I’m coming to Korea… now where do I start?

I'm coming to Korea... now where do I start?

Photograph by Jill Daiss

So you’ve decided you want to be an English teacher in South Korea and have either sent your CV to one of the many work-placement agencies or started trolling the job boards on various websites… or both. Naturally, this seems a good way to start the process of finding work in Korea. However, in my experience, being offered a job interview – and even a job – are sometimes the easy steps in the long process that is acquiring your Korean work visa.

As an English Language Instructor, you will be required to get an E2 visa before entering the country. It takes A LOT of documentation to get this visa. Koreans are not known for exceptional prior-planning skills, and some jobs are only posted a few weeks before they need to be filled. So you may want to start gathering your documents before you’ve found the perfect job.

The necessary documents are (in no particular order):

A valid passport…

… from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK, or the USA. There was a rumour last year that Singapore and the Philippines were going to be added to the list of eligible countries, but as far as I’m aware, it is still the “steady seven”.

e2 passports

A bachelor’s degree

Any undergraduate degree qualifies as long as it was obtained at an English university i.e. where your medium of instruction was English

A sealed transcript from your university


A criminal background check

It makes sense that the Korean government does not want criminals educating their youth, especially convicted sex offenders, and so you have to prove you aren’t one. NB: your criminal record (or should I say lack thereof) MUST be obtained from the country of your passport. You might say, “well, duh!” but there are many British nationals living in Hong Kong, or Canadians who are long-term residents of the USA etc. If you are already an expat, it doesn’t matter how long you have lived where you are, your criminal background check must come from your “home country.

A declaration of good health

Not to be confused with a medical check-up. DO NOT get a check-up at home unless you think you may have TB or HIV which will see the Korean government packing you off back home before you have time to register the culture shock, let alone get over it! You must complete and sign a form (available from the Korean embassy) stating that you are in good health, but the actual medical check will be done in Korea before you get an alien registration card.

The final step:


As if gathering all these documents (especially the criminal record check) were not time consuming enough, you are now also required to have your degree and criminal record check apostilled or notarised. This is a fancy way of saying your government recognizes the documents to be true documents, and gives them a seal of approval.


If this is your first time getting an E2 visa, you will also be required to present yourself at the Korean embassy in your country for a short interview. I believe it is possible to do this by phone if you live a long way from the embassy. If you are courteous, friendly and say you want to work in Korea to experience its culture, your interview should be quick and painless, and you’ll soon find yourself aboard that flight to the “Land of Morning Calm”.

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