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Just Show Me Pictures! When your Expat Honeymoon Fades (Visa Extensions &… Dynamic Korea!)

Sometimes, Korea can make it hard for you to like it; moreover, it can make it hard for you to want to continue to remain in it, even when you have to. Yes, it’s time to look at Visa Extensions and the huge K-bomb that was just dropped on current NETs last week. After battling various issues of desk-warming during school holidays, lousy co-teachers, bad apartment situations, rough interactions at work or with locals (as Christo of Kimchi with Eish! mentions here) or fighting with one’s school to receive OT pay, this seems to be final thing that wants to make an NET place a gun to forehead and pull the trigger. It’s got the NETs in our community riled up and at this point… fed up!

Visa runs: the common expat/traveler solution to extending your visa.

If you’re an expat or traveler wanting to extend your visa, you may have heard various rumors of visa runs— a process of leaving the country you’re in, in order to renew your visa terms with the country you’re living/working/or traveling in. Visiting Thailand last year, I ran into several expats and travelers doing visa runs to extend their time in a particular country.  For expats, it stands to reason that when your work contract ends, usually your visa ends along with it; thus, inspiring a visa run if you either– 1) wish to renew your work contract or  2) continue living/traveling in the country.

To perform a run, you’d cross a border into a neighboring country, go to the embassy of the country you wish to renew your visa and simply re-apply for a new visa. If all your papers are in order, you will be issued a new visa. If however, your documents aren’t in order, this could mean an extended stay , added expense and multiple trips to the embassy in the country you’re doing your run in. It’s a troublesome process but common.

Visa Extensions in Korea: the ass-backwards program.

My E-2 work visa expires 9 days short of my work contract! EPIK knew this, the DMOE knew this (they drew our contracts); but what every hid behind the mystery curtain, was that we’d be solely responsible for getting our visa extension without breaking work days.  So how’s it to work? This is it: an apostille FBI criminal check (last year it was a state criminal check) and another apostille copy of our college diploma! (I’ve posted the DMOE’s K-bomb letter here )

Did we submit these documents last year (nearly 9 months ago)? Yes and here’s the kicker … we submitted it TWICE! Which begs curiosity: Aren’t any of those official docs we submitted on file? Of our time in Korea, has/will anyone commit a crime since our last criminal check, less than a year ago and enough to warrant one from the FBI?

For those renewing  contracts, these requirements feel like a pain in the ass. For those who must extend their visas from February 17 to 25 it feels worse (…and who knows if it allots for extra days to pack up, close bank accounts, etc… I heard contradictory* information) !

What’s the difference between visa runs, visa extensions,… or the infamous Korean midnight runs? Perhaps it lies within one tempting expression…Dynamic Korea! What do you think? As a traveler or expat, would you prefer a visa run or the Korean approach to visa extensions?

If anyone has further information on NET requirements or if I’ve made an error on this new requirement, please let comment.

Recent Updates as of Oct 20,2010:

Good News for First-Year NETs : Clarification on Korean Visa Extensions


  1. angela says:

    DMOE sent out another email saying that if you applied for your ARC before September 1, 2010 and you are not planning on renewing your visa to stay for another year then you don’t need to get an FBI check.

  2. ZenKimchi says:

    I double tbonetylr’s caution: Don’t let anyone but YOU bring documents to any government office. It’s not just the ransom thing. I had a manager lose my ARC in a taxi one time. Getting a replacement was a big headache.

  3. tbonetylr says:

    Some wrong information here, you do not have to send your diploma back to your home country to apostile it. If you are in Korea already your employer or recruiter can take it here…If I were you I’d go with them so that you can give it to to KCUE yourself much like you give your passport to the Korean Immigration Service(KIS) yourself. NEVER and I mean NEVER give your passport to your employee, always go with or meet your employer at the KIS or KCUE

    You may or may not have to pay the fee at KCUE, you probably will and the fee is about 60 dollars. The bad thing is that I’m SURE employers and recruiters will exploit employees by holding their diploma as ransom as a safety net so the employee doesn’t go elsewhere for a job. Recruiters have been known to do this in the past without this NEW diploma apostile rule and I’m SURE it will get worse. The positive thing(supposedly) is that KIS will keep it on file. We’ll see how that goes???

    • @tbonetylr: To a degree you’re correct about the KCUE, but if you read the DMOE’s letter to us, they pretty much said that the KCUE is booked and is no longer taking applications. So that information is great, but doesn’t do a whole bunch of us any good. Also, I think the KCUE is in Seoul? I have to double check but if that’s the case, they probably wouldn’t be open on the weekends for a walk-in visit (as I’m in Daegu). Although @Newfie in Korea did suggest a great idea of taking a sick day leave to get out there. But I do appreciate your comment– it may be helpful for others.
      @Patricia: Just emailed my DMOE about what your co-teach said about getting a criminal check from the Korean police station. But they still haven’t gotten back to me with my first email.
      @Jaim: You’re not alone. Many of us are frustrated with the way things are being handled right now as we’re all going back and forth about how we can go about getting these things in time. The DMOE hasn’t given us sufficient time or information. The FBI check requires fingerprints for application and processing takes time before it can get to apostilling. If I hear any word, I’ll be sure to post.

  4. Aldo says:

    Hey, I work with the CheapOair travel blog ( and we’re interested in having you guest blog for us. Please contact me if you’re interested. Thanks! Aldo.

  5. Jaim says:

    I was pulling my hair out when I first came to Korea and had to provide transcripts under seal _and_ the actual diploma from my college and grad. school. The whole freaking point of a transcript is that it’s a) official b) legally significant and c) actually tells your potential employer how well you did in school.

    So now it looks like I’ll have to mail two different (and expensive) diplomas home to get them apostilled. (As an American citizen, I’ve heard the US embassy in Seoul will not provide this service.)

    Not to mention the criminal background check from the FBI.

  6. Patricia Skully says:

    I actually just sent a message to my GEPIK coordinator about this today… Not that I expect she’s thoroughly up on the matter, but I received a response saying I did NOT need the FBI criminal record check and that one received from a Korean police station would be sufficient.

    However, I’m not sure how much I believe her on that one, as I haven’t had an FBI criminal record check previously…

  7. Newfie In Korea says:

    We just got our documents from Daejeon MOE regarding this stuff. Here’s some info I can share on topics raised in the your post.

    You’re completely right about the situation but here’s some additional info.
    Deskwarming died last November. This order came down from the people who rule over the EPIK program. ‘Good schools’ may let you stay home anyways if they like you but for anyone who recieves this treatment, be quiet about it (esp on the web) or else your school could get into trouble. Also changed last year were the camps. Up until summer 2009 you used to get paid for ‘vacation teaching’. As part of the changes they rolled out last Nov. Vacation classes became unpaid, or as they Ministry that controls EPIK like to put it, ‘teaching during vacation up to 22 hours’ is part of the normal schedule. The other big change last November (I don’t know if this came from the ministry or from the Daejeon MOE) is that teachers are now supposed to teach at least 40 classes during the school break. If Daegu also has the 40 class rule we can infer that 40 classes also came from the Ministry bureaucrats.

    Anyways, one of the big tricks to dealing with your school has to do with approach. As for desk warming, live with your schools decision & don’t bother to try and fight it. Just say it’s too bad and it would have been nice to work from home. You may get lucky and find that your school might just let you stay home on the days near your vacation which could mean a full two week break as opposed to coming to desk warm for two days before the weekend.

    Regarding the visa stuff, the relationship with your school is the most important thing here. I offered to double up my teaching schedule on a couple of days to free up the time to take care of getting my embassy in Seoul to stamp a copy of my degree. Our document states that extension of current visas will require the new documents, they don’t mention differing rules for differing extension lengths. Our document was also the same as the one posted on the immigration site. To be on the safe side I’d have the criminal record check and degree verification document handy just in case. For Canadians, get it down ASAP. RCMP filnger print CRC will take AT LEAST FOUR MONTHS to process. The embassy in Seoul has the form and can provide directions to a nearby police station where you can get it done (a 15 minute walk from the embassy!).

    I hope the info is at least a little helpful. I’ve found my schools willing to allow me early leave to take care of things like this in the past. But as I said, I work hard to maintain a good relationship with the people involved. If your school is unwilling to switch around a few classes or let you leave early to take care of these things just take a sick day. You get up to 3 of them without having to provide proof in form of a doctor’s note.

    • @Newfie in Korea: Wow! Mahalos for all this wonderful information! Thanks for leaving your tips on the deskwarming process and I totally agree with you on all of those points. As for the visa process- excellent idea I never thought of …if the doubling up offer doesn’t work, then the sick day just might!

  8. Anika says:

    Confusing and frustrating are only two words to describe this recent turn of events in regards to renewing our Visa’s. Is should be as simple as walking into the Immigration office, handing over our ARC, Passport and proof of an extended Contract from our school ~ Presto! What I wouldn’t give to have a seat and a voice in the office where these decisions about rules and processes for Waygooks get made Eh! Thanks for bringing this issue to light Chris~

    • @Anika: Yes, you can have a voice in the system!!! There’s ATEK (Association for Teachers of English in Korea)! I learned briefly about it through Roboseyo’s blog . Check out the site. There is an association in Daegu!

      Thanks for commenting on this, though. Yes, very frustrating. I actually met a couple who was inducted in the semester before us and they said that’s all they had to do (exactly what you commented). Go to the office with the ARC, contract & passport and they just got a simple signature extension. No grand hoo-ha. But this year they changed some rules.

  9. Amanda says:

    So I just found this;

    Basically saying, that if we are a registered foreigner, all we need is our passport and a plane ticket showing we ARE leaving Korea, to extend our visas (up to an extra 30 days)
    Must apply a minimum of 3 days before the visa expiration and the visitation can be the day before expiration.


    • @Amanda: Thanks for posting that link here, Amanda! =-) It would be a godsend if it were that easy. I’m still curious why they didn’t tell us this in the email, especially as it took all of your one paragraph comment to write it. I emailed Ji Won at the DMOE, but she hasn’t gotten back to me about confirming a delineation between those NETs renewing and not.

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