I’m writing this series because I receive a lot of emails asking me about teaching English in Korea. These days it seems that many people are contemplating teaching English in Korea as an overseas lifestyle option. I’m into my eleventh year of teaching on the ROK. By the end of this series you should have the knowledge and necessary resources to become an English teacher in Korea.
Part 1 First Things First : Do You Qualify
Before you seriously consider teaching EFL in Korea you need to do two things. First, you should take some time and answer the question “Why do I want to teach English overseas?” Be brutally honest with yourself. If you think that this is a perfect way to solve your life’s problems, you’re probably wrong. If you’re a drug or an alcohol addict at home, you’ll still be one in Korea. Are you drowning in debt? Those debts won’t disappear just because you decide to move overseas. All I’m saying is KNOW why you’re leaving your home country, and everything that’s familiar. Teaching in Korea can be a fantastic experience, but it’s not a cakewalk.
Most English teachers need an E-2 Visa to teach in Korea. Once you’ve decided that you’re coming here for all the right reasons (or at least a few), be sure that you have the proper credentials and paperwork to obtain your E-2 Visa.
1. Korea only hires native English speakers from the seven major English speaking countries; Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Ireland and South Africa. Unless you hold a passport from one of these countries you won’t pass go (or in your case immigration).
2. You must have a university degree. Your degree can be in basket weaving, but it must be from an accredited institution. You’ll have to send your original degree to the Korean Embassy closest to where you live to be authenticated. Embassy staff will copy your degree, reduce it, and add some pretty stamps. Be sure to pay for a few extra copies. They’re not expensive. You’ll probably end up taking your original degree to Korea along with the copies. Sometimes employers will want your original degree. Don’t give it to them; copy only.
3. Sealed transcripts from your university.
If you meet the requirements above, then read on.
4. You will need a Criminal Records Check (CRC), not older than 3 months. This can take time to obtain, so you should start the process early. Korean immigration will no longer accept CRCS from local police departments. If you’re a Canadian, that means your CRC must be processed through the RCMP. Americans must submit a CRC from the FBI. You should check out your government’s website to determine how to obtain a CRC in your country. Your documents will have to be notarized and apostillized. You can find out more about that here: “Process to Apostillize the Required Documents” here: http://www.korvia.com/index.php/how-to-apostillize-document.html .
Canada does not have an Apostille agreement with Korea. This means that Canadians must have their documents notarized at a Korean embassy.
In early 2011 Korean immigration implemented some changes regarding the CRC. As always, it can be difficult to find out exactly what you need to know. Here’s a great article to help clear up any confusion…
5. If you have never taught in Korea before, you may have to be interviewed at your nearest Korean embassy. This requirement is a little vague. Here is what I found on one website:
Recent changes in Korean immigration policies require that all new E-2 visa applicants with no previous teaching experience in Korea to attend an interview session at the nearest Korean diplomatic office (where you send your visa applications to). This is normally the last step before they place the visa on your passport. When approved, your passport will be ready 2-3 days after the interview and the embassy / consulate will send it to your address. In Canada, in most cases you can pick up your passport with the visa on the same day of your interview. Please be ready to make a trip to the Korean Consulate or Embassy for this. Interviews are not required to applicants with previous teaching experience in Korea. (http://www.asia-pacific-connections.com/visa_issuance.html)
This specifically mentions Canada, so you’re not a Canadian, check with a Korean embassy in your country.
Also, it should be possible to arrange a telephone interview if the nearest Korean embassy is far from where you live.
That’s really about it, for qualifications and documents. However, you will need to have a medical examination upon arrival. There’s a bit of controversy surrounding this one due to the requirements for drug and HIV testing.
This is what I found regarding the medical examination requirement.
Steps of submitting medical records and issuer.
Steps : When applying for visa issuance number
Document: Self-Medical Evaluation Form
Issuer : Applicants themselves
After arrival, when applying for Alien Registration Card
Doctor’s Medical Check
National hospitals, Community Health Centers, University hospitals
1. Self-Medical Evaluation Form
Employer has to submit the self-medical evaluation form which is handwritten by the applicant and submitted to the Immigration Office in Korea when applying for visa issuance number.
2. Doctor’s Medical Check
After entering Korea with E2 visa, a doctor’s medical check (specifically Medical Check for Employment Purposes) issued from national hospitals, community health centers, or university hospitals has to be submitted when registering for Alien Card.
The doctor’s medical check must be issued at least 3 months before the Alien Registration. Information that needs to be included in the medical check: TBPE and Cannabinoids test for drug test, HIV test for AIDS
* For applicants who do not submit the doctor’s medical check or is found out to have taking drugs, have AIDS or Alcoholic, having a contagious disease etc, his/her visa permit will be cancelled and consecutively will be deported.
Your employer will help you arrange the medical check. You want to get this done as quickly as possible, so that your Alien Registration Card (ARC) can be processed. You need your ARC to open a bank account, to purchase a cell phone, register for National Health Insurance., etc. etc. Once you have your ARC day to day living on the ROK becomes much easier.
Part 1 Checklist:
• Native speaker from one of the seven major English speaking countries
• University Degree
• Sealed University Transcripts
If you have the above, then…
• Criminal Records Check
• Medical Examination (in-country)
Obtaining a visa really isn’t that difficult. If you have the necessary qualifications, it’s just a matter of being organized enough to obtain and submit the necessary paperwork. You can be teaching English in Korea in ninety days or less.
In Part 2 I’ll talk about become TESL certification. Is it really necessary?