Career Advice

What are the Teacher Certification Requirements for Foreign-Educated Teachers?

Teaching in the U.S. offers a rewarding career with numerous growth opportunities and the need for qualified educators in key areas, making it an attractive option for foreign-educated teachers. This guide provides an overview of the necessary steps, certifications, costs, and immigration requirements for transitioning your teaching career to the U.S.


Teacher Certification Requirements

The demand for qualified teachers in key subjects and geographic areas adds to the opportunities available. To be eligible to teach in the U.S., all non-U.S. citizens must obtain a suitable visa. To work as a teacher in the U.S., foreign-educated teachers must ensure their qualifications meet U.S. standards. This involves:

  • Credential Evaluation: Verifying that your foreign degree is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or master’s degree through organizations like the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE).
  • Teacher Preparation Program: Completing a state-approved teacher preparation program, which may be required to include specific coursework and supervised teaching hours. States often require a set number of credit hours in both education theory and the particular subject area the teacher intends to teach.
  • State Certification Exams: Pass state-specific exams and meet additional certification requirements, such as the Praxis Subject Tests.


After passing exams, teachers submit a certification application, the required documentation, and a processing fee to the state’s education department.


Visa Requirements 

Before starting the teaching certification process, foreign-educated teachers must secure a U.S. visa. The type of visa required can vary based on individual circumstances and job offers. Common visa types include:

  • J-1 Visa for Exchange Visitors: Often used for cultural exchange programs, including teaching positions.
  • H-1B Visa for Specialty Occupations: Suitable for teachers with specialized subjects or unique skills.
  • N. Visa for Canadian and Mexican Nationals: Under NAFTA, this visa allows Canadian and Mexican teachers to work in the U.S.


Steps toward Certification 

  • Credential Evaluation: Agencies such as the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) assess foreign degrees for U.S. equivalence and provide a detailed report.
  • State-Approved Teacher Preparation Program: Enrollment in a local state-based program, which could include education courses and student teaching hours, may be required.
  • Certification Exams: Teachers are usually required to pass several exams:
    • Basic Skills Test: Assesses the teacher’s basic reading, writing, and math proficiency.
    • Content Area Tests: Specific to the subject a teacher wishes to teach.
    • Pedagogy Tests: These evaluate a teacher’s instructional capabilities. States like New York use the NYSTCE series, while California requires the CSET and CBEST exams. Each state has its own set of required tests, accessible through its Department of Education websites.
  • Application and Fees: After passing exams, teachers submit a certification application, required documentation, and a processing fee to the state’s education department.


If a teacher’s credentials or preparation does not fully meet state standards, states may offer paths to fulfill those requirements:

  • Supplementary Education: Additional courses may be needed to cover pedagogical training or subject knowledge gaps.
  • Provisional or Temporary Licenses: These allow teachers to begin working while completing necessary qualifications. They are often issued in states experiencing teacher shortages and are typically valid for one to three years.
  • Emergency Certification: Some states issue emergency certifications to address immediate teacher shortages, allowing individuals to teach while they work towards full accreditation.
  • Private Schools: These institutions may hire teachers without state certification, providing more flexibility in employment opportunities.


Support for international teachers seeking U.S. certification includes:


For detailed certification processes and guidelines specific to each state, foreign-educated teachers should consult the respective state Department of Education websites and use resources from the U.S. Department of Education for additional guidance. Here are the links for your convenience:





U.S. Department of Education

U.S. Language Services

Moreland University