Because the terms of recruitment are so important, a careful review of the recruitment contract is one of the most essential steps in the recruitment process. However, teachers are often given little or no time to review the terms of their contract, and even when time is provided, they generally lack a detailed understand of the legal framework of the country to which they are being recruited. This creates a moment of high vulnerability: once a contract is signed it often carries binding commitments and restrictions.

Empowering teachers to conduct thoughtful and informed assessments of their contracts is a huge challenge to those working to ensure that their rights are protected. A bookmark prepared by the Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment provides some simple and clear guidance:

  • Have a lawyer review the proposed agreement
  • Do not permit changes without your consent
  • Include a time limit in your contract or details about what happens if no visas are available
  • Do not provide collateral
  • Do not allow anyone to withhold your legal documents
  • Be sure the contract includes a clear agreement about the jobs and locations acceptable to you before signing. 

Labour and immigration attorneys around the world highlight the importance of careful contract review. It is not unusual to see recruitment contract language that: 

  • Lacks specificity regarding the job location, the prospective employer, and the services that will be provided by the recruitment agency;
  • Fails to list all of the costs that will be charged by the recruiter;
  • Disclaims the truth or accuracy of the information provided in the contract;
  • Waives the teacher’s right to bring legal action against the recruiter, even if the recruiter breaches the contract;
  • Includes “breach fees” to be paid to the recruiter if the teacher leaves the position with the employer; and
  • Requires a teacher to maintain confidentiality about the recruitment agency, fees paid and contract terms.

These types of contract clauses are often illegal or unenforceable, but without proper counsel or better alternatives, teachers may nonetheless be compelled to sign.


Bartlett, Lora. Migrant Teachers: How American Schools Import Labor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014.