I’ve always been a fan of lists! I love the feeling of checking things off and coming that much closer to the end goal. So when we made our decision to move to South Korea, I busted out my pen and notebook and got on the internet.
We originally did not want to use a recruiter because we had read stories of people being mislead into taking a job that wasn’t what the recruiter painted it to be. They make a commission, so to say, when you sign a contract, so it behooves them to tell you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear. So we spent many many hours researching what we needed, so that we wouldn’t have to use a recruiter. Below are the steps we took in our pre-adventure to South Korea.
Diploma and Transcripts
You will need to have your school diploma photocopied and then have the photocopy notarized. Most places that make copies will have a notary on staff, but make sure to ask that the photocopy be specially stamped (meaning they write their name, notary information, and a snippet of information about how the copy is a true, legitimate copy of the original document.)
**Keep the notarized photocopy of your diploma in a safe place! You will need to send it to be authenticated.**
Also, make sure to obtain copies of your official school transcripts. My school charged $5 per copy, and they mailed it to me with a stamp on each one that read “Official Transcripts” with a sticker over the seal of the letter.
Federal Criminal Background Check
As of April 2014, South Korea requires a background check to be done on the Federal level, not the state. For this, there a few steps involved and they are listed on this site, but I’ll also list the steps we personally went through, below.
**Once you receive your background check, keep it in a safe place! You will need to send this (along with your notarized diploma photocopy) to be authenticated.**
- First, get a fingerprint card completed at your local state police station. Call ahead to make sure that they have even have the particular card you need, and then find out what the charge is. At the time that we did this, the card was called an FD-258 form (link). We went to our local state police station and paid $15 to get them done ($10 for the first card, and $5 for the second card (one for each person)). The process took less than 30 minutes. After we filled out our card, we followed a police officer into a room with a machine that looked like one of those old projectors we had in our Elementary School days. He dipped the tips of each of our fingers in black ink and rolled it back and forth over a digital scanner bed (though your police station may have you roll right onto the card itself). Then the machine printed out a sticker, and he placed each sticker onto the finger print cards. Once that was done, he signed the card and handed it back to us. Easy peasy!
- Next, mail your completed fingerprint card, your completed Applicant Information Form (link), and payment to the FBI. At the time we did this, the fee was $18 per person (as seen at the bottom of the form). So we each filled out a separate Applicant Form and mailed them off, including a check for $36.
- Then just sit back and wait. I think it took about a month for us to receive our results. The letter they sent was surprisingly anti-climatic, haha. It had one little section in it that said “A search of the fingerprints provided by this individual has revealed no prior arrest data at the FBI.” At the time, I thought… ‘that’s it??’
Get a Passport
We got our pictures taken at Sams Club because they have a set up specifically for taking passport photos (the required 2”x2” pictures), and I thought that they charged a fair rate ($5 for a set of 2). In the end, we ended up needing 8 copies of our pictures, and had to return to Sams Club a couple times to get more. It would have more convenient if we had just gotten more in the first place, so I would recommend getting at least 6.
We researched ahead of time what to wear (see this link for Sam’s Club info on passport photos), but we also took into consideration that this photo would be shown and/or used in Korea, whether it was the Korean Consulate, Immigration, or the Embassy. So I made sure to dress casual-professional and wore a shirt that came up high on my chest. Koreans do not like seeing cleavage, haha.
Once we had our pictures in hand, the next step led us to our city’s Treasurer Office. Take note of the operating hours at your local office location because ours closed at noon… Ridiculousness, I say!
We had to bring in our:
- birth certificates (proof of citizenship)
- driver’s licenses (a form of photo id)
- a completed Passport Application Form
- our passport photos (which you will not get back)
- and 2 money orders – one for the City of Chesapeake (for “Acceptance Fees”), which was $25 per application, and one for the US Department of State, which cost us $140 per person (because we decided to get the passport book AND the passport card).
Go to the US Dept of State’s site to find their list of passport fees.
The whole process took less than 45 minutes, but most of that time was spent standing in line! We received our passports in about a month, but it can sometimes take much longer than this, especially depending on the time of year.
Get Your Documents Apostilled (Authenticated)
You’ll send 2 things to be authenticated – your notarized diploma photocopies and your FBI background check results.
After researching where to send them, I called and spoke to the US Department of Authentication. They advised me that they would authenticate our background checks, however they would NOT authenticate our diplomas as they are supposed to be sent to the state level. So our background checks went off to the Dept. of Authenticaion, using this form (link). While our diplomas were sent off to our Secretary of State, Authentications Division.
We sent money orders ($8 for each document) and prepaid envelopes with each, so that the respective offices could just mail everything back to us with no problems. (I’m not sure if it mattered, but I made sure to purchase the hard backed envelopes because I didn’t want the documents to get bent or folded. The postal worker even stamped the envelope with a “Do Not Bend” stamp!)
It took about 2 weeks to get back both our diplomas and background checks.
**Make sure to look up the fees that your state authentications department will charge and the forms that they require. You wouldn’t want to send it out and wait for it, only to get it back with a letter stating you either didn’t provide enough information or you didn’t pay the correct amount. And remember, the waiting time may be longer than what we’ve experienced!**
Update Your Resume
Before we started applying for jobs in South Korea, it was important to have all of our ducks in a row. And this includes an updated resume. I spent the last few months at my school tweaking my resume to include all of my animation experience, but in this case, I’m going back through it so that it highlights my experiences related to teaching, managing, or being with children/teens. Tutoring, babysitting, teaching in Sunday school – anything and everything to do with instructional guidance you’ve provided is what they’ll be looking for. Being TEFL/TESOL certified can be a bonus also, especially if you have no teaching experience.
We had no experience teaching, so we highlighted our school/work experience related to public speaking, working in teams, leading those teams, and other relevant info. To read more about our interview that got us the job, click here.
Stay Organized and Take Photocopies of Everything!
I’ve read numerous sites that say to make copies (or scan in) everything that you have, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Even the receipts! We keep all of the scans in a folder in Dropbox, and it has saved so much of our time. It’s so convenient to be able to view any of our documents for whatever we’re doing. I’ve seen plenty of job listings that ask you to send a scanned copy of your diploma, and some that even ask for a pic of your passport.
Apply for a Visa
(this comes after you’ve signed a contract and your employer sponsors you)
Our recruiter worked closely with the school director (soon to be our new boss), and they asked us to send these documents to their office in Korea:
- Apostilled Diploma
- Apostilled FBI Background Check
- 2 passport photos
- copy of passport
- signed Employment Contract (ours looks like this)
- completed Health Check Form (ours looked like this)
We took all of these documents and mailed them out the next day. I’m not sure if the recruiter did anything with the paperwork except to send it to our school, but our director filled out a form and sent it to the Korean Consulate so that a Visa Issuance number would be provided for us. At this point, he is now our sponsor! Hooray!
A couple weeks later, we received an email confirmation receipt with our Visa Issuance numbers. So the next step was to mail a Visa Application to the US Consulate office in Washington D.C. We mailed the documents, listed below, and included a prepaid envelope so that they could mail our passports back to us with no problem.
- print out of the Visa Issuance Number receipt email
- 2 photocopies of our passports
- passport photo
- signed Employment Contracts
- Visa Application Forms
- $45 money order made out to the “Korean Embassy” (one for each person)