The visa document process for Korea is tedious, time consuming, full of possible pitfalls, and potentially expensive. So we decided to break it up into a few different posts.
THE DIFFERENT POSTS
The details: That is this post. Information on timing, a list of the required documents, useful or important links, with a bit of personal experience thrown in.
The long but inexpensive route: This post will be for people who do not plan to teach in Korea for at least 3-5 months. Expect it to take at least 10-12 weeks, if not 12-16, to get everything together. The up side to this long wait is you shouldn’t have to spend more than $100-$250 depending on your circumstances.
The quick but expensive route: This will be for people trying to teach within the next 2-3 months. You could get everything in about 4-6 weeks but it will cost you between $200-$400 depending on your circumstances.
Now, on to this post about details.
THE DETAILS POST
1. Timing: referring to when you want to begin your contract
Once you know you want to teach in Korea, decide when you would like to begin teaching. Maybe your lease is up in August so you want to teach in September. Maybe it’s as soon as possible. Maybe it’s once you have money saved. No matter what the deciding factors, try to have this time frame picked out while being both realistic about your options and flexible with potential employers.
The time frame you choose for your teaching abroad contract will greatly impact which document route you need to take from the above two options (long and cheap, quick and expensive). It will effect practical decisions you need to make, such as if to or which TEFL/TESOL program to take, finances to sort, housing, arrangements for belongings, et cetra. And it will also impact when you should begin job hunting and interviewing.
Here is what it comes down to. If you want to teach in September, for example, you need to be hired and signed by end of July or beginning of August. The reason is because even after all your documents have come in, after all your interviews, and a final decision, it still takes 4+ weeks for Korean Immigration in Seoul and your local Korean Consulate to process your visa. I didn’t know that and it set me back a bit, effecting my finances and housing situation. It’s a practical decision you should make ahead of time so you can choose the more realistic document obtaining route and eventual contract. Again, you can be flexible but have some perimeters set, such as September at the earliest and best but can accept contracts as late as end of October. I really wanted to teach in September because of my lease but didn’t make this decision til July. So I had to spend a lot of money getting my documents on time.
2. The document list: all the documents you will need to obtain an E-2 visa
Required by all employers
- Passport – must have at least 18 months left til expiration
- University degree – notarized and apostilled
- FBI Criminal Background Check (CBC) – authenticated and apostilled
- Health Assessment form – provided to you by employer at contract signing
- Photocopy of passport information page – not the cover, the one with your photo on it
- Passport photos – four official photos
- Contract – with live signature
Required by some employers
- University transcript – sealed with official stamp and signature of university registrar
- Consulate Interview – depends on the consulate and employer
- Letters of recommendation – usually two or three, sealed, with contact info, live signature, and dates of employment
- Marriage certificate – if applicable obviously, the vital record from the health department not the county clerk
3. Tips: exactly like it sounds, the odds and ends of this decision and process
- Begin collecting your documents as soon as possible, but no more than 6 months before you want to move. The FBI CBC is only valid 6 months.
- Have your documents before you start applying and interviewing. We were only waiting on one document but got some negative feedback about it even though we had it tracked and were expecting it soon. Once we could say “we have it all” we got a lot more offers. And choices are great.
- Get doubles of everything. This is important if you want to teach in a public school or if your consulate requires an interview with documents.
- If you are about to move or take a TESOL/TEFL course away from home, get your university diploma documents first. Some states won’t apostille out of state diplomas. Like Oregon, unfortunately.
- Assume everything is going to take the longest estimated time. Some times it is even longer than that. I said it was tedious and pitfally. Be prepared so you don’t have to be as annoyed as I have been.
- FedEx is your friend.
That’s it for the details.
Part One and Part Two will be written and posted back to back. Expect it in the next day or so.