Getting Your Work Visa in Korea
South Korea has one of the most complex and time-consuming Visa processes of countries I’ve been to. The amount of paperwork involved is intense and unlike most countries you really need to begin the process of collecting documents long before you’ve actually secured a job. Further, while most countries process these applications at their foreign consulates, your documents will actually need to be sent to Korea before you can proceed. Let’s start with the basics—here’s what you’ll need to collect:
- Three sealed copies of your University transcripts
- Notarized copies of your degrees
- Two copies of an FBI Criminal Background Check—depending on where you live, this can be quite a hassle. In order to obtain the correct check you need to supply them with fingerprint cards. Getting your fingerprints taken in the past meant walking into any police station, but these days finding one that still does it (or even better—does it for free) can be hard to do. For the process on ordering or to print out fingerprint cards, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks/identity-history-summary-checks . This one has to be timed correctly as well—these checks often take up to 3 months to get back to you and they need to be less than 6 months old to be valid.
- For those in the UK, a Criminal Records Check can be obtained from Disclosure Scotland ( http://www.disclosurescotland.co.uk/basicdisclosureonline/index.htm )
- Signed Health Statement—this will likely be provided by your school or recruiter.
- Resume with at least 2 letters of recommendation
- Copy of your Passport Information page
- 5 Passport-sized Photos
- Signed copy of your new school contract.
So far this seems pretty standard, right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated. You’ll now need to take your notarized degree copies & FBI Check and have them apostilled. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with this process, welcome to the club. It’s a needlessly complicated and expensive way to basically notarize the notary—double-confirm that the document is real. In the US, each state has a designated office that can issue apostilles, each with their own fee ranging from $0 – $35 per document. You’ll need to send your degrees to the office of the state they were notarized in. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to send them to the state they were issued in instead—make sure you clarify this with your recruiter or school before sending your documents.
Your background check will need to be apostilled at the federal level, so you’ll need this form (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/183033.pdf ) and will send your documents to the Department of State.
For those not in the US, apostilles may be obtained from:
- Australia: The Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade http://www.dfat.gov.au
- New Zealand: Department of Internal Affairs, Authentication Unit http://www.dia.govt.nz/apostille
- United Kingdom: Legalisation Office https://www.gov.uk/get-document-legalised
- Ireland: The Department of Foreign Affairs http://www.dfa.ie
Okay, so now you’ve spent a few hundred bucks and wasted hours waiting for the mail to arrive, but you’ve finally collected all your papers. Now, you’ll need to send them to your school or recruiter in Korea. They’ll then file for your visa issuance number and send the required documents back to you. Now, you’ll need to collect the documents you’ll need at the consulate:
- E2 Visa Application form (obtainable from the consulate or online)
- Consulate’s Checklist (obtainable from the consulate or online)
- Passport Photo
- One set of sealed university transcripts
- Visa Issuance Number
The final step in the process, after your documents have been reviewed, is an interview with the consulate which can be scheduled via telephone, although most require you to appear in person for the actual appointment. They’ll mostly just ask about your employment, your housing, your long-term plan, and your medical record/vaccinations—all pretty basic.
You then need to wait for your passport to arrive with your newly minted Korean Work Visa, and once it arrives you’ll be on your way!