Teaching in America: U.S. teacher certification for international educators

In a recent survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% of public schools were reported as understaffed, and two thirds stated major challenges in finding qualified candidates. Foreign educators who can satisfy the rules and requirements for teacher certification both in their home country and the U.S. may be able to meet this demand.

Relocating to the United States, becoming certified, and starting a teaching career can be a rewarding experience. However, it also requires careful thought and planning. The U.S. Department of State states that foreign teachers must:

  • Meet qualifications for teaching in their country of nationality or last legal residence.
  • Be working as a teacher in their home country or country of legal residence at the time of application.
  • Have a degree-equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in teaching or the specific subject they plan to teach.
  • Have at least two years of teaching or related experience.
  • Satisfy the standards of the U.S. state in which they intend to teach.
  • Be of good reputation and character.
  • Seek entrance into the U.S. for the purpose of teaching full-time at a primary or secondary accredited institution.
  • Be proficient in English.

Non-U.S. citizens who want to teach in a U.S. school must also first obtain a temporary or permanent visa from the U.S. embassy in their home country.

Because the United States education system is administered at a local level, each state has its own set of criteria that teachers must meet to qualify for employment at public schools. Below are some general certification requirements for K-12 teachers in the United States:

  • Completion of a bachelor’s degree (or foreign equivalent)
  • Completion of an accredited teaching preparation program
  • Completion of a designated number of credentials in specific subject areas (if teaching secondary education)
  • Completion and passing of state teacher certification exams/tests that demonstrate proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics

Some states offer special programs for foreign educators, such as international teacher exchanges and temporary assignments teaching foreign language and/or cultural subjects. The U.S. Network for Education Information (USNEI) as well as U.S. embassies and consulates can serve as helpful resources when deciding where to work in the United States.

State credentialing agencies are responsible for evaluating foreign educators’ qualifications. You may be able to work with a credential evaluation agency, which can answer questions about requirements, credential equivalency, and other U.S. teaching requirements. These services vary in cost and may be covered by an employer, though they are typically paid for by the educator.

Last updated December 2023