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Understanding the Visa Programs for International Teachers in the US

In recent years, the education sector has faced a persistent shortage of highly qualified teachers. The rising enrollment of students has exacerbated the need for a sufficient number of educators to meet the demand. To address this challenge, many schools have looked to attract and hire talented teachers from overseas. These international educators have demonstrated their commitment and expertise, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the U.S. educational system.

However, attracting and employing foreign teachers can be complex and challenging. Many schools lack the resources and expertise to navigate the complex legal requirements and regulations involved in hiring and hosting international teachers. As a result, many schools are in need of support and guidance to access the benefits of this unique pool of highly qualified educators.

How do you hire qualified international teachers? And is your school qualified to host them? Where do you start and how to start?

International Teacher

Recruiting foreign teachers can be a complex process, requiring careful consideration of various important factors. There are two primary pathways to bringing foreign educators to the United States:

The J-1 visa allows foreign teachers to come to the US as cultural visitors, with a requirement of an undergraduate degree and a minimum of two years of teaching experience in their home country. This is an exchange visitor visa intended for cultural exchange, training, or internships, rather than long-term employment.

The H-1B visa, on the other hand, enables foreign workers with specialized skills, such as in science or technology, to work in the US for up to six years with a bachelor's degree. It is essential to choose the right option to ensure a successful and smooth recruitment process. This is a non-immigrant visa intended for workers in specialized occupations, such as those in the fields of education, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

But what is the difference, and how do you know if your school is qualified?

What's the difference?

Schools are presented with two options when they opt to employ an international teacher. Both options have distinct characteristics and requirements. In order to make an informed decision, it is essential to understand the differences between the two programs and to dispel any inaccuracies that may exist in the public's perception of them.


The US Department of State and the US Immigration Office offer a unique opportunity for talented and skilled educators from abroad to work and experience life in the United States through two distinct programs. Both programs serve as a platform for capable individuals to bring their expertise to the American education system.

J-1 Visa:

  • Minimum of two years of full-time teaching experience.

  • Valid teaching certification or an equivalent degree.

  • A resident of a country outside the United States

Please note that these are general requirements, and specific eligibility criteria may vary depending on the applicant's home country and the sponsoring organization.


  • Possess a bachelor's degree or higher (or equivalent) in the specialized field required for the position.

  • Must have the necessary education, training, or experience required for the position.

There is no annual cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued to academic institutions.


The J-1 visa requires a designated sponsor of the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor Program. These organizations are responsible for screening and selecting eligible foreign participants, issuing the required Certificate of Eligibility (Form DS-2019), providing pre-arrival information, monitoring participants' progress, and offering support throughout their stay.

The H-1B visa is employer-sponsored, meaning the school must file a petition on behalf of the foreign teacher. This employer-sponsored nature of the H-1B visa helps to regulate the influx of skilled foreign professionals while ensuring that U.S. employers have access to the global talent pool to fill specialized roles.


The J-1 Teacher program allows qualified foreign nationals to teach full-time in accredited public and private (K-12) schools. The program offers teachers up to 3 years plus 2 years extension. Teachers must then return to their home country. They are not permitted to work in the US until they have lived and served their home country for at least two years.

Individuals can hold H-1B status longer than J-1 Status. H-1B visa allows foreign workers to live and work in the United States for up to 6 years. It also has Dual Intent, which means may apply for a change of status to permanent resident. In some cases, employees may be eligible for further extensions while waiting for permanent residency. This beneficial for retention because teachers are will have continued employment.

Number of Hires

The Department of State oversees the allocation of sponsorships for J-1 teachers on an annual basis. With an increasing number of schools employing J-1 teachers across various states, the available sponsorships are becoming more limited. The Department of State has also implemented stricter compliance measures for both program sponsors and participating schools to ensure that the program serves its intended purpose.

"The J-1 promotes interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills, and the interchange of developments in the field of education, the arts and sciences." – Int'l Student & Scholars

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa enabling U.S. schools to employ skilled foreign teachers. Many U.S. schools are exempt from the annual visa cap, which allows them to submit H-1B applications to the USCIS throughout the year without worrying about reaching the fiscal year limit.

School Requirements

To qualify for the J-1 Teacher Exchange Program, U.S. schools must an accredited public or private primary and or secondary schools (K-12). They will need to have a minimum passing grade as a school. The schools will have to work with a designated program sponsor or a program affiliate like GlobalEd Solutions to secure sponsorship forms for international teachers.

To sponsor an H-1B teacher, schools must have filed for and received approval for, an H-1B petition filed under the University Affiliation Numerical Cap Exemption since 2006. The schools can work directly with a law firm to hire H-1B teachers or can hire through a placement company like GlobalEd Solutions to better streamline the process.

How to choose?

The J-1 program cost less upfront than the H-1B program, but it has its own set of restrictions and requirements. Hiring a teacher through the J-1 Teacher Exchange Program is also much easier than hiring one with an H-1B working visa, but there are some drawbacks. For example, schools must be accredited in order to hire someone through this program.

For schools in the United States seeking to employ international teachers for long-term positions, it is advisable to explore the H-1B work visa, as the J-1 teaching visa has a maximum duration of five years. The J-1 program has presented challenges for some schools, as they often face high turnover rates when J-1 teachers complete their program and depart, in addition to the regular attrition of local teaching staff.

Long-term cost and savings?

The cost of hiring a highly qualified H-1B teacher is higher initially, but since the visa is renewable every 3 years and teachers are able to stay for a longer period of time the schools can significantly save on annual turnover.

Host organizations typically pay the fees associated with hiring J-1 teachers. Although the cost of hiring is lower, J-1 teachers add to the school's turnover cost over time since they leave after a certain period and this is on top of the local teachers quitting.

To learn more about GlobalEd Solutions' services, please visit our service page.

Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice or a source of factual data.


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