 happen 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 permission from Mexico’s immigration (Instituto Nacional de Migración) in the form of an FM3. 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 something 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 6 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 support 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.

Gather Documents
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 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 <http://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 <http://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

TEFL/TESOL
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.

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.

Spanish
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.–jt

7 comments

  1. Carly Jul 29

    Hi, I am so determined to live in Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island. I just wanted to ask you if going through all of the trouble to be allowed to teach is really worth it?

    I’m a senior in high school, and I’m also wondering how much time it would take me after I graduate to be able to move there?

    Another question..I know you recommended TEFL and Spanish courses, but are there any classes that would be required?

    I would really appreciate it if you could answer these for me. Thanks for your time.

  2. Julia Taylor Aug 1

    Carly,

    Wow! Thank you for your comment. It looks like you are going to have a fun adventure coming up.

    To answer your first question about whether or not it’s worth going through all the trouble to be allowed to teach, I’d have to say I think “yes” but it’s up to you, of course. What other options for ways to make money do you have? Could you make a lot of money while still in the U.S. (or Canada?) then live off of your savings for a while? What other jobs could you do in Cozumel? Work for a hotel maybe, but if I remember right there aren’t many large ones on the island. As a teacher you may get paid more. Also, you may not be allowed by immigration to do another job. They allow native speakers of English to teach English because it makes sense, but they may try to “protect” other jobs so Mexicans can do them.

    The answer to your second question is one that you’ll have to figure out as you make your plans and work toward them. If you are going to work and save money or take some classes, then those activities would dictate how long it takes for you to head south. I strongly recommend that everybody who goes to Mexico have a plan and enough money to get back home with. Sometimes Mexico is not what we had expected and we need to be smart and make a safety net for ourselves.

    As far as if the classes would be required or not, that depends on the particular schools in the area you are headed to. I assume that there are enough native English speakers interested in living in Cozumel that you’d have a bit of competition and may want something that will make you stand out as a real teacher.

    It’s my pleasure to answer your questions. Keep me updated as your journey unfolds.

    Julia

  3. Eleanor Gonzalez Dec 2

    Hi, My name is Ellen and I am married to an Mexican Citizen. We are planning on moving to Mexico next year and I have always wanted to teach. I want to know if I have to have college degree in order to teach in mexico. I understand that i have to take a course TESOL/TEFL but do i still need a college degree??? please help.

  4. Julia Taylor Dec 2

    Hi Ellen,

    I think you are going to have so much fun becoming a teacher in Mexico. If it’s in your heart to be a teacher, you should really enjoy it in Mexico where people tend to honor and enjoy their teachers.

    The short answer to your question is “no, you don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree to teach English in Mexico.”

    The longer explanation is that at some schools you need both a bachelors and a TESOL certificate. At other schools one or the other is considered adequate. A few schools still accept teachers with neither, but I don’t recommend it for either the would-be teacher nor for the students because the extra training does help the teacher to be more effective. Also, as you can imagine, the higher paying positions are the ones that require some kind of training. Some schools will train you and that has its advantages and disadvantages that the would-be teacher has to evaluate based on their particular circumstances.

    You may want to consider reading my book. I too am married to a Mexican citizen and I too had always wanted to be a teacher. I still found many aspects of the change challenging — which, of course, is to be expected since culture shock is a normal part of moving to a new culture. I wrote the book hoping to help others in ways that I wished I could have been supported.

    Enjoy the journey. You’ll probably learn more than your students!

  5. installing solar panels Mar 1

    Just what I was searching for, thankyou for posting .

  6. Siobhan Jun 7

    Hi – Thanks for the great info. Please note however, the regular tourist visa is 180 days, six months, not three.

  7. Julia Taylor Jun 8

    Thank you Siobhan,

    I have updated the article to correct the error.

    Regards, Julia C Taylor

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