Alaska Teacher Placement
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Information for Foreign Teacher Candidates

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.

Visa Information

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-2 & 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.

Point 1 - Finger    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.

Point 2 - Fingers  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.

Point 3 - Fingers  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 BridgeUSA program.

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 involved.

State Department BridgeUSA Program - J-1 Visas

J-1 Requirements

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" form (DS-2019) 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:

J-1 - First Criteria

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.
J-1 Visas: 2nd Requirement
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 a teacher.
J-1 Visas: 3rd Requirement
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 Certified page.
J-1 Visas: 4th
Have at least two years of teaching experience

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.
J-1 Visas: 5th
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 official information.

J-1 Visas: 6th
Be of good reputation and character

Your sponsor agency will work with you to collect letters and references needed to document you are well regarded in your local community.
J-1 Visas: 7th Requirement
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 again.
J-1 Visas: 8th Requirement
Demonstrate proficiency in the English language

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 Applitrack System - Create a Free Account

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.

Job Bank - Quick Search of Current Jobs Only

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. 

ATP Facebook Page

Scan through our ATP Forum Archive to see prior candidate common questions and answers.


Alaska is not like other US states. Make sure you take time to learn about Alaska, about the Alaska's five regions, and research locations. Then, reach out to schools and districts you are interested in politely, but persistently. 

Getting Certified for J-1 Visa Applicants

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, too! 

State of Alaska Teacher Certification Office

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 isn't!

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 document). 

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 Office provides.

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.

  • Alaska Background Check  - Alaska Department of Education site information page
  • FBI Fingerprint Form (FD-528)
  • FD-528 Form (PDF)
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.

Social Security and Fingerprint Requirements

  • Social Security Number for Non-citizens (PDF)
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 page is from the official Social Security website and lists the FBUs by country around the world:

FBU Example (Philppines)

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 Candidates

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 Dunleavy 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:

  • Anchorage
  • Bering Strait School District
  • Chatham School District
  • Fairbanks
  • Iditarod
  • Kake
  • Kashunimuit School District
  • Kodiak Island
  • Kuspuk
  • Lower Kuskokwim
  • Lower Yukon School District
  • North Slope
  • Northwest Arctic
If you know of others, please let ATP know, and we'll add them to the list if we can confirm the information!