Teaching English and Living in Peru
The Ultimate Guide
By Sharon de Hinojosa
Peru? Where IS that? That’s how most people reacted when I told them that I was going to teach in Peru. I had only planned on staying for a year, but as fate would have it, I got married, and four years later, I’m still here. I have taught in the private school system and at two universities during this period. Over the years, in addition to first hand experience, I’ve done research about teaching in Peru. This guide is the result. It’s comprehensive and should help you in transitioning to Peru.
Teaching in Peru
Tips for Finding Work
It is generally difficult to secure a teaching job before you arrive in Peru. Be wary of chain schools, although some are good, they may not treat their teachers as well as other local organizations. In most schools, employers will want to meet you before having you sign a contract. Employers might also have you take English or physiological tests and perform a demo lesson. This is all part of the job hunting process. Also, make sure that your CV has a professional photo on it. CVs without a photo will most likely be thrown aside. Don’t worry too much about TEFL certifications. Having a degree and being a native speaker are usually enough to get a job. Experience is also a big help. And if you have a teaching license, you can get a job just about anywhere. Even if you can’t arrange a job before you arrive, you should be able to secure one within a few weeks. Here are a few tips to help you get a job.
Where to go: Some people are certain as to what city they want to live in while others are not. Many people want to go to Cusco. Keep in mind that there are lots of tourists in Cusco, and in that respect it is similar to many popular European cities, so if you want the real Peru experience, I would advise against Cusco. Smaller towns are an option. Piura and Chiclayo are close to the famous beaches. Trujillo is a university town. Lima is the center of everything. Arequipa is famous for its volcano. Puno has snow. Iquitos is in the jungle. Do some research; what appeals to some many not appeal to others.
Job Placement: If
you’ve completed a TEFL certificate program or are planning
on doing one, often they will offer a lifetime job placement service
that you can use. If this isn’t an option for you, there
are places that specialize in job placement for teachers. Examples
courses in Peru with ITTO. Finally, although it may be a
long shot, try your local college or university. If they have
a career service center, it might provide you with some organizations
that are looking for teachers.
Short-term: If you want to come here for a short time it's difficult to get a job and a visa before you get here. However, if you want to stay for six months, you could sign a year-long contract with a school and simply leave after six months. It’s not the most honest method, but it is an option. And chances are that the school will get you a visa. But, even if you have a work visa, the school still has to give you papers in order to leave the country to prove that you have paid taxes.
Many people simply come here
and hand out their CVs. You will probably make about US$5
an hour. Keep in mind working without a visa is illegal. However,
this being said, many people still do it as chances are slim that
you will run into problems. You get 90 days upon entry and then
can extend it three more times, each time for 30 days, so you
can get a total of six months in Peru. Some organizations that
hire on tourists visas in Lima are Multilingua, World
Communications, Master Business English,
and Business Links. Expect to get around US$6-10
jobs aren’t even advertised and are filled by word of mouth.
People often find jobs through friends of friends and that it
especially true here in Peru. Be sure to tell everyone that you’re
looking for a job. Who knows, your cousin’s girlfriend might
know of a perfect job for you. You can also make contacts through
forums such as those on www.expatperu.com and www.peruthisweek.com as people tend to help each other
Answer Advertisements: Advertised jobs in Peru are few and far between, however, there are some. Some of the ones that usually have jobs in Peru are:
If you’re in Peru try buying El Comercio on Sunday. The good jobs can be found in the Empleos section.
Cold calling: This comes in many forms. Applying to schools by email can be discouraging. Many places won't reply. This may be because they usually hire in January or simply because they would rather have you come in person before they hire you. Don't give up. Being persistent pays off. Send out your CV by email and then when you arrive go to the schools in person.
Private lessons: Another
option is coming and teaching private lessons. Try posting at
private schools and universities. You can also try posting your
advert at www.expatperu.com and www.livinginperu.com/classifieds.
You can also post in the local paper. Privates outside of Lima
pay around US$5-10 the hour, while in Lima lessions can pay
up to US$20 an hour.
can be expensive and some prices range. See Transitions
Abroad section on Volunteering
in Peru for many options.
Working legally: Obtaining permission to work legally is difficult, however, this is Latin America, so laws tend to be in shades of gray rather than black and white. Some options are getting a “permission to sign a contract” visa. Schools and universities are more likely to get you a work visa than institutes. Your work also might provide you with a volunteer visa, which isn’t
a resident visa, but does allow you to stay in the country legally
for a year. The University of Piura does this. Or if you’re married to a Peruvian and get a llamado de familia / marriage visa, you can work legally. There might be other visa options for you that let you work legally, such as student, independent, artist, immigrant, and religious, visit your local embassy or consulate for more info. Or simply work under the table and border hop. If you’re only planning on staying for a short time, it might be the best option for you.
Best Time to Look for Work
The school year goes from March/April until November/December. International schools and schools may start looking for teachers at early as September or October. Universities may wait until the beginning of the year (January or February) to start hiring. Many institutes hire year-round.
Hours / What to Wear
Many institutes and universities will have you work split shifts, four hours in the morning, a break between two and four hours and then four more hours in the evening. Sometimes classes finish at 9 p.m., or even as late as 10 p.m. Although this may seem difficult at first, you will get used to it and can use the time in the afternoon to take a nap or run errands.
Smart casual is usually the rule here. Some places require you to wear a uniform, other say that men have to wear ties and women appropriate clothing. For men, you should wear dress pants and a dress shirt and for women, nice pants or a skirt with a blouse. Jeans are usually not accepted and piercings and tattoos should be hidden. Depending on where you are, you may be allowed to wear sandals, especially in the north.
Pay / Benefits
The average pay is US$5
an hour, which is about US$500 a month. Is US$500 a month
enough for you to live on? Of course, provided you don’t take
taxis everywhere and eat out all the time. This is an average
wage, but the more experience and qualifications you have, the
better the pay.
International schools pay around
US$20,000/year plus benefits, but you usually need a teaching
license (qualified teaching status) from your country plus two
years experience teaching in a school. You may have to sign a
two-year contract. Also, if you have a legal working visa, you
will be more likely to be paid more, because the school knows
that you will stay for a while rather than teach only in order
to get the money necessary to travel.
The average Peruvian salary is
around US$250 a month. However, you have to remember that
most of Peruvians live with their family, so they are not paying
rent or food. Also, they will take public transport rather than
taxis, which saves money.
Benefits may include transport, insurance, lunch, a housing stipend, and paid vacations. Make sure you clarify everything with your employer and sign a contract. You will usually have one month of vacation unless you work at a school, in that case you will probably get more than a month of vacations. Some schools may put you on planilla. That means that you get an extra month salary in July and December. You also get another bonus in June, called CTS. This is an unemployment fund. You're allowed to take half of the money out every six months. If you quit or get fired, you’re allowed access to the funds after completing the necessary paperwork.
Some places may have you sign two contracts, one for the Ministry of Work, which will be in Spanish and another private one in English. The Spanish one will likely say that they are paying you less and you don’t receive benefits. This is done so that the school doesn’t have to pay lots of taxes. The private one should state all benefits and the correct pay you are going to receive.
If you leave your job either because you finished your contract or quit, you should get both recommendation letters and a constancia de trabajo. Recommendation letters speak well of you and your work. The constancia de trabajo should be given by the head of the company and should state whether you were full- or part-time, the dates you started and finished working, your title, and duties. If possible, have this put in your recommendation letter as well. Have the constancia de trabajo signed and stamped with the company seal. If you’re in planilla, when you leave your job, you’ll get liquidacion, which is basically your last salary plus a month and a half. You can also take out all the money in your CTS. Be sure to ask for this.
Training and Professional Affiliations
If you are in Lima, there are many congresses and conferences for you to attend. If you are in the provinces, there are opportunities to go to conferences, just not as many as in Lima. You could also attend short courses in Lima offered by Camelot Training Centre or Británico.
Peruvians stress training sessions, so your school may offer these free to their employees. If not, try to attend a conference, as it allows you to do some networking. Try to have a section on your CV that lists a few of the recent conferences that you have attended.
There are quite a number of professional affiliations that you can join. Some offer discounts for conferences and others publish newsletters.
Month-Long Intensive Certification Courses:
Conferences and Training
Time of year varies for courses with the following organizations:
Professional Affiliations Links
CV and Cover Letter
Your CV should include the following information:
- Your name
- Date of birth
- Sex, nationality (ex. Female American Citizen or Female, American, Native Speaker)
- Phone number
- Carne de extranjeria / permission to sign a contract visa / work visa,(If you are legal to work in Peru include this info, whichever applies to you and the number of the document)
- Work / Teaching Experience
- Conferences / Workshops given
- Conferences / Workshops attended
- Professional Affiliations
- Other Skills (languages / computer)
- Hobbies (optional)
Do NOT include scanned copies of documents such as a passport, degree or reference letter. First, it’s not necessary and second, anyone with Photoshop can change your name to their name.
Here are a couple of websites that provide information for teachers on how to write a CV and cover letter:
Options for Extra Income (Teaching and Non-Teaching)
Teach night classes at a university
or institute (About US$5-10 an hour).
Teach private classes (About
US$5-25 an hour).
Do translations (About US$5-25
a page), verbal translations or translations for mines (US$1,000
to US$3,000 a month). Recruiting and training center for bilinguals, mostly call centers and mines.
Be a bilingual secretary (US$1,000
Give tours to English speaking people.
Work at a call center (About
US$3 an hour).
Immigration Issues in Peru
All Visas / Onward Ticket
Every year fees usually increase
1 sol. Be sure to check at the Banco de la Nacion.
Embassies and consulates in Peru: www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Peru
Visa requirements in English: www.expatperu.com/vrequirements.php
Immigration Offices: www.expatperu.com/ioffices.php
For Those Who Need a Visa Before Entering Peru
If you need a visa in order to enter Peru, you may be asked to show an onward ticket. Any ticket, whether it be bus or air will do. You could also buy an MCO (Miscellaneous Charge Order) from the IATA (International Air Transport Association) which will allow you to fly on any IATA airline with seats available or give you a refund. See Customer Service at www.iata.org for more details. There's been some discussion about entering on a one-way ticket. In theory, you need a round trip if you enter on a tourist visa. Sometimes they require you to buy a return ticket at the airport, then you simply refund it. Or you might be asked to show proof of funds.
Tourist / Visa Extensions / Expired Visas / Student Visas in Peru
(Be sure you ask at Immigrations about your visa as rules and fees seem to change often.)
Many nationalities receive 30-90 days upon entry of Peru. There is no paperwork beforehand and it’s free. Depending on the immigration officer, you may or may not be asked to show a ticket out of the country or sufficient funds. To see if you need to apply for a tourist visa beforehand, check with the Peruvian embassy or consulate in your country.
You can extend your visa three times, for one month each at Immigrations. Then you have to leave the country, see the here for more info: www.expatperu.com/etourist.php.
It’s currently a dollar a day if you overstay your visa: www.expatperu.com/etourist.php.
Student visas are loopholes
that many people use to stay in Peru. You are allowed to spend
a year in Peru. All you need to do is study Spanish at a language
institute accredited by the Ministry of Education, for example,
ICPNA. You need F007, to pay 27 soles to process the form, a copy
of your passport, proof that you are enrolled at a language school
studying Spanish, proof that you have paid the tuition, and proof
that you have enough money to live on (usually US$2500).
Permission to Sign a Contract
(Be sure you ask at Immigrations about your visa as rules and fees seem to change often.)
If you want to work in Peru,
you can get permission from Migracion to sign contracts. You need
form F004, to pay 27 soles to process the form, your passport,
your Andean Card, (embarkment card) and to pay US$50 for them
to change your migratory status. You have to pay the fees in el
Banco de la Nacion. Then you can be legal to sign contracts and
then your work can start your work visa papers.
If you’re planning on working legally, you will need your university degree and birth certificate. Get them legalized by the Peruvian embassy/consulate before you arrive.
The School System in Peru
There are public and private
schools in Peru and the majority of the private ones are religious.
As expected, private schooling is more expensive and can range
from US$200 to US$800 a month, depending on the school. Most of the English speaking ones are in Lima, but you can also find some in the provinces. Schools are broken into Primary (grades 1-6) and Secondary School (grades 1-5). There is also “Nido” which is Nursery school and usually starts around age 2. Since school is only 11 years, university is five years.
Universities in Peru
Peru has one of the oldest universities in the Americas, San Marcos. It’s very difficult to get in, with 60,000+ applying but only a couple thousand actually admitted yearly. University is considerably harder than in many English-speaking countries. The reason for this is that most grades are based on the midterm and final exams. Some professors expect students to buy their books, memorize them and write their exact words on the exams. They may even take off points if they paraphrase, which is why many students think nothing of copying and pasting and then not giving any credit in the form of a bibliography.
Finding English Books in Peru
As usual, it depends on where you are, if you’re in a big city, you’ll have no problem. Special Book Services is a big English book service. They have offices in Lima, Cusco, Trujillo, Arequipa and Chiclayo. Cambridge University Press sells their books through SBS.
Prices are pretty reasonable, listening exercises are usually rather expensive. For example, a Practice Exam book for FCE which has 5 exams will cost about 80 soles at SBS, however the cassettes are 150 soles.
As for English reading material, many places where you work will have a library. If you’re in Lima, you can become a member of the Británico (www.britanico.edu.pe) or ICPNA (www.icpna.edu.pe) library. Prices vary from 20 to 85 soles for a year’s membership. Fulbright (www.fulbrightperu.info) has a free library and it's free, but it mainly has info on studying in the USA.
If you attend any conferences, there are usually many stands which sells books at discounted price because of the conference. You may want to buy them through Amazon.com and have someone mail them to you.
Jobs in Peru
Places That Get You a Visa
You will usually need at least a B.A. (one in teaching is preferred) and some experience in order to qualify for the following positions:
Lima. Leonardo Da Vinci, Ana Teresa Zapata; www.ldavinci.edu.pe; email@example.com.
Lima, Cambridge High School.
Alameda de los Molinos 728-730 Chorrillos, Phone: 254-0107; www.cambridge.edu.pe.
Lima. Colegio Villa Caritas and Colegio San Pedro, Macky Torres and Cecilia Rosas; www.villacaritas.edu.pe; (1 year contract begins in Feb, Catholic school.)
Lima. Markham College.
Apartado 18-1048, Miraflores, Tel. 51-1-241 7677. Fax 51-1-241 7678; www.markham.edu.pe;
(Should have experience and Qualified Teacher Status.)
Lima. Colegio Santa Margarita,
Bethsabé Galmez; www.santamargarita.edu.pe.
Lima. Newton College.
Av. Ricardo Elías Aparicio 240. La Molina; www.newton.edu.pe; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lima. Abraham Lincoln; www.abrahamlincoln.edu.pe.
Trujillo. Centro de Idiomas, UPAO.
Av. America Sur 3145, Monserrate Pabellón D, First Floor;
(44) 284444 X174; www.upao.edu.pe; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trujillo. Centro de Idiomas, UNT; email@example.com;
(Qualified Teacher Status, minimum 2 year contract. Primary
and secondary school).
Places That Hire People on Tourist Visas
Cusco. ICPNA; www.icpnacusco.org.
272 Av. Santa Cruz, San Isidro, Tel: 422 9932.
Av. Santa Cruz 111, Miraflores, Tel: 421 2231; www.euroidiomas.edu.pe.
Lima. Master Business English,
tel. 445-1744 Cel. 9836-5669; www.mbe.com.pe; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lima. PARI Cooperation, www.paricooperation.com.
Native speakers of English to teach to executives.
Lima, Business Links,
Alex Ellul, Jirón Tacna 873, Tel: 422 6002; email@example.com; www.bl.com.pe.
Lima, Multilingua, elsol.idiomasperu.com.
Lima. World Communication, worldcomperu.com/en/.
Trujillo. El Cultural
Eduardo Torres or Martha Cecilia Perez Gamboa, Av.
Venezula 125, Urb El Recreo; (44) 245832 or (44) 232512; Fax
(44) 261922 ; Av Larco 296;
(44) 220694; www.elcultural.com.pe
Sharon de Hinojosa has
lived and worked (mainly teaching English) in the US, Scotland,
Spain, the Czech Republic, China, Korea, and Peru. She has also
taught short-term in Venezuela and Taiwan. She regularly
contributes to the forums on Dave’s ESL Café and