Important visa / immigration news

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UPDATED 25 July 2010 with additional information regarding background checks for Americans.

I have Stafford Lumsden at the Chosun Bimbo to thank for making these changes known, and to Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling for his research into the subject.

Some important news regarding E-2 visa holders is coming out - and this time, it's about as official as things can be. The original announcement can be found at, although the Chosun Bimbo has already gone through and vetted the changes.

First, the good news:

  • Stafford says it best: "If you stay less than 3 months outside of Korea between visas you do not have to submit a Criminal background check again." This seems too good to be true, and might be cut back to a shorter time frame in the future. For the time being, this means you can visit another country or go home without needing to get another expensive piece of paper.
  • Effective September 1, 2010: Immigration will no longer require sealed transcripts! Since getting them from schools can be both slow and costly, that's one big issue that can be put in the past.
  • Effective September 1, 2010: You'll no longer have to submit your original diploma with every new English teaching visa (E-2) application. There's a caveat here (read the bad news).
  • Effective July 15, 2010: You'll no longer need an HIV/AIDS test to satisfy Immigration. This comes as a result of a Constitutional Court decision last year, although I can't find a link to the decision off-hand. It's not mentioned on their website, though as of this posting the most recent decision is from February. Stafford notes that local boards of education may still require one, though I'd personally be interested in learning the legal basis for the tests - especially if Immigration no longer requires it and a Constitutional Court decision has declared it unacceptable.
  • E-2 visas are now good for 13 months - your 12-month contract plus an extra month to either pack up or look for a new job.

Of course, there's also some bad news as well:

  • You'll still take a TBPE test for narcotics - and now you'll also take a test for pot. Fine by me - I've never touched the stuff. What concerns me would be the rare false positive from eating poppy seeds (for what it's worth, Mythbusters did confirm it). That only certain hospitals that have a "perfect system" may add to the compliance burden is an issue as well, though it may make things a bit more efficient (they know how to get it done since they do it more often).
  • Starting January 1, 2011: your criminal background check will need to be a national check - not just the sort you can get at your local police station. The problem here is that these things take some serious time to get. If you come from countries that have no local-level reports (e.g. New Zealand), nothing will change for you. Americans, this means a background check from the FBI. For more information about that, check out (hat tip to Footprints Recruiting). Bear in mind that this thing can take three months to receive - apply well in advance of when you need it. Until 1/1/11, the criminal background checks you have been getting are fine.
  • Starting September 1, 2010: Your college / university diploma needs an apostille from your home country. In case it's been awhile, the apostille is the internationally accepted certification that certifies everything else is correct. It's what you may have mailed off to the Secretary of State of your state in the US. If you're already in Korea, you can receive a verification from the Korean Council for University Education. As Stafford noted, however, it doesn't appear that Immigration and the KCUE are on the same page as of this posting. Once that information has been verified, you won't need to submit it every following time.

In short, a few headaches go away and a few more are potentially created. Welcome to life as a teacher in Korea.

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Creative Commons License © Chris Backe - 2010

This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.



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