Visa Meltdown

On Thursday I took an early morning flight to Hong Kong in order to secure my work visa, which I need to legally work in China. The directions I was given were not accurate of where the office was as I totally missed the sign which isn’t clearly labeled for the visa office in the building either. Which led me to miss getting into the office before their lunch break. Read More

Visa Escapades – Part 2

Visas are a complicated mess only if documents do not come to you quickly. Another bonus is working with recruiters that truly care about you and how you are doing through the whole process. My first recruiter is a friend now and called me up after I told her what had happened before, and she said I needed to change my visa status a.s.a.p. before starting my contract or I would not be able to start working. I couldn’t believe this, but she said if you work in a public school than you must be on an E-2 visa when you start working otherwise the contract is void and you will have to start the process all over again. I called my current recruiter at the time if he had heard of that and he hadn’t but he advised me to call immigration more than once in order to receive the correct answer.

So that’s what I did. I called immigration twice and they told me that yes, I had to be on an E-2 visa before my contract started. So I told me recruiter I would rush down to the immigration office the next day and change my visa status once again. I also had to apply for a new ARC card again as the status on the card would be changed.  So I was out another 120,000 won. I did learn a few valuable lessons, one I did not want to wait until the day my visa expired to go down to immigration. My contract arrived a few hours after I had gone down to immigration the first time to get a D-10 visa. It came one day before my visa expiration. Had it come earlier that day or a few days before, I never would have had to go on a D-10 visa. Go figure.

That being said, I knew I had to change my address again once my new school gave me address. So I made the trek to the immigration office alone fully thinking I would need to pay for a new ARC card, I went through the process two times at this point. However, the woman at the counter told me that I did not need a new ARC card, because I could just change the address on the back of my new ARC card. She even updated everything in the system for me and said I was all set and I could leave.

The immigration office website and what people know can be conflicting. It gets harder when you have time between contracts or when you are switching schools as well. But if you take the initiative to reach out and talk to others , as well as, the responsibility to call immigration yourself, things will get resolved. It might make you want to pull out your hair, but at least I have my new ARC card with an awesome picture.

Visa Escapades – Part 1

As an American we can stay in Korea for up to 90 days with no visa, which is awesome if all you are doing is traveling. If you are coming to Korea to teach as an English teacher you will most likely be on an E-2 visa for work after receiving your work contract and NOA (notice of appointment). Once you come to Korea you will go with your co-teacher and apply at your local immigration office to receive your ARC (Alien Registration Card) or 외국인등록증. You need this to sign up for cell phones and bank accounts, it is also your main form of identification. Luckily, your ARC is good for up to 30 days after your school contract ends.

For most English teachers resigning or transferring in a timely manner renewing your ARC is not very painful. However, if you happen to fall into limbo like I have it can break the bank. I have been accepted to be a teacher in Incheon and therefore have a month of limbo between contracts.However, my lovely visa and arc expiry date is the 15th of this month. Two bloody days away. Well, Immigration has decided to do some changes this year, now you need to know where you will be living and provide an address before you can renew your visa/ARC. This is great if you have a personal address provided from your school or have your own accommodations that you are paying for yourself. I happen to be living with a friend and therefore the address I am currently residing at is not valid for me to get a new E-2 visa. The kicker is I’m still waiting for my contract to arrive in the mail, it should be any day now. My orientation is one week away and I will start my new contract at a new school March 26.

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So, because my contract is not delivered yet and it is no good to me as I do not know where I will be teaching. If I don’t know where I will be teaching then I have no physical address in Korea. Two strikes and two days to fix this before my ARC is invalid, my recruiter told me to run to immigration and get a D-10 Visa, it’s a looking for work visa. It basically enables me to legally live in the country until I can find out where I will be going and can then change my visa over to an E-2 again. So if you are searching for information on the D-10 visa on the internet the prices have gone up effective January 1, 2014. The visa went from 50,000 won to 100,000 won, a 100% increase. It sucks to pay and it sucks to pay for another ARC card (because my address and visa changed) which is another 30,000 won. Roughly 130 give or take. (it is slightly less but I’m lazy at doing conversions.)

The process of changing it is rather simple though. I filled out the form provided by my recruiter for the D-10 Visa, but didn’t fill out the application which was fine as the woman gave it to me to fill out at the counter. If you are renewing you need your ARC, Passport, Passport size photos and the forms. Some people in the past have written about a letter of release (LOR), but I’m still waiting on mine and luckily I had a pdf of my NOA that hasn’t arrived in my email available if necessary.  Supposedly before you get in line you are supposed to pay for the arc at the 우리은행 (woori bank) inside the Immigration office. I asked for help but could have done it myself if I had been told to go directly to the ATM. Basically you can use your card or cash to pay the fee. You put your passport down as the picture says and press the button that says ARC(외국인등록증) on it to process payment, you must keep your receipt. You also need to pay the fee at a small booth and the lady will give you stamps in place of your cash called 대한민국정부 수입인지 (this is what is written on the stamp.)

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(These are what the stamps look like or something similar.)

You bring both the receipt and the stamps to the immigration person. I did this step after the fact as I did not know to do it first. The person helping you will wait until you have done this and come back to sit down. Many of the immigration officers speak English, I used mostly Korean to perform this process.

I am currently staying at my friend’s house and because of this I had to fill out a form for my residence. Normally the person you are signing with should be present when you are filling out this form. The lady told me to sign in her place and to bring her along next time when I come. I received a receipt with a date to pick up my card at immigration in 3 weeks or I can have it mailed to me. I didn’t pay for this, so most likely I will have to return on that day and do the process all over again. So in three weeks when I have my contract, NOA, and new address I can switch my visa to the E-2, pay another 100,000 won for the visa change, and another 30,000 won for another new ARC card which will take another 3 weeks to come back to me.

I found a few useful links about this process. If you are looking for which Immigration office you need to go to you can use this link. It is entirely in Korean, but it lists all of the immigration offices, click on the different cities/provinces to find the one closest to you. If you don’t know which one your school should know.

My friend wrote a post about her D-10 Visa process here. Her prices listed were before the new fee schedule was imposed.

HiKorea lists the new fees here.

ModernSeoul has a post on how to get to the Incheon Immigration Office here.

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(This is what the Immigration Office looks like from the outside.)

I took a taxi and it was about 4,000 won each way.Just tell the taxi driver, “인천출입국관리 사무소 가세요.” If you don’t make it through the whole sentence don’t worry the taxi driver will probably know where you are going.

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( The forms to fill out are located in the center of the 1st floor when you walk in the building. Go to the right if you are a non-Chinese immigrant. If you are Chinese, go to the left.)  우리은행 is located at the back of the 1st floor on the right side.

I will write more about the E-2 visa change when I go back to the Incheon Immigration Office.

Useful Files:

Korea Visa Application Form

arc_card_application_form

D10 Visa Form

Visas and IDPs

Last Tuesday, I picked up fellow EPIKers one at the Train Station in CT and the rest in MA on the way to the Korean Consulate in Newton, MA.  The ride up was a lot of fun and it was interesting meeting new people for the first time face to face. Nothing like getting to know each other than saying, “Hey….I know you on facebook, you wanna go to the consulate together?” *Gasps of horror* Strangers entered my car and they were all fabulous ladies!

We made our way to the consulate on a mission as one of us had a problem applying elsewhere with paperwork and the like. We circled the street the building was on three times before we settled on just parking in the dunkin donuts parking lot across the street. We swiftly made our way across the street and up to the second floor. I organized all of my documents quickly, thinking I have everything here and presented my documents first. The clerk said , “I don’t need this, I don’t need this, I don’t need this. $45.”

My response was, “Isn’t the multiple entry $80?”

“No, all visas are multiple entry. $45.” She said without looking up at me. So I paid quickly and was super excited that it was less than I was expecting. The three of us moved through the line quickly, we had to make a side trip to the post office and walgreen’s for new passport photos for one of the girls but all in all it was super quick. Luckily, our visas would start to be processed and out for delivery by Thursday morning.

…Wednesday afternoon I get a phone call. “You have no postage for your envelope.” Slight panic set in for a moment as I distinctly remember buying stamps and watching them be posted on the envelope and if they weren’t they were inside waiting to be put on.

So I replied, “They should be inside the envelope if they aren’t on the outside.”

“No, they are not. ”

“Can you hold my visa for me? How long can you hold it?” I ask.

“We can hold it okay.”

…I realize I am strapped for time, I don’t have a vehicle to return to Boston, and I cannot get a second day off to retrieve it. Would they take a money order? A credit card over the phone? Nope. and Nope. An additional call would verify this for me.  So without further ado I jetted across the parking lot to the small post office in the grocery store and bough two priority envelopes with delivery confirmation and postage on both. I even inserted a little note explaining what to do and saying thank you for your help in Korean.

After watching the passport sit in Nashua, NH for 3 1/2 days at a sorting facility it finally arrived to me today.  I am not ready to leave!

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IDP (International Driver’s Permit)

The USA calls it an IDP…it should be an IDL (International Driver’s License). But that is just my opinion. So I went to the local AAA office today to renew my driver’s license since it will expire while I am abroad and to obtain the IDP.  Unfortunately, as I am standing at the counter the lady tells me, “You can’t renew your driver’s license. You can only renew it 4 months before.”

” I won’t be in the country and I am not going to let it expire. ”

“Well, you can mail it in to renew but you will have non-photo ID which you MUST keep with your current driver’s license that will expire.”

Well, so now I know I can’t get that done until later which kind of sucks but whatever. However, I brought the two passport photos for my IDP and it was obtained within 5-10 minutes. I was super impressed I could walk out the same day with it. I was glancing through the book and realized there is no Korean, so I hope if I get pulled over in Korea the officer knows how to read the English.

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As I sit here writing, I have 13 days and counting…still so much to do.

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