A guide to how schools can employ teachers who are not UK or Irish nationals
The points-based immigration system
The UK introduced a points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021; this affects how you employ teachers who are not UK or Irish nationals. All overseas nationals arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021, including those from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, come under the points-based immigration system. Irish citizens can continue to enter, work and study in the UK under the Common Travel Area, as was previously the case.
Recruit by becoming a visa sponsor
Skilled worker visa
Overseas teachers can apply for a skilled worker visa up to three months before they start work in the UK under the following conditions:
- you, as the employer, are a licensed Home Office employer sponsor and have offered the overseas teacher a teaching job;
- the overseas teacher can speak, read, write and understand English;
- the role pays at least £20,480 or the relevant minimum rate for teachers in England, whichever is higher (minimum rates for teachers are on the Get into Teaching website). If the role is part-time, pro rata rates will apply as long as the salary is at least £20,480 a year
Become a licensed sponsor
You need a sponsor licence to hire a teacher from overseas on a Skilled Worker visa. You can be the employing local authority, multi-academy trust or school to hold the sponsor licence. You can become a licensed sponsor by following this step-by-step guidance, which covers further information about being a sponsor, including your responsibilities. You can also check to see if you are already a licensed sponsor.
Recruit without becoming a sponsor
The graduate visa is available to international students who have successfully completed their degrees in the UK and been sponsored by a Home Office licensed student sponsor; this includes certain postgraduate courses such as initial teacher training at universities.
Those on a graduate visa will be able to work, or look for work, in the UK at any skill level without a sponsor for up to two years after completing their studies (three years for PhD students). This includes working as a teacher.
Teachers on a graduate visa will be able to apply to switch to another visa route – such as the skilled worker visa – without having to leave the UK if they meet the requirements for the other visa route.
Youth mobility scheme visa
A youth mobility scheme visa lasts for up to two years and is for young people aged 18 to 30 who have certain types of British nationality, or are from certain countries. Teachers can work on this visa without a sponsoring employer.
Teachers on a youth mobility scheme visa may be able to apply to switch to another visa route – such as the skilled worker visa – without leaving the UK. They’ll need to meet the requirements for the other visa route.
Teachers on other types of visas may also be permitted to work in the UK. You can find out more about family visas and the UK ancestry visa. You can also find out more about the various documents that can be accepted when checking a job applicant’s right to work.
Getting qualified teacher status (QTS)
There are different arrangements for overseas teachers who want to get QTS.
- If the teacher has a degree, but has limited teaching experience, they can train to teach on a course that will give them QTS. There is also guidance on becoming a qualified teacher if they’re not a graduate.
- If they have a degree, and more than two years teaching experience, they can achieve QTS by completing the assessment-only route without doing more training.
- If they are a qualified teacher from the following places, they can get QTS without having to do teacher training or assessment only:
- the EU
- New Zealand
- Northern Ireland
There is more information about QTS and the various routes to QTS for teachers and those with teaching experience outside the UK. There is also information on how overseas teachers can get into teaching in England.
Employing overseas teachers without QTS – the four-year rule
Overseas teachers can teach in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools in England without qualified teacher status (QTS) for up to four years; this is called the ‘four-year rule’.
It is illegal for overseas teachers to continue working as a teacher in a maintained school or non-maintained special school in England for longer than four years without QTS unless there is another legal basis to teach.
The four-year rule applies to overseas teachers who meet all of the following conditions:
- they have qualified as a teacher in a country outside of the UK;
- they have completed a course of teacher training that is recognised by the competent authority of that country;
- they are employed in maintained schools and non-maintained special schools, but not a pupil referral unit.
What you need to do
If you are employing an overseas teacher, you should tell them:
- about the four-year rule when you employ them;
- that they need QTS (or another legal basis) to teach longer than four years in some types of school.
There is guidance for overseas teachers who want to get QTS at qualified teacher status (QTS).