The E-2 Visa for Foreign Language Teachers in Korea

Category : Visa/Legal Issues/Tax
Nov 28, 2014

Just because you have found a teaching job you want in Korea, doesn’t mean you can jump on the plane. First you need a legal working visa. The E-2 visa is given to all foreign language instructors (회화지도) in Korea, the majority of which are English as a Second Language (ESL) Teachers.


The E-2 visa is different from the rest. For one, the period of sojourn is thirteen months, not twelve like the others. This means that teachers who arrive before their contract begins won’t have to leave (or extend their visa) before the official end of their contract. It also means that you have a bit more time to job hunt if you didn’t manage to find a new job by the end of your contract. The visa also has a three-month leeway period so that teachers changing teaching jobs won’t have to resubmit all the documents they did before. That means you can take three months off easily before you need to sign another contract in Korea.


To become a foreign language teacher there are two major requirements:

  1. Native Speaker: You must be a native speaker of the language you will be teaching and you must hold a passport from a country which speaks that language.

Example A: English Teacher- If you want to teach English in Korea you must be a native English speaker from: Canada, USA, England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, or Ireland. If your passport isn’t from one of these countries, you won’t be able to get an E-2 visa.

Example B: German Teacher- If you got a job teaching German in Korea you’ll have to hold a German passport to do it legally. Sorry to say that one year of German classes you took during first year uni won’t be enough.

  1. Degree Holder: In addition to speaking the language as your first language, you need to have a bachelor’s degree (a three or four year university degree, not college) from an accredited institution. The school of hard knocks doesn’t count. You must have received the degree from a country which speaks the language you are going to teach. Most schools are recognized so don’t worry too much if you didn’t go to Harvard or Oxford. Finally, your degree can be in any subject. You don’t have to be an English major to teach English. You also don’t need an education degree or teaching certificate. Once you’ve graduated with your bachelor’s start job searching!
  2. Exception: There is a public program called ‘Talk Korea’ for ESL teachers which does NOT require a three or four year university degree. The program demands that applicants have either a two year college degree/associate degree or two years of university education completed. The two years of education must be done in an English speaking country and you still need to be a native speaker. See the Talk Korea Website for more information.


Visa Application Process

Basic steps

  1. Find a job, and sign a contract sent to you from your employer usually via your recruiter.
  2. Send the signed contract along with copies of the specific documents listed below back to the employer.
  3. The employer will apply to the Korean Immigration bureau in Korea for a visa issuance number.
  1. The processing takes about two weeks.
  2. Your employer will send you a visa issuance number.
  1. You must take that number, along with a few other documents to the Korean embassy or consulate in your country.
  1. Express processing takes two business days (you can drop off your documents in the morning on day one and pick them up the next day).
  2. Regular processing takes four to five business days.
  3. You must pay a fee to the consulate: For a single-entry visa: 30USD, multiple-entry visa: 50USD.
  4. You will have a quick interview at the Korean embassy or consulate if you’re a first time teacher in Korea. This is just to ensure that you aren’t lying about who you are and to check that you won’t be a total disaster as a teacher. Don’t worry, they aren’t going to ask to give a lesson demo, they will just ask a few questions. If you can’t make the interview, let your school or recruiter know. Alternative arrangements can be made.
  1. You will receive a temporary visa sticker in your passport to enter into the country.
  2. Once you arrive in Korea, you must go to Korean Immigration to register for your Alien Registration Card (ARC).
  1. Head to Korean immigration within 30 days or your passport sticker will expire.
  2. The process usually takes about two weeks but can be as much as four weeks.
  3. You must submit 10,000KRW for processing.
  4. You have to go back (two to four weeks later) to immigration to pick up your ARC or you can have them mail it to you for a small cost.
  5. Since this card is your ticket to living legally in Korea and you use it to do almost everything including buy a phone, shop online, use a credit card, get deals and point cards, and receive health insurance, it is advised to go as soon as possible.



  1. You must have a teaching job before you come to Korea to get an E-2 visa. If you arrive in Korea, and then find a job, you will need to go on a visa run to get a legal working visa and you must have all the mandatory documents. Some jobs are willing to sponsor you to go on a visa run, but some won’t. It’s best to get a job before you come, especially if it’s your first time in the country.
  2. Splurge on the multiple entry visa at the Korean Embassy. The multiple entry visa allows you to come in and out of the country. If you choose a single entry visa instead you aren’t allowed back in the country on your working visa when you leave. You must reapply from the start. If you plan to do ANY traveling outside of the country during your stay in Korea, you need the multiple entry visa. There have been huge problems in the past where teachers did not realize they needed a multiple entry visa to get in and out of the country. When they flew back to Korea after their vacation, their working visa wasn’t valid anymore. Don’t make a rookie mistake and spend the extra 20USD.


Required documents for the E-2 Visa Application

The E-2 visa requires more documents than most other visas. The E-2 visa documents are specific for this visa. The standard documents sent to the embassy are almost all the same for every E-series visa. Those are the documents you must take particular care in preparing. Korean immigration is very strict about the visa process for foreign language teachers. The laws are often changing and it is possible for immigration to evaluate applications on a case-by-case basis.



  1. Make sure that your name appears exactly the same on all your documents. Write your full name out including your middle name. Do not use a middle initial. Korean authorities can be very particular about the spelling of applicants’ names, so don’t make a tiny error that could cost you your job and experience.
  2. The documents required to apply for your E-2 visa are not all the same as the documents required by employers. Again, documents required by GEPIK (the Gyeonggi-Do English Program in Korea), EPIK (the English Program in Korea) and Hagwons (Language academies) are all different. See the following articles for those details:
  • Requirements for GEPIK Jobs in Korea
  • Requirements for EPIK Jobs in Korea
  • Requirements for Private Language Academy Jobs in Korea
  1. You employer may also want copies of these documents with apostille or notarization if applicable. It is advised to get two copies of all your documents so that you may give one to immigration and one to your employer. Also your potential employer won’t give your documents back, so if you decide not to take the job you’ll need to do all the paper work again. Another reason to get at least one extra copy done at the start!


E-2 Visa Documents

Send all of these documents to your recruiter or directly to the school which is hiring you. They will verify the documents and send them to Korean immigration. From there, Korean immigration will issue you a visa issuance number that should be taken to the Korean embassy/consulate along with the standard documents listed above.


  1. Employment contract signed by you and the employer

It must be signed by you and your employer. They will fax or email it to you; you must print it out, sign it and send it back with all the rest of the documents.


  1. Self Health Check

This is a basic health check answered by you. It is done to ensure that you are mentally and physically fit to teacher. It is recommended that you have it completed by a doctor although it is not essential. Once you arrive in Korea you must visit a Korean hospital to have a medical done in country. If discrepancies are found between the self health check and the Korean doctor’s examination, you risk losing your visa. In other words, don’t lie!


  1. Degree certificate

A copy of your degree must be notarized and apostille authenticated by your local notary authority. Send that copy to Korea, not your original. Bring the original with you to Korea and to the Korean Embassy, just in case your school or the authorities want to double check it’s real.

  • Note: If you’re Canadian you need to get your degree notarized by the Korean consulate as well as the Canadian notary authority. Most countries signed an apostille agreement with Korea so that their home apostille is recognized, but Canada did not. It applies to Chinese applicants as well.


  1. Criminal Records Check

This part of the process gets complicated. You must have a recent criminal record check completed within the last six months. It must be done at the national level for your country. It then must be must be notarized and/or apostille authenticated by your local notary authority. You need to send the original to Korea to receive your visa issuance number and you need one copy to give to the Korean consulate in your home country. Since it’s such a hassle to get, it’s advised to make a few copies of it or if possible get an extra check done at the same time.

  • Tip: It usually takes a while to process criminal records checks. You can visit your police department before you even have a job in Korea as the check is accepted by Korean authorities up to six months after the issue date.


  1. Your Resume or Job Application Form

Some jobs request you send a resume while other jobs have a standardized resume-like form to fill out. In any case, you should have already sent these through when you first applied for the job. However, Korean Immigration usually likes to see it too.


  1. Passport Copy

Include a color passport copy of the first page of your passport. Make sure your name and information is fully visible and that your passport is valid.


  1. Four Color Passport Photos

They should follow the correct passport format. That means no smiling, ears showing, above the shoulders and straight on.


Information on Criminal Background Checks

  1. Australia: You need a “National Police Clearance Certificate” from the Australian Federal Police in Canberra. Get it certified with an apostille.
  2. Canada: Get a “Certified Criminal Background Report” with a Vulnerable Sector Search issued from your local police department or the RCMP and then notarized from a Canadian notary authority. Canadians must submit their report to the Korean consulate to be notarized once more.
  3. Ireland: Obtain a “Police Certificate of Character” from the local or federal police in your region. Be sure the police include a ‘Vulnerable Sector Search’ or a ‘Sex-offender Registry Search’. It must first be notarized by a notary public and then authenticated with an apostille.
  4. New Zealand: You can’t get a criminal record check in NZ so request a copy of your ‘conviction records’ at your local police department instead. You will need to then get it certified with an apostille. It takes 20 days to get your records, so start early.
  5. South Africa: You’ll need a “Criminal Background Report” from the SA Police Services in Pretoria. If you’re not from around there start the process early to get it on time. You’ll also need to get it authenticated with an apostille.
  6. The UK: It’s called a “Subject Access (Basic Disclosure) Certificate” in the UK. Get if from your local police authority. Request it in advance as it takes about a month and get it notarized after.
  7. The USA: You need a “Criminal Background Check (National Clearance)” done by the FBI. It can take awhile if you have to send away for it. It must first be notarized by a notary public and then authenticated with an apostille.


Korean Embassy Documents

These documents must be brought to the embassy or consulate in your home country after you have applied to a teaching job and signed a contract. You must show the consulate your visa issuance number which verifies that you have a school sponsorship in addition to the following documents:

  • The completed relevant visa application form;
  • Your passport;
  • 2 passport color photos taken within 6 months(3cm x 4cm);
  • Copies of all original documents such as your passport, your notarized degree(s) copy, your certificate of employment(s)(if applicable), your health check, your criminal record, your contract;
  • A set of stamped and sealed transcripts; and
  • The visa processing fee
  1. Fee (single-entry visa: 30USD, multiple-entry visa: 50USD)


à Note: For additional information, see these articles: Extending your Visa or the D-10 Visa Option in Korea and Visa Runs from Korea to Japan.


Arrival in Korea

Once you arrive in Korea, you have 30 days to go to immigration to apply for your ARC as mentioned above. Bring some basic documents:

  • Your passport
  • The immigration application form
  • 1 color passport photo (3cmx4cm)
  • Fee: 10,000KRW for processing
  • The results from your Korean health check
  • Sometimes immigration will request to see copies of your documents


The Korean Health Check

The health check is a full physical to verify that you are physically and mentally able to teach. It also checks for drug use including cannabis and hard drugs, HIV and tuberculosis. If your blood contains drugs of any kind, HIV, or tuberculosis you will be deported immediately. Keep this in mind if drug laws in your country are lax. You don’t want to end your adventure on the account of a farewell joint you had the day before you left for Korea. To learn more, see the article on Mandatory Health Checks for E-Series Visa Employment.

Visiting Immigration

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.

  1. Immigration Homepage
  2. HiKorea Homepage
  3. Phone: 1345, press 3 for English- use this number to call for all visa or immigration inquires. Do not call the individual branch offices.



Image provided by TWM.

Tags : Travel. Education. Teacher. English. Visa.

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.