Sign on as Local Hire, or Not?

overseas-vs-foreign-hireDear ISR, I’m confused and thought I better write for some advice.

Here’s the deal: I recruited at 2 fairs and it became painfully obvious that sixth grade teachers are not in high demand in international schools. Thank goodness I was offered a job, but with local hire status. To get the job, I have fly to the school and fill out an application for employment in person–not a big deal since it’s in Central America.

Maybe it’s just me, though, but it seems sneaky to hire me outside the fair. I’m also a little concerned about signing a contract in a foreign country. Then again, if I don’t like the job I can simply walk away from it and what’s the school going to do, report me to the recruiting agency?

I really do want to live overseas but want to make sure I’m not doing something I’ll regret. I’m a 26 year old female and have been teaching for 4 years in the States. I would love to get some advice and hear the real life experiences of ISR readers who may have gone overseas as local hires.

Thanks ISR, love your web site!


32 thoughts on “Sign on as Local Hire, or Not?

  1. I came to this GCC country for one job which turned out to be awful. In desperation, I managed to pay the rent by getting local hire status at another school. They now want me to re-sign for the next academic year for a much better position…but on a local contract – although I’m a Brit living in Oman, who goes home in the holidays, they will not offer me accommodation, an allowance or any flights. They lose staff year after year because of silly rules like these, then complain that they have trouble recruiting the right staff…and I’m right in front of their noses. How short sighted is that?


  2. I stupidly did the same thing early in my career. I showed up on a tourist visa and was hired “locally”. The school was unethical in numerous aspects. Stay away from these schools!


  3. In General, Don’t Sign On as a Local Hire–unless you live in the Country already. You need the benefits to return home iof an international hire. If you think the job will turn into a better one or if you see it as temporary while looking for something better, then go for it.


  4. Everyone who advised you not to sign is correct.

    It’s easy to see that you are being bamboozled. As a current administrator and having worked for five international schools over the past 20 years including a Central American institution, Lincoln School in Costa Rica where my international working journey began, I can assure you that the offer you’ve described is not the practice of an ethical school leader. Those who have indicated that you will be cheated are correct. Moreover, some of the other posts do an excellent job of describing benefits you “lose” if you are hired locally.

    What’s more, the person you wrote about is trying to save on upfront recruiting costs, which I estimate costs our school around seven thousands dollars per position. Retaining excellent teachers for as long as a school can helps defer some of those costs AND promotes professional continuity at the same time.

    To keep the system, and that school administrator, honest, notify the director of the job fair what you’ve reported to this forum. That school can be dropped from the next fair. It’s up to you to do what’s right. Should you be flattered that you have an offer? Many people, especially first-time recruits leave the job fairs empty handed so know that at least you’re on the right track.You may want to ask some of the school leaders you interviewed with whom you gained respect for, what are some of the areas of growth they saw that you need to become a serious candidate for their school. You’ll be pleasantly surprised; I’ve helped many teachers who’ve asked me that question because, just like most people reading this post, I’ve been in their shoes and wasn’t afraid to ask that question all those years ago.


  5. The status of local hire in international schools is one that completely eliminates collegiality and egalitarianism in my opinion. One’s package is contingent simply on hiring location and not their credentials. This breeds discontent and perpetuates a class system among teachers. In my case, I was a Canadian secondary SS teacher with 6 years of education and 4 years teaching experience. The package I received was literally $15,000 less than a foreign hire teacher based on the fact they received housing, utilities, flights home to country of origin and a shipping allowance. None of these benefits were offered to local hires. There were teachers with less education and years experience that earned substantially more than I did simply because they were hired in Bangkok, Cambridge or London at a job fair and not in country. I raised this issue incessantly with the administration and board but to no avail; they insisted that this is common practice in international schools around the globe and therefore would not even consider changing my status as I had acquired the position in country. I finally tendered my resignation as I could not reconcile that the colleague in the next classroom with the same nationality, credentials and expertise would received a significantly higher salary simply because he had been astute enough to join Search Associates and acquire his position in America.


  6. That is sneaky indeed. Not do much regarding the hiring outside the fair but compromising your status. Especially in Latin America local hires are on a significantly lower pay scale, do not get moving or home leave expenses. You won’t get visa or work permit support. My May not even get health insurance. You should refuse and report the school to the fair. It is scary what they are proposing. Gross exploration of someone new to the internation school system. Seriously wrong.


  7. So, let’s say you take the job. Okay. Well, this won’t be the end of the underhandedness, and it will drive you crazy. And even if they aren’t being underhanded, you’ll always be on the lookout for it because you know what they’re capable of. Can you really afford to deal with that level of suspicion AND do full time teaching too? The job is hard enough as it is. The way a relationship starts will have a lot to do with how it plays out. So it would be better to skip this bad experience, and find a better job before moving to a new country, putting your time and energy into a class, dealing with constant crazy from your administration and getting burned, robbed, cheated, and whatever they have in store for you, and just move on to greener pastures in advance. There are plenty of places that want/need your skills and experience. You don’t need to go through this to know it’s not right for you (or anyone). Either they need to shape up for find another sucker. Not you!


  8. There are many many jobs available for your grade and experience, and more than likely in areas where you will prefer to be. Local Hire? not if you have to go and visit the school from another country!!! locals are just that, locals, not international teachers. I agree with the above commenters, don’t do it, keep looking, find something that you will not be regretting by early September and enjoy this great life that is international teaching.


  9. There are three reasons for a school to ask somebody to sign a “local hire” contract.

    The first reason is that, typically, local hires are paid on a much different scale. Typically in the Middle East, the recruiting school will consider anybody from an Arabic speaking country as a local hire. This allows them to pay about half of the salary normally paid to overseas hires. You will also be excluded from important benefits, such as paid housing and return airfare. This is not true every. For example, in China, there is technically no such thing as a “local hire” unless the teacher is a Chinese citizen. Hiring practices there are mandated by law.

    The second reason is that the recruiting school is trying to skirt its obligation to pay a finder’s fee to the agency sponsoring the recruiting fair, which fee could amount to as much as a month’s salary for the teacher hired. If this is the case, then you know from the beginning that you are dealing with an unscrupulous administrator, and you will likely be fighting for your money later.

    Lastly, the school may be having difficulty obtaining visas/residency permits for its teachers. This will happen if the school frequently violates immigration rules or does not meet the legal standards required for schools hiring foreign teachers. This is often the case in China, especially for new schools who must be in business for at least a year before they are issued a permit to hire foreign teachers.


    1. Local hire is pretty common in China.
      If a following “dependent” has a VISA, housing, and insurance already through the spouse (occasionally parent) then the person cannot legally be switched over to his/ her own Z VISA. A local hire contract can be formatted to avoid those issues, including not-quite FT hours.
      If a person is in country and completing another contract and had a Z that the new employer can extend, a local hire contract is often offered and no airfare is given (or needed).
      There are US and European employers who explicitly specify “local hire only” and the contract will be fully legal, but have different benefits.
      HOWEVER, plenty of people choose to accept shady or illegal local hire situations and there are lots and lots of employers who will offer them.


  10. You are setting yourself up to be abused, plainly and simply. You start a relationship with a new employer on a shady, under-the-table basis and you expect that it all will be honest and uplifting later? Ha!

    Run screaming, but not before you report this director to the fair administration for moving his hires outside of the fair context (which robs the fair of its revenue, also.) They need to know who is unethical and you will protecting others like yourself.

    Teaching overseas is a rewarding, transforming and addictive experience if you go about it the right way. This is not the right way. With your experience and desire, you will find good primary and middle-school positions at good schools if you are patient and keep your expectations high.

    And get started early in the recruiting year. Start searching seriously in October. March has only dregs.


    1. But good positions often become available again in May or June, as schools learn about late-deciding non-returnees.


  11. Do NOT accept local hire status. The reason why schools are being able to screw teachers is because some people are so desperate to “go overseas” they accept crappy working conditions!

    Wait for a school that will hire you as an international hire, period. End of discussion. Otherwise you are throwing yourself to the wolves.

    If a school is willing to act this poorly towards you it is, to be completely crude, like you wanting to get married and the person you choose says “Nope, no marriage. I will come and go as I please and be with whomever I please but when I come to you I still expect full benefits!”

    What next? You take a job with that school and find out you have no official working visa, no insurance, no payments as agreed upon, no NOTHING!

    This school in question either does not have the financial backing to be successful or they are out to screw you. Either way you do NOT want that to be your first experience.

    Wait for a good school that will treat you right. The “international” school market is full of sharks, do not make yourself bait.


  12. Why should there be less demand for Year 6 teachers than other year levels? In any system, all students need to pass through all the year levels, and educating is a collaborative enterprise where every level contributes. Why are you, a teacher of year 6, less important, desirable or employable than anyone else? Sounds like they are selling you a porky! (Big red flag 1!)

    Do not do it, for all of the reasons everyone else stated: you will be overseas alone, and need all those support structures to remain in your new school as a valued member of the team They don’t care! They just want a warm body! Yours will do! (Lots of intensely waving red flags!!!!!)


  13. One thing that no one else has mentioned– if you have any written correspondence from the school offering you a Local Hire only contract, you need to FW that to the Fair organizers.


  14. In my experience local hires get paid less, get only in-country medical insurance, and absolutely no moving expenses or travel home money at the beginning middle or end of the contract. It sounds like the school is trying to get out of paying you all of those benefits. Huge red flag. No job is worth giving up all of those very important benefits. The other writers are correct, there are jobs out there and you will most likely find a better fit. This job sounds like a scam. I would report this school to the organizers of the job fair.


    1. Mary, is right on here.
      As unfair as this is, local teachers generally make for lower salaries and have far fewer benefits than international hires.
      So, watch out, Deb.
      You may be getting a really bad deal.


    2. Mary (and Bob) are right. Local hires are simply discriminated. I have a dual citizenship: Canadian and EU. The offer for local hire in EUROPE was ridiculous – I cannot even think of conditions for lh in Central America. As so many teachers said: “Something is rotten in the state of …..” wherever you are considering to go.


  15. This sounds wrong on a number of different levels. I would trust your first instinct and decline this offer. My experience has been when working overseas, employers that circumvent rules generally do so for their benefit, not yours. I could be mistaken but your post implies that you’ve never worked overseas before, and unscrupulous schools will pick up on your (forgive me for putting it this way) naïvete and try to exploit that.

    Give this one a pass-there will be other opportunities out there. Better ones than this, for certain.


  16. Don’t sign on with them. Guaranteed to just go downhill as they are not a trustworthy professional establishment on both hiring you as local hire (you’re not) and hiring clandestinely.
    Why are you limiting yourself to Grade 6 too?


    1. That is a GREAT point about Grade 6. In Mexico and Central America, if you have Grade 6 experience, you should be marketing yourself as Grades 4 through 9 (which is typically the last year of Secondaria). Pure “grade specialists” are not a relatable concept in this region.

      I agree with others, sign on with a GOOD recruiter, one who can steer you past pitfalls.


  17. It seems very suspicious that the recruiter offered you a job as a local hire through a fair. This is quite unethical. If you had contacted them outside the fair or even if they sent you an email outside the fair that is slightly better. But to actually meet you at the fair and then offer a local hire contract? This sounds very fishy. What else is this school capable of? I suggest that you not take this position. There is still lots of time and this school does not appear to have any ethics.

    You want the school to help you in a new country not be out to take advantage of you.


  18. I might be mistaken, but a local hire is usually hired like that because you currently live in that country/city, and have some sort of permanence to it. As in, you are married to a local or you are changing schools in that city. I think this deal is a very sneaky way to cheaply hire someone. A local hire is not hiring someone who has to fly down from another country! And let’s face it, part of the bonus of living and teaching overseas is the package we get!


  19. I have never attended a recruiting fair, but used sites like and to find positions in China [four years!] and to apply for jobs in many other countries. Some, I would have been happy with, but they would not have worked with my wife’s needs. If you have a spouse, that affects your options, sometimes positively and other times negatively.. By contrast, by daughter and her husband have always worked through job fairs. One contract was not as promised, but they stayed anyway and got experience. The next contract worked out perfectly for them.
    Don’t give up… but don’t go blindly into a scam. Also, beware of some “Nigerian Letter” recruiters who offer great jobs and generous packages… but require a “small fee” up-front, for a “local representative” to process the paperwork.


  20. I agree with Richard and the advice of the other comments. If they will not pay the recruiter/ their fee then watch out. I also do not agree that their are not vacancies for year 6. There are thousands of vacancies in Abu Dhabi/Dubai/Malaysia etc. When you pay to travel there as a local hire without sighting a contract then the fun will begin. No health cover, no travel, maybe reduced housing or share housing. Do not sell yourself out. There are still many months to go until August/September. It is possible that others who were offered positions at this school pulled out and now you get an offer. Recruitment staff follow up on registered vacancies and if they placed others with this school you should contact them and ask if they know any details of others who refused the position. They do not have to tell you anything but it costs nothing to ask.


  21. This a very dishonest director. He attends a fair and I’m assuming it was ISS or Search and then cheats them by trying to hire you outside the fair and on top of it as a local hire. You are going to get screwed.

    If you just want to live in the country and have an income of sorts (less than half what a foreign hire makes) and don’t care about transportation costs, health insurance, housing reimbursement or any responsibility on the part of the school for you what so ever, than go for the adventure of it. But if you have any expectations the school will assume even an once of support or assistance for you I think you are making a mistake. Just read the reviews on this web site of how the local hires are treated, and these are people native to the country who know the system and what, if any recourse they have for poor treatment. Looks like the school is looking for a white slave.


  22. It IS a big deal, in fact. Don’t do it. You are NOT a local hire, why should they treat you like one? It’s majorly scammy.

    There are better positions for you out there, just keep digging.


  23. Be careful. Best to get some kind of written agreement before you go down. There are many variables and schools differ widely. Some are run by predatory administrators whose goal is to get teachers at any cost (figuratively since you will NOT make a lot of money, most likely).


  24. Have you tried a recruiter such as FOOTPRINTS or TEACHAWAY??? It is completely untrue that 6th grade is not an open area. If yo have a decent resume and references there are PLENTY of jobs!!! Try a recruiter.


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