So you’re considering teaching in South Korea, huh? Well alright! I’m happy for you and, to be quite honest, a bit jealous. My time in S. Korea was, hands-down, one of the best seasons of my life. I made friends that I still talk to almost daily and made memories with them (and a handful of strangers) that I hold close to my heart. South Korea is a load of calm chaos and contradictions all at once, and although overwhelming sometimes, it is perfect.
Everything You Need to Know About Applying for an E-2 Teaching Visa
Unlike many countries that accept foreign teachers, South Korea has a very complicated process for visa applicants. Although this process can be taxing, it does weed out some of the more questionable characters in hopes that Korean students will receive the best education possible. The visa you will be applying for is called E-2. This solely allows you to teach at your contracted school and nowhere else. Note that this may seem overwhelming, but usually the school staff will help you through the process and provide a checklist for you along the way. If it does become a bit overwhelming, check out my blog 7 Reasons Why You Should Teach In South Korea.
Having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is the first step to securing a good teaching job in Korea. The field of study doesn’t seem to matter when applying, although if you studied English or something related to teaching, I’m sure you can use that as leverage for higher pay.
Sealed university transcript
One of the easiest steps in the application process is obtaining two sealed copies of your college transcripts. One of these copies will be sent directly to the school you are applying to, and the other will be sent to the closest Korean Consulate.
Copy of Diploma
This is a critical and daunting step. You must take a copy of your diploma to a notary, which you can usually find at your local bank. Call the location first to ensure that the notary is in that day before wasting your time. Once the copy of your diploma is notarized, you will then have it authenticated by an apostille. We will get to that in a moment.
This is another critical piece of the pay bump puzzle. Before teaching in South Korea, I had minimal teaching experience, but I fluffed my resume to make it seem a bit more appealing. Do whatever you are comfortable with, but it is best to have some experience whether that’s tutoring, babysitting, coaching, etc… They are looking for leadership, confidence and teaching experience. Any combination of that would look great on your resume!
Copy of Teaching License
Having a teaching license is a huge advantage when applying for a position overseas. With this, you can easily negotiate pay and work for reputable international schools that are known for treating their employees very well. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case for applicants. Instead of going through a lengthy process to obtain a license, another option is to acquire a teaching certification. This shows your employer that you are serious about your role and take education seriously.
There are three well-known teaching certifications that schools recognize and take into consideration during the application process: TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). All of these certifications require more than 100 hours of training and coursework that must be completed within a year. If you are interested in completing a course online be sure to do your research on the legitimacy of the company offering the certification.
The initial cost of getting to Korea can be pricey so be sure to look for companies offering discounts on courses. Groupon offers more than 80% off of TEFL and TESOL courses so be sure to check there during your search.
FBI National Background Check
As I previously mentioned, the Korean is cautious when issuing foreign visas. Because of this, you must be very when completed the necessary paperwork. The FBI background check is a critical piece in the visa process because this assures the Korean government that you are not a threat to the children you will be around. Be sure not to submit the paperwork for the background check too early because the completed background check cannot be more than six months old when applying for the visa. The background check process can take up to two months, so I recommend searching for an expedited option to ensure that it’s returned to you on time. Also, note that there is a $50 service fee and a $5 delivery charge to process the order. Along with the completed FBI background form, you will also include two original fingerprint cards (not a copy). This can be obtained at your local police station.
In case you are unfamiliar with the term apostille, it is merely a more formal seal for foreign documents, similar to a notary. A photocopy of your diploma and FBI background check must receive an apostille authentication. To obtain an apostille authentication on your papers, you will need to send your paperwork to your Secretary of State (the same state in which you received the notarization). Some states allow you to drive to the capital and do this in person, but it is important to check your state’s procedures and guidelines before doing so. There is also a small fee associated with the apostille so be sure to find out which forms of payment are accepted.
It is suggested that your passport be valid for a minimum of six months after you arrive, but it is best to be cautious as an expired passport can make returning home a bit of a nightmare. Regardless of when it expires, make yourself a note four months in advance so you can begin the renewal process. It is also wise to make a few copies of your passport in case it is misplaced or stolen.
The visa application requires you to send in two passport size photos that you can have done at your local Walgreens or CVS. Many of the schools also ask for a copy of the picture for their records, so it is best to have a small bundle just in case.
At some point, you will receive a contract from your desired school, and it is crucial that you read it carefully. Schools in Korea are known for complicated contracts that can leave foreigners in a bind. If you are dealing with a recruiter, which I do not recommend, be sure to read your contract thoroughly because often they will make promises that the school never agreed to. If there is something in your contract that makes you uncomfortable or doesn’t seem right, speak up or move on.
This is a relatively easy part of the process. You simply fill out an E2 Health Statement Questionnaire and send it in with your visa. When you arrive at your school someone will escort you to a nearby clinic where you will be tested for narcotics, TB, HIV and Hepatitis. During this test, the medical staff will inform your employer if there are any signs of drugs in your system. If anything appears on your results (including marijuana), you will be deported immediately.
Let’s review the documentation required for the E-2 Visa:
- A copy of your original diploma with apostille authentication
- One sealed University transcript
- Notarized FBI Check authenticated by Apostille
- Copy of your resume
- Photocopy of the information leaf in your passport
- Two passport sized photos
- A signed copy of the contract
- Health check statement
The school may not require a copy of everything you sent in for your visa, but it is wise to have it all on hand. Many teachers have multiple copies of all required documentation stowed away in a safe spot with their family in the states, and with them in their luggage.
This all may seem overwhelming, but as I mentioned before, the school staff will walk you through the process and give you deadlines so you can focus on one thing at a time. If you have any questions or feel a bit confused about the process, comment below and I’d love to help you out!
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