The Korean Visa process can be costly and time consuming with the applicant having to either make several trips to the Korean embassy or mailing in documents and waiting for them to be returned. It all depends on where you live; from what I came to understand when I did the visa process, if you live more than a 4 hour drive from the embassy you can mail your documents in. There are fees associated with passports, police checks, transcripts, passport photos, the visa itself, and of course shipping. These fees will vary so be prepared with cash on you when you are obtaining these documents. The process can be broken down into 3 stages:
Stage 1: Gathering Your Documents
The first thing on the list should be a passport. If you don’t have one, get one; if you have one make sure it isn’t going to expire while you are travelling because that would be less than convenient. Getting a passport can take 3-4 weeks. You will need at least 2 photocopies of your passport for the process as well.
Police Background Check
There have been some changes recently with regard to the vulnerable sector check that can be involved with a police background check. Your best bet is to talk to your recruiter or school and see which one you need to apply for. A vulnerable sector check will take 2 weeks to process while a normal police check can be done in 20 minutes. You will need a signed letter head from your school requesting the vulnerable sector check. Be sure to go to the police station in your region and in the morning as most offices close earlier in the day.
The kicker about the police checks is that they need to be notarized by both a public notary like a lawyer as well as the Korean embassy. Get a public notary to do it first then bring it to the embassy where you’ll pay a small fee for them to stamp it and give it back to you.
University Transcripts and Degree
Transcripts can be obtained from the office of the registry at your university. Your school ID or driver’s license will be needed to grab a pair of sealed transcripts. You will most likely be sending over an original copy of your degree as well.
It’s always a good idea to have a couple extra passport photos stashed with your passport while travelling so that if you need one at anytime it’s on hand. You will need at least 4 for the visa process. You school will probably request some and you will also need to bring one to the embassy later.
Contract and Health Statement
You will need to print off a copy of your contract with your new school and be sure to sign it. Your school will most likely also send you a health statement for you to fill out on your own. Typical questions are about your current state and questions about STD’s and drugs.
Stage 2: Shipping and Waiting
So now that you have all the documents together you have to Fedex it over to your school so that they can setup your visa on the Korean side of things.
The package should contain:
Photocopy of your passport, your original degree, sealed transcripts, criminal background check that has been notarized by someone like a lawyer and the Korean embassy, 4 passport photos, your completed health statement, and a signed copy of the contract that you have with the school.
Once this gets sent off you are maybe looking at a 2 week wait before you can head back to the embassy to apply for the visa.
Stage 3: Applying and Obtaining Your Visa
After you receive a visa confirmation number from your school you can head back to the embassy to apply for the visa. Bring with you a passport photo, some ID, the confirmation number, and sealed transcripts from your place of higher learning. You will have to fill out a visa registration sheet which can be found online so you will need the address of the school you are working for and any other information you have about your stay in Korea. After applying for the visa you will be scheduled for an interview which is the final step of the whole process. Upon returning for your short interview you will be handed back your passport with a shiny new Korean visa inside. The visa will most likely be a single entry visa so if you plan on doing any travelling outside of the country during the year then you will have to shell out another fifty dollars or so to apply for multiple entry status.
That should about cover the Korean visa process. This article was written based on a Canadian experience but the experience should be the same for an American as well. The only true difference is that American citizens will be given a “multiple entry visa” while Canadian citizens must only apply for a single entry visa”. Once in the country and when employment has begun, a Canadian can then apply for multiple entry which will allow them to tour and take trips outside of Korea, and return whenever they have vacation time. The application for a multiple entry Visa comes in at just around $50 CAD. Hope it helps! It may seem like a lot of initial work on your end, but it truly is the experience of a lifetime. Just keep in mind that the decision to move and live in Korea will not suit everyone and your experience will vary. Be ready for a different culture, different food and different people. However as long as you enter the experience with an open mind, you will be rewarded with lasting and pleasure-filled memories.