Korea - FAQ's
We have compiled a list of the most common questions and concerns we hear from teachers planning to teach in Korea. This list is always growing and being updated and we hope you'll find what you're looking for. If there's anything we missed, please email us at and let us know how we can help you.
E2 Visa Process
I have a criminal record. Can I still teach in Korea?
The immigration office in Korea is very strict and schools prefer to work with candidates who have a clean criminal record. If your charge is minor, it might be possible to get an E2 visa, but this is decided on a case by case basis.
What level of criminal record check do I need to submit for the E2 visa?
A nation-wide (RCMP, FBI, etc.) criminal record check must be submitted for the E2 visa. Check your country's E2 visa guide on our website for detailed instructions on how to order the correct criminal record check.
How long is my criminal record check valid for?
Your criminal record check (CRC) must be less than 6 months old when it is submitted to the Korean immigration office.
How do I apostille my documents?
Detailed instructions on how to apostille your documents (criminal record check & degree photocopy) can be found on our E2 Visa Process page. Select your country on the page to go to the detailed instructions.
How long does the E2 visa process take?
The E2 visa process depends greatly on how quickly you can send all of your documents to Korea after you accept a contract. When your documents arrive in Korea, it can take 1-3 weeks for your E2 number to be issued by the Korean immigration office. Once your E2 number is emailed to you, it can take another 2-3 weeks for the Korean consulate or embassy to issue your E2 visa. With the visa in your passport, you'll be ready to fly to Korea.
Will I have to complete a medical exam in my home country before I arrive in Korea?
You will have to fill out a Medical Health Form and send it to Korea with the rest of the required visa documents. The form does not need to be filled in by a physician, but answers should be answered truthfully.
I only have an Associate Diploma or a TEFL certificate, but not a Bachelor Degree. Can I still teach in Korea?
In order to teach legaly in Korea on a E2 visa, applicants must hold a passport and Bachelor degree from one of the 7 approved, native-English speaking countries: Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.
My passport expires in 8 months - do I have to get a new one before applying for my visa?
This answer varies by consulate, so you will have to check with the one in your jurisdiction. Most consulates require 6-13 months remaining validity on a passport in order to issue an E2 visa.
Where can I get passport photos taken and how many will I need?
If you're a Costco member, this can be the most cost-effective option for N. American teachers. The next best stop would be Walmart of Walgreens, but any photography studio should be able to help you. Prices can vary, so shop around for the best deal.
My Bachelor degree is from one of the approved countries, but my passport isn't. Can I still teach in Korea?
Both your passport and your degree must be from one of the approved countries in order to qualify you for the E2 visa.
Will the school reimburse me for visa related expenses?
There is no specific reimbursement for visa related expenses, though EPIK does provide a "settlement allowance" to arriving teachers to help with expenses. Schools in Korea also include a completion bonus at the end of a contract, which can be thought of as compensation for relocation expenses.
Contract and Job Search
How long are contracts? Can I teach for a short term?
All contracts in Korea are 1 year long.
I heard Seoul is great, so I only want to focus my job hunt there.
While we understand that Seoul is an exciting city, as well as the city that most teachers have heard about, please do not get the impression that it is the only fun city in Korea or the only city with foreigners and a great nightlife. One of the biggest misconceptions by applicants for Korea, is thinking that any city outside of Seoul will be small and rural and that they will not have access to other English-speakers, western food, or entertainment options.
When can I start?
The majority of public school in Korea have start dates of March 1st or September 1st, to coincide with the start of the school semesters. There may be some start dates one month after these dates.
Keep this in mind if you are delaying your start due to wanting to spend Christmas & New Years at home and starting In January or February. Most schools will not have openings during these months and you may find yourself waiting longer than you hoped.
I have a dog or a cat. Can I bring it with me?
It is possible to bring your pet with you to Korea, but it does depend on the type of job and your school. It is important to mention your pet during the initial application stage, so you we can let schools know in advance.
Can I go to Korea with my partner or friend? Can we teach at the same school or share an apartment?
Public schools officially can not promise to place unmarried couples or friends in the same city, but due to our experience and familiarity with their hiring process, we have had a 100% success rate in placing our couples in the same city.
Can I teach older students, such as middle or school or older? I don't want to teach young kids.
There are very few (almost none) private schools in Korea who hire native English teachers for middle and high school aged students. This is mainly because these students are being taught by Korean English teachers who focus heavily on grammar.
I am very interested in working at a public school in Korea, but I'm nervous about not knowing where I'll be placed until late in the visa process. How will I know the city and province before I commit to a EPIK job?
This is a legitimate concerns for teachers interested in the EPIK program. We make an effort to help you understand your options and the realities of where you might be placed. Within the last 3 years, most or all of our teacher were notified of their city or province, at least 1 month prior to arriving in Korea.
I have been searching for a job in Seoul for several weeks now and working with more than one recruiter, but I'm not getting any good interviews or job offers.
At any given time, we have at least 40 or more teachers in our active job hunt, waiting to be placed within 30 minutes of Seoul. This scenario would be similar for most other recruiters in Korea. This means that there are dozens of applicants waiting in line for every job in Seoul.
How much money can I expect to save each month while teaching in Korea?
We generally hear that teachers can save around $500 per month while teaching in Korea, though it can be more if you cook your meals at home and are not a big drinker. While wages are the same across Korea, you can expect to spend more on daily living expenses and transportation in Seoul.
Can I teach for longer than 1 year?
You sure can! It's easy to extend your contract and visa with your current school or transfer to a new school within Korea.
I have heard horror stories about private schools in Korea. How can I make sure that I am placed at a reliable school?
This issue was one of our key motivators to starting this company back in 2007. We pride ourselves in providing a network of safe, reliable and enjoyable schools for more than 3000 teachers. We have worked with most of our schools for several years, so we know how they are run.
What can I expect when I arrive in Korea?
Most teachers who fly into the Incheon airport, will take an express bus from the airport to their designated city. They will be picked up by their director or co-teacher at the bus terminal and brought to their apartment. The director or co-teacher will generally help them with purchasing food and other supplies they may need to settle in.
You will also have 90 days within arriving, to pass the medical test and apply for your Alien Registration Card at the immigration office. Most teachers complete these steps within 1-3 weeks of arriving, since the ARC is required to open a bank accound and set up a phone. You'll be assisted by your school in completing these steps and setting up other required services and utilities.
What expenses can I expect when I arrive in Korea?
Most teachers will pay for their medical (60,000 - 150,000 KRW) and for their Alien Registration Card (30,000 KRW). It's not common, but a few schools will cover this cost.
How do I set up a bank account? Can I transfer money and pay bills back at home?
Once you apply for your alien registration card and receive it in the mail, you'll be able to set up a bank account. Your school will help you with this and may chose the bank for you to simplify the transfer of your salary each month. If you have a choice, you may chose KEB bank, which is international or chose Citibank and open an account before you leave your home country. Then open an account at a Citibank branch in Korea and you should be able to transfer funds at a low cost.
Can I teach private lessons or work at another school to increase my income?
Teaching at anywhere other than your contracted school is illegal and discouraged, though some teachers are willing to take the risk to make extra money. There are regular checks by immigration and if you're caught, you can be deported back to your home country and prohibited to return.
One way you can boost your income is to teach ESL online from the comfort of your home. As long as you are doing this outside your working hours and the extra work is not affecting your regular job, it is not going to cause problems. Please email us at email@example.com for information on how to apply for online positions.
Can I email a current or previous teacher at the school, so I know it's reliable?
Yes, this is usually possible and we encourage it with school's we haven't worked with as much. The only times it might not be possible is if the school is brand new or if the previous teacher cannot or does not want to be reached.
Do I need to have a TEFL in order to teach in Korea?
Private schools do not officially require a TEFL course. In some situations, they may chose an applicant with TEFL over one without.
Will my school provide insurance?
Your school will pay 50% of the health insurance cost, which will be lined out in your contract. There are two different types of insurance: National and Private. Some schools chose private insurance as it is more comprehensive and useful for teachers, as it can include travel and accident insurance as well.
What if I don't like my school? Can I change schools?
At times it can be challenging to change schools mid contract if you are unhappy. Not only do you have to give proper notice (usually 2 months), but your school must also provide you with a "Letter of Release" that will be required to transfer to another school. In cases where the school is being difficult and is not meeting contract obligations, you can plead your case with the local immigration office and ask to switch to a D10 visa.
Will I know my exact city when I make a decision to accept a contract?
With private schools in Korea, you will always know the city and location of your school. This is because you'll be hired by the specific school.
With private schools (EPIK), you will usually learn your city or province name once your application documents are submitted and accepted. EPIK also hires on a first come first served basis, so the sooner you apply, the better your chances are to get one of your top location choices.
How many holidays will I get?
Prive school teachers usually receive 10 days paid vacation, plus all national holidays. Over the last few years, more schools are offering a reduced number of vacation days (7-8) or might not be offering all of the national holidays.
I have a degree in English or prior teaching experience. What are realistic salary expectations?
Applicants who have degrees in English or Education or more than 1 year full time teaching experience can expect to make slightly more than other applicants. Experienced teachers can expect a slight raise from 2,100,000 KRW to 2,300,000 KRW.
I'm nervous about the air qualify in Korea. Is it safe and enjoyable to live there?
The pollution appears to be getting worse in Korea, and while some of the blame is directed at nearby China, Korea itself is also a factor in this. You can expect more polution in and around Seoul.
Do I have to speak Korean in order to teach in Korea?
No, this is not expected from teachers, and in reality the majority of ESL teachers do not speak the local language. It will be a shock at first, especially if you haven't travelled before, but you will quickly learn to adapt.
How is the climate in Korea? Does it get very cold?
As with the rest of the world, the climate in Korea has been shifting over the last decade and temperatures are often freezing in winter and hot and humid in the summer. As Korea is a small country geographically, there isn't much of a difference in weather from city to city, though winters can feel more damp and get more snow in coastal areas.
I have strict dietary restrictions or preferences. How will I be able to adjust to eating out and shopping for food in Korea?
Over the last few years, food shopping and options has greatly improved in Korea. You'll be able to find more foreign food locally, as well as order supplements or herbs and spices from iHerb. If you plan to make meals at home, you should be able to access a variety of ingredients.
I have already sent my photo and resume with my application. Am I still required to submit an introductory video, even though I can interview over Skype?
Schools in Korea tend to only want to interview 1-3 applicants per job opening, and since there more applicants than jobs, first impressions can be very important. A video can give you a chance to talk about your experience teaching or working with kids, even if it has not been in a formal setting and you're not a teacher by trade. Experience that doesn't jump out from your resume can be highlighted and explained in a video, which makes it valuable and shows your enthusiasm. Schools want to hire capable teachers who meet the requirements, but what they look at beyond that is how you will present infront of a classroom and how you engage students.
My partner/child/parent, etc. would like to go to Korea with me. Can they live with me and not teach?
Generally, this type of situation can be challenging in Korea for a variety of reasons. First of all, schools in Korea only provide a single/bachelor apartment, which is usually only suitable for a single person. They often own the apartments, which means they are not going to be able to provide a larger place for a family or couple. Since sponsoring a family can mean more work for the school, many will not consider someone with dependents. This is another reason why single, young teachers are their preferred hires.
Do you charge fees for your services?
No, we do not charge our applicants any fees. Teach ESL Korea is paid a recruiting referral fee from schools once a teacher arrives and begins teaching.
Can I work with more than one recruiter?
Yes, you can. Recruiters can't tell you to not work with more than one recruiter and you should be careful if they ask you to send documents before securing a position. Teach ESL Korea will not ask you to send your documents until you have signed a contract with a school.
I have previously taught through TaLK or EPIK. Can I apply through a recuriter to work at a public school?
If you have a taught at a public school before, you can only apply directly through EPIK or TaLK.
Will I have to create lesson plans?
Public schools in Korea do require teachers to create lesson plans. When you submit your application to EPIK, one of the requirements is to create a sample lesson plan. This is why TEFL courses are so important for teachers, since they help you learn how to create a lesson plan and engage your students. EPIK requires all teachers who do not have a B.Ed. to take a 100 Hour TEFL.
Can I teach a specific subject rather than ESL?
Under an E2 visa status, you are only allowed to teach ESL. Teaching other subjects, such as Math, Science, Art, etc. is officially against the rules. Some schools do have an English immersion environment, which can be in somewhat of a grey area.
How many hour will I teach?
The standard private school contract will have a maximum of 30 teaching hours per week, or 120 hours per month. Some school consider each class to be equivallent to 1 teaching hour, even if the class is only 40-45 minutes long, while other schools will total the actuall minutes taught until they make up 30 hours. This means that you could teach 30-45+ hours each week, depending on the length of each class.