When we first decided to move to South Korea to teach English we were beyond excited. We had a new adventure ahead of us that would be unlike anything we had ever experienced. However, as the initial elation settled, we had a little moment of panic. Now what? We had no idea what the next steps were to actually obtain a teaching visa, let alone all the documents we would have to gather and how long it would take to do this! After successfully getting through the visa process, we’ve decided to write a comprehensive guide to getting a teaching visa in South Korea.
However, please note that we are not experts in immigration processes. We are merely trying to help other fellow Canadians by providing advice based on our experiences!
As well, our information is tailored to Canadian citizens, so if you are a citizen of another country, the information below may not be entirely accurate for you.
Also, please keep in mind that visa processes can change, so please make sure to check the Embassy of South Korea’s website for the most up to date information (we’ll do our best to keep this post as up to date as possible!).
Okay so here we go, and may the odds be ever in your favour!
Step 1: Choose a Recruiter
Our top recommendation to obtain a job as an English teacher in South Korea would be to choose a recruiter to help you through the process. Recruiters do not charge you anything as they are paid by the schools, so there isn’t any reason not to use them. Just be sure to do a bit of research about the recruiter you decide to go with. Check out our guide to choosing a recruiter here!
We went with Canadian Connection and they were an absolute dream to work with. We can’t recommend them enough! Once you’ve gotten through the initial interview process, they’ll lay out your job options based on what you’re looking for and you’ll start the application process for the job you’ve chosen.
The reason we recommend going through a recruiter is that there are many scams out there. Having a recruiter will help you ensure that you are being placed in a reputable school that will actually pay you on time. That being said, you can definitely obtain a job on your own, especially if you’re planning to teach at a public school. Dave’s ESL Cafe is a great resources for potential jobs or you can apply directly through the various public school systems such as EPIK and GEPIK.
Step 2: Gather Your Documents
This is the most crucial step of the visa process so be sure to start gathering as soon as possible! Actually, start gathering these documents as soon as you make the decision to teach in Korea. Below is a list of the documents we were required to obtain in order to get our visa:
- Passport– Make sure that your passport is valid for the entire duration of your teaching contract (likely 1 year) so that you won’t have to renew it while you are away.
- Photocopy of passport information page– We photocopied it 5 times so that we would always have it on hand if required. We also uploaded a copy to the cloud so we always have access to it if it gets lost/stolen.
- Passport photos– We got 8 copies as they are needed at various stages of the application process. You may also need them to obtain visas to other countries you’d like to visit while you are living in Korea. To note, make sure your photos are 3.5cmx4.5cm, that the background is white and that your shoulders appear in the photo.
- Original + notarized and verified copy of all university degrees– To get your degree notarized you will need to take your original university degree to a notary/lawyer. They will photocopy it, and then stamp/sign the copy. The cost is usually around $25 per degree. You will then bring this copy of the notarized degree + your original degree to the Korean Embassy/Consulate where they will verify it for you. This means that they will add a few stamps to it to show they have authenticated it. The cost is usually around $5 per document (cash or money order only).
- Sealed University transcripts– This will be used to verify that your university degree is authentic. We ordered 3 copies from our schools are they are needed at various stages in the process (this way you will already have them on hand). Make sure that they are sealed transcripts and that you do not open them because they will be considered invalid if you do.
- Criminal record check– It’s very important that you get your record check done through the national database of your country. For Canada, this means that you must have your fingerprints and records ran through the RCMP’s database. To do this, we went to our local Commissionaire’s office where they scanned our fingerprints. We ordered the RCMP record check through them for about $85 and received it in the mail a week later. You will then bring the record check (yes, the original copy) to the Korean Embassy/Consulate where they will verify it for you. Like for your university degree, this means that they will add a few stamps to it to show they have authenticated it. The cost is usually around $5 per document (cash or money order only). Note that your record check must come back clean (as far as we know, they do not allow those with criminal offences on their records to teach in Korea) and be issued within the last 6 months in order to be valid.
- Reference letters (if applicable)– These must be from recent professional or academic sources, so it would be good to contact your referees in advance in order to give them as much notice as possible. However, before you get them to write anything, make sure that you know the specific requirements of your school/recruiter as these can vary a bit.
- Medical Evaluation Form (if applicable)– This is basically a form assessing your general health (i.e. blood pressure, mental health, etc.) that needs to be filled out by a doctor. We simply asked our family doctors who filled it out free of charge, but if you do not have a family doctor you can go to most walk-in clinics to get it done (although you may be charged a fee). Note that this is not required by all schools and that you will receive a blank form to get filled out if this is required.
- Application form (if applicable)– Since we applied through the public school system we had to fill in a lengthy application form stating our contact information, work history, etc. If this is required it will be provided to you.
- Sample lesson plan (if applicable)– This was part of our application to the public school system. We basically had to outline how we would teach a class. For more details on this check out our guide to writing a kick-ass lesson plan! (coming soon)
- Personal essay (if applicable)– The final piece of your documentation (at last!), was basically a 500-word essay stating why we wanted to teach in Korea and how we would be a good fit for the job. For more details on this check out our guide to writing a killer personal essay! (coming soon)
Phew! That’s a lot of documents! Unfortunately you aren’t done yet, but have hope – you’re pretty much halfway there!
Step 3: Mail Documents to School/Recruiter
Next you’ll have to mail all of your hard-earned documents to your recruiter or to your school. We know this can be a little scary (you just spent a lot of time and money gathering all of these babies after all!), but it is a vital part of the process. Our advice would be to send the documents via express post and obtain a tracking number. That way, should anything happen to your documents and they get lost (this actually happened to us), you’ll be able to track them down asap.
Be sure to also email your recruiter/school to confirm they have received all of your documents and that you have sent everything correctly – you don’t want any last-minute surprises.
Last but not least, try to send them in as early as possible in order to have plenty of time between you in the deadline. Sh*t can happen, it’s inevitable. It’s just best to have time on your side when it does.
Step 4: Receive Contract + Notice of Appointment from School/Recruiter
Ah the endless wait (or so it will seem) until you finally receive your precious contract in the mail.
This seemed to be the hardest part for us because from this point on everything will be out of your control. Sure we could tell you to just sit back and relax since there’s nothing else you can do, but if you’re slightly type A about these things like we are, that’s easier said than done. Don’t get us wrong, we’re pretty go with the flow kind of people, just not when it comes down to getting the documents we need to get into another country.
So, in order to take the pressure off a bit, here’s a little tid bit of advice: don’t book your flight until after you have received your visa! We bought ours months before and planned to leave a little earlier than our start date in order to travel to Indonesia so we were pretty stressed out near the end. We got our visa only 3 days before we left!! Talk about leaving it to the last second! So please learn from our mistakes and don’t do that to yourself. You’ll thank us later when you have a few less white hairs 😉
Once you receive your contract and notice of appointment be sure to bring/mail them in to the Embassy as soon as possible. If you bring your documents in person it usually takes about 5 business days to complete, but if you mail it in it can take up to 10 business days.
Step 5: Bring Remaining Documents to Korean Embassy
You’re almost done with the process! Wooohooo!
All that’s left to do is bring in the following documents to the Korean Embassy in order to obtain your E-2 teaching visa:
- Passport – The Embassy will need to keep it until they finish processing your visa so be sure you don’t need it for anything else for the next several days.
- Passport photos– Use one of the eight copies you got in step 2. And again, be sure your photos are 3.5cmx4.5cm, that the background is white and that your shoulders appear in the photo.
- Visa application– A copy of the application was given to us by our recruiter, but you can also find it online here.
- Application fee– You will need to bring in $72CAD. Note that the Embassy only accepts cash (they will be able to give you change) or money orders (best if you are mailing in your application).
- Signed copy of your employment contract– Triple check that you have signed all the required pages! This will be provided by your employer/recruiter.
- Notice of appointment– This will be provided by your employer/recruiter.
A few other documents we were told to bring, but didn’t actually need:
- A photocopy of the information page of your passport
- Photocopy of verified university degree
- Photocopy of verified criminal record check
- Sealed university transcript
As we mentioned above, if you bring your documents in person it usually takes about 5 business days to complete, but if you mail it in it can take up to 10 business days. So please try to bring your documents to the Embassy as soon as possible!
Step 6: Obtain Visa and Do a Happy Dance!
YOU DID IT! Collect your visa + passport from the Embassy on the date they gave you when you originally dropped it off. Now do a happy dance because you’re going to Korea!
Ask away in the comment section below and we’ll do our best to answer them!
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