Who Can Teach in the USA?

As a designated Exchange Visitor Program sponsor for teachers interested in teaching in the United States, Cultural Vistas is responsible for ensuring that program participants fulfill the requirements of the J-1 Visa for teachers.

What this actually means can be a little confusing for those actually searching for a teaching job in the U.S.

Below are some general eligibility criteria outlined by the U.S. State Department for securing teaching jobs in the U.S. for foreign nationals.

What Teach USA is all about: a Russian exchange participant teaches a diverse U.S. elementary school classroom how to decorate Russian nesting dolls.

J-1 Teacher Visa Requirements

To participate in the Teach USA program, the first step is to check whether you fulfill the general requirements for the J-1 Visa for teachers outlined by the U.S. Department of State.

These general requirements are intended to answer the question, “Are you already a teacher?”

Specifically, prospective Teach USA exchange participants must have a four-year university degree and meet their country’s qualifications for teaching. They should also be currently employed as a teacher. Exceptions are made for those who completed an advanced degree within 12 months of applying or already have a minimum of two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years at a K-12 school outside of the U.S.

Experienced international teachers attend a Teach USA conference in Denver.

Most experienced teachers will have no problem meeting these requirements. However, what may be easy to overlook for newcomers to the U.S. is the fact that every state has its own additional requirements for teachers which must be met to participate in the Teach USA program.

But instead of looking up on the requirements of each of the 50 states, once you have determined that you meet national requirements, it is a good idea to already start thinking about where you would like to teach. Reading our post on The Best State to Teach in the USA is a good place to start.

Purpose for Coming to the U.S.

Beyond the nationwide teaching requirements and specific requirements by state, there are an additional set of requirements which are separate from your qualifications as a teacher and directly related to your individual interests and goals.

Basically, in addition to having the qualifications to be a successful teacher, the State Department wants to know that you will have the ability to also be successful in your role as a cultural exchange participant of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program.

As a candidate, your application will be reviewed for evidence that your reason for participating in the program is based on a genuine interest in taking the benefits of your cultural exchange back to your home country. For this reason, Teach USA requires that all participants are individuals of good reputation and character who intend to return and stay in their home countries for at least two years after the completion of their programs.

Two South Korean exchange participants teach an elementary school classroom about their native country.

Another essential requirement is that all Teach USA participants have their English-language proficiency tested in an online interview. This is because participants are expected to come to the U.S. for the purpose of teaching full-time as well as promoting global understanding—something which is only possible when communication isn’t an issue.

Host School

One common misunderstanding among those looking for a program to work and travel in the U.S. relates to the process of actually finding a job offer. When trying to find work in the U.S., it is important to remember that sponsor organizations like Cultural Vistas help with J-1 Visa applications but cannot help you with finding a host school.

In other words, the last and biggest requirement for participation in Teach USA depends on your own ability to attain a formal written offer from a qualified U.S. host school.

Applying for teaching jobs is probably the most tedious part of becoming a Teach USA participant. You might miss it once your in an action-packed classroom like this one!

For the school to qualify, it must be a public (including public charter schools) or a private accredited primary or secondary school offering a position teaching kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools may also offer teaching positions in pre-kindergartens if they are part of a regular course of study in an accredited language-immersion K-12 institution.

For more advice on how to find a host school willing to offer you a teaching position, check out our post on How to Find a J-1 Internship in the United States.


Though it may not be a requirement in the usual sense, one of the greatest factors in being able to successfully take part in the Teach USA program is being resourceful.

Participants at a 2018 Teach USA conference organized by Cultural Vistas discuss methods of addressing cultural diversity in the classroom.

Even if you are able to go through the entire process of qualifying for the Teach USA program by yourself, your time in the U.S. will be greatly improved if you are able utilize the resources that are available to all participants before, during, and after the program.

As a sponsor organization of the program, Cultural Vistas can be your greatest resource. You can stay up to date by signing up to our newsletter. For specific questions about the Teach USA program, feel free to reach out to us at