Teach in the United States

Teach in the United States and expand your teaching experience abroad! Spirit’s BridgeUSA Teacher Program allows you to teach in the USA full-time on a J-1 visa at an accredited primary or secondary school while sharing your culture with American schoolchildren. Whether you teach Spanish in the USA or are the lead teacher in a general elementary classroom, Spirit’s BridgeUSA Teacher Program will surely have a lasting impact on your career and on the lives of many in your host community.

J-1 Visa Teacher Program Sponsor

Spirit Cultural Exchange J-1 Teacher VisaSpirit Cultural Exchange is designated as a J-1 visa sponsor for the BridgeUSA Teacher Program. Spirit helps qualified international teachers experience the American classroom and learn first hand about American culture by teaching in the United States.  Teachers are typically placed in the following types of positions at K-12 schools across the USA:

  • Bilingual Education (English/Spanish)
  • General Education (primary grades)
  • Foreign Languages (Spanish, German, French & Mandarin)
  • STEM
  • Special Education

In addition to normal teaching responsibilities, teachers share their culture with their students through a variety of cross-cultural activities. Virtual classroom exchanges between the host classroom and schoolchildren in the teacher’s home country are just one example of the lasting impact the program has on the teacher, as well as their students in the United States and abroad.

What is the J-1 Teacher Program?

The J-1 Teacher Program is a cultural exchange program created by the U.S. Department of State to foster peace and diplomacy across nations. Exchange teachers gain professional experience by teaching in the US as part of a cross-cultural exchange. As lead teachers in K-12 classrooms, J-1 Teacher participants offer a unique perspective to American students and schools.

Placement Options

teach in USAll applicants have a choice on how to identify their Host School. You may choose to identify your own Host School placement or request Spirit’s assistance with finding available teaching jobs in the USA.

Are you looking for a Host School?

Spirit’s Premium Placement option helps international teachers find teaching positions in the USA. Spirit will assist with teacher placement at a cooperating Host School and provide BridgeUSA program sponsorship for the J-1 Teacher visa.  Available Positions

Do you already have a teaching position?

Spirit’s Independent Placement option is for you.  Our Independent Placement option is designed for international teachers who already have an offer from an accredited K-12 school and are just in need of a BridgeUSA designated program sponsor to help obtain the required J-1 visa for exchange teachers.

Program Requirements

teach in US 3In order to teach in the United States on Spirit’s cultural exchange program, you must meet the following requirements for teaching in America on a J-1 visa:

  • Be qualified for teaching in primary or secondary schools in your country of nationality or last legal residence
  • Be working as a teacher in your home country or country of legal residence at the time of application, or, if not working as a teacher (a) have recently (within 12 months of application) completed an advanced degree and (b) have two years of full-time teaching experience within the past eight years
  • Have a degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree in either Education or the academic subject field in which you intend to teach
  • Have a minimum of two years of teaching experience
  • Satisfy the standards of the U.S. state in which you will teach
  • Be of good reputation and character
  • Possess advanced proficiency in the English language as determined by Spirit’s screening process.

Cultural Activities

teach in the usaAs an exchange teacher in the USA, you will interact daily with your American colleagues and students at your Host School.  It is also important that you participate in a variety of typically American cultural activities during your free time, so you can fully experience all that the USA has to offer! 

Cultural activities include the things that expose you to the diverse life and culture of the United States.  To participate in cultural activities, you can:

  • Attend an “after-work” event with your fellow teachers 
  • Volunteer in the local community 
  • Visit a museum or historic site 
  • Gather with American friends for meals, games, or movies etc. 
  • Tour a US city or visiting a tourist site in your host community 
  • Visit a national park 
  • Attend a local sporting event 

The opportunities are endless! 

Program Costs

The following program fees are due only after a participant signs onto our program terms and accepts an offer from a Host School.  Program fees are due in full prior to the release of the DS-2019 form in support of the J-1 Visa. Some Host Schools may cover some program and placement fees as part of their teacher compensation package.

First Year Program Fee: $1990 program fee + $840 administrative fee

Annual Renewal Application Fee: $1490 renewal program fee per year + $840 administrative fee per year
Due annually with program renewal paperwork. Maximum of two annual renewals plus 1-2 year additional extension possible with Department of State approval. Renewal and extension applications subject to acceptance by Spirit.

Optional Premium Placement Fee: $1,500
One-time fee for Host School Placement.  Fee is waived for participants who identify their own Host School without Spirit assistance.

Included in Spirit’s Premium Placement Option
(First Year Program Fees + Premium Placement Fee + Renewal fees billed annually years 2-5):

Placement as a temporary exchange teacher at a qualified Host School in the United States teaching a minimum of 32 hours a week during the academic school year for up to 3 years. Optional 1-2 year extension possible only upon approval from Spirit and the Department of State.

  • Development or review of Teacher Program Offer in cooperation with the Host School ensuring that it meets with program regulations
  • DS-2019 to support the application for a J-1 Teacher visa
  • Regulatory compliant Medical and Accident Insurance
  • 24-hour support from Spirit’s experienced staff
  • Program application processing, screening, and vetting to ensure regulatory compliance
  • Skype interviews to screen applicant for qualifications
  • Orientation materials on a variety of important topics
  • Assistance in identifying and arranging cultural activities
  • Monthly Check-Ins with Spirit to ensure successful program
  • Mentor assigned at Host School who will provide guidance on settling in, community, professional development support and cultural activities
  • Supervisor assigned at Host School who will provide general on-site monitoring
  • Travel validation after arrival for DS-2019 form

Included in Spirit’s Independent Placement Option
(First Year Program Fees + Renewal fees billed annually years 2-5):

Includes all of the above EXCEPT Host School placement. The Host School offer provided to Spirit will be reviewed to ensure regulatory compliance.

Not included in either program option:

  • SEVIS or visa application fees, airport transfers, international airfare, domestic transportation in the US, daily public transportation to and from the Host School, housing fees & deposits, spending money and emergency funds.

Other Spirit, government, and third party fees/costs may apply. Click here for current Teacher Program fee disclosures.

Teacher Program International Partner Fees
Spirit cooperates with a number of international partner offices abroad to help Spirit recruit, screen and provide pre-departure support services to Teacher Program applicants. Applicants may choose to apply directly to Spirit or may apply through one of our vetted international partners listed below for additional support. If participants choose to work with a Spirit vetted international recruiting partner, they should confirm directly with them about what fees are due and when, and what services each fee covers. Fee ranges for vetted partner services are listed below. Contact the respective international office directly for detailed information on fees and what is included prior to accepting any offer or signing any agreements.

Teacher Program 2024/25
International Partner Country Estimated Partner Service Fees These fees are in addition to Spirit program pricing. Fees quoted represent mandatory services only. Additional fees may apply based on optional services requested by participant.
Brave, Bold and Brilliant Student Center Colombia $545 + optional fees
Global Education Exchange (Gloex) SRL Dominican Republic $1170 + optional fees
InterLatina Cultural Exchange SRL Argentina $1000 + optional fees
Minga House Foundation Colombia $1500 + optional fees. Host schools may cover some or all of partner fees.
Trainee Adventure Ecuador $773 + optional fees

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I find a teaching placement at a K-12 school in the USA?

Visit our blog on How to Find a Teaching Placement in the USA for the latest suggestions on securing a temporary teaching position.

How do I qualify for Spirit's Teacher Program in the USA?

All international teachers must meet the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Education, Teaching, or the subject intended to teach
  • Minimum of two years of teaching experience
  • Qualified/certified to teach in your home country
  • Must be currently teaching, or if not currently teaching, you must have recently obtained an advanced degree in the subject intended to teach.

Where does Spirit sponsor international teachers in the USA?

Spirit sponsors international teachers in the following US states:  Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

Where will I live after I arrive and who is responsible for arranging my housing?

You are responsible for arranging your own housing. Spirit will identify a mentor at the Host School who can help provide local housing suggestions, but ultimately it is up to you to make final arrangements.  It is strongly recommended that you arrange short-term housing prior to arrival so you have an affordable place to stay while you look for long-term housing.  Housing in the United States can be expensive and take some time to finalize after arrival, so it is important that you create an affordable temporary housing plan before arrival in the USA.

What is a typical timeline for the J-1 Teacher Program application process?

Spirit accepts participant applications from January – May. A typical school year begins in August and ends in June. It is recommended that participants arrive at least two weeks prior to the start of the school year to attend Host School orientation, secure long-term housing and make daily transportation arrangements.

What documents will I need to provide with my application?

Successful applicants are required to submit a variety of documents for Spirit’s review prior to final acceptance. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Bank Statement including sufficient funds to support settling in expenses and J-2 dependents, if any. (Minimum $5000)
  • Employment Verification
  • Foreign Credential Evaluation
  • Reference Letters
  • Passport
  • Background Check Report
  • Copy of Degree or Diploma

What kind of salary will I earn?

Teacher salaries vary by location and teacher qualifications. J-1 exchange teachers can generally expect to be paid anywhere from $35,000 – $50,000 per year as a starting gross salary.  Exchange teachers should expect deductions from each paycheck for items such as state and federal taxes and insurance offered through the Host School. More information on expected deductions will be provided by the Host School after placement, but teachers should expect at least 15- 25% of each paycheck to be withheld for such deductions.

How long can I participate in the program?

Teachers typically participate for 1-3 years but must renew their program annually with Spirit and the Host School. Renewal applications are approved based on teacher compliance with program rules and regulations and the Host School’s interest in renewing the teacher’s program.  After 3 years, participants can apply for an extension for up to 2 additional years, but the extension must be approved by the Department of State and is not guaranteed.

What kind of daily transportation options can I expect?

Public transportation, walking or biking to the Host School are generally only viable options for those teachers placed in very urban areas.  Teachers placed in the suburbs or more rural areas should expect to apply for a driver’s license in the USA and buy or lease a car upon arrival.  Auto insurance is required in almost all states and should be included in the teacher’s estimated monthly budget along with gas and auto maintenance expenses. Typically, international teachers arriving to the US do not have a “credit score” required for auto loans in the USA.  Most teachers will need to arrive to the US with enough cash or credit already arranged to purchase a car without financing through the US auto dealer. For information on how much a car will cost in the USA, please refer to https://www.kbb.com/whats-my-car-worth/.

How do I get certified to teach in the USA?

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to complete your teacher certification before you are scheduled to start teaching. Each state in the US has different requirements for teacher certification.  The first step in becoming certified to teach in the United States is to complete a Foreign Credential Evaluation through a third party service. Contact Spirit for information on approved Foreign Credential Evaluation services in the state you wish to teach.   Your Host School and Spirit will advise you on how to apply for final teacher certification after you receive an offer from a Host School.  This can be a lengthy process and may not be completed until after your arrival in the USA, depending on state requirements, so start the process as soon as possible.

How do I sign up for medical insurance?

Participants and their J-2 dependents are automatically enrolled in BridgeUSA regulatory compliant insurance coverage through Spirit.  As regulatory required insurance is limited with a number of exclusions, Teacher Program participants are strongly encouraged to also enroll themselves and any J-2 dependents in the medical insurance plan offered by their Host School.  Host Schools generally provide comprehensive coverage that includes conditions typically excluded under the regulatory required insurance provided by J-1 visa sponsors.  In most cases, participants will need to enroll in both plans to achieve comprehensive medical coverage and meet federal regulatory requirements.

Can I bring my family members?

Spirit offers J-2 visa program sponsorship for Teacher Program spouses and dependents under 21 years of age.  Child dependents must be 19 or younger at the time of application. Teaching in the United States is a big change and the first several months can be very stressful adjusting to a new way of life.   It is strongly recommended that you arrive first in order to settle into your community, begin teaching and identify long-term housing.  Then, once you are settled into life in the USA, you can request to have your family join you. Any potential future dependents should be disclosed at the time of initial teacher application.

Can my spouse work?

Teacher Program J-2 spouses can apply for work authorization through United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). The work authorization process can take several months or more to process, during which time the J-2 dependent will not be able to work.  Participants should not count on spousal income in order to cover estimated living expenses for their family.

Can I change to a different visa during or after my program?

The purpose of the J-1 Teacher Program is temporary cultural exchange.  J-1 visas are issued by US Consulates abroad to applicants who agree to return home upon successful completion of the program.  Therefore, Spirit is not able to assist in any change of visa status.  Participants who wish to change to a different visa category are advised to complete their J-1 visa program, return to their home country and then apply for a new visa category.  In our experience, completing the intended terms of your J-1 visa will improve your chances of receiving future visas to the USA.

Should I apply directly through Spirit or is there a local office in my country that can help me with my application?

Spirit accepts applications directly from international teachers via the “Direct” application process on our website. Spirit also works with a network of vetted international partner “third party” offices that assist applicants who would prefer local support with their applications.  Any third parties used to assist you with your Spirit program must be approved by Spirit before you submit an application. This is important to ensure that the third party you are working with is an approved Spirit partner office. Failure to disclose the use of a third party to Spirit will result in cancellation of your application or program termination. For a list of approved Spirit international partner offices where you are located, email teacher@spiritexchange.com.

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What our teachers say…

Being a teacher here in the U.S. is a dream come true to me, because I am touching the lives of my students, and that is my goal - to become an inspiration to them. I am enjoying my time with my kids, and I visited the best tourist spots here in Arizona.- Mitchel from the Philippines, Exchange Teacher, Arizona
Spirit has been a wonder partner through the placement opportunity and helping get the visa. I believe this experience will make me a better teacher.- Robert from Kenya, Exchange Teacher, Illinois