Most people heading to teach English in Korea do so on an E-2 visa. To get this visa there are a couple of entertaining bureaucratic hoops to jump through. Thankfully, most of these are pretty straightforward. However, it is tricky to get info on some of the requirements for South Africans, so I’ve included some advice and help on some of these below.
The basics for getting an E-2
If you use a recruiter, they will guide you through this process. To get the ball rolling, and to get a job offer, at a minimum you will need:
- A (bachelor’s) degree (in any subject)
- Sealed copies of your university transcripts (academic record)
- An (apostilled) criminal record check from the police
- Medical forms
There are other things you’ll need to get, like reference letters and medical forms, but this all goes pretty much hand in hand with confirming a job at a school and with getting your contracts.
Here’s some help with getting some of the more tricky documents:
A degree certificate
The Koreans kept on asking for my ORIGINAL degree certificate. No way was I going to send this. They also don’t accept certified copies. So I found that you have two choices: 1) Get your university to send you copies of your original degree, or 2) get a copy certified at the Korean embassy in Pretoria.
Since most people in SA don’t live in Pretoria, getting your university to send copies of your degree seems to be the best option. These cost me R50 a pop, but at least I know I won’t have any hassles about its authenticity (I hope), and I have an extra copy to take along with me to Korea in case things go pear-shaped.
Sealed copies of your university transcript
Basically they want official copies of your academic record, so, no, you can’t just print it off the internet. But at least copies of your academic record are pretty easy to arrange. All I did was email my university (University of Pretoria) and explain to them that I needed copies of my academic record. The trick was to make sure that these were SEALED and in ENGLISH. “Sealed” means that the copies are placed in an envelope with the university stamp over the opening. I got it arranged and posted to me in a couple of days, and I sent it as is to Korea.
An (apostilled) criminal record check
A criminal record check can be done at almost any police station. You fill in a form and they take your fingerprints, and then you post it to the Central Registry in Pretoria. It costs R56 (last time I checked) and takes about 40 days to get.
But that’s not all. It also needs to be apostilled. What is this? That’s what I asked many, many people. An apostille certificate is an internationally accepted proof of authenticity. This can be obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Legalisation Section in Pretoria. A relatively painless (and for the moment, free) process. We even arranged this by post! Click here for more information and for their contact details.
You will probably be asked to fill in a health self-evaluation form and get your doctor to complete another health form. This is very straightforward. Most South Africans have already had the basic vaccinations, and the rest is just to check that you don’t have TB or anything else contagious. Your GP should be able to arrange all this. My wife and I also opted for vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B. Always good to have when travelling around Asia!
The new E-2 visa regulations that came into effect in December 2007 mean that a lot of people applying for these visas for the first time now have to go for interviews at the Korean consulate in Pretoria. At first this involved meeting the consul IN PERSON, which is one huge hassle for those of us living outside Gauteng. As from 1 April 2008, though, South Africans not living in Gauteng can now instead send the consulate a self-introductory video CD of you answering all the basic questions. Much easier! The consulate has put together a document listing what they want to see on the CD. Download a copy here: Instructions for interview CD (Korean consulate Pretoria). However, these instructions don’t help to tell you HOW to make the interview CD. I’ll see if I can find out the easiest and best way to do this.
The visa should take about three days to arrange.
It seems that not everyone has to have an interview, so contact the consulate before you start making plans to either go there or send a CD.
The interview is basically just a short question and answer session with the consul. It is more of a formality than anything else, but it’s probably a good idea to avoid jokes about how you got drunk/stoned the other night, or how you actually wanted to go to Japan/China/Taiwan but they wouldn’t take you. It’s like any other job interview.
The consular section of the Korean embassy in Pretoria is NOT at the embassy, which is at Greenpark Estates, 27 George Storrar Drive. The consular section is at Office S7, Groenkloof Forum Office Park, 57 George Storrar Drive. This is by the post office at the shopping centre opposite the Little Company of Mary hospital.
The visa section is only open between 08:30 and 11:45, so get there early. I got told that if you get there early, you should be able to get your visa the same day. If not, expect a three day wait. Most people should be prepared to have an interview when they apply for the visa, so dress nice.
You can contact the consular section on (012) 346 2026, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Renewing an E-2 visa
The new visa regulations that came into play in December 2007, which include the need for criminal record checks and an interview at a Korean consulate, mean that there are some changes to renewing an E-2 as well. Apparently, people with E-2s issued prior to the new regulations will have to get a criminal record check before they can renew their visas or get a new one. But it does seem that the consulate interview doesn’t apply. You can read more on how the new regulations might affect you in this document here: New E-2 visa process 2007. Thanks to Joyce Kim at KorVia recruiters who sent this along to me.