I started this blog with a few intended foci, but the original idea was to place all my ideas and experiences about/in/around my sojourn teaching English in Korea. I started over three years ago wanting to become an English teacher. My primary major in school was English, but after my first year I transferred to my alma mater where I switched gears to Applied Linguistics (study of language – NOT LANGUAGES – with an emphasis on how to teach it). This was the greatest decision of my academic career. I was able to marry my love of language and desire to teach beautifully, and I am so happy I did. A lot of my friends that I met through the program also had aspirations to teach abroad. I came to find out Korea was a popular choice of locale. I am not disappointed by that at all, but since July 2010, I have been to Korea three times and my understanding of the country and its people as well as my feelings toward the country have certainly changed. Some things for the better, and some things not so much, but it has not changed the fact that I love the country and am excited to be moving there this coming August 14!
Partly for myself and partly for those who have a similar goal as mine, I want to put the information about applying to Korea (as well as the copious amounts of documents you will need to obtain to reach your dream job!) here where it is easily accessible. Here we go:
Preparation:How long will it take?
I would start the process about six months in advance. Most jobs are not posted until about three months prior to the actual start date, but the visa process itself takes 3-4 weeks and the documents could take more than 2 months to get in order. So to give yourself the best chances of snagging a job, aim to start about 6 months prior (don’t start any sooner than that!)
Recruiter: To get one or not to get one?
Despite the large pool of teaching jobs in Korea (many of which have listings on eslcafe.com or the local Facebook page for the area you are interesting in) a recruiter can be very helpful in helping you make sense of it all. I will put a lot of the document information in this post for you, but I would recommend getting a recruiter. They can act as a wonderful resource in addition to negotiating your needs with potential schools (in Korean!) while you are busying yourself back home and getting everything ready.
Warning: There are good and back recruiters out there, so be careful. Recruiters are paid by the schools to find you since many schools cannot afford a HR department and are not always fluent in English to find teachers. Some genuinely do have your interests at heart, but there are some who only want the commission. Be careful of head hunters. Also, be mindful that recruiting agencies are still a business. If you are not marketable (i.e. relevant diploma, TEFL certification, teaching experience) then know you might not get the exact job you want. Just like applying to jobs back home, the most qualified potential employees get the jobs. You cannot blame them. Would you want unqualified teachers in your schools where your children, friends, or even you attend? Finally, after beginning talks with a recruiter if you get a bad feeling from the recruiter, do not hesitate to bid them adieu and move on to the next one. Many people will tell you about their experience, so go do research about recruiters from past teachers. These can be quite informative, but be warned they can also be vary biased. Go with your gut and use your head. I have heard stories of both good and bad, and almost always in retrospect there were tell-tale signs that something wasn’t quite right.
Required Qualifications and Documents:
You do not have to already have contacted a recruiter to start getting your ducks in a row. I am American, so there might be other requirements for citizens of other countries. So check what is applicable to you when applying. Here is a list of the documents you will need to prepare in order to get a job:
- Passport (scan of photo page)
- FBI CRC* (Notarized and Apostilled by gov’t)
- Diploma in any major by an accredited three- or four-year university (Notarized copy and Apostilled by local offices – it’s easier)
- At least two sealed official transcripts (doesn’t hurt to have more)
- Two passport sized photos (I would recommend getting four since you will also need to attach one with the visa application)
- TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certification (more schools are requiring this in addition to a degree)
- Two letters of Recommendations
- Three copies of your contract*
This is a complete list of required documents (if I left something out, a recruiter will definitely make sure you have everything you need). I placed an asterisk by the things you need to start talking to a recruiter for (Note: FBI CRCs are only valid for 6 months after the issue date).
How to obtain these documents.
To get an apostilled FBI CRC:
- Set of fingerprints
- Application form
Just to make sure you aren’t a felon back home (after all, you wouldn’t want your teacher to be a criminal) you will have to request a Criminal Records Check (CRC). It is not a painful process, just time consuming. This process could take up to three months (important: the document is only good for 6 months after issue date). This process will cost you around $18USD (money order made payable to “Treasury of the United States” or credit card form). Fill out the application at the below link:
Print and send to:
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
(Attach a sticky note to your request asking them to kindly “authenticate” or “notarize” your FBI CRC so you can save a step in obtaining your Apostille stamp)
To get Apostille stamp:
Now for this little stamp. This stamp is basically an extra level of authentication that is recognized by certain countries. Korea is one of them. Once you receive your FBI CRC in the main, you will need to send it back to Washington, D.C. for this stamp. (Your notarized copy of your diploma only requires your state’s Apostille, but the CRC requires it from the federal government).
- Visit the link below
- Print off the application (be sure to include $8 USD money order made payable to “US Department of State”)
- Send to
U.S. Department of State
518 23rd Street NW SA-1
Washington, DC 20520
One last thing about sending any of your documents. DO NOT SEND VIA USPS. The process can take longer than a month for each document that should only take two weeks to get back. Try to ship by some courier like FedEx or UPS where you can track and/or expedite the process.
Whew… wasn’t that fun?
The local apostille for the notarized copy of your diploma is a little sticker. The price and place differs by each state. Just look for the local Secretary of State office on your state’s website to see where you can get the stamp. If you live in or around Atlanta, Georgia, here is where you can go to get this done:
- Apostilles need to be given at the level of the document (i.e. school diplomas are state level, CRC are fed level)
- Check with your Secretary of State website to see their apostille procedures, as they are the ones to normally pass them out.
- For Georgia, the Superior Court Clerks actually do the process (http://www.gsccca.org/projects/apost.asp). It was $3 per apostille. They were nice and got it done within 5 minutes.
- Next is to look into the notarization process for your state, as you need to get this done before you get your apostille
- For some states not just any notarization will do. You will first have to get a normal one, and then get a second one from your county clerk (both notarizations must be done in the same county)
- For Georgia, you can go anywhere. I got mine done at UPS. It cost $4 there, but the price varies.
- Something to note is that your diploma might be too big for normal scanners. For Georgia, they said this was okay, but it might not be everywhere. If in doubt, call and ask, because you don’t want to wast time and money.
- Something else to note is that you cannot just bring in a copy of your diploma to get notarized, they must make a notary copy there. You can get a form for them to sign declaring that it was an official copy, but you have to bring the original for them to see anyways, and it really isn’t following procedure to do it that way.
- Also DO NOT attempt to notarize and apostille your actual diploma. Once you send it off, you will not get it back. Always get a copy of it done. Also, the apostille lasts for over a year (at lease in Georgia), so it might be beneficial to get a couple done.
(I am very fortunate to be going through this process with one of my best friends. I obtained this list from her. You can find her blog here where she updates her experiences teaching in Korea. Her perspective will be from a somewhat rural city about two hours outside of Seoul, whereas I will be in a pretty developed, suburban area just about 40 minutes outside of Seoul. Definitely head over to her site to get a very different experience!)
Feel free to leave comments if I missed anything or you need extra help finding information. I will happily try to help to the best of my abilities. The process can be daunting alone, but I am fortunate to have a fantastic network of support and wealth of resource information with Erin.