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:
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.
Visa Application Process
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
They should follow the correct passport format. That means no smiling, ears showing, above the shoulders and straight on.
Information on Criminal Background Checks
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:
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:
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.
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.
Image provided by TWM.
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.