So you’re thinking about coming to Korea to teach English? My advice to you would be to secure ALL of your paperwork before even starting to reach out for jobs. The visa process for a Korean E-2 teaching visa is a long one. It required a serious amount of paperwork, more than any other visa I’ve ever applied for. It also took a lot longer for all of the required paperwork to be processed than I thought it would, hence why I suggest doing that first.
There are a few different steps that are required, and depending on where you’re from, it can take upwards of 2 months to get it all sorted out. I can only speak for the processes in the US and the UK, as those are the ones Luke and I have experienced first hand.
What to do First
If you’re from the US you need to get an FBI check. If you’re opting for the cheaper option, this takes up to 6 weeks. Always check the website, it will give you up-to-date feedback on how long it is currently taking for things to process.
What I did: I headed to my local police station where I had to bring in this form. They took my fingerprints and I then took it straight to the post office with all of the other forms required on this website. There are a few options for how to pay, but I found the simplest to be just a plain old money order. If you’re in a rush you can use an expediting service which a lot of recruiters will push you to do. It’s quite expensive and as I wasn’t in much of a rush, I went for the cheaper option.
If you’re from the UK, the process is a little bit different and quite a bit easier. Luke applied for his background check online through Disclosure Scotland. They allow you to send all of your information online by uploading it through their website. It only takes two weeks, but be sure that as soon as you lodge your application you call them to “certify” the document. It cannot be apostilled by the government unless it has this seal and they will not do it unless you ask. Luke didn’t know this and we wasted a lot of time and money sending it back and forth between all of these slow government agencies.
The next step is to get your degree notarized. In the US, this is simple and cheap. Make a photocopy of your degree. Then take both the original and the copy to a local notary. Most UPS stores or post offices have a notary working all the time. It only cost me $5 and it took about 2 minutes to complete.
Once your degree is notarized you should send it straight to the secretary of state (of your state) to be apostilled. If you live near the capital then you might be able to do it in person, but I was not anywhere near Hartford, so off it went into the post. It came back a week later with a little letter attached to it stating it was legit.
The UK on the other hand makes it a little more difficult. Notaries are generally only solicitors, but not all solicitors are notaries. If you live outside of London, there are probably only 2 or 3 within a driving distance. For Luke two of the three were on vacation. He had to make an appointment, drive out to the solicitors office and pay ￡60 (roughly $100) for his to be notarized.
Just like in the US, British citizens need to get their degree apostilled. I believe in the UK it is more commonly referred to as being “legalized”. Luke was able to send both his degree and Disclosure Scotland forms off at once to be done together. It’s a very straightforward system which required Luke to pay online before posting it to them with this form. Definitely opt for the courier delivery option. They emailed Luke when it had been dispatched and it was back to us three days after we’d sent it.
The last piece of the puzzle for Americans comes when your FBI Check finally shows up in your mailbox. Mine took exactly six weeks, pretty much to the day. When it comes to getting your FBI check apostilled, that one doesn’t go to the Secretary of State, but to the US Department of State. For this I recommend using an expediting service. I used US Authentication Services and didn’t have a problem. It came pretty quickly and wasn’t too expensive.
Once these two things are done, the rest will seem like a cake walk. You’ll need a photocopy of your passport photo page, passport photos (all in all I used about eight by the time I settled into life in korea), a copy of your resume, this form and this form. You’ll also need a professional looking photo for recruiters. They’ll be sending it along to prospective employers. Luke and I used those same photos as our Skype photos during this time since that was how a lot of interviews were being conducted.
Keep in mind that this is what I needed as of March 2014. I applied to work in a Hagwon. I have heard that public school teachers are required to also have official transripts. Luke and I ordered some from our universities, but we never needed them.
If you’re traveling while applying, be sure to check the Korean consulate in the country you’re applying from to see what other things they may require. If you’re American you will need to start your paperwork, especially your FBI check, from within the US.
Once you’ve gotten all of that paperwork sorted, head over to Dave’s ESL Café to post your resume. Luke and I posted ours for a few days in a row and we were flooded with emails from loads of different recruiters. Most don’t want to speak to you unless you have all of your paperwork ready. In the end we worked very well with the people at DW Recruiting. It’s also where I got a lot of the information for this post. If you have more questions about the visa process you should head over to their site to have a read.
Do your research, not only about the visa process, but about where you want to be in Korea. Don’t let a recruiter tell you that some remote, rural town 3 hours out of Seoul is a “suburb of Seoul”, unless of course that’s what you’re looking for. Be sure to ask for the contact details of a current teacher at the school. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into! The process will be time consuming, somewhat expensive and tedious at times, but I promise, it’ll be worth it. Good Luck!
Have I missed anything? Are there any other tips you have for people interested in teaching in Korea?