For the brief time that I was a graduate student at Yonsei University in Korea, I went to immigration and switched my E-2 ESL teaching visa to a D-2 student visa. It wasn’t a bad gig. I didn’t have to go on a visa run like you do when you change jobs. I simply had to show proof of enrollment at my university and the receipt from my tuition payments. As long as I paid tuition each semester, my visa would remain valid. My D-2 visa also let me work for 20 hours a week. So I taught English on the side to supplement my lifestyle while I studied. My health insurance got cheaper too. It’s 50% less for students than it is for salary folks and the coverage is the same. The one problem was I couldn’t get a smartphone because D-2 holders aren’t allowed to sign phone contracts longer than one year. I guess they are afraid students will bail on their studies and leave Korea with bills behind. It turns out they were right, my interest in academics didn’t last long and I moved onto to “bigger and better” things.
The D-2 Study Abroad Visa and the D-4 General Trainee Visa
There are actually two kinds of student visas in Korea. The D-2 study abroad visa is for those studying at the undergraduate or graduate level. It is also given to students coming to Korea on exchange for a few semesters from a foreign institution of higher learning.
The D-4 is a general trainee visa for students gaining general skills in Korea, excluding post-secondary learning. Most commonly these students come to Korea to study Korean language, which could be done at a university or language institute. Students could also be training to learn technical skills at a public or private organization, perhaps at a college or company. Additionally, this visa is also given to foreign elementary, middle or high school students completing their studies in Korea. Finally, people doing internships in Korea are issued this general trainee visa.
Applying For a Student Visa (D-2/D-4)
At the Korean Embassy/Consulate
Most of the time, you’ll be applying for a student visa from your home country. You’ve decided that you want to study in Korea, you’ve applied to a Korean school and your acceptance has been confirmed. You can now go to the Korean embassy or consulate in your home country to apply for your visa. You need to bring or mail in a bunch of documents. The process usually takes between five and ten days, but can take up to two weeks.
D-2 Documents Required (applying outside of Korea):
At Korean Immigration in Korea
Once you arrive in Korea, you need to head to the immigration office in your jurisdiction. There, the immigration official will issue your Alien Registration Card (ARC) so that you may live and study legally in the country. The documents required are the same as the documents required if you are applying for a D-2 within Korea (see below). Sometimes, the international office at your university or institution will apply for all foreign students’ ARCs together. They will gather the documents for you and send a huge application package to be processed all together. Most students won’t be that lucky, so see the article An Introduction to Korean Visas for tips on visiting Immigration.
Just as I did, you can apply for your student visa from within Korea. It’s easy to switch your work visa to a student visa, and you don’t need to go to Japan to do it.
D-2 Documents Required (applying within Korea/arriving in Korea):
D-4 Documents Required
The D-4 visa follows the same basic requirements (a valid passport, application form and fee) as the D-2 visa but there are some small changes depending on the reason for study. As well, the D-4 visa can be applied for from outside of Korea or from within Korea. The process follows the same steps as written above for the D-2 visa.
à Documents needed for students who study Korean at a language school attached to a university:
à Documents needed for students receiving education/training in technical fields:
à Documents needed for foreign national students who attend elementary, middle or high school:
à Documents needed for interns:
à Documents for those working in a foreign investment company:
Working Under a D-2 or D-4 Visa
Both student visas allow part-time employment, which is great if you’re a poor student. Students with D-2 visas can get a job and work permit right away. However if you are a D-4 visa student, you must be in the country for 6 months before you can get a work permit. Work is not limited; however, you must meet the job requirements to become employed in that field. For example, undergraduate students may not teach English or other foreign languages because they do not have undergraduate degrees, a basic prerequisite for foreign language teachers (and acquiring the E-2 visa). Graduate students may teach languages (see below).
For both D-2 and D-4 visa holders, you need to go to immigration to get permission to work part-time. Immigration in Korea has defined part-time work as no more than 20 hours long Monday to Friday, and unlimited hours on the weekend. During the summer or winter vacations you can work as much as you want. When Immigration gives permission, you will be issued a work permit, and your ARC card will then be changed to indicate that you can work legally for your employer. You may only work for the employer mentioned on your application form. It takes about five days to process student work permits.
You need to bring the following documents to the immigration office in your district:
Employment for Graduate Students
Graduate students on a D-2 visa or D-4 holders who have an undergrad degree are permitted to teach English (or other languages). The process to get the work permit is much more complicated than simply bringing the documents listed above to the immigration office. In addition to the stipulations above, you must also adhere to the E-2 foreign language instructor visa document requirements including obtaining a criminal record check, a medical check, and your sealed, stamped undergraduate transcripts. Once you have gathered all the documents required for an E-2 visa you may request a permit at immigration.
à Please see the article on The E-2 Visa for Foreign Language Teachers in Korea for a specific document listing.
All application documents can be downloaded from the HiKorea Immigration Website. You can also make reservations for an appointment at immigration, so you won’t have to wait in the long lines. Do that online too.
Photo Credit: Nairaland
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.