Pin It

How to Apostille Documents (Teaching English in Korea)

an apostilled document, apostille documents for korea

How to Apostille Documents (Teaching English in Korea)

Before I applied for my teach abroad program, I never encountered the word “Apostille“.

If you’ve never dealt with government documents like name changes, birth or divorce records and affidavits, then obtaining an apostille can initially appear… overwhelming.

I have good news.

It’s not.

Preparing your documents for teaching in Korea

There are two main documents required of teaching applicants :

1)    A copy of your FBI Criminal Background History Record and

2)    A copy of your MFA college diploma.

**Both, need to be certified or notarized (STEP #1)  before obtaining an “apostille” (Step 2).

Why apostille criminal background records and a copy of an original college diploma?

It’s a recent concern for Asian countries, who have recently discovered sexual predators and criminals employed as English teachers in their schools. This has enforced a crack down on the system and ESL teaching applicants are now asked to prove and authenticate their legitimacy.

Line to get documents certified

Line to get documents certified

What’s the difference between notarization vs. certification?

Notarization and certification requires “authenticating” official documents,  government-issued records and the copies we make of them.

The line between notarizing and certifying can feel blurry. I’ve been through the process twice now and I’m still not  sure how to differentiate. I went with certification.

For notarization:  go to a notary public such as your bank (my bank does this for free), lawyer or county clerk.

For certification of government-issued documents:   the Office of the Secretary of State or local county clerk should do.

In my case, I’m authenticating xeroxed “copies” of my original diplomas and thus, the original documents need to be verified as originals that haven’t been tampered with or altered.

When you’re there, the clerk at the window will ask you to write and sign a simple statement on your (diploma) xeroxed copy, declaring it as “a true copy” of the original diploma issued to you. The clerk will then verify your statement, the original diploma (* this is required for proof) and attach a written and stamped confirmation on your copied diploma. Then its off to apostilling. Costs: generally $1-3 depending on your state.

State clerk


A Certified/Notarized Document

STEP 2:  What’s an Apostille?

Your document copies (i.e. the xeroxes of my diplomas) must be made official by the government.

The apostille is a certificate paper with a government state seal (pictured at bottom of post) authenticating that your document is a copy of an original that hasn’t been tampered with. It’s obtained after you’ve gotten your document notarized or certified. 

Here is a list of locations where you can obtain an apostille in your state.

an apostilled document

Obtaining an apostille for your documents:

A copy of your diploma

The copy of your diploma would be the last degree you achieved. Make a xerox of your diploma (color or B&W).

Step 1:   Notarization OR Certification

Notarized or certified-  it’s your choice! Either way, it will get authenticated.    Cost: $3

Step 2:   Apostille

After certification, take your document to your state department or county clerk for its certificate and seal.  You can find the department you need by Google something like “Apostilling documents in (Name of your state)”.   Costs: vary by state $1-10

Required a/o 2011:  Apostille FBI Criminal Background Check

As of Fall 2010, the Korean government changed its policies for Native English Teachers. All U.S. citizens are all required to get an *apostilled* FBI criminal background check, directly from FBI Headquarters. If you are already living and working in Korea, you’re exempt from having to do a FBI criminal background check until the completion of your second year in Korea.


How to Get an  FBI Criminal Background Check

This can either be a pain or a smooth flow. Mostly, it takes time and a few steps.

The wait on your FBI criminal background check (aka Identity History Summary) can take anywhere from 1-3 months, so it’s best to get started early.  However, the apostille document is only valid 6 months after the apostille date and it will need to be valid upon your entry into the country. If you don’t have anyone to send your FBI CBC to, it’s best to hold off a bit until you do.

1.    Download and fill out the FBI application form (aka Identity History Summary Request).
Detailed instructions on How to Submit an Identity History Summary Request

2.   You can get your fingerprints at any authorized company or the police station. If you are already in Korea, you can go to your local police station to get them done on a fingerprint card issued by the police station or download the FBI fingerprint card, print it and take it with you.

3.    Attach your application with your fingerprint card along with $18 in money order, cashier’s check or via credit card information (no personal or business checks are accepted) and check the Identity History Summary Request checklist to see if you’ve included everything. To see the government website, go to: here

4.    Make sure to also include a separate note stating:

Please provide an FBI seal and signature from a Division Officer for the purpose of obtaining a Federal Apostille.

This FBI seal and signature is *required* in order to get an apostille, which is the next step. It must be requested specifically and can just be written on a piece of paper and included in the application.

5.       Mail to:

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306.

To follow up about the status of your application, call FBI office in West Virginia 304-625-5590.
Any further FBI questions, click here.

6.    Get your FBI background check back in the mail and Step #2 is to get it an apostille.  If it is taking long, you may call them to request an expected date.

More information on how to do this from Korea are here and here.


How to Get an Apostille for a FBI Criminal Background Check:

Update : 

On September 30, 2013, the FBI published the following information on “Note: Due to upcoming changes in processing, effective october 12, 2013, the FBI will no longer be accepting return self-addressed stamped envelopes with Departmental Order requests. Envelopes received postmarked after this date will be destroyed. Thank you for your patience as we try to streamline our processes to improve our service to you.”

As the automation has not yet taken place, the FBI has been utilizing the return self-addressed stamped envelopes received as a courtesy to our customers. However, once implemented, the automation will force the destruction of all envelopes received. This automation is expected to reduce processing time to better serve you, our customers, as well as save monetary and manpower resources.
This notice serves as a reminder that self-addressed stamped envelopes will not be accepted and will be destroyed.

1. Download the Request for Authentications form (DS- 4194 Form) here.

Website info

2. Fees:

The fee is $8.00 per document. A personal/company check or money order are acceptable and must be made payable to :    U.S. Department of State.

Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express are accepted for walk-in service only.

If you would like to opt for a rush service for Authentication, you can pay about $45 to have this process expedited.

3.  Mail in documents.

Include your form (cover letter), check for $8.00, your processed FBI criminal background report and a SASE.

Use a self-addressed stamped envelope for faster return of your documents. Documents received without a return envelope and postage will be returned through the State Department regular mail, which can result in a 2-3 week delay.  You can use Fed/Ex, UPS, and express mail services for faster receipt/return of your documents. However, you must enclose a prepaid air bill and envelope.


Mailing Address:

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

To inquire about the status of your documents, please call : 

Phone:  202-485-8000


For walk-in service, go to:

Physical Address:

Office of Authentications
U.S. Department of State
600 19th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006

To schedule an appointment or speak with an Authentications Specialist:

Phone:  202-485-8000

  9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. and 
  1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EST
  Monday through Friday

Appointment Services:

  10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and
  2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

  Monday through Friday

  Note:  All Federal Holidays are excluded.


“Do You Really Want to Teach in Korea ”  Series:

•  What is my class schedule and how many classes do I teach a week?
•  How do I work with co-teachers?
•  Do I enjoy teaching English to Koreans?
•  How and Why did I choose to teach in Korea?
•  What’s English Summer camp?  What’s an English Musical Summer Camp?

•  Do you really want to teach English in Korea? (Part I: Q & A)
•  Do you really want to teach English in Korea? (Part II: Public vs Private schools)
•  5 Things MTV taught me about teaching ESL (Part 111: How I used my old career tools in the classroom)
•  From MTV Producer to English Teacher in Korea (Part IV: My story)
•  GRRRL TRAVELER’s Travel Challenge #2: Becoming an Expat


  1. TS Bray says:

    Thank you very much for posting this information! You supply the most clearly explained version. Very helpful!

  2. DC Apostille says:

    I was searching on the web looking for articles talking about FBI CBC, and I have to say, your article is absolutely amazing, specially “How to Get an FBI Criminal Background Check” part, thanks a lot, and Marry Christmas.

  3. Zenen Flores says:

    Hello Christine. Thanks for the info; I just have a question. If the document you want to get the apostille is the original, like an original diploma or an orignal transcript, do you also need to get the originals notarized before getting the apostille?

  4. US Apostille says:

    Nice Article Christine, I have faced some individuals try to obtaining apostille documents and it takes them a lot time because they have no idea what they should do, this kind of issues need a guide article like this or a private agencies who get the documents certificates with extra service fees. However, I recommended that they should do it them self. thanks for the valuable information, with kind regards.

  5. Rebecca says:

    So helpful! I was very confused by the process. This is so clear, and you’re right, not as bad as it sounds. Thanks!

  6. Niesha S says:

    This is great information. I was wondering if I am already in korea and gearing up for a second year, do I need to get the degree notarized and apostilled again? I have my original but I fear immigration has that stuff. So does korean do notarization or do I have to send all that back to the u.s.?

  7. moechtegern7 says:

    Hey I just got my FBI background check back. I sent it in on March 19th and got it back today April 19th. I paid through my credit card and It showed that they charged my card on April 9th. I had included a self addressed*** stamped envelope with a tracking number. So I was able to track when they sent it. They sent it on April 15th. I used USPS priority mail and was very disappointed that it took 4 days to get here. With regular mail service, it would have gotten here in 2 days. I’m now going to send my background check to get it apostilled. I’m going to use either UPS or FEDEX because they are much faster than USPS (USPS may be the cheapest option but not the fastest).

    *** I received a note from FBI it says:
    On September 30, 2013, the FBI published the following information on “Note: Due to upcoming changes in processing, effective october 12, 2013, the FBI will no longer be accepting return self-addressed stamped envelopes with Departmental Order requests. Envelopes received postmarked after this date will be destroyed. Thank you for your patience as we try to streamline our processes to improve our service to you.”
    As the automation has not yet taken place, the FBI has been utilizing the return self-addressed stamped envelopes received as a courtesy to our customers. However, once implemented, the automation will force the destruction of all envelopes received. This automation is expected to reduce processing time to better serve you, our customers, as well as save monetary and manpower resources.
    This notice serves as a reminder that self-addressed stamped envelopes will not be accepted and will be destroyed.

    So no need to spend extra money for the returned self-addressed stamped envelope for the FBI background check.
    On a side note, I was expecting the background check paper to be more sophisticated. However, it’s just a special paper that prints void if made copies of. The seal and signature are just pictures that was printed out as a whole document. No indented seal or raised seal or stamped seal. :/ Oh well. lol

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      @moechtegern7: Thanks for sharing all that detail. Yeah I agree, the background check looks like a xerox printout. So how does your background check get sent to get apostille. Does the FBI return your CBC to you and then you have to mail it back out again to get apostille?

      • moechtegern7 says:

        Yeah, Since I’m not using any private company to get it done, I have to send out my FBI CBC to get apostilled. I checked out some companies that do both (FBI CBC + apostille) for you but they usually charge over $150. Since I’m not in any major hurry, it’s not worth it for me to have them do it for me. I rather save the money and do it myself.

  8. John says:

    From what i understood from your website is that the diploma can be apostilled from my state, but the FBI background check has to be apostilled by the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office in Washington, DC. Can i get the FBI background check also apostilled in my state or is there a specific reason why it has to be apostilled in Washington, DC?
    Also, I’m filling out the Authentication form but am confused with section 4. For the country, do I write USA or S. Korea?

    • Christine Kaaloa says:

      Thanks for commenting here @John: The FBI background check *must* be apostilled from Washington D.C. In the past, a state police criminal background record and apostille was the requirement (and it was okay to get everything in state). Now that requirements have bumped up to an FBI gov CBC, it’s at a more high security level, I guess.

      As for how to fill out the Authentication form, I’ve just noticed that they’ve changed the site and application.. as well as the mailing address (now it’s a Virginia address). I hate that. This new website isn’t any easier. I updated the address & phone number on this post. I’d call the phone number listed– 202-485-8000. When I looked at the new form, it’s certainly confusing as to whether you should write USA or South Korea. In the old form, there was no question that the answer was South Korea. This one isn’t clear.

      • moechtegern7 says:

        Thanks for your reply.

        I just called today and confirmed that it’s the country where the document is needed. So South Korea is the correct answer.

        • Christine Kaaloa says:

          @John: Good to know- thanks for updating us on that one! I think we both had a lucky feeling it’d be that, but who wants to guess and have the doc returned. You’d think a government application would be more clear.

  9. Jeffhill says:

    I got my degree super fast through this company Apostille Pros ( It was done in 1 business day. Then they helped me get my FBI background check in as little as 2-3 business days. It’s super fast. Once I got my FBI background check expedited to me. I used their apostille service, less than a week. I’m off to South Korea and beat a lot of other applicants to certain jobs. FBI background check normally takes 12 weeks. And going through DC takes forever as well. I highly recommend using them and they always answer emails and phone calls. Very professional.

  10. sarah says:

    Just an update to this: Some states, and maybe all I’m not sure, will not apostille a diploma from out of state. I live in Oregon but graduated in Tennessee. Oregon said they could not legally apostille a document from Tennessee because they were not authorized to do so. It was just an extra step, but one to look out for.

    • @Sarah: Thanks for that update! That’s a unique situation as most people would just get it all done within one state. But there are exceptions like yours. I’ll add your comment and add it to the post.

    • Jaquella Eckles says:

      So what did you have to do? I live in NC but graduated from FGCU in Florida. Will I need to get the certified copy of my diploma from FL and then have it apostilled in FL as well? If so, how do I get something notarized in Florida if i live in NC?

  11. You are notarizing a copy of your diploma. This means you make a photocopy. Then in the presence of a notary you write and sign a statement (written on the copy) that says this is a true copy of your degree. After the notary notarizes your signature then you go to the county clerk’s office. They attach a document to your degree. Then you mail it to the state dept. of Hawaii and they make it official. Just keep running through hoops, eventually you’ll get it.

  12. Your blog has been extremely valuable. This is the second time I go to Korea as an English teacher. These steps make it easy to get the documents ready.
    I have one correction to make. The FBI Apostille fee is $8.00 per document.

  13. Anna Kim says:

    Thanks for the useful info. But I still have a question. Do you have to get your diploma apostille from the state of your school or can you get it done in any state. In other words, I went to school in California but I’m planning on visiting my mom in Wisconsin. So can I get everything done in Wisconsin or do I have to send it to California? This is all very confusing because I’ve already been in Korea for 4 years before this was implemented..grrr. Thanks in advance!

    • @Anna: Apologies for the late response. I’ve been traveling and the sched has been crazy. You can get your diploma apostilled anywhere. You can get it apostilled in Wisconsin. Getting it apostilled in Korea is possible too, but much more the hassle.

  14. Anna Kim says:

    Thanks for the useful info. I still have a question tho. So do you have to get your diploma apostille from state of your school or can you get it from any state. In other words, I graduated from schools in California, but I’m planning on visiting my mom in Wisconsin. Can I get all the paper work done there or do I need to send it to California? Thanks. This is all very confusing to me for I’ve already been in Korea for now 4 years before they implemented this…grrrr. Thanks in advance!

  15. juju says:

    Is the “ORI” required in order to have the background check? Same with OCA.

  16. Hannah Knapp says:

    Yeah, I realized after I posted that it was you! That’s so cool. Thank you so much for the information! Mahalo 🙂

  17. Hannah Knapp says:

    I live in Hawaii and I am trying to do exactly what you are writing about. I went to my bank (ASB) and they said they don’t perform notaries for diplomas; Then I called UPS and they said they can only notarize if the document already has “Notary Wording.” I have no idea how to get this done, plus the “.gov” link that is provided regarding apostilling diploma’s is broken – I have been trying to access the site for 2 weeks.
    PLEASE HELP, this is the last of the documents that I need to prepare for my application. I have no idea what I’m doing and no one else seems to know how to make this happen.

    • @Hannah: Hey girl, I remember you from the K-pop doc shoot. Here’s a link:

      Ph: (808) 586-1216
      (808) 586-1218 (voice mail)
      Hours of Operation: 7:45 am – 12:00 pm, Monday – Friday
      Location: 425 Queen Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

      I’d give them a call first to make sure the hours & support you need is possible. If for any reason they can’t do it and you’re in a rush, I’d look at something like: . While I can’t stand by them, I’ve had to resort to using them for fingerprints for my FBI background check as the State of Hawaii no longer offers the “inked” service but only the digital and at the time I submitted, that was not acceptable.

      Apostilles: After notarizing, I walked it direct into the Governor’s office to get it apostilled. They can either mail it back or you can pick it up within a week, I think. Fighting!

  18. Christian says:

    You, madam, are a saint. Thank you so much!!

  19. Stephen says:

    I am currently working in the Czech Republic and am planning on going back to Korea next year in March to begin work at a university I was recently employed at.
    Do I need to physically be in the States to get my diploma certified or is it possible to get it done while I am still overseas?
    Much thanks.

    • @Stephen: Apologies for the late response. It is possible to get your diploma certified abroad, but you’d either have to mail it home to your government for apostilling or see if there’s a service in the CR that can do that for you.

      In Korea, there’s KCUE which we’ve been told could handle apostilling matters. This isn’t as onerous as the new requirements for an FBI criminal background check, though. Abroad, you’d need to go to your local police station for fingerprinting, then complete an FBI application form and mail that in. This could take weeks to months to get so I recommend starting ASAP.

      Here’s some more recent updates regarding that matter:
      Clarification on 2010 requirements for English Teachers
      Original letter:

      Hope this helps!

  20. Jeane Pinson says:

    Exceptional site, where did you come up with the knowledge in this piece of content? I’m happy I found it though, ill be checking back soon to see what other articles you have.

  21. My poor Engerish! I meant, anyone wanting to teach ESL should be reading these series… haha.. Even though it’s volunteer, you betcha there are procedures to endure. Reference letters, police check, etc. I figure a sound org would demand these things. Indeed, I will be living at one of their locations.

    • Don’t worry, I gotcha…. at least you’re not aiming to teach ESL! The grammatical slips I make on these blogs are shameful like the “Meloni a hottie”. LOL.
      As for your procedures, I guess that makes sense, especially as you’ll be working with children. The NGO programs I looked into weren’t as stringent but they were NGO, not United Way. You can rest assured you’re with a good program! Looking forward to reading your blogs when you get there.

  22. Ooh, crushes on Meloni all around! This is a comprehensive post, handclaps to you… I’m about to undergo similar procedures by volunteering with Child Haven (org in India). Anyway hoping to teach ESL should be reading this!

    • I really applaud you for that choice, NC! For a while I really romanticized the idea of teaching English at an orphanage in India or Nepal & India is a place I’m so longing to go back to. …But I thought India had 3 month tourist visas? Do you still have to go through the ordeal of paperwork even if its a volunteer program (no pay, right)? Will you be staying at the orphanage?

  23. gringation says:

    I have the hugest crush of Christopher Meloni! (Mexico shows a lot of SVU reruns.)

    I remember I had to get apostilles of all my school transcripts and documents for my university. The only expensive part was getting it all translated! Turns out I could translate it myself, then just have a notary/translator check it over and seal it. Much cheaper!

    • Yeah, Meloni a hottie. The L&O actors are all cool and down-to-earth too. I used to do background on those shows light years ago.

      Wow- thanks for bringing that excellent tip about translating documents. I’ve never had to do that but I hear that can add to the complexity. A friend of mine thought she had to get it done professionally. Didn’t know she could translate it herself and save on the bucks! Will let her know.

Leave a Reply. Holler up and share your thoughts!

Before a trip can be a vacation, you'll have to survive it first!
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for Travel Survival Tips, inspiration and YouTube fun! 

GRRR Travel Survival Guides


Support us on Patreon or Paypal

Donate to help maintain this site, so we can bring you more free video and travel content!