Livin’ la Visa Loca

Anyong! (That’s “hello” in Korean… pronounced like “onion” with a “-ng” at the end, more or less.) Yes, I am already here in South Korea, and yes, I did wait this long for my next post. Thank you for noticing.

Also, thank you for noticing that the title of this post doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s a PUN, alright?! Sheesh. 🙂

This will be a rather long post since I want to back up and start from the beginning. I wanted to blog about my experience with getting my visa, and then I wanted to blog about my adventure getting from DC to Paju. Obviously, neither posts ever happened and I’m about to crank them all out tonight since it’s 1:35am and I am wide awake. (Oh, jet lag… how I despise thee.)

First: the visa process. (Big sigh) Well, when I first learned about everything I had to do to even be able to APPLY for my visa, it was quite overwhelming; it was a bunch of little things I needed to get or to do. For the sake of keeping this post at a readable length (and because those of you who know me, know that I’m a visual learner), here is a bulleted list outlining the entire process:

  • Step 1: Request a federal background check. For Americans, that means waiting up to 15 weeks (yes, you read that correctly) for the FBI to mail you your background check. Hence, I was waiting around for the thing for months.
  • Step 2: While waiting for the background check, I had to make a color copy of my degree (which I didn’t have – long story – so I first had to request a duplicate from my university), and have it notarized. THEN, I had to get a state Apostille stamp from the Maryland Secretary of State. (An Apostille is basically a seal they stamp onto the document.)
  • Step 3: Fill out a health statement, and sign my 27-page contract on every page and twice on the last page. It’s a lot more tedious than it sounds – especially if you’re like me, and actually read what you’re signing. (Always read the fine print!)
  • Step 4: Once I received my background check, I had to take it to the US Department of State to get a federal Apostille stamp on it (thankfully I live in the DC area… otherwise, I would’ve had to mail it to them and wait another few days to get it back. Going in person saved me all kinds of time!)
  • Step 5: Send all documents to South Korea. (They received them in a little less than a week.)
  • Step 6: Wait for the employer to send a visa issuance number via email. This is the step that took the longest, after requesting a federal background check. Once the employer receives your documents, (s)he must take them to Korean Immigration to process and then it takes about a week for them to issue the visa number. However, if your employer waits 2 weeks to bring your documents to Immigration like mine did, then you’ll be left hanging wondering when you’ll ever get to Korea.
  • Step 7: Go to the Korean consulate to get your visa! Once you’ve got that visa issuance number, you can go to your local consulate with your passport and wait yet another week to actually get the visa. Again, because I went in person, I was able to drop off and pick-up my visa in person, which saved me a few days.
  • Step 8: Book your ticket! Once you have your visa, you are able to travel to Korea and can book your flight. I mailed my itinerary to my employer and they sent a taxi to pick me up from the airport (they gave the driver a sign with my name on it).

Phew! That’s it. Now, in my case, I got my visa right before a week-long holiday here in Korea, so I had to wait yet ANOTHER week to come to Korea. I submitted my background check request in May and I finally arrived October 6!

By the way, the process is a little different for Canadians. (I know this because I did the research for Glenn. In true Canadian style, I had to cross-reference 4 different sources of information to figure out what Glenn needed to do… and finally call the Royal Canadian Mountain Police since all 4 sources had conflicting information regarding the federal background check.) The differences were that their background check can take only a week if expedited (which Glenn found out the hard way after his first check was rejected) and in addition to the same required documents for Americans, they must submit official university transcripts. Oh, and the copy of their degree only needs to be notarized and their background check only needs a consular seal from the Korean consulate. At this point in time, Glenn is still waiting on his background check… so, as you can see, I’ll be here by myself for quite a while before he’s able to come over.

Now on to my next post, which I will title “Ode to Dramamine”….

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