We advise anyone considering an English teaching job in Korea to carefully review the terms of the contract, especially in regards to working and living conditions. The following websites can provide more information on teaching in Koreas:
The KOTESOL (Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) teachers’ association is a good resource for up-to-date information on teaching in Korea. http://www.kotesol.org/.
To legally work in Korea, you must first obtain the appropriate employment visa. The Korean government tightly controls issuance of employment visas, and sometimes teachers have been unable to obtain visas. Depending on the job and other factors, it can take anywhere from one week to two months to obtain the appropriate visa. A teacher arriving in Korea with a teaching visa must register with Korean Immigration and obtain a residence certificate and re-entry permit within 90 days of entry.
Employers, on behalf of Korean government agencies processing your case, may briefly need your passport for visa or permit purposes. Despite what some employers may tell you, you are not required to hand over your passport to your employer for the duration of your stay. It is your passport – hang onto it. A U.S. Passport is a government-issued document and as such is actually property of the U.S. Department of State. It should only be relinquished temporarily to foreign government officials, normally for travel or immigration purposes. If your employer insists that you surrender your passport, you may give him a photocopy and refer him to American Citizen Services at the U.S. Embassy for clarification.
Korean Immigration offices require the same documentation that was used to obtain the visa, so you should make plenty of copies. Visa categories and fees may change from time to time, so they should always be confirmed with Immigration or a consulate.
Information on E-2 (Teaching) Visas
The Republic of Korea government requires that criminal records checks, a health certificate, and U.S. diplomas must be submitted with E-2 visa applications or extensions. The U.S. Embassy does not provide criminal records check or fingerprinting services, nor can the Embassy authenticate records, school diplomas, transcripts or health certificates. In addition, Korean Immigration no longer accepts criminal records checks provided by online services, such as those offered by some U.S. states and private companies. Korean Immigration will ONLY accept an FBI criminal records check or a local police department letter from your city or state of residence. You should have these documents ready before coming to Korea to teach.
If you have further questions on visa matters, please contact the Korean Immigration Service at http://www.immigration.go.kr/
To obtain your FBI criminal records check, please visit http://www.fbi.gov/
For information on Apostilles, please refer to U.S. Embassy’s Apostille page
Foreign instructors in Korea occasionally have contract disputes with their employers. Many have observed that in Korea, a contract appears to be a rough working agreement, subject to change depending on the circumstances. Many Koreans do not view deviations from a contract as a breach of contract, and few Koreans would consider taking an employer to court over a contract dispute. Instead, Koreans tend to view contracts as being flexible and subject to further negotiation. Culturally, the unwritten or oral agreement one has with one’s employer is generally considered “valid” as well. However, many employers will view a contract violation by a foreign worker as a serious matter. If you feel your rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the relevant authority.
If you run into contract issues, you may wish to contact the International Labor Policy Division of the Ministry of Labor (English-speaking staff available) by telephone at 1350 (from the U.S. dial 011-82-1350). http://english.molab.go.kr/. Additional resources for employee-employer conflicts include:
- Ministry of Justice: http://www.moj.go.kr/HP/ENG/index.do
- Seoul Bar Association: http://www.seoulbar.or.kr/
- Korea Legal Aid Corporation: http://www.klac.or.kr/
- Seoul Global Center : http://global.seoul.go.kr/
- An English translation of the 2008 Treatment of Foreigners in Korea Act can be found on the Ministry of Government Legislation’s website:
How the Embassy Can Help
The U.S. Embassy, cannot get involved in contract disputes, individual cases, conduct investigations, or act as an attorney for personal mishap or employment disputes experienced by U.S. citizens. In addition, we cannot certify, investigate or vouch for employers. It is up to you to evaluate an employer before signing a contract, and to use common sense when traveling far from home, including saving sufficient funds to return home should the situation become intolerable.
If things turn awry and you find yourself in need of emergency funds in Korea, the Embassy can help by contacting your family or friends, who may send funds to you through the U.S. Embassy via the Department of State Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) Trust process. If you find yourself destitute and cannot find friends or family members who can help financially, you may be eligible to receive a U.S. government loan in the form of emergency funds or an airline ticket home. For emergency financial assistance for U.S. Citizens in Korea, please contact the Embassy or visit our website.
The U.S. Embassy in Korea is located at 188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul, near the Gwangwamun metro station. The Embassy can be reached 24-hours a day at (+82) (02)397-4114.
We encourage all U.S. citizens to register their whereabouts by enrolling in the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at http://travel.state.gov/.