English Language Assistants have to meet a range of criteria so please check full details before making an application. ©

Mat Wright 

It's essential to check that you meet all of the eligibility criteria before starting your application. On this page, we explain the eligibility criteria for the English Language Assistants programme 2024-25. 

Who is the programme aimed at?

The English Language Assistant (ELA) programme is a UK-funded programme intended to support the mobility of people from the UK to destinations overseas.

As such, applications received from eligible candidates will be prioritised for placement in the following order:

  1. Candidates undertaking a compulsory period abroad as part of their studies in the UK
  2. Other UK-based candidates seeking a professional opportunity overseas
  3. Candidates applying to teach in the country they are currently already a resident in e.g. a candidate who is in Spain who wants to apply to teach in Spain.

In recent years, we've been able to allocate placements to the majority of successful candidates. 

Eligibility criteria

All candidates must meet our eligibility criteria which are designed to ensure that applicants are suitable for the role and equipped to deal with the demands - as well the potential challenges of living and working abroad.

Eligibility criteria for the English Language Assistants programme vary depending on where you want to teach. Please read these eligibility criteria carefully before submitting an application.

To be eligible to apply, you must meet all of the following criteria.

Candidates must:

  1. Be highly proficient in English
  2. Be aged 18 and over at the time of applying
  3. Have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years within the last 10 years
  4. Hold the minimum academic qualifications
  5. Meet the language requirements
  6. Have the right to live and work in the destinations to which you are applying
  7. Pass a criminal record check
  8. Be able to complete the full period of your post 
  9. Have not previously taken part in the programme on more than three occasions
  10. Meet the destination-specific eligibility requirements

We explain the eligibility criteria in detail below. 

1. Be highly proficient in English

Your level of English (speaking, listening, reading and writing) must be equivalent to C2 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRL). 

You must assess your own level against the CEFRL. We'll also assess your English skills by reviewing your written application and your reference. 

Why we ask for this: It's in your own interest to hold the required level of English as you'll be expected to teach it to a high level and to demonstrate complete mastery of the English language at all times. 

2. Be at least 18 years of age at the time of application 

You must be aged 18 or over at the time your application is submitted. 

3. Have lived in the UK for a minimum of five years within the last 10-year period

You must have been resident in the UK for a total of five calendar years within the last 10 years at the time of application. The five years do not have to be consecutive years. 

All applicants must be able to demonstrate their knowledge of contemporary UK culture which will be assessed through questions in the application form. 

Why we ask for this: Successful applicants will be expected to teach a broad range of cultural topics related to the UK which means that it's in your best interest to meet this requirement. 

It's also highly recommended that all successful applicants independently research and study various aspects of UK culture (education systems, politics, history etc) before you start your post as it's likely you'll be asked about these topics in the classroom.

4. Hold the minimum academic standard of UK A-level or equivalent 

You must have completed a minimum educational standard of UK A-level, Scottish Highers, International Baccalaureate or equivalent level.

Why we ask for this: The Language Assistants programme primarily provides undergraduates with the opportunity to carry out their year abroad, however we welcome applications from those who are pursuing other academic pathways into teaching. 

5. Meet the language requirements

Language requirements vary between countries. You don't need a formal language qualification - skills can be acquired through regular travel, private study or a course at a university language centre. Self-assess your language level against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. 

  • Hong Kong and Spain: no language skills required
  • Austria, Canada, Germany and Switzerland: A2 (CEFRL) in the target language
  • All other destinations: B1 (CEFRL) in the destination’s main language

We'll assess your language skills using the information provided in your application. 

Why we ask for this: For all countries, even those which do not require language skills, you'll be expected to communicate and complete the necessary administrative procedures in the language of your destination, for example opening a bank account and registering at the local Town Hall. 

You may receive some support from your host institution, but this is not guaranteed. The British Council will not be able to support you with day-to-day tasks. This is why we recommend that you accurately assess your level and where possible spend the summer improving your language skills. 

6. Have the right to live and work in the destinations to which you are applying

It is each applicant's personal responsibility to research their right to live and work in the destinations to which you are applying and to check that you meet the visa requirements.

As a guide:

  • UK passport holders are eligible to apply for all of the destinations on offer, however holders of other passports should research the requirements of the destination(s) to which they are applying. The British Council cannot advise on this.  
  • EU passport holders (including Irish) will not be required to obtain a visa to work in the EU. 
  • Those who only possess a Spanish passport are not eligible to apply for Spain as the funding from the Ministry in Spain is intended for foreign nationals (those with dual nationality should use their non-Spanish passport to apply for the programme). 
  • Candidates for Colombia must not have a Colombian passport, including dual nationality.  
  • Some countries (Canada) require applicants to hold a UK/Irish passport. Only holders of a UK passport may apply to Argentina. Please check the individual country pages for more specific requirements.

Successful applicants will be responsible for obtaining their own visa and/or work permit when instructed to do so by our overseas partners. 

We'll pass on advice from our overseas partners on how to obtain a visa and/or work permit, where possible, however the requirements will differ depending on the passport that you hold. 

7. Pass a criminal record check

Successful candidates must apply for an International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) and have this approved by the British Council before taking up their post. 

This is a form of criminal record check. Do not apply for the ICPC until we instruct you to do so. This will cost approximately £90 and is not refundable. 

A new ICPC is obligatory also for anyone applying for a consecutive year, whether you are applying through the British Council or a partner organisation.

In line with our Child Protection Policy and our approach to safeguarding children, we cannot accept your application if you have any convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings, prosecutions or criminal proceedings for the offences outlined below: 

  • a sexual or violence-related offence 
  • any offence involving any type of harm (physical, emotional or sexual abuse) to a child or children. 

We reserve the right to reject your application for any other offences. These will be assessed on a case-by-case basis considering the following: 

  • time since the offence(s) occurred 
  • age at which the offence(s) was/were committed 
  • pattern of behaviour e.g. repeated offences 
  • disclosure or non-disclosure of the offence(s) 
  • explanation of the circumstances of the offence(s) 
  • classification and step-down period of the offence according to the ACRO step-down model  
  • satisfactory university/employer/character references 
  • motivation for the programme 
  • employment history. 

If you commit a criminal offence or are the subject of any criminal proceedings after you submit your application, you must inform us in writing as soon as possible. Failure to do so may lead to your application or post being withdrawn. The information you provide will be corroborated by your ICPC certificate. 

8. Be able to complete the full period of your post 

This is usually a full academic year. Posts in Argentina are exclusively six months, and Germany also has a limited number of six-month posts are available. Please check the individual country pages for specific dates.

9. Have not previously taken part in the programme on more than three occasions

You can only be a Language Assistant through our programme a maximum of four times, regardless of whether the posts were in the same or different countries. Both consecutive and non-consecutive years will be counted. 

Why we ask this: This is to ensure that others are given access to the opportunities which the programme provides. 

10. Destination-specific eligibility requirements

Please see below for a summary of language requirements and age limits for each destination:


Language Requirement (CEFF)

Age limit




You must be an undergraduate studying a dual-language degree    

 21-35 UK only 

Austria A2 35 (pending number of applicants) UK/Irish/EU
Belgium B1  35 Any accepted 
Canada A2  35 UK or Irish only


You must have studied languages at university level and have a minimum of 6 months teaching experience.

Minimum 20

Maximum N/A

Any accepted (except dual Colombian nationality). 

France B1 35  UK/Irish/EU or one of our French partner’s associated countries found here
Germany A2 35  UK/Irish/EU
Hong Kong None N/A Any accepted
Italy B1 N/A UK/Irish/EU
Chile B1 N/A Any accepted
Spain None 60 UK/Irish/EU other than Spanish. Spanish nationals who hold only a Spanish passport are not eligible.
Switzerland (French-speaking) A2

Minimum 20

Maximum 35

Switzerland (German-speaking) A2 Minimum 20

Maximum 35


Updated: 24/10/2023