December 12, 2012
So this is a question we get asked A LOT A LOT. And so we’re gonna try to answer it to the best of our abilities, based off of our experiences of trying to find a visa in Korea, to setting up our own business, to speaking with people who have non-teaching visas.
To begin with, we don’t work for Korean immigration, so if you have detailed questions about getting VISAs and getting hired in Korea, we really can’t help you at all, and I’m sorry if we don’t reply to your email! We get so many emails about how to get a job in Korea, but we have no answer to give besides, “I don’t know”. We only know what we’ve learned from friends who have different jobs, and even the jobs they got are very specific to their education, the country they’re from, and what they’re doing in Korea. There isn’t a single answer that can cover a question about jobs and vacationing in Korea because the VISA laws change even country by country. So for example, if you’re Canadian, you can vacation in Korea for up to six months, but if you’re from the USA you only have three months. Even basic steps regarding hiring teachers has changed in the past four years, so the steps we went through to be hired are totally different today. Korea is constantly updating, tweaking, and changing its laws towards foreigners, so I’m sure this TL;DR will become outdated within a year!
So most of the foreigners we meet are, yes, teachers. They’re either working at an after school tutoring centre, an elementary – high school, as professors at University, but there are exceptions. Most of the unique jobs we’ve experienced are from people who work in Korea for a year or so and then move to another country with their company, but it isn’t like they got the job by themselves; it’s a big company kind of deal. They usually have a family that comes with them, and kids that attend International schools in Korea.
To be totally honest, unless you’re married to a Korean or Korean born in someway, it is really difficult to just get an average job. You need to fit one of the categories immigration has laid out, and each category has specific regulations regarding qualifications. You need a company to sponsor your VISA and they have to prove that you are needed at the company and fit all the regulations, and that you specifically can do the job while a Korean person can’t. In order to do anything important in Korea (like get a bank card, a cell phone, get paid into your Korean bank account) you need to get your Alien Registration Card (ARC), and in order to get that, you need to be approved by Korean immigration so you can get the correct VISA status. You ARC number is your access to living in Korea (we’re not talking about just vacationing in Korea because you won’t get an ARC number for that), since even Korean citizens have their own number that they use to register for everything.
Our honest advice would be that in order to get a unique job in Korea, you have to be in Korea already. Attending a Korean university to learn how to speak Korean while having a part-time job would definitely help, if your school allows it, since you could build contacts and show why you’re valuable to a company. We know a couple of people who are students in university and interning at, for example, YG.
It would also give you the chance to really get to know Korea for real and to decided if you do really want to live here or not. We’ve heard from people who enjoy watching korean dramas and following kpop that they were surprised at what everyday life was really like in Korea: while some of them loved it, some of them left after a year. We’re not saying that you’re gonna come here and hate it. Clearly, as is our situation, we came here and loved it and want to make a life here. But our situation isn’t common. We don’t know anyone else blogging as a living here in Korea. We also don’t know anyone as weird as us, so maybe that’s why.
ps-> While we were registering Eatyourkimchi as a business in Korea and we made our announcement video for the Studio Fundraiser, we stumbled upon some angry threads from foreigners who are living in Korea. When they applied for their businesses the cost was lower and the rules were different, yet rather than thinking that, hey, things change constantly and maybe the process they went through is different than what’s current, they called us liars who didn’t know what we were talking about. Considering we JUST went through weeks and weeks of application at Korean immigration, actually yes, we do know what we’re talking about, but that’s just for now. If someone has a different story a year from now, we wouldn’t be surprised.
I’m not bringing this up to complain
even though those people suck donkey farts for a living; I’m bringing this up to say be wary of advice from forums! There are lots of foreigners who have been living in Korea for a while and who are giving advice about VISA status and other things, but sometimes this advice is coming from someone who is comfortably living in Korea and has not recently had to go back to immigration to update anything. Thus, they might not know about all the changes in the laws. Even simple laws about traveling with cats and dogs to Korea have just recently changed, so don’t trust what someone says in a forum; look up the information for yourself from a real Korean government site or go to your local Korean embassy. You don’t want to risk getting into trouble because someone on a forum gave you outdated advice :D
So, TL;DR on this whole post: we’re just relating our experiences with Visas in Korea. Our word isn’t gospel, as the word on Visa regulations is likely to change. We can offer you an idea of what the process is like and what to expect, but we’re not the ultimate source. What can be said, for now, for sure, though, is that getting Visas in Korea is not easy. They’re not given out to everyone, so finding jobs in Korea that aren’t related to teaching is not a simple process.
If you have different experiences, please share them. We’re not even sure if we’re just talking about the Seoul area or Korea as a whole. Or, if you would like to ask some questions while we’re active on this thread, shoot away! Hopefully we can get a somewhat interesting discussion about a very boring topic going on. Woot!