English in Mexico
The 2012 Immigration law greatly restricts who can work in México. It boils down to a Visitante with permission to work and Residente Permanente. A Residente Temporal is allowed to work only when employed by a Mexican company.
Free-lance teachers must have a Residente Permanente
This page is drawn largely from the writings of my friend Bill Masterson who wrote in response to questions from a US citizen interested in teaching in Mexico.
I have also included some comments and warnings from two other experienced ESL teachers.
This is by no means a complete discussion of ESL teaching in Mexico, but it does answer some of the basic questions. And it presents a view from an experienced teacher. Bill spent several years teaching English in Mexico City.
A very helpful "teaching in Mexico" information resource is the Mexico Job Discussion Forum at Dave's ESL Cafe website where persons who are now, or who were in the past, teaching English provide up-to-date information and share their experiences.
Here is a useful webpage for those interested in addition training in ESL:Online Masters in ESL Programs
Documents You Will Need
To work in Mexico, you will need a Residente Temporal visa with a work endorsement. For
details about this, look here Working m
To work in Mexico, you will need a Residente Temporal visa with a work endorsement. For details about this, look here Working m México.
INM requires that the document translations be done in Mexico by translators approved by the government. If you want to see if you can have the translations done in your home city, I suggest that you pay a visit to the nearest Mexican Consulate and pose the question to them. It is sometimes possible to get a translation done in your home country.
Finding Work Before You Arrive
Most people from the U.S. who teach in Mexico are working for a school (i.e. elementary, secondary, high or university), for a company that provides language training classes to employees of client companies at the offices/plants of the client or for one of the many (mostly franchised) language institutes.
From my own experiences in Mexico and from what I read and hear from teachers of English in other parts of the world, teaching English in Mexico ranks at the bottom of the scale of TEFL jobs – relatively few foreigners end-up enjoying their time in Mexico and most complain about the low pay and lack of hours to work.
Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey are the cities where you’ll
find employers paying the best wage to Americans teaching English.
state/private universities scattered around the country also offer
“ok” pay (well, that depends on your frame of reference).
My experience has been, primarily, with companies in Mexico City. What
I’ve seen and heard from others is that many of the companies are not
reputable, frequently pay teachers less than promised, and frequently
pay teachers 2 to 4 weeks later than promised. Many newbies, anxious to
begin work, accept one of the first jobs offered, and later regret
doing that. In the larger cities, there are many companies with which to
work, and the best ones are typically the ones with which it takes a
little longer to find work; but I think it’s worth the wait. The
problem is that a newbie, other than using instinct, isn’t likely to
know which company is better than the rest. It’s not always an easy
thing to do, but I suggest that newly arrived teacher candidates ask for
permission to speak with current teachers (foreigners) at the company,
and to see a client list. While teachers working for these companies
operate more as an independent contractor than a company employee,
it’s wise to have the company put in letter form the hourly rate
you’ll receive, benefits (if any), etc. I suggest against working
for any company unwilling to document your arrangement.
Here are some useful comments and warnings from another experienced ESL teacher.
As a teacher who moved to Mexico to teach several years ago, I would be very suspicious about that salary. (She is responding a prospective teacher who has been offered $11,000 pesos per month) It is way out of line! When I first went to work at a private language school in Chiapas, foreign teachers were offered the world to come on down from Canada or the US or come on over from England. This transportation was, of course, at our own expense. Then when we got there, things often changed. For example, weekly classroom hours were cut prior to the opening of the term, we were often moved into very expensive apartments and rooms of the director's friends, etc. since at first most of us could not find housing for ourselves and families. Took a while to realize we were all being taken. (And I was taken by more than one private language school before I learned better.) Turn over among instructors was high, but there was always such a supply of eager, enthusiastic foreign teachers available to replace those of us who opted out.
Some Mexican laws (state? federal?) limit foreign teachers to no more than 19 hours classroom time per week per employer. That brings us an hour short of full time pay and benefits. Also native Mexican teachers are often paid for 8-hour days even though they only log half in actual classroom hours. The rest of paid preparation time. If you indeed teach 30 hours a week, that probably means 6 different classes per day (and 6 different preparations) over each 5-day period. A daunting task for any teacher!
Many foreign teachers work 19 hours per week at each of two different institutions for a total of 38 hours, which is allowed, although again no benefits other than health care accrue because the work at each place is still part-time, under the magic 20 hours for full time status. Such a schedule usually requires several early morning classes, for adults before work, and several hours of late afternoon/early evening classes (think babysitting) for wealthy school aged students. A brutal schedule which breaks up your day unnaturally and allows for very little in the way of free time to enjoy the pleasures of living in Mexico!
Again, figure each classroom hour as a totally separate class requiring
totally separate lesson plans and papers to grade.
And the immigration laws won't permit you to do private tutoring on
up money is a must! You must
have your own funds to fall back on if things don’t work out.
Here are some stories.
had a friend from England who moved "permanently" with her
10-year old son to Chiapas to teach in a very exclusive, expensive private
language school. She had been told that she could live in the
director's house for free. When she arrived, however, having paid
her own way over from England, she was not installed in the director's
house at all but placed into the spacious upstairs of one of the
director's personal friends. A gorgeous two-bedroom apartment with a
view, private bath, and sitting room on the stair landing plus two meals a
day cooked by the maid. It sounded like a dream. But it
BIG problems: (1) they couldn't stand the food cooked by the maid, never
having been exposed to Mexican foods before; and (2) although the
furnished apartment with meals, utilities and maid service was a bargain
in anyone's mind at only 2800 pesos per month (less than $280 US for
everything), the teacher was told at the last minute that she would only
teach three classes in the early morning hours for a total of 1900 pesos
per month. The rest of her meals/lodging she would have to make up
from her own pocket. She lasted two weeks and went back home to
England on a last minute plane ticket that cost a bundle. I don't
think her son had eaten a bite since they arrived in Mexico! An
expensive job offer, no matter how ideal it had seemed when she accepted
One summer I was offered 3600 pesos to teach English to young adults (my favorite students) for 4 weeks at what was called "The American School." Nothing American about it except the wealthy Mexican owner spoke fair English and had visited the US on several occasions as a tourist. When the summer term actually started, the owner went on vacation to an undisclosed location and I ended up with one class of 4-year olds who still needed potty training and a small group of younger teenagers who were mostly the badly behaved children of the owner. They were so bad the swimming teacher suspended them from school for a week! I was eternally grateful to him! At the end of two weeks, I was paid only 1200 pesos when I was expecting 1800, because the owner sent word she hadn't attracted enough students to pay me more. I did not return.
following semester another experienced teacher from England accepted an
offer to teach at the same "American School." By
that time I was teaching at the University. His students were so
badly behaved (probably some of them the owner's kids), he actually
slapped the hell out of one of them!!!
in England, but certainly not in Mexico. He had to go home muy rapido,
with the loss of his job and dormitory housing. And with the
encouragement of Migracion. He was happy to do so. Said he
just couldn't understand the total lack of discipline permitted among the
students. Another cultural difference you will learn while teaching in
Mexico -- you can't discipline students whose parents are paying big bucks
for you to baby-sit them in ESL classes.
have back up money, especially if the housing you have has been arranged
by your employer. If your job doesn't work out, neither will your
place to stay.
Here is another teacher with a happier experience:
My experience was completely different. I found a job teaching English at Harmon Hall like anyone would, by reading the classifieds and then interviewing with the company. While the job was stressful at times, in general it wasn't so bad.
My one huge complaint is that not only is the month long training unpaid, but so are any subsequent trainings. Working 6 hours a day, I made around 11,000 pesos per month. Had I wanted to work more, I could have, but an eight hour teaching day can only be done so much. I made enough money to live comfortably, but frugally, and when working 8 hour days, even save up a bit of money.
Now I say "live comfortably, ' but things like buying a car would have been a strain on the budget. Doable, but painful. I'd never experienced anything like the teacher on the web page described as far as payment of services. I was paid on time for 4 years, and when there was a problem with my check (the accountant was not only incompetent but nasty), the director and I would figure out the correct amount, and she'd take care of it, often paying me in cash if she had the money on-site.
When I was researching work in Mexico, I came across many people on the net who seemed to have had awful experiences or knowledge of places like Harmon Hall, so I was ready to find the worst, sketchy characters whose main purpose was not to teach English and run a school, but to swindle unsuspecting expats looking for work. Instead, I found a school competently run by an Australian woman, and a mostly Mexican staff (that fluctuated over time), some of whom had been at that school for ten years or more. Mine was a different picture from what is painted on the Internet.