Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can non-native speakers teach English in South Korea?

Here's the question:
I've noticed that most of the ESL job openings require an English native speaker for the position. Are ESL teaching positions available for non-native speakers?

Thank you.

Best regards,

Ria Mallari

I've talked about this before in reference to a questioner who was wondering about his Hungarian girlfriend.

...there is very little chance for her to get a standard language education visa (E2) since she is from Hungary. If she were to speak and teach another commonly taught language in Korea, then perhaps she could find a job here, but I'd say her options are limited on that front.

Honestly, the answer is 'no'. You can't teach in the ESL industry in Korea if you are a non-native speaker. If you want to legally teach English or any other language in Korea, you will need an E2 visa. There are other visa options if you are set on coming to Korea, but for English education, you'll need your E2. The requirements for an E2 depend on the language you're teaching, but in the case of English, you must have a valid passport from either US, UK, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, Australia, or New Zealand.

Your other option is traveling to Korea on a tourist visa and trying to find private tutoring gigs, but they often are unreliable and sometimes difficult to obtain. Sorry to deliver bad news.

If anybody has any questions, just send me an email at or leave a comment.


Open Micah said...

I thought the requirement for a teaching job was a degree from an English-speaking university and a passport . Am I wrong?

Unknown said...


You might want to update your website regarding countries eligible to apply for an E2 visa. South Korea has just expanded its list to include India, Singapore and the Philippines. Please check this out:

The Expat said...


Thanks for the comments, but those nations are still under consideration and have not been added to the official E2 nations. When that happens (which won't be any time soon) there will be a lot of changes in Korea.

Anonymous said...

Hey Xpat I was wondering what exactly is a native English speaker? I am a Canadian citizen who has lived here since the age of 6 and attended everything from elementary school to university. Are they going to hold it against me if I wasn't born here even though I have spoken English and grew up here since childhood?

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reading said...

Really informative blog to the higher education students who want to teach ESL as part time in Korea.Expat

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Unknown said...

I am Sunny Alexander. I am a Filipino but I am a US citizen for more than 30 years. I am a bachelor degree holder in accounting. Can I be qualified to teach English in Korea?

Thank you.

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