Military Spouses Teaching English As A Second Language Overseas

Updated: July 27, 2021
In this Article
    Military Spouses Teaching ESL Overseas

    Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente

    Teaching English as a second language can be a rewarding career option for military spouses who need a job that will travel with them to overseas assignments. Whether you are an Army spouse, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force spouse, teaching English at an overseas assignment can serve as side income or, depending on how much work the teacher is willing to take on, a more fully developed career.

    What do military spouses need to know about teaching English overseas? There are some important things to remember about your work depending on circumstances and the location of the military base your spouse is PCSing to or already assigned.

    Military Spouses Teaching English As A Second Language Overseas: The Basics

    The first thing you will need to determine as a military spouse is your status. Are you PCSing with your military spouse, living together on an accompanied tour? Is your name on the PCS orders along with officer or enlisted member?

    That may sound a bit obvious to some, but not all overseas tours are “accompanied”, meaning the military will not pay or relocate the spouse along with the service member. If the tour is unaccompanied but the spouse chooses to relocate at his or her own expense, that changes several legal issues associated with overseas spouse employment.

    A spouse who travels on PCS orders along with the service member is allowed to have household goods shipped at the government’s expense, is provided on or off-post lodging, permitted access to base facilities including medical services, schools, gyms, etc.

    Spouses Who Are Not Traveling On PCS Orders

    The spouse who is not accompanying the service member on PCS orders but chooses to travel to be with the service member would not be provided such support, and there’s an additional factor to consider-military families who live on or near military bases overseas who are there at the behest of the federal government are covered by something known as a Status Of Forces Agreement or SOFA.

    Under SOFA, the United States and the host country have worked out arrangements for jurisdiction for important issues including law enforcement. A military spouse in-country on PCS orders is covered under SOFA, but must abide by military regulations that pertain to this agreement.

    SOFA rules can make the difference as to which country takes the lead in cases where there has been a car accident, where host nation laws are violated (knowingly or unknowingly), whether spouses can work off-base in the local economy, etc.

    A military spouse who comes to the host country without the benefit of PCS orders would not necessarily be covered under SOFA unless those agreements include contingencies for such circumstances.

    That means that if the spouse runs afoul of local law (including minor things like jaywalking, fender-bender type car accidents, etc.) the host nation’s laws would fully apply to the spouse rather than reverting to any arrangements provided for under SOFA.

    Tax Law Issues When Working Overseas

    A military spouse who works in the local economy may be liable for host nation taxes or other payments associated with being hired in another country. United States tax laws will also apply, it is a very good idea to contact a tax professional before you accept money for working in another country.

    You will need to determine what your tax liability may be, what your responsibilities are for reporting and filing overseas earned income, etc. and it’s never safe to assume that your income is not taxable by either the host country or the IRS.

    You may be required to do your own withholding, or you may be required to subject your pay to withholding in countries where the tax law is not available in English. In these cases you may do well to get legal advice before proceeding.

    Don’t forget that if you choose to work for a company rather than doing “freelance” ESL or TEFL as a self-employed person, the laws of the country that agency is based in may also apply. You will need to know the appropriate tax requirements for your work based on the location of the work and the registered home address of the company.

    Types Of English Teaching Options

    Some agencies recruit English teachers for local area ESL classes near military bases. Varying degrees of certification may be required but it is best to assume that you will need some respected form of ESL credentialing. You will need to do a search for TEFL or Teach English as a Foreign Language programs, and it will be important to research the school or institution offering the credentialing to make sure you are enrolling in a reputable program.

    Try to find TEFL or ESL forums where you can ask graduates of various programs how they fared and what programs to avoid.

    Other TEFL or ESL options include entering the recruiting process for an ESL or TEFL program and exploring which countries may be open for you based on your current or projected credentials.

    An Important Alternative To Third Party Programs

    Military bases overseas may, depending on location, have both college programs and English programs for school-age children.

    If you are not sure about applying to a third-party program, you may wish to consider searching the base you’re headed to for colleges that offer classes on-base and the job listings posted by the Department of Defense Education Activity, which routinely hires English teachers to teach school-age children in DoDEA schools.

    DoDEA credentialing and certification requirements may vary depending on the position, the duration of the job, and other variables, but it is safe to assume that any current teaching credential you have or soon will have may play an important role in the hiring decisions made at the DoDEA level.

    The English teaching jobs you may encounter advertised by colleges operating at your next military base will have requirements as set by the college rather than the DoD, so you will need to examine each institution’s hiring practices carefully.

    Finding Overseas Schools

    The U.S. Department of State has an online resource that lists overseas schools including those institutions assisted by the Department. Other agencies such as International Schools Services and the Institute of International Education may also have useful resources for finding a job teaching English overseas.

    About The AuthorJoe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News

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