My wife and I recently explored teaching options in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). My wife has over 10 years of experience teaching in diverse situations with limited English proficiency (LEP) children, and we felt that a move abroad to stretch our wings would be a good deal.

We sat together one evening and filled out the paperwork on a couple of different recruiter websites to see if we could get a response. The very next day my wife received a call from Footprints Recruiting asking for a good time to conduct an over-the-phone interview. My wife scheduled the interview for later in the afternoon of the very same day and was called at precisely the agreed upon time. The interview went really well and the interviewer felt that she was a candidate to move directly to the in-person interview. We were told we would be given the details as the time approached, so we waited.

After about two weeks of waiting (with bated breath), she received a call stating that an interview could be conducted on December 12th in Houston, Texas – the closest location to us here in El Paso. We anxiously bought a ticket for her to travel to Houston and stay for one night, not knowing what time the interview was to be held, how long it would take, and where it was being conducted. She made contact with a childhood friend in Houston who volunteered to give her a ride to the Marriott downtown where Footprints was sure the interview would take place.

Upon arriving at the hotel, she waited in a lobby area until someone approached her and asked whether she was there for interviews. They ushered her into another lobby area where the rest of the interviewees were being gathered and they all waited nervously for the interviews to commence. There was a brief introduction via skype by an Emirati gentleman associated with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and then each applicant was taken into one of three rooms where interviews were being conducted via skype (again).

My wife’s interview went well, and by the end of the interview everyone was laughing and talking about how great the experience was going to be. I know she left the interview on a high note and was full of optimism.

After getting back home, we both joked about paying almost $400 for a plane ticket to go to a skype interview, but we felt it had been worth it. The Footprints team informed us that it would take up to two weeks to get an offer letter – if one was going to be made – so again we waited.

About a week and a half later we received an offer letter and it was within the parameters we had told ourselves would be worth the move. We had crunched some numbers and anticipated expenses abroad based on extensive online research, as well as talking to people already in-country, and had concluded that we could live quite nicely (although frugally) and save some hard-earned cash.

At this point, I should give some background information on our family so you know the numbers and concerns we’ve been working with:

I have been in graduate school and will be continuing my education remotely from Abu Dhabi for the next year or so. We have a six-year-old son, who will be going into first grade when we get there, and I’ve already outlined my wife’s experience above. So… a nuclear family of three with big dreams, a few fears, some jitters, and lots of excitement.

So, we made the decision to move and sent in the letter with signatures and approvals of salary and intended package. Now for the long, drawn out process…

1) We sent color copies of our passports to our Footprints liaison for their records.

2) We gathered the necessary documents for inclusion in the package we were going to send to Footprints, ADEC, and the different state and federal institutions that needed to sign off on the paperwork.

a)The paperwork is as follows: My wife’s college diploma, our marriage certificate, our son’s birth certificate, proof of employment and teaching certification, as well as two professional letters of recommendation from my wife’s current employer.

3) We had to take these documents and have them certified (notarized) and send them to Footprints for inclusion in their records. NOTE: Make color copies of the documents and then have them notarized. In Texas, notaries can certify copies of documents, while in some states they cannot. On your copies of your documents, write “THIS IS A TRUE AND VALID COPY OF THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT” – sign and date it and then have it notarized. We had to look around for a notary who finally understood what we were asking.

4) The notarized copies then need to be sent to the Secretary of State for your particular state in order to get validated by the state. This process can take up to two or three weeks, so do it as early as possible.

5) The next steps can be done individually, but we HIGHLY recommend going through Proex Corp to authenticate your documents through the federal Secretary of State and the UAE embassy. It should run you anywhere between $350 and $400, but the small service fee is well worth the time and energy it would take you to get it done on your own. Through Proex the process is relatively pain-free, and if you have your documents all in a row up to this point, it will only take around twelve business days to get everything back.

a) Fill out an Authentication Request Form from the website and send in your documents. It is best to send them in all at once to avoid any confusion.

b) Proex accepts paypal, credit cards, and checks. We used paypal and it was quick and easy.

c) It is wise to call and send an email letting them know when you sent the package and what it contains. This insures that you have a paper trail and a call record just in case there is some confusion.

[supsystic-gallery id=11] Left to right: FBI Background check, Department of State (Texas) Certification, Secretary of State (Texas) Certification, Texas Educator Certificate (notarized), United Arab Emirates official seal (provided through Proex). These are examples, your documents may look different.

Above are examples of the documents that were prepared so that you can compare and contrast. Keep in mind that this process is for the state of Texas. It may be different where you live. I have not included birth certificates, marriage licenses, or some other documents, as they will be easily recognizable.

The last step my wife had to complete was a background check. She had to wait until March 1 to complete it because ADEC requires it to be valid 6 months prior to arrival in the UAE. In the state of Texas, my wife did her background check through Fieldprint. Scheduling an appointment was easy to do online, and they had several time slots available for each day of the week. The actual background check required her to scan in her fingerprints at a local Fieldprint-affiliated facility, and took less than ten minutes to complete. She received clearance via email moments after her appointment. The background check cost fifty dollars and was probably the least time consuming of all the steps.

The hardest part of the process thus far, but also the most exciting, has been waiting to see when we depart. Because Diana was amongst the first to turn in all of her documents, she was informed that she would more than likely be departing with the first group of teachers in August. However, the time frame that was given was anytime between August and late October. Therefore, we will need to be ready by August but must be flexible in case our time is pushed back. The itinerary will be sent out two weeks prior to departure.

Though they recommend that your family join you after you’ve begun teaching (placing you in a school can take anywhere between 6 and 8 weeks after you’ve arrived) ADEC has been respectful of us joining Diana upon arrival. Elliott and I will initially obtain travel visas. They expire in 30 days, so we need to depart the UAE, most likely to Oman to renew our visas. Residential visas for Elliott and I will be obtained once Diana is placed in a school. There have been some recent changes to pricing and time limits of visas to Oman, so be aware of that.

Now that the transition has been made, follow along on our journey as we navigate our new home… (SPOILER ALERT* ~ They placed us in Al Ain!)

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