Overseas Trained Teachers

The NASUWT works to overcome the raft of specific barriers and challenges experienced by overseas trained teachers in progressing their careers and lives.

Planned changes to the immigration system - issues for teachers

The UK Government has announced plans to change the immigration system. Many of these changes are intended to come into force from 1st January 2021. The Government is currently working on the details of the new system which will require new legislation to be passed.

Currently, teachers from the European Union (EU) [1] have a right to have their professional status and qualifications recognised to work as a qualified teacher in the UK. The Government’s intention is that from 1st January 2021, teachers from the EU, who are not already living or working in the UK, will be subject to the same immigration rules as teachers from other parts of the world.

Further information and advice about Brexit and the issues affecting teachers from the EU who are working and/or living in the UK before 31st December 2020 is available on our Brexit page.

This advice explains the Government’s plans after 31st December 2020. It focuses on the proposals that will affect teachers who plan to come to the UK to work as a qualified teacher after this date.

After 31st December 2020, qualified teachers from the EU who are not already living or working in the UK will need a visa to come and work as a teacher in the UK. It should be noted that the changes will not affect teachers from Ireland who will continue to have the right to live and work in the UK.

There are two main visa routes that teachers from outside the EU use to come and teach in the UK:

  1. Tier 2 (General) work visa.
  2. Tier 5 (Youth Mobility) visa. Currently, this route is open to teachers from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, and British Overseas Territories who are under the age of 30.

    The Government plans to retain both visa routes.

Proposed changes to the Tier 2 (General) visa route

The Government plans to introduce a tradable points-based-system (PBS) for Tier 2 visas. Under the proposals, a worker will need to gain 70 points to be eligible to apply for a visa.

There are three essential criteria that the worker will need to meet:

  • a job offer from an approved sponsor (20 points)
  • an appropriate level of fluency in English (10 points); and
  • the job being at the appropriate skill level (20 points) - teaching is a skilled job and meets this criterion.

The remaining points are tradable. In the case of teaching, a public sector pay threshold will apply with the threshold being the ‘national pay scale’. The arrangements recognise the different pay scales for England (including inner and outer London rates), Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The Government has set a minimum salary threshold of £20,480 for new entrants to the labour market. This minimum threshold applies to unqualified teachers. It also applies to teachers who work part-time. In the case of a teacher who works part-time, their salary should be prorated to the national pay scale and the teacher will need to earn at least £20,480.  

Issues and the NASUWT position

Pay and pay progression

The NASUWT believes that teachers who have Tier 2 visas should be subject to the same pay and conditions as other teachers. The proposals provide a starting point for this to happen. However, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) finds that migrant workers tend to be clustered around existing salary thresholds.[2] The MAC concludes that this indicates that employers would like to pay migrant workers less if they were able to do so.

The lack of national pay scales in England and Wales and inequitable performance management policy and practice mean that many teachers struggle to move up the pay range. There is also an increased risk that some groups of teachers will encounter particular difficulties in securing pay progression. The NASUWT is concerned that teachers who have a visa are at particular risk of such practice. Such teachers should contact their NASUWT representative for advice and support if they believe that they are being treated unfairly or differently to other teachers in the school.

The NASUWT will continue to press the Governments in England and Wales to introduce national pay scales for teachers and for these to be linked to clear pathways that recognise teachers’ experience and responsibilities.

Applying for indefinite leave to remain

Currently a teacher on a Tier 2 visa may apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK if they have worked in the UK for five years and meet criteria that include a higher pay threshold or teach a subject that is on the SOL. The Government is reviewing the salary threshold for indefinite leave to remain. The NASUWT will be pressing the Government to set the threshold at the going rate for the job, alongside pressing for national pay scales in England and Wales.

Unqualified teachers and QTS

Currently, qualified teachers from the EU and countries whose teaching qualifications are recognised for QTS (including qualified teachers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA) can apply for jobs as qualified teachers. Qualified teachers from other countries may need to apply to the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) to get their qualifications assessed for equivalence.

Teachers from Jamaica and South Africa who are applying to the International STEM Teacher Programme will need to apply to NARIC for their qualification to be assessed as equivalent.   

Currently, an overseas trained teacher may work as an unqualified teacher for up to four years. Unqualified teachers may be eligible to undertake an assessment-only route to gain QTS or if they follow an ITT programme such as School Direct (Salaried).

The Government has indicated that it plans to retain the salary threshold for unqualified teachers and that this will be set at the minimum salary threshold for skilled workers, currently £20,480. This threshold will apply to OTTs who are working as unqualified teachers while seeking to gain formal recognition, e.g. QTS in England.

The NASUWT is extremely concerned that overseas trained teachers whose qualifications are not recognised for the purposes of gaining qualified status may be vulnerable to exploitation and unfair treatment. For example, they may be expected to use their professional knowledge and experience to undertake significant responsibilities while being paid as an unqualified teacher. Overseas trained teachers who find themselves in this position, should contact the NASUWT for advice and support to challenge and change such practice.

The NASUWT will continue to press the Government to expand the list of countries whose teaching qualifications are recognised as equivalent to QTS. The Union will also press for the unqualified teacher pay range to be used as the salary threshold for unqualified teachers.


The MAC stressed the need for the Government to improve its collection and use of data about migrant workers so that the Government can evaluate the effectiveness of its immigration policy and identify and respond more appropriately to issues. In principle, the NASUWT welcomes this recommendation because it would provide more accurate evidence about the experiences of overseas trained teachers who are employed under different visa routes. Policy and regulatory reforms could then be introduced to ensure that migrant teachers are treated fairly and appropriately.

However, the NASUWT is also extremely concerned that ‘better collection and use of data’ could be used to introduce intrusive surveillance of individual migrant workers. This would be completely unacceptable. The NASUWT is pressing the Government to ensure that data about teachers who have migrant status is used appropriately.

Teachers should contact the NASUWT for advice if they believe that their personal data is being used inappropriately.

Further information

NASUWT advice on Brexit
Other NASUWT advice

Overseas trained teachers should contact the NASUWT for advice and support if they are experiencing difficulties related to their immigration status or the terms and conditions under which they are employed in a school. This includes concern that they are being treated less favourably than other teachers in the school.

The UK Government’s response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on a points-based immigration system, including its initial proposals.

UK Government information on immigration and visas.

Further information about the Migration Advisory Committee, including reports commissioned by the UK Government.

[1] The arrangements and changes also apply to teachers from EEA and EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland.
[2] Migration Advisory Committee (January 2020), A Points-Based System and Salary Thresholds for Immigration. Paragraph 5.7