Credit: Alex Proimos

Working Visa/Permit requirements

The United States Department of State and the Department of Labour are the two main bodies responsible for the issuance of Visas to immigrant teachers. There are two types of Visas for teachers working in the United States

1) The H-1B “Work” Visa is for professionals with “a body of highly specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree”. Employers apply for it on behalf of professionals. Visa is valid for three years and is renewable once (maximum of six years of validity). 

The requirements that must be met for the Labour Condition Application to be approved are that employers must pay H-1B workers either the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher and that the bargaining agent must be notified (more information on LCAs here). The employee can apply for Permanent Residence to the United States upon arrival and bring family (Visa H-4 is required).

The U.S. Department of Labour oversees the H-1B visa program, more information here

2) The J-1 “Exchange” Visa is for primary or secondary teachers who have a minimum of three years teaching experience and satisfy the standards of their state. Applicants must have significant ties to their country of origin (more information here). They are neither citizens nor residents of the United States and wishing to work in the United States. Professionals apply directly for the Visa, along with an eligible J-1 sponsor (search for sponsors). Visa is valid for one year and is renewable two times (maximum of three years of validity). The employee can apply for Permanent Residence to the United States upon arrival (although some source countries require a return residency period) and bring family (Visa J-2 is required).

The U.S. Department of State oversees the J-1 visa program, more information here

"Visa Pages" is a one-stop resource to find comprehensive information about the various non-immigrant visas U.S. employers use to bring temporary foreign workers from all over the world to work in the U.S. 

Complete list of all foreign embassies in Washington DC

National regulations 

Examples of key National Employment and Immigration regulations that could affect migrant teachers include:

Immigration & Nationality Act 

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) makes it unlawful for any entity to employ any individual who is not authorized to work in the United States.

National Labour Relations Act 

The National Labour Relations Act (NLRA) prohibits most employers from discriminating against employees who choose to engage in (or to decline to engage in) any union-related activities. Protected activities include joining a union or asking others to join, banding together collectively for “mutual aid and protection” (whether or not a union is involved), seeking to deal on a group basis with the employer about working conditions; and engaging in other concerted activities for the purpose of negotiating more favourable employment terms. 

Fair Labour Standards Act

Also known as the “Wage/Hour” law, the Fair Labour Standards Act (FLSA) provides minimum wage requirements, overtime requirements, child labour regulations, and equal pay provisions for most employees.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (gender), and national origin in hiring, employment (all terms, conditions and benefits), and termination. 

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination in hiring, employment or termination against applicants and employees age 40 and over with certain very limited exceptions. 

Equal Pay Act 

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) applies to all employers covered by the FLSA, and prohibits discrimination based on gender in the payment of wages for jobs of equal skill, effort and responsibility that are performed under similar working conditions. Exceptions are provided for pay differentials based on seniority, merit, or some other bona fide factor other than sex (e.g., education, training, specialized skills, and experience). 

Family & Medical Leave Act 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when an employee or covered family member has a serious health condition that requires medical care or treatment and a physician certifies that an employee’s leave is necessary. 

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with a disability if they can perform the essential functions of the job with no special accommodations, or if they can perform such functions with special accommodations which are “reasonable” based upon the size of the company, the nature of the job, and the costs of the accommodations. 

Occupational Safety & Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) applies to most employers and imposes a general duty to maintain a safer working place/environment. 

Working as a teacher

Professional requirements

There are no national requirements to work as a teacher in the USA. Each American state has its own certification requirements. 

Conditions of service 

Wage and benefits rates vary widely by location.

Type of employment available for teachers

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education issues a list of nationwide teacher shortage areas, indexed by geography and content area.

Complaint mechanisms 

Many local unions have negotiated grievance and complaint mechanisms that may be able to assist recruited teachers in addressing concerns.

  • To learn more, contact your local union officials

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center provides a hotline for extreme cases (1-888-3737-888).