Decided you want to teach English in South Korea?
If you read my previous post on how to find a job teaching English in South Korea, I explained the different teaching job opportunities and how to begin your job search. Once you’ve decided what type of position you would like to apply to, it’s time to send out your application and get your visa approved!
I’ll be completely honest. The application process and applying for a visa to teach English in Korea is ridiculously tedious and feels endless. Six months, sixteen-page applications, and sixty headaches is what it took to finally get me in the country to teach. But, despite how much I whined and complained about this process at the time, it all came to a sudden end. And, at last, I finally found myself sitting on a plane on my way to the land of fiery kimchi.
Here’s everything you need to know about the application process and obtaining your E2 working visa.
As a Canadian citizen who applied for a public school position with the Jeollanamdo Language Program through a recruitment agency, these are all the steps I had to take and documents I had to prepare for both my application and visa. Depending on your nationality and whether you choose to teach in a public school or hagwon, some of this information may not be applicable.
2. Contact recruitment agency and set-up an interview.
3. Accept conditional employment offer and choose the type of position to apply to. With Canadian Connection, I was given three options. Two of them were public school programs, EPIK and JLP (click here to learn more about these). The third option was a hagwon. I decided to apply to JLP.
4. Gather all the required documents and submit them to the recruitment agency. This step involves a whole other set of steps. See the next section for more detailed information. Make sure you have had your notarized degree(s) and criminal record check verified by the Korean consulate before submitting them to the recruitment agency.
5. Wait for an official contract and notice of appointment to be sent to you by the recruitment agency. Once the recruitment agency receives the documents (step 4), they send them over to the office of education you will be working for in Korea. This office of education prepares an official contract and notice of appointment and sends them back to your recruitment agency.
6. Head to the Korean consulate with all the required documents to apply for a visa. See the section obtaining your visa for more detailed information.
7. Wait for visa approval and book a flight. Once you’ve submitted your visa application to the Korean consulate, it takes between 5-10 working days for it to be issued. You will need to go back to the consulate to pick up your passport. Once you get back your passport, you can go ahead and book your flight!
8. Have a minor panic attack and board your flight to Korea! I mean, it only took 6 months to get you here. Did you really think it was actually ever going to happen?
Getting together all the required documents is the most time-consuming and frustrating part of the entire process. I recommend starting to piece together all of the documents as soon as possible, so that you’re not overwhelmed closer to the deadlines.
Passport. This must be valid for 13 months from the date you enter South Korea. I recommend having one that is valid for an additional year, in the event you renew your contract or decide to travel afterwards. It will save you from all the hassle of renewing your passport while abroad.
Four colour passport photos. Two of these are used for the application (pubic school) and the visa. The other two are used when you arrive in Korea to acquire your Alien Registration Card. I got a few extras just in case I lost them or needed them for any other reason and brought them with me to Korea. These photos must be in colour, be 3.5cm x 4.5 cm, have a white background, and show your shoulders.
Four photocopies of your passport’s information page. Two of these will be used as a part of the application process (public school). The other two will be used at the Korean consulate when applying for your visa.
Criminal record check. You will need to acquire a national level, apostilled criminal background check. It must be clean and it cannot be more than six months old when submitting your visa application to the Korean consulate.
Notarized copy of degree. You will need to bring your actual degree to a lawyer’s office. They will take a photocopy of your degree then notarize it.
Three sealed transcripts. You must obtain an original, sealed transcript for each university degree you earned. Transcripts should be sealed separately for each degree earned from the same university.
Important. Once you have had both your degree(s) and criminal record check notarized, don’t forget to bring them to the Korean consulate for verification before submitting them to your recruiter.
I had to submit the following as well. These may or may not be applicable to you, depending on which program you apply to.
Completed application. Applications across public school programs are fairly similar. They are lengthy and may induce headaches.
Sample lesson plan. Instructions are provided by the public school program. You will have to create an outline of a sample lesson for a specific age group.
Personal essay. The public school program will have guidelines for you to follow. For JLP, the essay needed to be 500 words discussing your teaching philosophies and reasons for wanting to teach specifically in South Korea.
Medical evaluation form. This form will be provided by your recruiter, program, or school. You will need to take this form to your doctor for them to complete.
Two reference letters. Reference letters need to be professional or academic. They will also require: the letterhead or logo of the organization, your full name (no nicknames or short names), a full date, the full contact details of the referee (including address, phone number and e-mail), the relationship between you and the referee, and an ink signature.
Obtaining Your Working Visa
Once you’ve received your official contract and notice of appointment, it’s time to head over to the Korean consulate to apply for your E2 working visa.
Make sure you have all of the following with you.
- Visa application
- 1x Passport photo
- Sealed transcript for each university degree
- Original degree(s)
- Notice of appointment
- Official contract*
*Make sure it’s signed. Double check and triple check. There’s nothing worse than having your visa application declined because you missed a signature field!
- 1x photocopy of notarized and verified university degree(s)
- 1x photocopy of your passport’s information page
- 1x photocopy of verified criminal check
- Visa application fee*
*In Toronto, Canada, I had to get a money order for $72 CAD made payable to the Korean Consulate.
Without your visa, you can’t book your flight. So make sure you leave yourself enough time to do so. It took me 5 days to get back my passport from the Korean consulate in Toronto.
Seems like a lot of work? It sure is!
Having said that, I truly hope this doesn’t discourage you, but rather helps you to better understand the entire process. My advice? Make sure you are truly committed to wanting to teach in Korea before beginning your application. It’s time-consuming and will cost you more than a few pennies once you’ve started. And of course, try to remain as calm as humanly possible.