The FBI customer support sucks!

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Before applying to teach ESL in South Korea, whenever I thought of the FBI (which was not often) I would free associate it with things like American’s Most Wanted, bad-ass secret agents and secret agentesses, and possibly cocaine-sniffing German Sheps. As an American, I guess I felt a certain amount of confidence in our Federal Bureau of Investigation. I thought it was pretty powerful. And pretty cool.




For the first time in my life, I have found myself interacting directly with the FBI because, in order to teach abroad, you need to get two criminal background checks (CBCs), which involve fingerprinting, expensive shipping, and timely apostilles (an apostille is basically an international way to verify a document is authentic). Read more about the steps to working abroad in Korea here.

And here’s what I discovered: The FBI’s customer service really, really sucks. Sorry, America, your tech support is doing it wrong.


A couple weeks ago, I found out that my credit card got declined for my second CBC in a letter from the FBI. I applied for the CBC in December 2014 and it took FOURTEEN WEEKS for them to process my application and credit card before finally sending me the letter. (When they rang my card through, I had just made my last grad school payment and my bank account was in the -$400s.)  I promptly called them back to confirm that they really needed a second payment. I asked if I could send the $18 they require in cash and they said yes.

Now, it’s several weeks later and I get an email from my recruiter saying she still doesn’t have my second CBC!!! I need this in order to start my job on time!!!(!!!!!!!!) I’ve already bought my plane ticket and mentally prepared to leave, so I freaked out! I called the FBI customer support and told Sonya (my tech support lady) about the money I sent, and, as it turns out, the FBI has to start from the very beginning (aka take another 14 weeks) if your card gets declined. On top of that, they actually don’t take cash. And Sonya was really mean. So I just wasted $18 and got snipped at. I told her to plz send back my $18 to the return address on the envelope, but the FBI for some mysterious reason can’t and I hate it!!!!!

For a second there, I thought I was F U C K E D. I called my recruiter, trying as hard as possible to mask my despair.

But luckily, the company I work for now accepts CBCs from independent channelers and these can get done in a week. Why didn’t the FBI mention this to me when I told them I had to get my CBC done by May 12th?! In fact, they explicitly told me there’s no way to get a rushed CBC. FBI, WHY?

I know it sounds very whiny of me to be complaining about the customer service system of one of our nation’s most powerful organizations. They’re busy doing really important things and making the world a safe place (well, maybe).

But I guess what bothers me is how important navigating through senseless bureaucracies is in life. It takes more than merit and charisma to get a job. You’ve gotta work the system, jump through hula hoops, and fill out a shitload of paper work.




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