The (Apostilled) Criminal Record Check for an E-2 Work Visa in South Korea – U.S. Citizens version

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While I won’t go into much detail about the default documents that have always been a part of the process (Original diploma, Sealed transcripts, Passport photos, Copy of the front page of the active passport, Contract & Signed health statement), I will detail a bit below about how to obtain the Apostilled (a.k.a. Internationally Notarized) Criminal Record Check which seems to be the most complicated and time consuming document(s) required to obtain the E-2 Visa to Teach English in South Korea.  Also, I am focusing on how to do it for U.S. Citizens in this post.  If time permits, I’ll try to write one for Canadians, then the other countries who can also work in Korea legally as Native English Instructors.  Before continuing, I must also point out this is NOT an official set of recommendations or instructions, but simply what I’ve found to clarify the much to do about nothing confusion that’s been created since the start of this document as a requirement to work in Korea

Local vs. State vs. Federal versions of the Criminal Record Checks

Should I get the Criminal Record Check (CRC) from my local police department?  Should I go through the FBI?  How about the State Patrol?  There are many levels of Law Enforcement these days.  Thus, it is confusing which level serves you best.  On top of which level to obtain the CRC, there are questions as to whether obtaining one with or without fingerprints.  Moreover, there are quick online CRC’s that you can hammer out in literally minutes over the Internet.  Do these suffice?  The answer to all these questions is what most people hate to hear: “it depends…” 

The most important document that the Immigration officials are looking for in South Korea is the Apostille attached to the Criminal Record Check.  What’s the Apostille?  To learn more, check out this Wikipedia article about it.  Simply put, it’s an International version of the Notary.  This one or more page document which has a gold or embossed seal on it is usually attached to the CRC.  It’s required with the CRC to pass the Immigration official’s scrutiny at almost any office in South Korea.  The only workaround that bypasses obtaining the Apostille though is getting a Notary at the U.S. Embassy in South Korea.  It’s not recommended (especially by the Embassy), but if one fails to obtain the Apostille through normal means in the States, this is the last resort typically due to time constraints.  More is detailed in this post on Dave’s ESL Cafe

If you choose to go to the local or state level of Police to obtain your CRC, you may or may not need to give them fingerprints to obtain your CRC.  Search the Internet for the area you wish you go adding “Criminal Record Check” and I’m sure you’ll find a number of resources instructing you best how to obtain them.  Also, you can simply go to the local or state offices and ask in person or call them via the local directory.  State, County or Local versions of the CRC can then be submitted to the Secretary of State that you live in to obtain the all important Apostille.  To find instructions for your particular state, search the Internet with the phrase “Apostille [the state you are looking for].”  Please note: “As of mid-July, Korean Immigration will no longer accept any online (website or e-mail printout) background checks, even if issued by a governmental website.”

If you’re cynical that the versions of obtaining your CRC at the local to State levels are not sufficient (even though they’ve been successful for many), you can definitely obtain them from the FBI.  There are various recommendations of obtaining a fingerprint version from the FBI, but it can be very time consuming.  More details are here on this post.  The important note though is that if you do decide to obtain an FBI version of the CRC, you MUST get the Apostille from the Federal Level.  Instructions are outlined here

In sum, you can get the CRC at the local, the County, the State and the Federal levels.  If you choose to do it from the local through the State, get the Apostille from your Secretary of State’s office.  If you choose to go to the FBI, make sure you get your Apostille through the Department of State as outlined earlier

Extending an E2 Visa within South Korea’s borders

One positive development during the CRC confusion is Immigration’s decision to allow Instructors who are extending more time in obtaining their CRC’s.  As a result, check with your local Immigration office, but it has been proven in the Busan and Masan offices of Immigration that if you submit all your documentation needed minus the CRC with an explanation and an estimated time for receipt of the CRC, they will give you a temporary extension beyond the expiration of your Alien Registration Card (ARC). 

**Disclaimer: Again, I can’t take any responsibility for each and every effort to obtain this document.  You will find depending on your individual experience, the people who you interact can definitely impact your success.   Your interactions as well with those individuals can also influence how effective your results are.  The aforementioned information is only intended to answer questions that may arise during the process.


Filed under Advice, Expat, Immigration, Jobs, Korea life, Work

12 responses to “The (Apostilled) Criminal Record Check for an E-2 Work Visa in South Korea – U.S. Citizens version

  1. J C

    I’ve recently given up on an E-2, and subsequently the teaching job because of this process. In Santa Clara County California, the solution I was eventually given after 4 other versions was:

    -hire a traveling notary to accompany me to the Sheriff’s Office.
    -as the Sheriff’s Office performed the basic background check, the notary would only then be able to witness and notarize the signature (the Sheriff did have their own notary, but not available to the public).
    -then, go to the County Clerk and get the document certified.
    -then, go to the Sec. of State for the apostille.
    -all at a cost of at least $200, just for that portion of the visa application.

    I don’t blame them screening for criminals, but the process is prohibitive.

  2. That’s too bad J.C. All our teachers who went through California authorities actually had an easier time than most, but again, each case can be different and maybe Santa Clara County is one of those painful places. Did you try any other authorities? City level? I think a couple of ours went through California state police. Let me know if you want me to check…

  3. dip


    i need a CRC, getting one while im back in the states sometime this month.

    where did your teachers do their california checks?

    i used to live in LA and getting any sort of administrative work done at the city level takes too long from my experience.

    do you know how long it takes?? please let me in on the details 🙂

  4. dip

    ok forget that, i just re-read the process, and since im a new applicant for an E-2, i would need to go back and forth twice for a CRC AND the interview.

    is there any information on where to get one while IN korea?? my last place of residence also doesn’t notarize the CRC and an apostille takes a week.

  5. You have to send away and most likely rely on friends or family to get your criminal record check back home. You can get a criminal record check in Korea, but it’s through the National Police Agency which isn’t approved as the appropriate authority to give you the check. The reason is that Korea wants evidence from the previous place of residence before Korea. The apostille has a small workaround that sometimes works, but not always — you can sometimes swear on an affidavit provided by the consulates of your respective countries and that serves as the notarization that normally would be needed to be proved via the apostille. Try searching on, but read carefully and trust on “official” websites for the guidelines. My post and the stuff online at are honestly just recommendations and suggestions. We wanted to just help try to explain the complicated process in case it doesn’t make sense on the official websites.

  6. tk

    Hi, I’m a CDN citizen with a somewhat unfortunate past. I’ve obtained a full pardon for a crime that I was found guilty of 22 years ago (I was 24 years old ) and have kept out of trouble since. I’d like to teach english in Korea but don’t know if a background check will be able to see through the Pardon. Locally, nothing shows up. But if an apostille is required from the R.C.M.P., by Korea, I’m not sure that it won’t be divulged. I know that the US & Canada share info and I would require a Waiver to enter the US. Is there any chance/workaround or should I just drop the plans…? Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, tk

  7. Sorry, but I can’t give you any proper advice. It’s a very unique situation you have yourself. If you really want to see if you can teach here, you should go through the process and see how it goes.

    To be frank, I’d be very curious what the crime was regardless of the pardon. I feel like the kids here are like my own kids and if you were reading this not knowing what sort of crime, I think it would be fair that you would ask the same thing.

  8. njaroundtheworld


    I am having a hard time understanding the process. I am going to Secretary of State in IL. How long will it take after I turn in my finger prints in? Do I need to show identification? Will a passport work as a identification? How much does it cost?

  9. KRS

    I was unfortunately arrested for a DWI in the US 2/22/09. I also have an arrest (not a conviction) on my record from about 4 years ago for trespassing (I was in a park after it was closed for the night). The trespassing resulted in a Suspended imposition of Sentence which means that after (successfully) completing a 1 year unsupervised probation the record was sealed and no conviction was imposed. I hope to have the same outcome with the DWI which has not gone to court yet. Does the CRC show arrests if there were no convictions, and if so does my history pretty much mean I have no chance of being able to teach in S. Korea?

  10. Joanna

    thank you for writing this post three years ago haha. it’s really helping me now!

  11. Glad to hear it helped. 🙂

    Even through this day…wow.

  12. rachel

    I agree, this is the clearest and most helpful info out there!
    I was told by my recruiter that I must have the criminal check Apostillized at the national level; has anyone else heard this?


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