As most of you know, Ahimsa and I are on our way back to the land of kimch’i, cutesy cartoon characters and crazy kindergartners: Korea. Like last time, getting jobs was pretty much a walk in the park. Unlike last time, however, getting our Visas was more of a grueling, 3 month hike through Death Valley. Bad analogy, but the point is: the new E2 Visa regulations for us ‘Merrkans are a plain ol’ pain in the buttocks. And not the sharp, quick kind. The kind of lingering, throbbing pain that never completely goes away. You think I’m kidding? Read on, y’all.
There are a few tentative guides out there, with estimates and predictions galore, but since the system is so new, it’s not easy to find accounts of real-deal experiences. So, here’s how ours went down! So far, that is. We’re not quite there yet…
1. Get yer FBI background check:
Our quest for FBI background checks started in mid-February, with a trip to visit an old, ponytailed fellow in a office cum living room in South East Portland. Search ‘fingerprinting service, Portland’ and you’ll get a bunch of options, but I’m fairly confident we chose the raddest. He took our fingerprints quickly (if not exactly painlessly; he proclaimed mine to be the ‘worst he had ever taken’) and sent us on our away. Once you have your fingerprints, send them along with an application form, a self addressed prepaid envelope, a request for authentication* and a check for $16 to:
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
*In order to get an apostille on your background check, you need to request a seal of authentication. We just attached a cover letter, stating that we were planning to teach in Korea and needed a seal of authentication. Did the trick.
For more about FBI background checks, have a look-see here.
Time spent: We sent them on 2/18, got them back on 4/2. 7 weeks!
Money spent: Fingerprinting ($12)+ Background check ($18)= $30 each.
2. Get apostilles for:
a. A copy of your degree: This was easy (well, for Ahimsa. Mine had to fly to NZ and back, but I’ll spare you the details of that wee escapade). Get someone (pretty much anyone: bank tellers, post office workers and lawyers can often notarize stuff) to photocopy your degree, and attach a notarization certificate, stating that it is a true copy. Send the copy, certificate and application form- find it on your Secretary of State’s website- with a self addressed envelope and a check for $10, and… hey presto!
Time spent: Sent 4/5. Received 4/12. 1 week!
Money spent: $15 per document (including notarization)
b. Your background check: As noted above, as long as you request a seal and signature from the FBI, your background check is ready for an apostille. In some states, you can send the it- along with your degree copy- to the Secretary of State, who will process both for you in about 3 days. Sadly, Oregon is not one of them, so ours went straight to the Department of State in DC. The great thing about the DoS is that they’re an extremely busy bunch. So busy, in fact, that they aren’t too keen on taking phone calls. Or answering emails. Or responding to faxes. Elusive little buggers. Anyway, ours arrived back about 5 weeks after they were sent.
Time spent: Sent 4/5. Received 5/10. 5 weeks, 1 day.
Money spent: $8 per document.
3. Send the whole kit and kaboodle to your school via Fedex:
This part was almost suspiciously easy and quick. Luckily, it was pretty bloody expensive, so perhaps that balances things out.
‘Kit and kaboodle’:
– FBI check with apostille
– Copy of degree with apostille
– Health statement
– 2 copies of the signed contract
– 5 (Ahimsa)-7 (Rachel) passport photos
(The last few items vary a little. Check with your school to find out exactly what they need)
Note: Most schools no longer require University Transcripts. Bonus!
Time spent: Sent 5/10. In Korea by 5/12. 2 days!
Money spent: $48 per package.
And that brings us to today. Our schools are currently applying for our Visa issuance numbers. This should take between 5 and 10 days. After that, we’ll send them to the Korean Consulate in Seattle (with the $45 Visa fee, some passport photos and an application form) who will decorate one of our passport pages with a nice little Korean Visa. This should take 3-5 days. All up? Another 8-15 days until we’re back.
So, as the math-savvy among you will have already figured out, the grand totals are…
Time spent: 2/18- 5/25ish. About 3 months, 1 week!
Money spent: $101 so far. Once the actual Visa fee is added, it’ll take our total up to $146 each.
Some final advice for E2 applicants:
– Google, google, google! Everything we know, we found online. Even recruiters are a little bamboozled by this right now, so use a number of sources.
– Remember to ask the FBI to authenticate your background check! Without the seal (or whatever they do to it), you can’t get an apostille.
– Start early. We thought allowing 3 months was being ridiculously prepared and overcautious. Turns out, we ended up delaying our departure for a month or so.
– Say it with me, people: “Self addressed, prepaid envelope.” Forget these suckers, and you could add a chunk of time to an already lengthy process.
– Think about the noraebang (or the galbi, or the money, or the super cheap medical care- whatever works for you.) Remember that the lifestyle there is usually easy and awesome enough to make up for all the junk it takes to get there.
행운을 빈다! (that may or may not- depending on the accuracy of Google Translate– mean ‘Good luck!’ in Korean.)