The eligibility criteria for the English Language Assistants programme vary depending on where you want to teach. The information on this page applies to most applicants. You should read both this page and the relevant country page carefully before applying. 

If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact us before submitting an application.

Native-level English

You must be a native-level English speaker. We assess your English skills by reviewing your written application and your reference.

Language skills

Language requirements vary between countries. You do not need a formal language qualification - skills can be acquired through regular travel, private study or a course at a university language centre. 

  • China  and Spain – no language skills required.
  • All other countries – B1 in the country’s main language.

Self-assess your language level against the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

We will assess your language skills using the information provided on your application. It is in your own best interest to hold the required language level as you will be expected to communicate and complete the necessary administration procedures in the language of your destination.


You must hold a UK, Irish or other European Union (EU) passport to be eligible for the Language Assistant programme. Holders of a non-EU passport are not eligible for the programme.

Some countries require applicants to hold a UK passport. Please check the individual country pages for more specific requirements.

Secondary-school education

You must have:

  • completed at least three years of your secondary school education (age 11/12-18) in the UK, and
  • obtained your GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent qualifications) in the UK.

This is because part of your role will be to share your knowledge of UK culture and our education system with students.

There is one exception. You are eligible to apply if you have a UK or Irish passport but completed your secondary school outside of the UK, so long as you are currently studying at a UK university and have completed at least two years of study by the time you start your placement, or you have already graduated from a UK university.

Please note that higher education campuses located in non-UK countries or UK overseas countries and territories are not included.

Non-UK / Irish passport holders who completed their secondary education overseas, including at a British international school outside of the UK, are not eligible to apply to the programme.

University education

You must have passed at least two years of university-level education by the time you start your assistantship post to be eligible for the programme.

Different criteria apply to assistantships in China. Please see the China country page for more information.

Teaching qualifications

You do not need a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification to apply. However, successful candidates for China will be required to complete a compulsory TEFL course prior to departure.


You must be flexible regarding your preferences (area, environment, age group etc.) and be willing to accept any post that is offered.

For most countries, you will be able to give three area preferences, as well as preferences relating to the size of town you’d like to work in and the age group you’d like to teach. However, the number of posts in each area is limited and your preferences cannot be guaranteed.

We recommend that you look at the preferences for your country of application and research the areas available thoroughly before applying.

You need to be available to complete the whole period of your post, which is usually a full academic year. In Argentina, Austria and Germany, a limited number of six-month posts are available.

Support requirements

If you have any additional support requirements (for example, disabilities, medical conditions or dependent children), please provide as much information as possible in your application to enable us to find a post best suited to your needs.

We may contact you during the application process to discuss your specific needs and how we can accommodate them.

Criminal records checks

Once you receive a provisional offer of an assistantship from us, we will require you to apply for an International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC), which is a form of criminal record check. Do not apply for the ICPC until we instruct you to.

To apply for an ICPC you must have been a registered resident in the United Kingdom (excluding UK overseas countries and territories).

In line with our Child Protection Policy and our approach to safeguarding children, we cannot accept your application if you currently have any outstanding prosecutions or criminal proceedings for the offences outlined below or have ever been convicted of or received a caution, reprimand or warning for:

  • a sexual or violence-related offence 
  • or 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 the British Council in writing as soon as possible. Failure to do so may lead to your application being withdrawn.

Maximum number of placements

You can 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.

Ready to apply?

Applications for 2019-20 have now closed. Applications for 2020-21 are likely to open in November 2019.

Country pages

Back to the main English Language Assistants page.