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Are you thinking about teaching English?

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is one of the most common ways for foreigners to experience Prague and the Czech Republic. Some do it in a gap year after college as an opportunity to experience European life, while others are interested in applying their language skills professionally or simply want something to do while discovering another country and culture. Native speakers of English are in high demand as teachers. The industry started right after the fall of the Communist regime in 1989; the Czechs were eager to get closer to the West and, faced with a relative lack of experience with English education in school, invited people from the United States and Commonwealth countries to come “straight from the source” and improve their knowledge.

Today there is still a large market for TEFL, mainly in Prague and Brno, but also in smaller Czech cities, where English native speakers are scarce and where they sometimes commute to. In Prague alone there are many private language schools of different sizes that offer lessons both to individuals and in companies. Native speakers can also be employed in the education system, in public and private kindergartens, elementary schools, high schools, and post-secondary institutions. When working as English teachers in the education system, native speakers may be exempt from some of the qualification requirements that Czech teachers are subject to (e.g. a degree in education). It is therefore not surprising that TEFL is one of the most popular activities for young people relocating in the Czech Republic to engage in. To many, it may look like the obvious and simplest way to support yourself while enjoying your stay in Europe. It would therefore be advisable to know in advance about what you require in order to successfully work as a TEFL teacher.

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It used to be that just about anyone could come from the West and being able to speak English would qualify them as a teacher. Schools were generous in hiring foreigners, who often worked under the table. Many teachers would not bother to get the necessary residency permits but would “stay legitimate” by leaving the Czech Republic every 90 days (the duration of a legal tourist stay) and come back soon after, sometimes even on the same day, get a new stamp on their passport, repeating the process three months later. Or they would not even do that. These days are long past. First of all, schools are much more discriminating now about whom they hire. A Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate is now the standard prerequisite for being hired as a language teacher, or else some kind of equivalent or other pedagogical-related training (e.g. a TESL certificate, a degree in education, an M.A. accompanied by teaching experience). This certification can be obtained on arrival to Prague at a typically month-long course offered by one of several TEFL training schools there.

Second of all, it is no longer possible to stay here indefinitely without making your status legitimate. Ever since the Czech Republic acceded to the European Union, and subsequently the Schengen free movement area, the government has become much more stringent in monitoring who comes into and leaves the country. Anyone who enters the Schengen zone as a tourist may stay for 90 days; then they must leave and not come back as a tourist anywhere in the zone for the next 6 months. Businesses are also more thoroughly checked today for illegally employing foreigners than they used to be, and many teachers have been sent back to their country of origin because, even if they tried, they failed to obtain the required work and residency permits.

Anyone who wishes to come to the Czech Republic and teach should be aware of the following facts: they will usually need to be physically present here before anyone will hire them; they will probably need to get a trade license (Živnostenský list) because schools tend to cooperate with teachers on a freelance basis. It is common for one teacher to work for several schools at a time, and this is an advantage of working on a trade license – you have more flexibility than if you work on an employment contract. which ties you down to one employer if you are a foreigner. If a temporary or long-term resident with an employment agreement loses their job, they have a very brief period of time for finding another employer before they would lose residency status, whereas the holder of a trade license may freelance elsewhere and thus maintain their residency status. The disadvantages of having a trade license are that as a freelancer, you will be responsible for paying the full amount of health insurance and social security yourself, and that that the process for getting a trade license is more bureaucratic than that for getting an employment contract. You can expect that all schools will require you to get a residency permit (without which you cannot get either a work permit or a trade license), and will probably not help you with the process. As it involves going around various government offices, at which most clerks do not speak English, it is risky to attempt to go through the visa application process without assistance, unless you happen to have a good command of Czech. By going through our agency, you will be relieved of this worry; we are well-versed in both the Czech language and in the process of applying for a visa in the Czech Republic, and can make the applications for the various documents on your behalf.

Some TEFL training programs in Prague that are connected to language schools may attract potential teachers with an offer of employment after successfully completing their training, which would include the school taking care of the work permit and visa application. You should carefully consider the potential outcome before accepting such an offer. For one thing, the institution may not employ every person who completes the course, only the number required to fill vacancies. Secondly, at least one such school is known for not renewing the contracts of old teachers when they need to hire freshly-graduated TEFL trainees. If the school does not renew your contract or does not hire you but nonetheless gets you a work permit (as opposed to a trade license), the permit is worthless and you will likely lose your visa if you do not quickly find someone willing to hire you on a work permit soon, which is unlikely. When considering such offers, we are able to provide consultation and to inform you on the practices of institutions that offer TEFL training programs.