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.