Monday, August 18, 2008

Immigration in Korea


My experience this morning was nowhere near as smooth (or as pleasant) as William's.

I made an appointment online yesterday for the opening time of the office (9 am) as I had to teach at 10:45 and the office is about 30 minutes from my house/school by public transit. When I arrived at 8:55, no one was at the reservation desk. So I took a number (5 at this point, it was still early) and waited near the reservations desk. The office "opened," but still no one at the reservations desk. At around 9:10, the woman who had already helped a couple people and appeared to be the only person in the entire place actually working at this point, called up number 5 (I did watch for the reservations guy to show--he did... around 9:30... half hour after my "appointment" that would have been cancelled had I not shown up for it by 9:10...).

I handed over the documents Elisha told me to bring, including the completed application.

They asked me for a document I didn't have (the criminal background check--which had been the biggest hassle of all my document gathering woes to actually get from abroad). I explained that the EPIK office had it and prepared to ring Elisha if necessary.


However, they looked at the letter that Samson had written explaining that my contract with the hagwon runs 8.23.07-8.22.08 and asked for Samson's phone number.

"Why do you need the number?" I don't want to bother Samson with this process anymore than I already had. I'm freaking finished my contract with them on Friday--what I do after that is NOT THEIR PROBLEM.

The lady thinks about the English for a minute. "We need to inform him that you quit."

"He knows. That's what the letter says." I point to the release letter in front of her.

"But we need to call him."

"Ok, just a minute." I don't have Samson's cell. I offered them the school number (as the school was open for intensive classes at this point), but they wanted his cell. Fine, I called Gwen. But she was teaching. I make them just accept the school number.

"Ok," she says (finally--I've been in the office 30 minutes at this point while she's looked at the same 7 documents about 30-40 times each), "You need to go pay 140,000 won at the counter."

"140,000? I thought it was 30,000 for the visa and 50,000 for the multiple-entry."

"And 60,000 to change work places."

"Really? Do you take cards?" I only had 120,000 in my wallet. I also suspect that the extra fee isn't one I actually needed to pay, but whatever.


"Is there a cash machine nearby?"

The woman rolls her eyes and sighs. "Across the street."

I RUN as fast as I can to get the last bit out of my account to pay for my now EXTREMELY OVERPRICED extension.

The woman also handed me back a document telling me she didn't need it (the letter from EPIK sponsoring my new visa), and then asked for it back and called the Foreign Language High School to "inform" them I was at immigration. And when she hands me back the card, it is extended until August 22, 2009. Not even the full year of my contract (which runs 9.01.08-8.31.09).


I wonder if I'd brought a Korean person with me, would she have treated me less like an idiot? I understood most of what she discussed with her supervisor in Korean. She asked the same question about each document about five times over. Either it was like her second day on the job or she is seriously the least competent person EVER.

But it's done. I can go to America (and get back into Korea) and legally teach at the Foreign Language High School starting September 1. One more major item crossed off the impossible-seeming checklist. Only about 10 more hurdles to jump before Friday. I'm on it...


  1. sorry your experience was so bad. i have to go back to the immigration office later this year to change my address and workplace (because right now, it's still at my first school). so yeah, maybe they'll charge me 60,000won to do that.

    at least it's done now, and immigration office in daegu beats the immigration office in america (at least in houston, land of the latinos) anytime.

    good luck!

  2. 60,000 won sounds fishy.

    You'll be able to extend it to match your contract later; I did, and it wasn't a problem.

    So are we seeing you Sunday night? Really?

  3. At least you were able to get it all done in one trip, unlike my Brazil visa. It would be nice if they told you on the website things like legalization of forms needed for the visa requires two days, and you need separate certified checks for the different things. Plus, they're in LA, only open in the mornings, and don't accept applications by mail. (Even though their jurisdiction includes Hawaii.) Gotta love bureaucracies.



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