Over the past few months, I’ve had a number of people talk to me about how much they miss Seoul and how they long to go back to Korea. As the world is locked down, it has given people time to think about where they would rather be in the future. For many, the answer is that they would rather be in Korea on a permanent basis. So this leads to a couple of questions as far as what people would like to plan out for the future. Can a person move to Korea during COVID-19? If so, what are the requirements to do so?
Can You Move During COVID-19?
The simple answer to this question is yes. The pandemic has not stopped people from moving and traveling where possible. In some cases, the pandemic has forced people to make drastic choices and to move back to their home country overnight. Others have moved because of family situations that have made it necessary for them to go to another country. No matter the reason, as long as there isn’t a shutdown of the boarder or of airlines, you can move internationally during this pandemic.
What Are The Requirements?
At the time of this post, one must be quarantined for 2 weeks when arriving in Korea. If you do not have a permanent address in Korea, you will likely have to be put up by the government and will have to pay them for this. If you move while this requirement is in place, you will need to closely follow what the government tells you to do in order to avoid being deported.
At a time like this, visa runs are a no go for most of the people who do them. Some of the closest countries in Asia have closed their boarders, and a quarantine period means on cannot be caught outside of their residence for any unauthorized reason. Because of this, the recommendation given to me by people in Korea is that one should only move if they have a visa to enter Korea. A company may be willing to pay the fee to have you quarantined, or provide you with an address for you to stay at during this period. Coming on a work visa means that you and your company would split the cost of health insurance, so you would be covered should you get sick in the future.
The visa process is still the same for most people. If you are Korean, or can prove Korean ancestry, you’ll need to see what visa(s) you may qualify for. For most work visas, you’ll need your degree and for your degree to be apostilled, along with a national level background check that has also been apostilled. (An apostille is a notarization of an official document done by a government source. This lets the country you are trying to go to know that your documents are official and valid.) When a company agrees to sponsor you, they will fill out the paperwork in Korea to get an issuance number. They will send you that number to send to the Korean consulate in your area. You will send them that, along with any forms and/or fees and your passport for them to verify your issuance number. When they confirm the information, they will send you back your passport with your visa. This will allow you to book your plane ticket to Korea and enter on a valid visa. Your visa can be renewed in Korea before it expires so you can stay in Korea and get the benefits of a lawful visitor.
You want to have everything ready for your visa before you apply for jobs that will sponsor a visa. You will also want to make sure that non of your documentation will expire. If they do, you will want to renew it before it expires to make sure it is current when you do find a job. (Some federal background checks are good for only 6 months. If that is the case in your country, check to see how long it will take to get your background check done again so that it never expires if necessary.) Generally, people who have all of their paperwork ready will get pushed to the front of the line when it comes to job offers.
Discuss the quarantine situation and be clear about what will be required from you before you agree to anything. In some situations, and depending on the pay of your job, it could be that you pay a good chunk, if not all of a month’s salary if you are paying for this yourself. You can also check with your local Korean consulate to see what is required and what you will not be able to do. If you will be confined to a specific building that you cannot leave, you will want to make sure you have enough adaptors to charge your electronics before you arrive in Korea. Otherwise, it may be a long quarantine.
Be willing to look outside of teaching if you are willing and able. There are reports of a number of hagwons closing down due to parents not sending their children in over COVID fears. This means that the teachers that worked there are looking for work. If any teaching jobs become available, people already in Korea are likely to get them first. This, along with the people who have already sent in their info for the EPIK program, and/or have sent their info into teaching recruiting agencies, may cause a massive backlog of people looking for a limited number of teaching jobs. So looking for other jobs that you qualify for may allow you to enter into Korea faster.
Over the next couple of post, I will break down in detail how I got my degree and my background check apostilled. This will hopefully allow you to save some time and money when getting your paperwork processed. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to #askthewaygookin.