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.

Medical forms

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!

Embassy Interview

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

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.


18 responses to “Visas

  1. Just a little advise when going for your interview …make sure you cover any tatoos and remove any “unusual” piercings …they gave me hell for a nose ring peircing…

  2. hi. i have a question regarding the certification of my degree scroll. does it have to be certified by the embassy in pretoria? can it not be done by any commissioner of oaths?

  3. From what I heard, the Koreans will only accept a copy of your degree that has been certified as a true copy of the original by the Korean embassy/consulate in Pretoria. I got around this by getting my university to send me copies of my degrees, which look almost like the original. But all the people I spoke to said that a copy that has been certified by a commissioner of oaths won’t be accepted.

    The requirements change all the time, but I think this one is still valid. Are you working through a recruiter? If you are, they should be able to tell you what the current requirements are.

    Whatever you do, DON’T send your original degree. It’s a nightmare trying to get it back, if you ever do.

  4. hi again. i need help with the self introduction cd. whats the easiest way to do it cos im hopeless when it comes to stuff like this…………….would really appreciate your help…..thanks

  5. Well, I’m afraid I’m not too sure what is needed for this self-introduction CD. Is this for the Korean consulate or for a possible job in Korea? I’m assuming it’s for the consulate.

    I’m not the clued up about how to do this either. Has the consulate given any idea about what format they want? Do they want a full video, or just audio?

    I’ll ask around a little and see if anyone else has done something like this.


  6. Terisa gave me a copy of a document outlining what the Korean consulate would like to see in the interview CD. I’ve included a copy under the “Embassy Interview” section above.

  7. Hi, I have a question regarding extension of visa.
    I came to Korea before the new legistlation on Criminal record checks and medical checks were in effect (July 2007) and would like to extend my E2 visa, but don’t know if I’ll need a criminal record check and medical checks for the extension. Do you know anyone I could possibly speak to about this as my recruiter is clueless.

  8. Thank you for replying. I realy appreciate it. I am at a hogwan and would be staying at the same school. I am worried that I won’t have enough time for the criminal record check. My director knew that my visa expired on the 10th and booked my flight for the 24th of July with the intention of extending my visa, but I think she is not aware of the legislation.

  9. Hi Michelle

    I’m busy looking into this for you, so I just want to check a couple of things.

    1) Are you at a hagwon or a public school?
    2) If you are at a public school, is it through EPIK?
    3) Are you staying at the same school, or moving to a new one?

    The rules seem to vary according to all sorts of criteria. My recruiter is pretty organised, and I’m sure she’ll be able to clarify anything I can’t confirm.

    At the moment it looks like you’ll have to get a criminal record check and the health test. The health test is straightforward and pretty cheap, so that’s not too much of a hassle. The criminal record check, on the other hand, is more problematic…

    Let me know those details, and I’ll see what I can confirm for you.


  10. Well, I’m still looking around, but it seems like you will have to get a criminal record check, since you got your visa before the new regulations came into play. The best would be to chat to someone at immigration to confirm this, though.

    From one of the (reliable) guys on Dave’s ESL:

    Fro renewal you will need:

    1. Visa Extension Application
    2. Passport and your Alien Registration Card
    3. New contract
    4. Sponsorship Certificate (from school)
    5. A copy of Certificate of School / Business Registration (from school)
    6. Processing Fee
    7. New Criminal Record Certificate (apostilled)
    8. New Health Check Certificate

    It’s a bit of a mission getting an SA criminal record check. Here’s some idea of how to go about this here:

    It takes at least 40 days to get the police clearance certificate, and that excludes transport time. But since your visa expires on 10th July, you might be able to get a short extension for tourist purposes. If your visa has already expired, then I’m not sure what you should do.

    I’ll try and confirm this with my recruiter. She’s pretty helpful.


  11. Thank you so much for all your advice. I appreciate it.

  12. Hi Thomas,
    Once again thank you so much for all your help. I truely appreciate all your help. The document you sent me is exactly what I need to finally get it through to my director that I will be teaching illegally if I stay and that she needs to change my flight date for the 10th of July. Thank you.
    Please thank your recruiter for me and send me your agency’s address as I think I’ll use them if I decide to come back in the future!

  13. No problem. Hope you come right with that! The recruiter is Joyce Kim at KorVia recruiters ( I’ve added a link to the document she sent me in the section “Renewing an E-2 visa” above.

  14. Yeah, I’ll let you know. I don’t plan on staying though. It’s a much longer story but basically my director needs me to stay as she hasn’t found a replacement and is trying to convince me that I won’t be doing something illegal and not to be worried about it, but CLEARLY (from the document) I will be and there is not enough time to get a Criminal record check done, so at last I have the proof to confront her about it and make sure that she re-schedules the my flight. Once again, thank you.

  15. Pingback: Impersonal interviews « SafKorea - For South Africans in Korea

  16. I think maybe these questions have been answered, but as I renewed my visa at immigration a few days ago. I will just relay my experience so that other teachers don’t have to questions things and stress.

    Last year (2007 dec) I renewed my visa before the new regulations took place, so I renewed it without a police clearance and medical check.

    However since my last visa did not need those forms I did need it to renew my same visa for another year.

    I did have my p0lice clearance in hand since I decided to get it long time ago just for in case. But it did not have an apostile. I read on the internet and was told by immigration as well that I can take it to the South African Embassy to get the apostile.

    However after emailing them they told me adamantly that they don’t do apostiles or notarizations and that I have to send it to SA to get it accepted by immigration.

    I need to state that this information is wrong, even though the South African Embassy will still tell you this is you ask them today.

    I took my police clearance to them and they made a copy of it, then they stamped the copy with a stamp declaring it to be a real copy. I took that to immigration and there was no problem (as did other friends of mine)

    Then I needed to do the medical exam, it took 30 minutes at the most (blood sample, urine sample and chest x-ray). It took two days to process and then I went to pick up the results.

    Thus the next day I went to immigration with the following:

    ARC card
    Police clearance and copy with the stamp
    Original contract and a copy of it (they keep the copy and return the original to you)
    A certificate of business registration of your school (hogwon or public)
    30 000won (you have to buy stamps downstairs representing the money which you stick on the form)
    Application form which I filled in on the spot

    I successfully applied for the renewal of my visa (at the same school) and I had to wait 10 minutes while they printed the new end date of my contract on my ARC card. And then I went home.

    Hope this will help fellow teachers who need to renew their contracts at their schools. Feel free to ask me any questions regarding renewal of visas (at the same school)


  17. Can anyone tell me whether I can apply for an E2 visa while Im teaching in thailand? Does it have to be done from SA??

    • Things may have changed since when I applied, but last I heard you had to be in your home country to apply for an E-2. These requirements keep on changing, though. Have you tried contacting the Korean embassy in Thailand to find out?

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