1. VISA RULES FOR FOREIGN INSTRUCTORS
The Korean Ministry of Justice announced that as of December 15, 2007, foreigners will have to submit medical and criminal background checks when applying for a visa to become a foreign language teacher in South Korea. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide a background check or fingerprinting service, and we cannot notarize, certify, or verify the authenticity of background checks or diplomas.
As we understand the new requirements, E-2 visa applicants who are U.S. citizens can obtain the necessary criminal background check either by submitting their fingerprints to the FBI or by applying for a local police check where they last resided in the U.S. Procedures for obtaining criminal background checks in the U.S. are explained on our website at http://www.asktheconsul.org/E2ec07.htm. Local police stations in the Republic of Korea are able to take fingerprints that can be sent to the FBI for a background check. U.S. Embassies are, unfortunately, prohibited from taking fingerprints for these purposes.
Regrettably, the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) has placed incorrect information on its website concerning services U.S. embassies can and cannot perform. As of this writing the "New Release: Mandatory Requirements of Criminal Background Check and Health Certificate" on the KIS website contains incorrect information about the length of time it can take to get a criminal records check in the U.S. and also states erroneously that the U.S. Embassy can notarize or certify background checks. We have asked that the incorrect information be removed from the KIS website and we regret any inconvenience or misunderstanding that has resulted from their explanation of our services.
As we receive updated information on the Korean visa requirements, we will post it on our website. The U.S. Embassy website will also continue to be the best source of information about the services that we are able to provide under U.S. law and regulation. If you have further questions, we suggest that you contact the office responsible for the new requirements, the Korea Immigration Service, Border Control Division, at 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118, or consult their website at http://seoul.immigration.go.kr/HP/IMM80/index.do or the Ministry of Justice website (in Korean only) at
Update 2 - December 15, 2007 @ 8:04am
Okay, this is merely unofficial and ancedotal crap. I went to immigration on Friday to get something done. I asked the person helping me and he said, I quote "몰라요", "I don't know".
I was chatting with one friend who said it depends on who gets elected next Wednesday (the presidential election is next week). I'm thinking that's really odd legislation to be dependent on the next president of South Korea but maybe the legislators KNEW about that technicality when they passed this law because it has been done to shut their constituents up. I also heard that it's been delayed until March of next year.
Also, there is the same belly-aching. I was out on Friday and people were going on and on about how the FBI has a post-9/11 backlogs on criminal background checks and how a person can't even request their own background check, it has to be requested for them. That "it has to be requested by someone else" line is odd to me too as one of the commentors on this very post said he's done it twice, but I don't argue with people talking to hear themselves talk. However, please tell me, how do potential parents wanting to adopt foreign children get it done? Are you saying that foreign orphanages or governments shoulder the burden of getting the paperwork done to request these things first? I'm adopted and I know that even domestically, my parents had to shoulder the bureaucratic and financial burdens, so I seriously doubt that you can't order your own criminal background check.
Anyway, basically, there is a whole lot of talk but no clear policy. When the Korean immigration website is updated, I'll worry about it. For now, I'll go with what my government has written about it and deal with it if and when I must.
Update 1 - December 12, 2007 @ 8:22am
First, I'll post updates to this at the top because I know most E-2 visa holders aren't the brightest bulbs (yeah, I don't like most of you folks.)
I went to the FBI website this morning and found a helpful page.
It gives a link to a document on which they'd want your fingerprints to be rolled when requesting a criminal record check.
Here it is: FBI Identification Record Request (Criminal Record Check)
I've been avoiding the buzz about the new E-2 visa requirements because just about every foreigner who talks about it makes it out to be like the Inquisition.
Come on people. As soon as it was released that Chester the Canadian Child Molester was an English teacher in Korea, you didn't think the legislature was going to respond with some over-the-top solution?
Anyway, someone just made a comment about it, and I'm going to nip this bitching in the bud, at least, nip it in the bud for Americans.
Here is what the US Embassy in Korea has to say on it:
We understand that the government of the Republic of Korea is changing its immigration policies effective December 15, 2007, to require that criminal records checks and a health certificate be submitted with E-2 visa applications or extensions. The U.S. Embassy in South Korea does not provide a records check or fingerprinting service, nor can the Embassy authenticate records checks or health certificates. At this time, we do not have any further information about what specifically the Korean authorities will require of E-2 visa applicants. If you have further questions, we suggest that you contact the Korean Immigration Service, Border Control Division, at 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118, or consult their website: http://seoul.immigration.go.kr/HP/IMM80/index.do.After that it's a list of the various state agencies and a couple of links to the US Department of State.
Below you will find the procedure that U.S. citizens must undertake to secure a properly authenticated criminal record check.
I. Criminal Records Check Information:
U.S. citizens may be asked to present a "certificate of good conduct" or "lack of a criminal record" for a variety of reasons for use abroad including adoption, school attendance, employment, etc. U.S. law enforcement authorities may not be familiar with such a procedure since it is not commonly requested in the U.S. There are a variety of options available to U.S. citizens seeking to obtain proof of their lack of a criminal record.
Federal Records Check: The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies. The subject of an identification record may obtain a copy thereof by submitting a written request to the CJIS. The request must be accompanied by satisfactory proof of identity (consisting of name, date and place of birth, and a set of roll-inked fingerprint impressions) and a certified check or money order for the $18 processing fee. It will take 16-18 weeks for the FBI to process the request. The FBI will not provide copies of arrest records to individuals other than the subject of the record. Requests should be directed to FBI CJIS Division, Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2, 1000 Custer Hollow Rd., Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306. If there is no criminal record, a report reflecting this fact is provided.
Local Police Check: U.S. citizens should go to their local police department where they reside or last resided in the U.S., request that the police conduct a criminal records search and provide them with a document reflecting that there is no history of a criminal record. Local police departments may require a personal appearance in order to conduct the search. The local police department can phrase this in whatever way it deems appropriate. The document should then be authenticated for use abroad following the State Department’s guidance on authentication or legalization of documents. The entire process will vary in the amount of time and money required depending on which state it is requested from. We encourage applicants for E-2 visas in South Korea to contact their state government directly in order to obtain this information.
II. AUTHENTICATION PROCEDURES:
The U.S. and South Korea are parties to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization for Foreign Public Documents. The Convention abolishes the requirement of diplomatic and consular legalization for public documents originating in one Convention country and intended for use in another. For the purposes of the Convention, public documents include: (a) documents emanating from a court, (b) documents issued by an administrative authority (such as civil records), and (c) documents executed before a notary. Such documents issued in a Convention country that have been certified by a Convention certificate called an "apostille" are entitled to recognition in any other Convention country without any further authentication. See TIAS 10072; U.N.T.S. 189; 28 U.S.C.A., Fed. R. Civ. P. 44, pp. 323-327 (1992 & West Supp. 1993); Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Law Digest Volume, Selected International Conventions; 20 Int'l. Leg. Mat. 1405-1414 (November 1981).
Federal Records Check: Documents issued under the seal of a federal agency can be authenticated by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. The office is located at 518 23rd St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20520, tel: (202) 647-5002. There is a fee of $7.00 for each authentication payable in the form of a check drawn on a U.S. bank or money order made payable to the Department of State. For additional information, call the Federal Information Center: 1-800-688-9889, and choose option 6 after you press 1 for touch tone phones. Walk-in service is available from the Authentications Office from 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Monday-Friday, except holidays. Walk-in service is limited to 15 documents per person per day (documents can be multiple pages). Processing time for authentication requests sent by mail is 5 working days or less.
Local Police Check: A local police check must be authenticated in the state where it was issued. The list below indicates where a U.S. citizen must submit a document for authentication. See also 28 U.S.C.A., Fed. R. Civ. P. 44, pp. 328-31 (1992 & West Supp. 1993).
Anyway, I hope that helps my fellow Americans here.
I checked the G4F.go.kr website, the new government website for foreigners in Korea, and it still has the old E-2 requirements. I've got to go to immigration this week to get some paperwork processed, so I'll just ask when I'm there. But what I've heard is Korean immigration is well aware that this kind of paperwork takes awhile, so in the interim, they'll issue provisional visas. Fair enough, until the Korean legislature responds to all the Korean business owners who are having heart attacks over this extreme law.
If you must join the whine-fest on this here are some links:
ZenKimchi: Visa Regulation Update
The Marmot's Hole: Hagwons, Regional Colleges Pissed at New E-2 Regulations
and, as usual, I've heard it's a shit-stirrer's and whiner's moshpit over at Dave's ESL Cafe.
Go and have at it. Sphere: Related Content