Let’s face it, part of the reason for becoming a TEFL/ESOL teacher is the joy of travelling itself and the desire to learn about neighbouring countries by working there. In the last few years, the possibilities for this kind of lifestyle within the European Union have diminished due to Brexit and the COVID Pandemic. But there are signs of hope and the possibilities for work-related travel are starting to open up again. In this article, we highlight the things you need to look out for if you are planning to work somewhere in the EU and we’ll give some tips and tricks to help you on your TEFL/ESOL related travels.
The 90 Day Rule
The main change due to Brexit that affects those who want to travel frequently to and from EU countries (and between them) is the 90-day rule. At present, you do not need a visa for short trips to EU and Schengen countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if you are travelling as a tourist. You can stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. The 180 day period is a rolling period of time, so after 180 days have passed, time spent in EU countries at the beginning of that period will drop off the total. Most EU countries implement the rule as a group, so a week spent for example in Belgium will be added to a week spent in Spain. It can be difficult to calculate and keep track of your time in the EU but there are websites such as Schengen Calculator and apps you can download to your phone which make it easier.
It is worth noting that there are different rules for non-Schengen countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. They each have their own separate 90-day limits which do NOT impact your time spent in other EU countries. This means TEFL/ESOL teachers could spend time in these places that do not get added to the 90 days allowed in the rest of the EU. It is worth investigating possibilities in non-EU and non-Schengen countries because with careful planning this could greatly extend the time you are allowed to stay in Europe as a whole.
When leaving an EU country make sure your passport is stamped otherwise it could appear that you have spent more days in the EU than you actually have. Do not rely on electronic record-keeping at the border, it is not really set up for the extra bureaucracy Brexit has caused and does NOT always work. Besides, you need to be able to calculate your time in the EU by looking at the entry and exit stamps BEFORE the border guards tell you, you have gone over your limit!
ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme)
At some point in 2022, the EU will be introducing an ETIAS permit valid for all 26 countries in the EU. This is more a matter of internal EU reorganisation and not connected to Brexit, however, it does mean that British citizens will have to pay for the permit in order to travel into the Schengen area. It will be a one-off payment and the permit should be valid for three years, but the exact details are sketchy at the time of writing. It will probably not negate the 90 in 180-day rule. You will still need to keep track of your time in the Schengen area.
Where, when and how to work?
If you want to teach full time in another EU country you are best advised to go to the government website of that country to check the rules for living and working there. In general, you are no longer allowed to live or work full time in any EU country. Some countries might make exceptions for particular types of employment and some schools and companies might help you navigate ways to work legally for them. Check the small print in any advertisements you see.
Shorter, part-time contracts are easier to manage under the present arrangements. Some English Language schools in the EU are amending their contracts and work routines to allow British citizens to work full or part-time for shorter contracts. Then there are British based companies such as English In Action who are happy to employ teachers for variable, short term contracts in a variety of European countries. These contracts can be as short as a week or longer than a month and can be spread out over the year.
COVID 19 Limitations and Restrictions
At the time of writing this article, England is on the verge of removing most Coronavirus laws and restrictions. This might make travel easier in many ways but in the rest of Europe many restrictions are still in force, and some European regulations have always been much stricter than those required in England. Clearly, things are in a state of flux and rules may change at short notice, but we have listed below some things to keep in mind when travelling to teach in Europe this year.
- In most European countries you will need to show proof of being fully vaccinated (including a booster jab). NHS vaccination certificates are recognised in most EU/Schengen countries if they come with a QR code. Be careful, the QR codes for foreign travel generated by the NHS app, are only valid for a limited period. You will need to refresh the codes on your app regularly if you intend to travel more than once a month. We strongly recommend keeping your vaccination certificates in multiple formats (downloaded, photographed, printed on paper, etc).
- Some countries accept proof of recovery from a recent COVID infection in lieu of proof of Booster Vaccination, but you would need to check the details of what that involves on the official government website of the country you intend to visit.
- Some European countries may still require proof of a recent negative COVID test. As things are changing so fast, the only way to be sure is to check the country’s official site or check the “Travel Abroad” section of www.gov.uk.
- Many countries have their own COVID apps with which you can show your proof of vaccination. Some of these also accept and convert NHS QR codes and are worth downloading. For example, travellers to Germany are advised to download the Luca App.
- You may still need to show proof of vaccination to gain entrance to restaurants, bars and even shops in some parts of Europe.
- The wearing of face masks is still mandatory in shops, public spaces and public transport in many parts of Europe. Moreover, some countries such as Austria insist on FFP2 grade face masks. If you don’t wear the right kind of face covering, you might be refused access to shops or restaurants or asked to get off your train!
- TEFL/ESOL teachers should be aware that both students and teachers may have to wear face masks much of the time they are in school.
- At the time of writing, regular testing (PCR and Lateral Flow) is commonplace in many European schools for both students and teachers.
So, there you have it. Travel in Europe is not as easy as it once was, but it is possible and as the threat from COVID recedes, it is likely to get easier as the year goes on. Brexit was always going to cause problems for British TEFL/ESOL teachers who frequently travel to work in Europe, but it can still be done. If all else fails, you could always investigate your family tree and see if you qualify for citizenship and a passport from another EU state. Be warned, the Irish office dealing with such matters is already inundated and there is a two-year waiting time for claims to be processed!
But you are not going to give up on your dreams, are you? TEFL and ESOL teachers have always been adaptable adventurers!
Written by Larry Walder