Do I need experience or a teaching degree to work in Korea?
No. You are only required to have at least a bachelor’s degree from a 4-year program at a recognized university or college. Teaching experience, education degree and teaching certificates such as TESOL or TEFL etc. may improve your chances for a better paying position, but they are not mandatory. From our extensive experience, what is really required is an open mind to new experiences and culture, a sense of adventure for trying something new, and a genuine fondness for teaching (passion) and being with your students (compassion). We see the teacher as an ambassador of their country who is proud to share his or her language and culture with the students of Korea, and we have found that individuals with these qualities make the best instructors ? and not the schools or the majors.
Can I teach English in Korea with a 2-year degree?
No. The Korean law requires that all ESL instructors possess a minimum 4-year bachelor’s degree at a recognized university or college. The teacher must also provide the original diploma for verification by the immigration office, as well as a sealed copy of the university transcripts from the registrar’s office.
What if I didn’t graduate yet?
You can still apply for a position by completing the online application, and indicating the expected date of graduation. A representative at ESLPia can contact you to discuss the possible dates to head over to Korea. Most importantly, however, the applicant must have the original diploma and sealed transcripts in possession to apply for the E-2 visa before coming to Korea. Some universities do not provide the diplomas right at graduation. Thus, recent graduates must note that the actual degree and official sealed transcripts must be in hand in order to apply for the E-2 visa, and must time accordingly when applying to come to Korea
When is a good time to apply?
With thousands of ESL schools and institutes, practically any time is right for applying to Korea. However, we recommend that you apply at least 1-2 months in advance before your intended departure date to Korea to secure the time needed for E-2 visa process, and for ESLPia to screen and secure the ideal position for you. For recent graduates, remember that the original diploma and sealed official transcripts are necessary for the visa application. Therefore, recent graduates should take into account when the actual diploma can be issued by their university or college prior to selecting a departure date to Korea.
Can I apply with a friend or a spouse?
There are many positions that welcome couples or friends applying together. However, these positions are still less frequent and some owners and directors are concerned with two instructors leaving together at the same time, should one of the partner wishes to leave Korea. Accommodation can also be a factor should both applicants wish to live together, as it can take a little bit longer in finding a larger housing. However, with a little patience, couple positions can usually be found to the benefit of both the school and the teachers. Please remember to indicate this preference when completing the online application form.
Should you wish to bring children into Korea with you, the straight fact is that it would make for a difficult job search process, as most employers may not wish for the complications it can incur. Extraneous factors such as housing, schooling and cultural adaptations for the children are quite sensitive issues for both teacher and employer, and it is with regret that we recommend teachers to consider otherwise if children are involved in the decision to come to Korea.
Can I choose where and when I want to work in Korea?
We at ESLPia accept specific location requests as well as a host of other preferences you may have at our online application page. Be sure to state what you prefer and require, and we will do our best to match your needs with a host of positions from our databank. We work with a number of different schools offering a multitude of positions, and will provide the applicant with the relevant information and consulting prior to making the final decision. This has been very successful in ensuring that our new teachers enjoy the area where they are placed to live and work while in Korea. The country also has an extensive public transportation network, allowing one to easily travel across the peninsula.
How do Koreans view foreigners?
Koreans are generally friendly towards foreigners and will go out of their way to accommodate or assist them. Many foreign teachers will attest to the highly friendly nature of Korean, but by culture, Koreans are more reserved with displays of affection until formally introduced or acquainted. Smiling upon eye contact, as is common in the Western societies, is not as common as Koreans think it is rude to look someone in the eye when speaking. Once acquainted, however, most find that Koreans are very engaging and sincere. The level of English is generally better among the younger generation from teens to university students, who are used to the western food and concepts over the past decade.
What is cost of living like in South Korea?
The cost of living can be low or high depending on the habits of the individual. In terms of food, it is quite cheap to eat out at about 5000 won (about 5 dollars) for most regular meals. Starbucks and McDonald’s prices are about the same as you’d find back home, and clothing and regular hygiene products may cost less. Transportation is very cheap with subways and buses costing between one to two dollars and taxis starting from about two dollars (avoid black deluxe taxis, which are more than double). Overall, cost of living should not be a problem if you are careful and budget accordingly to save and take some money home.
What is the food like?
Korean food is diverse to accommodate all types of diets, be it vegetarian or meat-loving. The staple consists of rice and literally hundreds of side dishes ranging from mild to spicy. For those who are less-adventurous, Korea is also host to most western food chains and one can readily find restaurants or marts and markets carrying your favorite foods. The representative vegetable dish is the kimchi, a spicy pickled Korean lettuce dish; and bul-go-gi, a sweet marinated cooked beef dish that drives most diners crazy after the first bite. The cost is relatively cheap as well, but can get quite expensive at the higher class restaurants, so be sure to count the zeros on the menu prices before ordering!
Is there a certain dress code?
Most schools do not follow a rigid dress code requiring a suit and tie. In most cases, smart casual should suffice such as clean slacks, khakis and button down shirts or clean t-shirts. Be careful not to wear clothes that are torn or ripped excessively, or bearing offensive language or design. Clean jeans should also be adequate in most cases, while intimidating tattoos or piercing may be asked to be covered or removed during class times by the school. Shorts are not recommended in most schools as with revealing clothing. You may also wish to ask the particular school about their dress code if any.
What is the transportation system like in Korea?
The transportation system is highly efficient and low cost. In particular, the subway system is touted by many as the most efficient and effective method of transportation, both for its low cost (about one dollar) and its cleanliness. The bus system is now interlinked with the subway systems in most cities for transfers.
In cities, the subway, bus and taxis make up the bulk of the local transportation with the taxis also being very cheap (about two dollars initial, and 10 cent increments). Most taxis also provide a translation service, and all subway and road signs are in English.
Transportation between cities includes express buses and high-speed train called the KTX, which are capable of over 300km/hr. Fares are also quite affordable and owing to the smaller size of the country, one can reach most destinations within 3-4 hours at most.
How much money should I bring with me first?
We recommend at least $300 to $500 USD or equivalent upon arriving in Korea to exchange at the airport. This money is to tide you over until your first payday, and perhaps prepare for unforeseen circumstances or any little items you may wish to purchase shortly upon arrival.
The employer should have your accommodation prepared in most cases, and you may also wish to buy some items to personalize it. In most cases, employers may also oblige in providing a small advance on your first pay as well.
What are the living conditions like?
Most standard contracts in Korea, with a few rare exceptions, includes a semi- to fully-furnished accommodations provided by the employer, with the teacher paying the utilities (usually between $30-$70 USD per month, depending on seasonal usage).
The accommodation is usually in the form of a single studio or one bedroom apartments. It can be single residence or shared (you can state your preference when filling out the online application) and is usually within walking distance of the school.
Many teachers have likened the living arrangement being similar to New York in that the rooms are generally smaller than those found back home (some stated that NY was smaller!). Semi-furnished usually means essentials such as a refrigerator, air conditioner, gas stove, washing machine, bed and bedding, TV, table and chair and basic kitchen utilities. However, the above is not the general rule and may vary.
Thus, the teacher should inquire as to what he or she can expect from a particular school. Cellular phones and Internet hook ups are about $10-$20 and $20-$30 USD per month, respectively, and can be obtained with the Alien Registration Card and the assistance of the school. Internet cafes, or PC rooms as they’re called here, are dotted on practically each and every block and open 24 hours.
The hourly rate of usage is about $1-$2 USD per hour and offers perhaps the fastest Internet service in the world.
How do I get a criminal record check with Apostille?
Effective December 15th, 2007, foreign citizens who wish to teach English in Korea are required to obtain a criminal record check from their respective countries along with other visa documents in order to receive the E-2 teaching visa. Please refer to the information below to see how you can receive a criminal record check from your home country.
I. Obtaining a Criminal Record Check for Canadian Citizens
Canada is not one of the countries that have joined the Apostille countries. Therefore, Canadian’s do not require Apostille on their criminal record check forms from the RCMP, but do require it to be notarized. Additional documents are required in order to obtain the E-2 visa issuance number in Korea.
1. Criminal Record Checks
- Must be issued within last 3 months by the RCMP or the Provincial Police
- Must include VULNERABLE SECTOR SEARCH
- Must be notarized on the original criminal record check by a public notary
- Must be confirmed by a Korean Consulate
Note: To be confirmed by a Korean Consulate, please visit the consulate with the notarized criminal record check, a passport and fee $2.20 CND.
2. To obtain VISA at the nearest Korean Consulate:
- All applicants, except those who worked previously with an E1, E2, E3 visa in Korea without any illegal activities, must be a Canadian citizen.
- All applicants must have an interview at the consulate by a consul. If applicants are not in the Consulate area, phone interview will be arranged.
- First time applicants (non Canadians) must apply for visas at the Korean Embassy or Consulate in their own countries.
II. Obtaining a Criminal Record Check for American Citizens
You can obtain a criminal background check from the local police station and with the background check, will need to receive authentication from the state notary public. Please contact the state clerk office to obtain additional information/steps you will need to take to obtain the state authentication Apostille on the criminal background check you received from the police station.
You can visit here to read the steps
of the receiving a criminal record check and also visit here to see the contact information for the state clerk to authenticate your document. Local Police-State Criminal Check can take between 1-5 days to process and to receive the criminal record check (depending on state). Fees for the criminal check can be between $3-20 US plus the costs for the authentication Apostille (depending on state).
III. Other Countries
For information on obtaining a Criminal Record Check in Australia, New Zealand, UK, Ireland and South Africa, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is an E-2 Visa? Are there other visas? (F-2 and F-4)
The E-2 visa is a work visa specifically for teaching English in Korea. Generally, the E-2 visa is the only visa that can be acquired for working in Korea (others may be available but rare for R&D hire by larger conglomerates). It is applied on your behalf by the school or institute that wishes to sponsor your visa while in Korea. It is for a period of one year, and requires you to provide the following documents to the employer:
Two sealed university transcripts with the registrar’s signature or stamp across the seal
The original university degree
A photocopy or scan of applicant’s passport picture and information page
Two copies of the original contract*signed by both applicant and employer
Three recent passport-size color photos
Updated and complete resume with correct mailing address and phone number.
F-2 Visa is a spousal visa granted to those married to a Korean citizen. It allows the bearer the same rights as Korean in most cases, and work privileges without the need for additional visas.
F-4 Visa is granted only to ethnic Koreans living overseas having passports from countries other than Korea. (i.e. Korean-Americans, Korean-Canadians, etc). It allows the bearer to live and work in Korea under the same rights as Koreans, with the exception that it must be renewed every two years for up to 10 years. Inquiries can be made to your local Korean embassy or consulate in applying for the F-4 visa.
What is an Alien Registration Card?
After you arrive in Korea you will also need to obtain an ID card, called the Alien Registration Card (ARC), within 90 days of your arrival. You can obtain your ARC at the Immigration Office where you will need to submit four passport-sized photos and a fee of 10,000 KRW (approx. $10.00 USD).
The card is needed to open a Korean bank account and also to acquire a cellular phone if needed. Although it is rare to be asked to show your card to a police officer for inspection, it is required under Korean law that you carry it with you at all times.
You can also view the services provided by the Korea Immigration Office in English, as well as the samples of the E-2 visa stamp, and the ARC card.
What are Single-entry visa and Multi-entry visa?
The school that sponsors your E-2 visa is responsible for providing the teacher with a single entry visa. This visa allows the teacher to enter Korea only once. Those who plan to go abroad during their contract period must go to the Immigration Office and pay a fee to have their visa changed to multiple entry status.
Note:Canadian and USA citizens are usually issued multiple entry visas automatically when the E-2 visa is stamped on their passport, but please confirm with the Korean Embassy or Consulate when getting the stamp
Can I quit my job or school if I don’t like it?
There may be a variety of reasons why you may consider leaving a certain job, school or even the country. However, we recommend a period of at least three months in order to give yourself an ample chance to get used to and settled in your new surroundings. The newness of the culture, food and even home sickness may all play a role, but a rash decision should be avoided if possible. Moreover, certain considerations should be given to the school and its students as the former has invested a lot of time, money and effort into inviting you into their school, while the latter deserve a certain length of continuous education from one teacher, rather than a piece-meal one from frequently changing teachers. We suggest that the teacher gives both the school and the students the time and the chance to find a suitable replacement teacher, so that their business and education do not suffer.
This is not to say that you must stay at what you feel is an unacceptable environment or situation. If you gave your best shot for three months, then a 30-day advance resignation notice (in most cases and contracts) can be given. An amiable parting with the employer is suggested since it may take a little longer to find the next ideal position and to acquire a new visa. We at ESLPia are available to talk to you at anytime via email@example.com, phone or even in person, and can help you in dealing with most issues and relocation.
What should I bring to Korea?
As many people are surprised to find out, Korea has a plethora of goods and services that in many cases are superior to those found back home. However, as we assume that you may wish to save some money during your employment in Korea and not live from paycheck to paycheck, we suggest that you consider bringing some of the items below as suggested by previous teachers who have worked and lived in Korea.
Purchasing clothes in Korea is quite affordable and is available in abundant quantities. For the more fashion-conscious, however, it can also be quite costly for the more recognizable luxury brands. We recommend a light amount of clothing for each of the four seasons, including:
Business work casual such as khaki pants, button shirts, and ties for men; slacks or skirts for women)
Winter jacket and sweater
T-shirts and shorts
Socks and underwear
Sweat pants and sweat shirts
Shoes for work
Athletic shoes/ hiking boots
Towels and swim suit
Cosmetics and toiletries
Bring your favorites. Although there is an excellent selection of imported and local cosmetics brands, your preferred choices may not be available or hard to find. If you have any allergies or sensitive skin, make sure you have an adequate supply of your special products. Items below were regularly recommended by past instructors.
Deodorant such as speed stick (Korean’s generally do not use western deodorant)
Certain types of toothpaste and shampoo you prefer back home
Certain types of feminine products you prefer back home
Supply of prescription medication you may require
Below items are usually required in applying for the E-2 work visa in Korea. It is always smart to be prepared with the documents below, most importantly the extra sealed transcripts and original diploma, should the need to relocate jobs arise unexpectedly.
Original diploma from university/college you graduated
Extra copy of sealed transcripts from university (highly recommended)
3-4 passport-sized self pictures (recommended)
Copy of teaching contract
Receipt of purchased airplane ticket (if applicable)
International driver’s license (apply at your local motor vehicle branch)
Items that may help you ease your daily life in Korea.
Eyeglasses, contact lenses, sunglasses and watch (available in Korea)
Digital camera, portable CD player and CDs
Books on Korean culture, Korean language, and travel guide (provided upon contract)
Korean-English pocket dictionary (available in Korea)
novels (available in Korea in limited quantities)
Small backpack and/or fanny-pack
* Note: Using or smuggling illegal drugs in Korea is prohibited and carries a heavy fine and imprisonment sentence. Please do not take the risk!
Do I need vaccinations before coming to Korea?
Basically, health issues in Korea are probably very similar to those in your home country. Immunizations should be up-to-date, particularly for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, polio (DTP) and typhoid, although Korean government regulations do not require any vaccinations of travelers except for those arriving from a plague, yellow fever or cholera-infected area. Some physicians recommend vaccinations against such diseases as hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid, typhus, cholera and polio. A physician should be consulted before deciding whether or not to obtain these or any other vaccinations before coming to Korea. Although it is best to obtain vaccinations before departure, most vaccinations are readily obtainable in Korea.
The following vaccinations are recommended but are not mandatory:
Hepatitis A can be contracted through food and water. Given the lack of enforcement of sanitation rules prevalent in some eating establishments, vaccination again Hepatitis A is highly recommended.
Hepatitis B can be contracted from physical contact or from exposure to blood (for example, health-care workers). Vaccination is recommended if you may be exposed through medical treatment, if you are staying in Korea for longer than six months or if you may have sexual contact with the local population.
Japanese encephalitis can result from mosquito bites. Vaccination required only if you plan to visit rural areas for 4 weeks or more, except under special circumstances, such as a known outbreak of Japanese encephalitis
Tuberculosis is still quite prevalent in Korea and it is advisable to have a regular skin test.
A yearly flu vaccine is recommended (available in Korea) by some as influenza and pneumonia are pretty common. People with asthma and other respiratory problems may be particular vulnerable due to the levels of pollution and the yearly chemically tainted yellow dust from China.
Before coming to Korea, you may consider boosting your immune system with a good vitamin/mineral supplement. If you take supplements, you may want to make sure to bring a good supply of your preferred brand with you. Some foreign brands are either imported or packaged/distributed in Korea. Check the company’s website to see if they can be found or are distributed in South Korea.
AIDS Note: Since 1989, all foreign residents wanting to stay in South Korea without their spouse for 91 days or more are required to undergo an AIDS test.
Also, those planning to travel outside of Korea during their stay should check the health recommendations for those countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States provides this information.
Will my Korean experience be a good one?
This question rests entirely upon you! From our experience, 9 out of 10 teachers love the new environment and have been eager to experience and explore their new surroundings and people. However, there are also those who find it hard to adjust to the new country and culture, and insist on things being as they’re accustomed to back home. This mentality can undoubtedly limit the experience that can be had in Korea, and for this reason, we ask that the prospective traveler to Korea consider all factors carefully before agreeing to teach in Korea.
Once a contract is signed and the E-2 visa process begins, the teacher is committing him or herself to a one-year commitment to the school, for which the students will have signed up for the classes. In cases where a teacher suddenly decides to withdraw their decision to come to Korea after signing the contract, it will result in considerable financial damages to the school as they will be forced to search for a new teacher in a matter of days (in most cases, they will be unsuccessful and lose business and credibility to their students). The Immigration Office may also refuse to grant further E-2 work visas to those who have refused to honor the initial work visa obligations.
Simply, the decision to live and work in another country is not a decision to be made lightly. The prospective teacher must therefore weigh their decisions carefully, and apply only when they are confident in their ability and maturity to face the challenges and the adventure ahead. ESLPia is not in the business of inviting those who do not care for teaching or working in Korea. Rather, we will do our utmost to help those who are passionate and compassionate, and can add their value and enthusiasm to Korea’s ESL education. It is our sincere hope that you join us in this quest of educating the future generations of Koreans, today.