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Teaching in South Korea takes “Seoul”

Admin - Apr 15 2015

Pardon our terrible pun.  =)

TEFL Institute Alumna Sara A.'s Young Students

We at the TEFL Institute get inquiries every day about teaching English in South Korea.  South Korea has become one of the most popular destinations for TEFL instructors, and for good reason – typical contracts for qualified TEFLers will include a sponsored work visa, airfare reimbursement, furnished housing, health insurance, and a salary that allows you to live comfortably with money to burn on things like more traveling or paying down those student loans.

For those interested in heading to South Korea, though, it is important to do your homework.  To apply for an E-2 work visa, you will need to plan ahead, as it requires some serious paperwork.  We have put together a quick guide to getting ready for your South Korean TEFL adventure below.

STEP 1:  Background Check
As of January 2011, anyone applying for an E-2 visa must obtain an FBI background check.  First, you must be fingerprinted, which can be done at your local police department or through an authorized vendor.  It depends on the state, so you should call the state police and see how it is done in your respective area.

The fingerprint form will look like THIS.

When you go to one of these places, you must tell them that this is for an FBI Criminal Record Check and you would like to have it Apostilled, which is a type of government notarization or certification.  Do not let them do a Live Scan (electronic)!  You need to be printed on the fingerprint card.

We typically recommend to our students that they get two fingerprint cards in case one is smudged.  It could take up to eight weeks to process, so if it is returned, it could take an additional eight weeks!

NOTE:  Criminal Record Checks are only valid for six months, so make sure you plan accordingly when applying for jobs in South Korea.

Things to Send to FBI:

  • Self-addressed envelope with postage (if you do not include this, it could take an additional 3 – 4 weeks processing time)
  • 2 photocopies of your ID
  • A written and signed note saying that you intend to have your documents Apostilled.  This is important so the FBI will provide a signature for your Criminal Record Check.  Your background check cannot be Apostilled without the signature.
  • 2 fingerprint cards (Don””t forget to fill out all the information at the top and sign them!)
  • $18 per fingerprint card
    • Payments can be made by Money Order or Cashier Check made payable toTreasury of the United States
    • Payments can be made by Credit Card using THIS FORM which you will print out and sign
    • Cash, Personal Check and Business Checks are NOT accepted
    • Price may fluctuate, so double check with the FBI before sending
  • Contact Information
    • Name
    • Telephone
    • Address
    • Email
  • FBI Checklist which can be found HERE
  • Application which can be found HERE

All documents are sent to:

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WB  26306

More information on performing FBI Background Checks can be found HERE.

You will need to have your original diploma.  (Yes, the thing that hangs on your wall).  If you have lost yours since graduation, contact the university from which you graduated to obtain a new one.  Once you have your original diploma, you””ll need to make a copy, which will then be notarized.  This can be done at just about any bank or sometimes UPS store.

STEP 2:  Transcripts
Contact your university to order at least one transcript.  We usually recommend that our students have at least three.  Although you only need one to process an E-2 visa, your school or Korean consulate may ask to see a copy when you interview.

NOTE:  If you open the envelope to your transcript, they are no longer valid.  They must be sent to Korea with the seal unbroken.

STEP 3:  Apostille
Once you receive your notarized diploma and signed FBI background check, you will need to have them both Apostilled.  You can either mail them in which takes about 5 – 7  days to process, or walk in.  Usually with walk-ins, it could take as little as 20 minutes to Apostille.  (You always want to call beforehand and verify this.)

  • Learn more about what the Apostille and what it looks like at HERE
  • A listing of all locations, information, and prices by state can be found HERE

If your state does not Apostille background checks, it will need to be done at the federal level.  Their information is below:

US Department of State Authentications Office
Phone:  202-647-5002
Fax:  202-663-3636
Fee:  $8 per document
Walk-ins:  730AM – 11AM, Monday – Friday

You can also opt to use an expedited service to Apostille your documents.  Check out these two resources to learn more:

STEP 4:  Scan your Documents
Scan the following documents and save them somewhere safe:

  • TEFL Certificate
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Passport
  • Diploma with Apostille
  • Transcripts
  • FBI Check with Apostille

And you are ready to go!

While this process might seem overwhelming, people do it everyday.  If you are working with a recruiter or a company like the TEFL Institute who provides job placement assistance, they should be able to help you get organized and stay on track with the application process.

The important thing to remember is that teaching in South Korea is an amazing experience and worth wading through all the paperwork, so do not get discouraged by a long to-do list.

Until next time, TEFLers, Happy Teaching!

Additional Resources for Teaching in South Korea:
Embassy of Korea
FBI Guide to Background Checks
Seoul Subway Guide

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