If you have decided that teaching English in South Korea is what you want to do, then a word of advice, you will need to be extremely organised and persistent to work your way through the visa process. South Korea has one of the strictest visa procedures in Asia, but once you get here it is well worth it!
Having only done it once I am certainly no expert, but this is what I learned along the way. Please note that this is purely based on my experience in the UK and so may not apply to residents from other countries.
Finding a job
- Actually finding a job is relatively easy; choosing which job offer to accept is the challenge. Once you start advertising your CV online you will be bombarded with about 30 emails a day but unfortunately the vast majority are just rubbish. One of the best sites to try if you are looking for a job in Asia is Dave’s ESL Cafe.
- Your first big decision when job-hunting will be whether you want to work in a public, state-run school (like the EPIK or SMOE programmes which recruit in March and September), or a private, fee paying hagwon. You will inevitably hear many horror stories about hagwons in Korea, and obviously I have a biased opinion as I haven’t worked in a Korean public school, but don’t write hagwons off purely based on hearsay. However, I would strongly advise doing thorough research into any school which approaches you before you sign up to anything. Ask the school if they can put you in touch with a foreign teacher who works/has worked there in order to obtain a first-hand opinion.
- Your next decision will be location. Do you want to work in a big metropolitan city or a small rural village? Bear in mind that your experience in Korea will depend largely on your location.
- A degree is essential for teaching English here, but it doesn’t seem to matter what you read at university. Some places offer slightly higher wages if you did a degree in education or linguistics, but on the whole it doesn’t matter. Having a TEFL qualification of some sort will open up more opportunities but it isn’t essential. For example, I did a degree in Linguistics and did a 100-hour TEFL course (20-hour weekend course, and 80-hour online course through TEFL England) but my boyfriend did a Pharmacology degree and a 50-hour TEFL course and we both easily found jobs, with the same wages.
Applying for a visa
- So you’ve been offered a job…congratulations! If you found a job through a recruitment agency, as most people do, then they should guide you through the visa process but here are a few pointers.
- To apply for your E-2 visa you will need a CRB (disclosure) check, a UK degree certificate, a CV and a passport. My recruiter recommended www.disclosurescotland.co.uk (even though I’m not Scottish!) for a CRB check and it cost £25 and took 14 days.
- You will then need to get your degree certificate and CRB check notarized by a practising lawyer and then apostilled by the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office). The notarization can be done by a lawyer on the spot as it just requires a stamp and a signature, and the price for this service will depend on the lawyer. For the apostille you will need to send your notarized paperwork to the FCO and they should return it to you within two days. This will cost £30 per document.
- Once you have these documents notarized and apostilled, and obviously read through and signed your contract, you will need to Fedex all of your documentation (CRB check, degree certificate, contract, copy of passport and passport photos) to your recruiter in Korea.
- They will then be sent to the South Korean Immigration Bureau, who, after two weeks, will send you (or your recruiter) your visa issuance number. This is effectively your golden ticket to Korea. With this number you can take your passport to the South Korea embassy in London and receive your visa!
- As you may have realised by now, this takes rather a long time, so it may be best to start the process when you start applying for jobs. We ended up arriving at the Korean embassy to collect our visas on the morning that my boyfriend was due to fly to Korea! We left the embassy at 9.30 and his flight was from Heathrow at 14.00…far from ideal!
- You might decide that you want to take out travel insurance for the year. It is not easy finding a company that will insure you for 12 months, especially if you have no return flight booked. I recommend www.worldnomads.co.uk.
- You will mostly likely need to have some vaccinations or boosters before moving to Korea. It is advised that you are up to date with TB, Hepatitis A and B, Rabies, Tetanus, Typhoid and Diphtheria. Some of these require a course of 3 jabs spread over 21 days.
When preparing to move here we really struggled to find information on the visa process. Different recruiters will tell you different things and it can become quite confusing. While this is by no means a comprehensive set of instructions, I hope you have found it helpful in some way. Good luck!