Published on October 12th, 2012


Documents to Bring for Teaching Overseas

First of all let me just say that I am absolutely THRILLED when I can, in some small way, inspire and/or help someone who likewise has similar dreams of jumping off the same ol’-same ol’ cliff to follow their travel dreams of teaching English in Asia.  g-knows I’ve been there not so very long ago – back when my brain was verily FRIED with a gazillion stray questions, and I’d wake in the night TERRIFIED that my plan to sell everything and move halfway ’round the world to live and teach English was sheer LUNACY!

Turns out…


Indeed, it’s now proven to be the very BEST decision I ever made.

So naturally I’m eager to share what I learned (often by stumbled accident) along the way.  And I especially love to respond to thoughtful questions that folks take the time to peck in the comments of my posts here at TL.  By sharing such questions (and my answers) openly here, others with perhaps similar questions can benefit.

But sometimes the answers to some of the more practical (and very pertinent) questions prove a tad unruly.  A good bit detailed and lengthy, and I fear they’ll get buried deep in the comments of some stray post on an unrelated subject (like… stray “Powder Rooms” for example).

Such is the case today.  A set of thoughtful and pragmatic questions posed by a lass who’s presently precisely where I was little more than one year ago: about to blow her comfy U.S. popsicle-stand and come take the CELTA at ILA (the school where I too did the CELTA and taught for 6 months) here in Vietnam.

Now I tried my best to concisely (yeah, like the TravelnLass is world-renowned for short, pithy posts, uh-huh, right) in a comment reply, but… well suffice I thought it best to repost the exchange verbatim here in its own post, so that folks searching for similar advice might more easily find it via my “Search by Label” box in the lower right column of TL:

Q:  A question (one of a 1,000 jumping through what’s left of my brain). I don’t know what to do about the “clean police record”. I know to start it early & I know it’s supposed to be sent to ILA. I emailed ILA and they said that they don’t want it but it’s only for getting a job but that it wasn’t “good” for more than 2 months. I’ll probably not have a job for the first 2 months. So..what do I do? If I recall correctly you got extra prints made. Did you take them with you? What exactly did you ask for?

Same goes for “proof” of graduating from College. What do you send to them vs. what do you take with you? Hope this makes sense!

A:  Yes, you only need the criminal record check to get a job, (i.e. to get a work permit) not to simply take the CELTA course. But YES, you need to get one NOW while you’re in the States. And YES, it’s only good for… I’m pretty sure it’s good for 6 months. IOW, once you’ve been in VN for 6 months or more, you’ll instead need a criminal background check from VIETNAM authorities in order to get a work permit.

But my advice to you is to do what I did – send for a criminal background check from the FBI TODAY. I had to get fingerprinted locally at the Seattle police station, then sent them to the FBI in SEPTEMBER ’11. It still hadn’t returned when I left the U.S. in late October. But luckily I’d put a friend’s return snail mail address on the application ‘cuz I figured (rightly) that it might not return before I left. It finally showed up at my friend’s place… I think it was January ’12 (i.e. it took the FBI *4 months*!) and she forwarded it to me in Vietnam. As it’s only good for 6 months, at that point there was little more than 2 months “validity” left on it. Nonetheless, I submitted it to ILA when I started teaching in February, and it sufficed to get my work permit (which… ironically, I never really used ‘cuz I quit teaching there right about the time my work permit came through!)

ANYWAY, I recommend you start the process NOW, and try to get the physical report before you leave, then take it with you to Vietnam. Even if you don’t start teaching right away, it will be good for 6 months, so likely will come in handy.

As for degree “proof” – see my post on “Apostille, Ashmostille…” – you need to get ORIGINAL copies of your degrees APOSTILLATED by the state where you got your degree – and take these with you to Vietnam. Some say they don’t need to be apostillated, but suffice some recommended it, and I wanted to have all bases covered.

In short, if you wait until you’re already over here (or any place else like Thailand, etc. for that matter) – securing such documentation will prove a very expensive and time-consuming NIGHTMARE.

HTH, but don’t rely solely on my advice – do your own diligent research as well (i.e. Google for FBI criminal record check procedures – they have a website w/ a form you can print out, call the university where you got your degrees, etc.)


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

14 Responses to Documents to Bring for Teaching Overseas

  1. TravelnLass says:

    But of COURSE there’d be a bitty last-minute glich – just to keep things interesting! 😉

    As I said, don’t worry. Just send them new fingerprints, and… While I love VPN for reading my snail mail online, it costs quite a lot for them to forward anything to Vietnam. So if I were you, I’d do what I did – have the CBC (Criminal Backgroud Check) returned to a friend, then have your friend figure out how to mail it to you securely and the most cheaply.

    But in any case, don’t fret about it. As I say, it takes MONTHS for your work permit to get processed, and – presuming you get a job for ILA or some such after the CELTA, they’ll just keep renewing you visa for as long as it takes.

    btw, where did you have the prints done? I had mine done at the Seattle Police Dept. Such should surely know how to take a clear fingerprint forgoodnesssake!

  2. Mary Moss says:

    A little setback today. I sent in my fingerprints a long time ago. Today I received notification from the FBI that the “quality of the images is too low” for them to complete their screening. Fabulous. My flight leaves Jan 4 and there is no way that I’ll have them back in time. My question is: Do I have them sent to a friend here and have said friend forward to me in Vietnam? Or, have friend send to VPM mail forwarding service?

  3. TravelnLass says:

    Excellent questions (as always) Mary – first the visa thing:

    I used Smile Travel for mine: http://www.smiletravelvietnam.com/travelvietnam/vietnamVisa.aspx They are presently charging $36 for a 3 mo. multiple entry (as I recall, I think I paid something like $20+) Then of course there’s the $50 stamping fee you’ll pay at the airport when you arrive (that’s the same no matter where you go). So yes, about $86 total for a 3 month multi.

    I can highly recommend them, the process was easy-peasy. They just send you an email with your “letter” (there’s multiple people on the list). Then when I arrived, I didn’t even have to show it as I recall (but do print it out and take it with you) – I was just swiftly sent to a special window, and within 5 min. had my visa in my passport.

    And re: the phone? LOL, a most timely question ‘cuz… I only just YESTERDAY bought a smartphone (and then only ‘cuz I want GPS so I can find geocaches in Australia, but that’s another story…) I got a great buy on a used iPhone3, but… honestly, I’d just get yourself a cheap phone when you arrive, and drop a sim card in it. That’s what I’ve been using for a year. Then use your computer for Skype (and yes, of course wifi is free and it’s very prevalent here in VN.) ILA has it, all my hotels have had it; my first apartment and now this one in Dalat.

    ANYWAY, reason I suggest not dropping a bundle on a smartphone is ‘cuz theft of such is high in HCMC. Just one less thing to worry about with a dinky phone for $30. Besides, you’ll want a big screen and the privacy of your laptop for Skyping, plus… chained to a smartphone or chained to a computer – same-same as they say here in Vietnam. 😉

    That said, yes, I just bought a smartphone w/ GPS to find/hide geocaches. But I don’t yet know about a data plan. Apparently I need to “register” it and then I’m told data plans are cheap (like everything else here) 😉 Something like $10 will be plenty I’m told. Will know more in a day or three, when I check it out myself.

    And finally – yes, yes, good ol’ Craig’s List (btw, they have it here in VN too!) I sold my car in 24 hrs. on it, etc.

  4. Mary Moss says:

    I’m marching on – paid for CELTA. Still haven’t been able to get fingerprinted – even after an hour at the police department. Will get this DONE tomorrow.

    1 have 2 (like that’s believable)questions that I haven’t completely sorted:

    1) VISAS – I believe I want a pre-arranged 3 mo multiple entry tourist visa. Prices vary widely $87 – $266. I’m going with ILA (IF their $90 service is for a multiple entry. If the price of $90 ILA quoted me for is for a 90 day single entry I’ll go with GoVietnamVisa.com ($87) or Hotels-in-Visa.com ($91). So the VISA question is who did you use and why?

    2) phone – I know to get an unlocked cell phone and buy a SIM card once I get there. And, I want my parents/friends to be able to call me without excessive charge to either of us. I’d prefer not to be chained to a computer. So… I could get a smartphone and use googletalk or skype or italk as an app. And, as I understand it, if I’m in range of WIFI that I can use, this is free. However, I “think” that I still need a data plan in Vietnam to do this. So…I’m pretty sure you have a smartphone and I know you bought it in Vietnam (with your landlady’s son). How are you making/receiving calls from US? Skype at your computer…or with your smartphone?

    Back to today’s list – listing all of my furniture on Craigslist:-)

  5. Mary Moss says:

    Just finished my CELTA interview 2 minutes ago and they accepted me into the program – so another hurdle down. Now I get to pay for it:-(

    • TravelnLass says:

      HUGE congratulations Mary! Now you’re really on your way. As I said, there’s a discount for paying for the course early, so do make sure you mark the date on your calendar.

      And btw, though yes, it might seem a bit pricey (looks like it’s now only $50 more than what I paid a year ago – $1,600), but trust that it’s worth every blessed penny!

      And thanks for keeping us up-to-date on how your dream is inching forward!

    • David says:

      Congratulations on getting into the CELTA course at ILA Mary. I myself was inspired by the TnL blog and was in email conversation with Dyanne before coming over and completing the CELTA course in Sept this year. It was an intense 1 month, but very rewarding and very useful and am now working at ILA as well. Provided you have a degree, are a native speaker and have your CELTA, there are loads of jobs here in Ho Chi Minh City (and Vietnam generally) at the moment and ILA will most likely offer you a job as well because the CELTA course is kind of like a recruitment program for the company.

      Good luck with it all and thanks again for Dyanne for inspiring me to come over and complete my trip. 🙂

    • Mary Moss says:

      David, thanks for your encouragement and I look forward to seeing you in 4 weeks. I can’t believe how little time there is left and how many things I still have to do.

  6. Mary Moss says:

    Thank you. I’ll take all the luck I can get. My interviewer is: Ciaran Boyce, a Teacher Training Coordinator with ILA. As of a few moment ago, they still have 17 slots available for their mid-January class.

  7. Mary Moss says:

    Well, I guess I didn’t screw up too badly since I have an interview with the CELTA coordinator Wednesday evening.

    And, thanks to your post on “Apostille”, I’ve got the grad school degree and transcript started. And, even though I was operating under a different name way back then, I managed to get it changed on the degree and transcript to match my passport. Yay!!

    Didn’t get so far with the undergrad transcript and degree at the university. But I’ll get them tomorrow. The state was extremely cooperative and promised they’d turn it around in 1 day. Amazing. I even discovered that I have a teaching certificate that is still valid even though it was 1974. I think I’ll try to slide it in with the documents for the state.

    I’m happy as long as I check at least 1 thing off per day. But, my job is getting in the way of my “to do” list.

    • TravelnLass says:

      Yes, yes, my degrees too, were in a different name (my alias, back when I was hurriedly placed in the witness protection program – just kidding!) 😉

      But seriously, yes very important that the name on your degrees matches your passport. And yes, the universities seem to be very helpful and familiar with handling these issues.

      (that said, I must say – my originals at the U. of Oregon cost me a cool $50 EACH! and the apostilles… I forget, but at least another $10 each.)

      Oh, and just to be on the safe side – I also got a copy of my under grad and grad transcript. It was so long ago, they only had it on MICROFICHE, but they kindly made a print copy for me. I toted it along with me to Vietnam, but have never had to use it. Still, you never know when someone might want to know your college curriculum…

    • TravelnLass says:

      P.S. Good luck on the CELTA phone interview on Wednesday night, Mary (yes, that would be Thursday morning for your interviewer here) 😉 I wonder if it will be “Pierre”, he’s the head of the CELTA HRM at ILA I think, and the one that interviewed me.

      I was terrified of the phone interview, but it turned out to be a piece of cake. They might ask you a question or two about grammar or some such, but mostly my – I think it was about 50 min. – interview was just Pierre giving me a day-by-day blow of the month-long CELTA course schedule.

      Again, I think the phone interview is mostly a means of ensuring you’re a native English speaker who can string a grammatically correct sentence together (sadly, many can’t). Just put a lot of “smiles” and enthusiasm in your voice, and you’ll do great.

  8. TravelnLass says:

    Seriously Mary, your comments/questions are always welcome here – no matter WHERE you peck them! 😉

    And yes, some of those questions on the CELTA application are kinda silly. I mean shoot, if we already KNEW how to “sequence a reading lesson”, why – there’d be little need for us to even bother with TAKING THE CELTA COURSE! ;D

    Indeed, these are things that you will LEARN in the course. I had absolutely zip teaching experience of ANY kind before the CELTA, but I must say – grueling though it was, after a month – by golly, they’d made a real TEACHER out of me!

    In short, I honestly believe they are just trying to confirm that you have a working brain, and that you have some idea of the types of language issues that are integral to teaching EFL professionally.

  9. Mary Moss says:

    Thank you for putting up this post. And, I really, really promise to not post “off-topic”. Less than 2 minutes ago I sent my CELTA application to ILA. And, I thought I was ready to send it on Friday. Little did I know that I couldn’t even begin to correctly answer the sequencing steps of a reading lesson (and I have an MS in the area) until I read “How to Teach English” by Harmer. And, by tomorrow I’ll be asking away about other topics. That is… after I call the FBI:-)

    Thank you for the gift of your time and for modeling the way. You are truly an inspiration!

Back to Top ↑

Show Buttons
Hide me