Over the last few years we have seen an increasing number
of teachers from other countries working in Alaska for
school districts. This is because there is a shortage of US
teachers nationally. Most often, these teachers are working
on J-1 visas, and there may be 200 or more foreign national
teachers - most from the Philippines - working in Alaska
schools for the 2022 school year.
The most common visa used by teachers working in Alaska is
the Exchange Visitor (J) series non-immigrant visa category.
Nearly all current teachers from overseas in Alaska that we
are aware of are on J-1 visas. There are other visa types (H-1B
& EB-3), but these are far less popular with
Alaska school districts due their complexity, and the
unpredictable number or "cap", and very tight timelines for
August school start dates. We won't discuss these visa types
here, but the embedded links above go to official sources.
Basic Steps for J-1 Visa Candidates
There are three important phases for overseas teachers
seeking to work in Alaska. Although we outline the
steps here, the only one ATP can help with is the last one:
your actual job search.
Whether you find an Alaska job or not depends on your
specific qualifications and experience, your patience and
skill with rules and paperwork, and perhaps most
importantly, your ability to find a school district that
needs your skills.
Note: We do not do direct hiring of teachers,
but are the official education job board service for Alaska
school organizations. We are not experts about
immigration matters, visas or work regulations. All job
offers are between individual school districts and the
teachers themselves, but we provide this page as a resource
for overseas teachers exploring work in Alaska.
Also, please realize that while we do wish all candidates
luck in their job search, ATP does not endorse, or have an
official relationship with any employment agency or sponsor
recruiting or placing teachers from other countries.
Getting Your Visa Sponsor
The US Department of State has very specific requirements
for work visas. For J-1 visas,
there are approved "sponsor" agencies allowed to recruit,
screen and place teachers in US schools from overseas.
You must choose a sponsor agency to handle your credential
screening, assist with paperwork, and get your visa
approval. The sponsor assists you with the paperwork and the process,
but you can't get actual visa approval until getting a job offer from a school district.
Finding a Job in an Alaska School
This is the key! You have to find a school or school
district that wants to hire you. We can help with
this, but not directly. Think of ATP like a "dating app" in
that both schools and candidates have accounts, but have to
find each other. Schools post their jobs in our
system, and search our database of free Candidate
Profiles. You can apply for jobs, and reach to schools
to introduce yourself as a candidate.
Getting Alaska Teacher Certification
Once you sign a job contract - which is required get your
visa - you need to get certified (licensed) to teach in
Alaska. We have a page
that explains this process. It is tricky for overseas
candidates, so read more below. This usually has to be done
AFTER you arrive in Alaska, but you have to have everything
ready to go!
J-1 Visa Program: BridgeUSA
The J-1 is for individuals approved to participate in
work-and study-based exchange visitor programs. In October,
2020 the U.S. Department of State re-branded the J-1 as the
The purpose of the Exchange program is for teachers to
sharpen their skills and participate in cross-cultural
activities in schools and communities. The one-year job
period can be extended twice for a total of three years.
Statistics show that most Exchange Visitor visas in the
Teacher category were issued last year to teachers from the
Philippines. Other countries well represented included both
Jamaica and Columbia, and there were 20 different nations
The following checklist of eligibility is adapted from the US State
Department website, and candidates must meet all of them
to qualify for the Exchange Visitor Program's "Teacher" visa.
J-1 candidates work with their sponsor
agency to document you meet eligibility criteria. Your
designated sponsor is responsible for assisting and advising
you on all matters regarding your exchange visitor
program. What we have here is simply an overview.
Once you get a job offer, your sponsor agency arranges your
"Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status"
so that you can schedule your interviews at the local US
embassy or consulate for final visa approval. The same DS-2019
is also what allows you to get a Social Security Number and
therefore makes certification / licensure by the Alaska
Department of Education possible.
To meet the requirements, candidates must:
Meet teacher qualifications in
your own country
You have to meet the current
qualifications of primary or secondary school teachers in
your home country, or last country of residence.
Be currently working as a teacher *
Either be working as a teacher currently, or (*) have recently
finished an advanced degree within last 12 months, and also
have worked at least two of the last eight years full-time as
Have a relevant Bachelor's degree
A degree equivalent to a Bachelor's in
the US system is the minimum needed. This requires an
original "Foreign Credential Evaluation" report. The
Alaska Teacher Certification office has an explanation
of this process, and an official
list of credential evaluation services. This
Foreign Evaluation form also serves as the
State-Approved Program Verification explained on our Getting
Have at least two years of
At least 24 months of full-time teaching experience is
required. The requirement says "related professional
experience" can also be counted, but frankly, districts
are going to look for more than the minimum for J-1
hires in most cases.
Meet state requirements
Each state in the US has their own teacher licensing /
certification requirements. Alaska's certification
process and requirements are explained on our Getting
Certified page, but it's the Alaska Department of
Education's Teacher Certification Office that has the
Be of good reputation and
Your sponsor agency will work with you to collect letters
and references needed to document you are well regarded in
your local community.
Be seeking a full-time job as a
temporary exchange participant
In addition to having a job offer in school, as documented
on your DS-2019 form, you must be clear in your embassy or
consulate interview and written documents that you are
only intending to reside in the state for the duration of
your Exchange Program job. This is because the J-1 is a
non-immigrant type of visa. This means you must
convincingly indicate that you intend to return to your
country at the end of the job. You can usually extend your
position for a total of three years, but must leave the
United States for two years afterward before applying
Demonstrate proficiency in the
For obvious reasons, school districts will want your
spoken and written English to be good enough to routinely
communicate with your students and coworkers. This means
that a significant accent, or even having informal styles
of spoken English used in your own country, could prove to
be an issue when meeting with school district hiring
staff. It could also be a problem with US Embassy
bureaucrats when you have your visa interview. You are
going to want to practice standard usage, and speak slowly
and clearly. ;-)
Begin Your Alaska Job Search!
Remember that securing a job offer from an
Alaska school district is the secret to actually getting
the rest of the process to fall in place. Create a free
ATP Profile as your first step in finding an Alaska
employer that needs your skills in their school.
There is never fee for any ATP service for job candidates.
ATP uses the Applitrack database system, which
allows all of the school districts and other agencies in
Alaska to find your application, resume, letters of
reference and other supporting documents. We have a
more detailed explanation of how our system works on our ATP
Consortium Job Search page. This resource has links
and built in tools to learn about, and search for jobs
from all ATP Consortium members.
There is also our live ATP Job Bank
quick search page for only currently open positions.
Participate in ATP's Community Connections
It is not realistic for most foreign candidates to attend
a face-to-face ATP Job Fair. But, we also hold ATP
"Virtual Chats" via Facebook Live and Zoom at various
times during the year. The interface allows live
interaction over video (Zoom) and live text chat (Facebook
Live & Zoom).
These events - which are recorded for offline viewing -
are a great way for both overseas and US-based candidates
to learn about working and living in Alaska, and to
interact directly with school district recruiting
teams. You can research districts that you are
interested in, or learn about others, by listening to the
presentations by their staff, and the questions candidates
ask. There is a free archive
of prior ATP Virtual Chats that you can watch
whenever you'd like.
Scan through our ATP Forum Archive to see prior candidate common questions and answers.
The third step in your process, after you find a district
in Alaska to offer you a job, is to get certified
(licensed) teach here. Unlike most countries, each state -
our political units which are like provinces - set teacher
certification / licensing rules. All states have their
own, slightly different certification criteria, and a
process through their own Department of Education, so this
is not just in Alaska. American teachers have to navigate
the rules of every state if they want to move. You will,
No matter what else you read here or on our Getting
Certified page, from a sponsor agency, or any other
website, your specific questions about your files, and
getting your license to teach in Alaska should be directed
to the very helpful staff at the Teacher
Certification Office at the Alaska Department of
Education in Juneau. The Teacher Certification Office
(linked above) is the only official source of all
certification information, and they have a small office in
Juneau which will decide your status. Sondra
Meredith and her staff are not like most government
bureaucrats. Once you have a job, they will work with you
and your employer to jump start the process and make sure
you are getting what you need so that you can teach. Note: Staff shortages and high demand mean that current (December 17, 2023) processing times can be 8-10 weeks.
J-1 Candidate Certification Tips
It is important to note that your Alaska Teacher
Certification application has to be sent in a single
packet or envelope. This sounds like a small thing, but it
It means the completed application forms for
certification, your foreign credential evaluation original
copy, all of your supporting documents, and your
fingerprint card (see below) have to be in the same
envelope with payment for the fee. The documents must also
be notarized prior to sending, and because this means
different things in different countries, Alaska EED
provides some details about what they expect (Word
If any part of your application is missing, they will be
sending it back to you, so it's critical to get it right
by following the checklists that the Teacher Certification
Social Security Card Confusion!
All teachers who apply for certification in Alaska must
undergo a background check, including getting
fingerprinted on a very specific Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) form called the FD-528.
However, in order to actually get your Alaska Teaching
Certification approved to teach in Alaska, you will need a
Social Security Number because the FBI card requires
it. For foreign nationals this is a real puzzle for
many, as you usually can't apply for a Social Security
number from outside the USA.
Many sources say this the Social Security Number is usually done once you arrive in the United States. In theory, however, this should possible if you are a J-1 Visa applicant.
You would, however, need your DS-2019
original, actual letters from your sponsor on their
letterhead, and an original or certified copy of your
birth certificate. Your sponsor should help you with
this, or advise you if it's a good idea to try before you leave your country, but be aware that regardless, your certification packet has to be complete, and
have a Social Security number, when sent in a single packet to Alaska DEED.
Finding an FBU Near You!
Federal Benefits Units
Overseas Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) offices provide
services for the USA's Social Security Administration,
Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Personnel
Management, Railroad Retirement Board, Medicare, and
Department of Labor. So, if you are a J-1 candidate, your
sponsor will provide you with guidance, you'll take
your DS-2019 with you to the FBU appointment to apply for
your Social Security number.
This overview of Social Security information for overseas
citizens is from Americans Abroad, another organization, not
the actual Social Security offices, but it might be helpful
to some. Make sure you verify with official sources
Partial List of Alaska School Districts Hiring J-1
We have not maintained an official list, but some
districts have reported having foreign teachers under J-1
visa programs, and news reports have also mentioned that
overseas teachers have positions with the districts
mentioned below. In 2021, in fact, Alaska's Governor
welcomed over 100 teachers from the Phlippines alone,
and these were placed in various districts throughout
Alaska. The number of J-1 visa teachers seems higher
for the 2022-23, but no firm numbers are yet available.
Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and that
district needs may vary year-to-year:
Bering Strait School District
Chatham School District
Kashunimuit School District
Lower Yukon School District
If you know of others, please let ATP know, and
we'll add them to the list if we can confirm the information!
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