Teaching in America: U.S. Teacher Certification for Foreign Educators

There is a shortage of teachers in key subject areas and specific geographic locations throughout the United States. The U.S. Department of Education welcomes foreign educators who can satisfy the rules and requirements for teacher certification. Relocating to the United States from another country and becoming certified to teach can be a rewarding experience, but it requires careful thought and advanced planning.

The Department of Education recommends that foreign educators begin the process of applying to work as a teacher in the United States at least one year before they plan to arrive. Any non-citizen who wants to teach in a U.S. school must first obtain a temporary or permanent visa from the U.S. embassy in their home country.

Foreign educators interested in teaching in the United States should plan and research their decision in advance before arriving. The U.S. Education system is administered at a local level, meaning that each state has its own set of teacher certification criteria for public schools. Some states have implemented special programs for foreign educators that provide temporary assignments teaching foreign language and/or cultural subjects. The U.S. Network for Education Information (USNEI) and U.S. embassies and consulates are good sources for information and advice about deciding where to work in the United States.

While the details for teaching credentials vary by state, see below for general certification requirements for K-12 teachers in the United States:

  • Completion of Bachelor’s Degree (or foreign equivalent)
  • Completion of accredited teacher preparation program
  • Those looking to teach in secondary education must complete a designated number of credentials in the specific subject areas
  • Most states require candidates to pass state teacher certification exams, as well as tests that demonstrate foreign educators’ proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics.

Foreign educators who fail to meet these requirements may be applicable for a student visa with completion of additional coursework. 

The U.S. Department of Education does not evaluate the qualifications of foreign educators; this is the jurisdiction of state credentialing agencies. Credential evaluation services are available for foreign educators who have questions about how their qualifications match similar U.S. qualifications. These services vary in cost and are usually paid for by the educator or occasionally by an employer.

The U.S. Department of Education sponsors the USNEI. The UNSEI website provides information and links to help international students and educators who would like to study or teach in the United States. The website also provides general information about U.S. educational systems. In addition, the UNSEI provides similar information about international schools and education for U.S. students and educators who are interested in studying or teaching abroad.