It’s not easy to get a Korean visa if you’re South African – but it’s doable. I feel like this should be the slogan for all visa processes. Before I get into it, let me just clarify something – nothing in life is ever easy. It all depends on how much you want it and how much you’re willing to work for it. Getting a sponsorship visa (which means a hired visa based on a job you’ve managed to secure for that country) is an absolute ball-ache for any country. The reason I’m clarifying far beyond the norm is that this shouldn’t result in an “OMG now I’m definitely not going to Korea – there’s so much work involved!” moment.
Getting a job in Korea
Click here to read my post about how to get a job here in Korea.
You’ve managed to secure a job – now what?
Read your contract
Your company would’ve sent you a contract and please do me a favour – read it. I did an elective on Commercial Law, which focused on contracts and what to look out for. Honestly, it’s been the education I’ve used the most. Studying every detail of a contract may seem tedious, but trust me, please study the hell out of it. It’s not terms & conditions when purchasing a tank top online. It’s a guideline of the next year of your life and you need to take it seriously. Take into consideration:
- The number of vacation days you’ll be getting
- Paid sick leave
- Accommodation allowance (in Korea they have to provide you with a housing allowance like in Dubai)
- Working on Saturdays (paid or unpaid – it’s good to note)
- The number of teaching hours per week (I could be wrong, but it shouldn’t be over 30 actual in the classroom teaching hours)
- Bonus upon completion
- Round-trip flight
Gather your documents for your Korean visa
You are going to need:
- Signed contract by both you and your employer
- Your degree certification (must be apostilled)
- Police Clearance Certificate (must be apostilled)
- A signed copy of your CV
- A health check form (this will be provided by your recruiter or your school)
- Visa application form (this will be provided by your recruiter or your school)
- 4 coloured passport photos
- A copy of your passport (main page with information)
Let’s take a closer look at these documents:
Please note that I will put ALL the addresses at the bottom of this post along with email addresses and contact persons. These details would’ve been valid when I applied in October 2017.
You will need ‘cover letters’ to accompany all of the below documents. What that means is simply a letter to be signed by you stating your request for documents and allowing your courier company to collect the documents from the various government buildings. Just slip it into your courier folder.
Police Clearance Certificate – Step 1
You will need to go to your local police station and apply for it. You need to ask for a Police Clearance Certificate (PCC). Any South African reading this is about to click off and look for another country to teach in. I KNOW how frustrating our police stations can be. They’re busy and understaffed – but this portion of the station is usually pretty efficient. You will need to complete the form, pay for it (bring cash – they don’t have card machines – it’s under R100), do your fingerprints and submit it. Please remember your ID and bring your own copies unless you want to wait for the copier person. Because… sometimes only one person knows how to work the copier in the entire station.
You are going to have to submit it yourself. This is where it starts to get a little complicated. You will have to note that you want it couriered AND collected upfront. The courier’s office will normally know what to do as soon as they see your form but just in case they don’t… Mention that you want it collected upon completion. Couriers to government buildings carry an additional fee. The ONLY place you can get your PCC is in Pretoria. So, unless you live in Pretoria, your best option is a trusted courier. There is the option to use the Postal Service but with all the strikes, you never know if it will get lost or delayed.
Your PCC can take anywhere between 4 weeks to 3 months. Yes, that much of a gap. For me, it took about 4 weeks and I was an idiot and didn’t opt for it to be sent back to me so I had to go collect it. It worked out perfectly because I had to do an emergency trip to Johannesburg because I was running out of time before my departure date.
Police Clearance Certificate – Step 2
Once you have the PCC in your hands – you need to get it legalized and get an apostille certificate. This is to prove that it is a real document and you aren’t using fake documents. This is done at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation. This place is crazy! I went there during my last-minute trip and it’s an impressive building in the middle of nowhere. This service is free (minus the courier, of course) and will usually be done on the same day depending on the number of people. When I went in person, I was in and out within the hour.
I can’t remember if I used the original document here but my advice is to ALWAYS make copies of EVERYTHING. Send it along with a certified copy of your ID too. Go to the post office and get about four done (I think the max amount you can get at one time is 5). Sending your certified ID is always just a safe extra that I would STRONGLY recommend – especially in South Africa – they always seem to want a certified copy of your damn ID.
Degree Certification – Step 1
An academic record (even with DEGREE COMPLETE on the first line) will not fly with immigration here in Korea. I tried that the first time and it was rejected – hence the last minute trip to Johannesburg to sort all this out by myself. I got the academic record apostilled and everything – still not accepted. You need the certificate itself. This may seem silly as degree certificates are easier to Photoshop, but it’s just what they accept so don’t fight it.
Once you have the certificate – it needs to be certified by The Department of Higher Education and Training. This is a separate office to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation – but they are both in Pretoria. Pretty close, actually – about a 15-minute drive if you want to do it on your own. This service is also free of charge and can be done on the same day. When I sent my academic record via courier the first time, I got a notification that it was ready for collection on the same day it was delivered.
Remember, your actual degree does not get certified. Your certified copy gets certified. So get your degree certificate copied and get to a police station or post office and get it certified first. You will then send the certified copy WITH the original to The Department of Higher Education and Training.
When I went in on my own, it took 3 minutes. I double parked my rental car and had a policeman watch it – ran in and did my stuff – and was out 5 minutes later.
If you’re going the courier option, this is a government office and it will cost you extra. You also will have to pay FULL price to have it collected from this office and driven 15 minutes to the legalisation office.
Degree Certification – Step 2
Getting is legalized and receiving your apostille certificate. Either you go on your own or you organize with your courier company to have it collected from The Department of Higher Education and Training and delivered to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). DIRCO is fancy as hell and you need to stop at the gate to get a visitors pass sorted. The building itself looks like the CIA along with zero cell service once you’re inside. After a pat down and a bag check, make your way to the office immediately on your left. Submit your docs (both your Police Clearance Certificate and your recently verified University Certificate from The Department of Higher Education of Training have to be submitted) and then you wait.
I waited for about 45 minutes and then I was on my way. I remember making a Facebook status on how I was so impressed with the efficiency of both those departments. I left there a proudly South African seeing the country’s tax money going to some good use.
E-2 Visa Application
No, you’re not done yet! Once you send everything mentioned above to your employer and it gets processed (1 – 4 weeks) you are now going to have to apply for your E-2 Visa from the Korean Embassy in South Africa.
You will need:
- Your passport with a validity of at least 6 months
- A copy of your passport (get it certified at a post office to be safe)
- Passport Photo glued to your E-2 Application
- Completed E-2 Application
- Visa Fee in cash (R780)
Yes, you have to send your passport and yes, you have to send cash. You can get insurance via your courier company to protect your assets. It is a risk, but it’s something you have to do. You can go in person, I will leave their details below.
Once your passport is ready with your visa (3-5 days to process) you can organize yet another courier to go collect it. PLEASE NOTE their ridiculous office hours below. Make sure your courier company knows this and will be there to collect your passport before closing time.
FINALLY – you’re ready to go!
Important things to note
I mentioned it above, but get copies of everything and have them certified. If you’re sending your documents via courier, you’re spending a lot of money. Make sure you’re sending the correct materials. Email and call the departments to triple check everything. If you’re spending around R900 roundtrip for each batch of documents – make sure you have EVERYTHING you need.
Give yourself enough time
I made this little infographic for you to realize the time you need.
Have patience and breathe.
This is an extremely long and tiresome process. It helps to keep your sense of humour close by with some calming tea. There are companies that do a lot of this for you for a fee. It’s a bit expensive, but if you have the spare cash and don’t want to deal with all of this – go that route. Here is the only company I know:
082 355 6237
Addresses and Details:
The Department of Higher
Education and Training
123 Frances Baard Street, Pretoria, 0002
Att: Ngwako Ramoshaba or Gugu Nhleko or Sbusiso Msiza
012 312 5264/6032/6155
Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Consulate Section, Ground Floor
460 Soutpansberg Road, Rietondale, Pretoria-O.R. TAMBO building
Att: Ms Du Plessis
012 351 1268/9.
Korean Embassy in South Africa
265 MELK STREET, NIEUW
MUCKLENEUK, PRETORIA 0181
012 762 3800
-OFFICE HOURS IS MONDAY – FRIDAY: 08:00 – 11:30
It has been a pleasure teaching here in South Korea. It’s a great way to see Asia and save money. You get paid handsomely and have the opportunity to save a lot of money.
I cannot recommend it enough and it’s perfect for people fresh out of University or people in their late 20’s like myself.