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Requirements & Visa Information For (Teaching English) In Korea 2014

What are the requirements for teaching in Korea and when do you need to start preparing your documents?

The minimum work requirements for teaching in Korea are set by the visa. There are two main visa options for teachers looking to go to Korea: the E1 visa and the E2 visa.

(There are other visas such as the F2 visa for long term residents that you can teach on, but these have other requirements you won’t be able to fill when you first enter.)

As the E2 visa is easier to get this means the minimum requirements for teaching in Korea are the requirements for the E2 visa:

Minimum Requirements for teaching in Korea

  • You must have a 3 - 4 year bachelors degree
  • You must be a native English speaker
  • You must hold a valid passport from one of the following countries:
    • Canada
    • US
    • UK
    • Australia
    • New Zealand
    • Ireland
    • South Africa

What visas can you teach in Korea with?

As we just mentioned there are two main visa options E1 & E2, they're for:

  • E1 – Professor visa
  • E2 – Foreign language instructor visa

There isn’t really much of a practical difference between them in terms of what you can do with the visa. The differences come mostly in slight differences in the application process and the requirements needed to get the visa in the first place.

The vast majority of people reading this will end up with an E2 visa, so that's what we'll spend most of our time covering.

How to get an E2 visa: Gathering your documents

Ideally you’ve read this before getting a job, because some of these documents can take a long time to prepare (i.e. several months). It’s a good idea to start getting them ready as soon as you’re sure you want to teach in Korea.

This list of documents might seem a little long and that’s because you’ll be sending documents to your school in Korea, as well as the embassy/consulate. We’ll list everything you need here and then explain what you send to who afterwards.

  • A notarised and apostilled copy of your degree
  • A criminal background check
  • A signed copy of your contract
  • A health statement (possibly 2)
  • A photocopy of your passport information page
  • Passport photos (5)
  • 2 sealed transcripts from your university (possibly)
  • A CV

What does notarized and apostilled mean?

Notarized means a document is verified as authentic. So if someone gives a you a notarised copy of a degree you know it’s real. But notarization only verifies a document for use in your own country.

If you want to verify a document internationally, it needs to be apostilled. You have to have the document notarised first and then you get it apostilled. This means it’s approved by your country according to the international Hague treaty, which pretty much every English speaking country is a member of (with the exception of Canada).

If your country isn't part of the treaty, i.e. you're from Canada, then you'll need to get the embassy of the country who wants the verified document to verify it. In this case that means the Korean embassy but more on that below.

Asides over, let’s go over how to get these documents starting with the hardest and most irritating first:

How to get a criminal background check

To be valid when applying for your Korean visa it needs to be:

  • Apostilled
  • Less than 6 months old

Each country has a different institution which needs to be used for this background check so we’ll go through it country by country:

We try to keep all of this information up to date, but it's always worth checking the official sources (which will be linked to) in case there have been any recent changes. The last check was June 16th 2014.


Official Body: FBI

You can order one here. It’s called an Identity History Summary.

Time to process: 28 days
Price: $18

Apostille: To get the background check apostilled, you’ll need to send it to the US Department of State which most people do by mail.

This can take another month or two. It’s also possible to pay a company to do this in which case it will take several days.

You’ll need to send them:

  • A completed Request of Authentications Service DS-4194 form
  • The background check
  • A check made payable to the US state department ($8.00)
  • A self-addressed prepaid envelope

Sent to:

Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
1st Floor
1150 Passport Services PL
Dulles, VA 20189-1150

You can find the official page on apostilling documents here.


Official Body: RCMP

You can order one here. It’s called a criminal record check

As of July 1st 2014, they’re only accepting electronic submissions so we’ll assume that’s what you’re doing. (If you’re outside of Canada you’ll have do it in print and have it sent to one of their partners who will digitize it for you.)

Assuming you're submitting it electronically, you’ll need to go to your local police station or one of the RCMP’s partners who will take your fingerprints and help you put together all the information to send off.

Your application will need:

  • Fingerprints
  • Basic Personal information
  • Reason for the background check

Time: 3 business days or less (usually – see here for full details)
Price: $25 for the background check plus whatever the fingerprinting costs are

Apostille: Being one of the few companies who didn’t sign up to the Hague treaty, you’ll have to take your documents to a Korean embassy or consulate to get them apostilled and you’ll need to contact them to find out the specifics.

There are currently 4 Korean consulates/embassies in Canada. They're in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.


There are actually multiple levels of background checks which are accepted for England.

  • Basic Disclosures
  • Standard Disclosures
  • Enhanced Disclosures
  • Subject Access Reports

A Basic Disclosure is really easy to get, so we'll ignore the rest. All you need to do is head over to Disclosure Scotland and apply online.

You’ll need 3 forms of identification, passport, birth certificate, driving license, bank statement etc. to apply.

Time: 2 weeks
Price: £25


Again really simple, you’ll need to pay £30 online here and then send the following documents. It usually takes 48 hours once it’s received.

  • Your application form
  • The background check
  • A blank A4 sized envelope
  • The payment confirmation page

You send the documents to the following address. (Check here if outside the UK).

Legalisation Office
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
PO Box 6255
Milton Keynes
MK10 1XX


Official Body: AFP

You can order one online here. It’s called a national police check.

You’ll need to fill out the forms and either complete the online application, or the print it out and post it in. If you need a fingerprint check, this has to be done offline and posted in and it has to be the original ink fingerprints.

Postal address:

Australian Federal Police,
Criminal Records
Locked Bag 8550

Price: Between $42 and $139
Time: 15 days for the background check, 30 days for the fingerprint check.


You’ll need to send your background check to your states government apostille office.

Download the online application form (which will be on your states apostille office website) and send it along with a cheque to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (or put your credit card details in the form). It usually takes two days and will cost $60.

South Africa

Official Body: SAPS

To apply for a background check in South Africa, you’ll need to apply at your local police station (or at the embassy or another countries police station if you’re living outside South Africa.) It’s called a Police Clearance Certificate.

You need to provide:

  • A fingerprint form (you'll get it at the station)
  • Personal information (full name, surname, date of birth, place of birth and identity number)
  • A copy of an identity document or passport
  • Proof of payment

You will need to pay separately using the details here, under the cost section.

The police station will send off the application or you can mail it yourself to:

The Head of the South African Criminal Record Centre
(For attention: Police Clearance Certificates)
Private Bag X308

Price: R59.00
Time: 14 working days once it's been recieved


You’ll need to send your background check to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. Because it’s a police document it doesn’t need to be notarised, so you can just send it straight over.

There are four ways to do this listed here under "How to Access the Service". This can take around 2 days from when it arrives and it’s free. Better still there are no forms to fill in, they usually only require basic information about you and the name of the country where the document will be needed, along with the background check itself.


Official Body: Garda

To apply for a background check in Ireland, you’ll need to send your application to your District Superintendent (or if you’re outside of the Ireland, the District Superintendent of the last place you lived). It's called a Police Certificate.

Your application should include a letter with the following information:

  • Your full name as on your birth certificate including your maiden name if applicable
  • Your date and place of birth (or a copy of your birth certificate)
  • Your current address
  • All addresses at which you have lived at in Ireland and when you lived there
  • The place and purpose for which you require the Certificate
  • Along with a copy of your passport, driving license or similar and a stamped self-address envelope. (This is the official page.)

    Time: Approximately three weeks (from arrival)
    Price: Free


    To get documents apostilled you'll need to send them to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

    You either take it in, in person if you live in Cork or Dublin, or you can post it in.

    If you're posting it you send your background check, payment and a cover letter which includes:

    • your name
    • return address
    • telephone number
    • the name of the country the document(s) are for use in

    Then send it by registered post to:

    Consular Division,
    Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade,
    80 St Stephen’s Green,
    Dublin 2,

    You can pay by Cash, Bank draft (drawn on a bank in Ireland and payable to the 'Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade'), Irish Postal order or credit/debit card. (This is the official page.)

New Zealand

Official Body: Ministry of Justice

The equivalent of a criminal background check in New Zealand is a copy of your criminal record. You’ll need to request a copy from the Ministry of Justice.

You’ll need to send them

  • A form
  • A copy of drivers licence of passport
  • A coversheet stating your application is work in South Korea as a teacher, you require the original letterhead with ink signature and you give the Ministry of Justice permission to forward your document to the Department of Internal Affairs for Apostille

You can either post, email or fax the documents. Addresses provided here.

Price: Free
Time: 20 working days from arrival


As you just read the ministry of Justice will forward your criminal record for apostilling for you.

You’ll need to get in touch with Authentication Unit of the Department of Internal Affairs to sort out payment and delivery back to you:

Phone No.: 0800 872 675
E-mail: [email protected].

The fee is $32.

How to get everything else:

  • University Degree Certificate

You need a Bachelors Degree (3 or 4 years depending on where you went to university) to work in Korea.

You need to get a photocopy of your certificate and then get it notarized and apostilled.

If you're wondering why the degree certificate has to be notarized and the criminal background check doesn't, it's because the background check is a government document and the degree certificate isn't.

  • A Health Statement

This is an assessment form from the Korean government which you'll have to fill out. You’ll have a full medical test when you arrive in Korea to check everything you've written is true.

They’re testing for diseases like HIV & TB as well as drugs. Drug enforcement is strict in Korea, even marijuana is taken very seriously.

  • A signed copy of your contract

Fairly self explanatory. You’ll need one copy for applying, it’s also good practice to keep a copy for your own records.

  • Passport Photo Copy

Again fairly self explanatory. Take a photocopy of the passport page with all the information and your picture on it.

  • Two sealed university transcripts

Officially Korea stopped asking for these in 2010, but (of course there's a but) it’s entirely possible your local consulate will still ask for them.

These are usually free to get, so get them and you’ll have them just in case.

How to get an E2 visa: Sending documents to Korea

Now you've prepared all your documents you need to send the following documents to your employer in Korea:

  • A copy of your degree (apostilled)
  • A background check
  • A health statement
  • One set of sealed university transcript (if required)
  • A copy of your passport information page
  • A signed copy of the contract
  • Two passport sized photos
  • A copy of your CV

This list might vary depending on your recruiter or employer so double check what you need.

Recruiters and employers will generally want you to send these via courier because otherwise they can’t track them.

Your Korean employer/recruiter will then use these documents to apply for a visa issuance number, which can take up to two weeks (once the documents have arrived). When they get it, they’ll email it back to you.

How to get an E2 visa: Getting your visa at the Consulate/Embassy

Now you have your visa issuance number, you need to go apply for your actual visa. We're nearly done!

You’ll need to go to your nearest consulate or embassy to apply, or if you don’t live near them post your application to them.

The documents generally required are:

  • A visa application form (the Visa Issuance Number goes at the top)
  • Your Passport
  • A passport style photo
  • Payment
  • Transcripts (possibly)

As usual you should check with the Korean consulate/embassy you’re using for the exact requirements. (The form will be the same).

There will be a processing fee ($45 dollars for example in the US) and it’ll take a couple of days to be processed (depending of course on where you go.)

Congratulations you now have your visa and you're all ready to hop on a plane!

How to get an Alien Registration Card (ARC)

Once you’ve arrived in Korea you have 90 days to get your Alien registration card. (Although you should probably do it sooner than this).

You need to go to your nearest immigration office and register. You’ll need:

Having this lets you open up a bank account as well as activating your health insurance.

Renewing your E2 Visa

You can renew your visa anytime in the last 60 days before it expires, which will allow you to stay for another year.

You’ll need to go down to your local immigration office and bring the following documents:

  • An application form (no. 34.) (You’ll be able to find this and fill it in at the office)
  • An employment contract (original and a copy)
  • Business registration number (School should get this for you)
  • Timetable (School should get this for you)
  • Passport
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Money (60,000 won) (except the British)
  • Acceptable documents to prove your residency (housing contract, a utility bill, etc.)

This is the official line as of June 2014. As always it's usually a good idea to check with the office before going in.

You can also check the official online guide here, it's the Sojourn Guide for Foreigners.

Unfortunately it's in an .hwp format, which means it can't be opened in Adobe or Microsoft word.

There's an excellent guide here which goes through the options for opening .hwp files. If you're running Windows on desktop you won't be able to download Hangul File Viewer from the official site (the link is missing), but I left a link to a mirror for a download in the comments for the article.

Can you travel around after completing your contract?

If you want to hang around in Korea after finishing your contract, you can apply for a 30 day extension which will let you travel around a bit. There's an excellent guide on the official immigration website here.

Unfortunately the page is blocked on Chrome and Firefox, you'll have to use Internet Explorer to open the page. The page wants you to download a security plugin (you shouldn't) and IE is the only browser that will allow you to access the page without it.

Image Attribution:

"Southkorea visa incheonairport" by Slleong is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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