Navigating overseas teachers to our shores

Issue: Volume 102, Number 15

Posted: 16 November 2023
Reference #: 1HAdkW

Schools and early learning services are taking advantage of initiatives to make it easier to recruit teachers from overseas, and they say it’s worth getting on board.

A digital awareness campaign in August and October this year that continues in January aims to entice teachers in the UK, Ireland, Canada and Singapore to ‘Come Teach Us’ in Aotearoa.

 Tatyana Betham and Connor Duggan from the Ministry’s Navigator Service.

Tatyana Betham and Connor Duggan from the Ministry’s Navigator Service.

It was hoped the New Zealand culture and lifestyle, more flexible curriculum, and support available for teachers new to Aotearoa, would bring more experienced teachers to our shores.

“We’ve found overseas-trained teachers a great source of talent for our school,” says Papatoetoe Intermediate principal Pauline Cornwall.

“We have employed four overseas teachers in the past year or so, all with around 10 years’ experience.”  

Recruiting from overseas is more complicated than employing a New Zealand-trained teacher, so Pauline recommends tapping into support available.


The Ministry of Education offers a ‘Navigator’ service that provides 1:1 support through the overseas recruitment process.

They offer guidance on working through the steps with other agencies including the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, Teaching Council, and Immigration New Zealand.

Pauline had never dealt with immigration issues before, so being able to pick up the phone and get step-by-step help through the process saved time and gave peace of mind.

Schools and licensed early learning services interested in recruiting an overseas teacher are advised to register with Immigration New Zealand as an Accredited Employer. They then submit a ‘job check’, including a job description and employment agreement.

Once Immigration New Zealand approves this, the school receives a ‘job token’ to send to the overseas teacher as part of their visa application.

“The Navigator service is extremely helpful; they respond very quickly with answers or suggestions,”
says Pauline.

Point Chevalier School principal Stephen Lethbridge agrees. “This is the kind of service that makes my job easier,” he said after reaching out while recruiting overseas.

“We’re essentially problem solvers,” says advisor Connor Duggan of the Navigator service.

“If schools or early learning services come to us with a question about overseas recruitment, we either know the answer, because we’re working in this area constantly, or we will use our internal or external contacts to find out.”  

Papatoetoe Intermediate principal Pauline Cornwall and teacher Belinda Nel.

Papatoetoe Intermediate principal Pauline Cornwall and teacher Belinda Nel.

Papatoetoe Intermediate anticipates it will need three more teachers next year, which will require going through the accreditation process again and getting more tokens to offer the applicants.

“It’s great to know I can ring the Navigator service and say, ‘lead me through this again please’ because I haven’t done it since 2022,” says Pauline.

Grants for overseas recruitment

There are two government grants available to reduce the barriers to overseas recruitment.  

Papatoetoe Intermediate has received the Overseas Finders Fee (OFF) of $3,450 to help meet the recruitment cost of each overseas teacher.

All its overseas-trained teachers have received the Overseas Relocation Grant, of up to $10,000, toward their relocation costs.

One is South African teacher Belinda Nel, who spotted an Education Gazette advertisement while visiting her fiancé in Auckland late last year.

She applied while her work documentation was being processed and started teaching in a Year 7 and 8 classroom in March.

With six years’ experience teaching in a multicultural environment in South Africa, she says she would have been happy teaching at any school in New Zealand.

Belinda specialises in maths, social studies, and science – subjects that are in high demand here – and credits being in a co-teaching class with a senior teacher for a relatively smooth transition.  

“It hasn’t been easy though, because you must learn a different curriculum and a different way of teaching while adapting to living in a new country, but everyone’s been really welcoming and helpful.

“I want to help students accomplish something in their lives. If I can help just one student with something each day and put a smile on someone’s face – then it’s great,” says Belinda.

“People should never close the door on new experiences. Some countries offer better opportunities than others, and for me, that is New Zealand right now.”  

Receiving a $10,000 Overseas Relocation Grant made the move easier.

“You have a lot of things to pay for when you move overseas, and it just helps you to feel more settled.”  

Well-rounded support

Providing well-rounded support for teachers from overseas is critical, says Pauline.

At Papatoetoe Intermediate a senior teacher acts as mentor, and they also get a ‘buddy’ to help them settle into the school environment.

“Some arrive ahead of their families so it’s nice to offer help with finding housing and schools for the children, so everyone feels at home here faster,”
says Pauline.

Not overloading new overseas teachers is also important, along with helping them adjust to our high level of digital device use and building cultural competency.

“We’ve been really pleased with our teachers from overseas. Their English and maths teaching knowledge and ability is of a high standard, and they bring a lot of experience and different perspectives to our school community,” says Pauline.

“We believe our most important role is preparing them for New Zealand education through opportunities to mix with many cultures, developing their understanding of our education practice, the place of online learning and of course Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te reo Māori. Then we know they will be an asset to any other school in Aotearoa they may go to in the future.”

Navigator tips

  • Register with Immigration New Zealand as an accredited employer.
  • Start the process early.
  • Don’t spend hours figuring out all the steps – reach out to the Navigator service at or
    0800 165 225(external link).
  • Consider using a recruitment agency. They do much of the legwork and will get to know the right fit for your school or early learning service.

For more information visit link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:31 am, 16 November 2023

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