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 info@teacheslkorea.com 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. American teachers also must get their CRC's apostilled within 3 months of the issue date as this is required by the Department of State. Also, EPIK applicants need to submit CRCs less than 6 months old from the start of the semester date, rather than the date it is submitted to the 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. Canadian teachers cannot apostille their documents as Canada is not part of the Hague agreement. Instead of the apostille, Canadian teachers must get their documents stamped by the nearest Korean consulate.




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. You should plan ahead and allow a mimimum of 3-6 weeks for the visa process, provided your documents are in hand and ready to send when you accept the contract. Add additional time accordingly, based on the expected time you will have your documents in hand.




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. When you arrive in Korea, you will have a full medical exam at a local hospital or clinic. The exam will check if you have any contagious diseases that may be detrimental to a students' health, as well as check to determine if a teacher has traces of illegal substances in their system (ie. marijuana, cocaine, speed, ecstacy, etc.) Current tests are being conducted via blood samples, urine tests, and chest x-rays. If a teacher fails the medical exam, their contract could be withdrawn, so it's important to be truthfull on your medical form and to advise us of any concerns you may have. Note that marijuana is considered an illegal drug in Korea and could affect your test results.




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. Applicants who with to teach at a public school in Korea, must also hold 100 hour TEFL certificate, unless their degree is in Education. Private schools in Korea do not officially require a TEFL.




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. Please check with your consulate before you send your documents to Korea, since the visa number will be attached to the number in your current passport. If you change your passport during the visa process, it can cause delays and problems later on.




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. You will need anywhere from 5-9 photos, depending on the school or partner you accept a position with. You can always use additional photos, so it's not a bad idea to get extras. Please do not print your own photos, as they need to be professionally done. Your photos will be used for visa processing and there are strict requirements they have to meet.




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. Sometimes, if a teacher is already in Korea, it is possible to find something short term, if the school is unable to find a teacher for a 1 year contract. This is very uncommon though and you should be able to commit to a 1 year contract.




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. Cities like Daegu, Gwangju and Daejon all have between 1.5 and 2.5+ million people, a vibrant downtown and nightlife, Western dining options and other cusines, excellent public transportation (subways, buses, etc.) and are readily connected to other cities in Korea, including Seoul and Busan. KTX trains and express buses make commuting between cities easy and affordable, which means you're never more than a few hours away from exploring a new place. Over more than 10 years, Teach ESL Korea has successfully placed more than 1,000 teachers in these 3 cities alone, which we like to refer to as "The Big 3" and the reviews from our teachers are consistently positive. In fact, some teachers get so attached to their cities and build a strong network of friends that they would not consider moving anywhere else. On a personal note: Dan and I (Aggie) still consider Gwangju to be their second home. We've made some life-long friendships and our son took our first steps on the streets of Sansu-dong, which is something we'll never forget. We've traveled to Seoul and enjoyed some fun weekends partying in Hongdae, but can still remember the peaceful feeling of getting on the express bus on a Sunday afternoon to return "home". Seoul was always there, always accessible, but we enjoyed it more in small doses. :)




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. Private schools also hire for the semester start days, which means most positions are filled by March or September. We do get some openings for November/December, as well as May/June.

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. EPIK (Public Schools) has a policy of not allowing pets, so please keep that in mind. Private schools in Korea will make the decision on a case by case basis. If the school owns the apartment the teacher will live in and it doesn not allow pets, it will not be possible. If the school is able to still chose the apartment, they might be able to accomodate your pet. However, keep in mind that schools will prefer to hire teachers without pets if possible, so if your heart is set on bringing your furry friend with you, please be as flexible as possible on location and type of job.




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. If you are a unmarried couple or 2 friends, you will not be provided with a couple apartment by EPIK, but each of you will be given a free, single/studio apartment. You can decide to live together in one apartment, if that's what you prefer, but you will not be receiving "housing allowance" in lieu of the 2nd apartment. Married couples who are with EPIK, will be placed in the same city, and provided with a apartment suitable for a couple. Private schools can hire couples (married or unmarried), but we estimate that approximately 75% of schools will not consider hiring couples or friends. There are various reasons behind this decision, some of which we understand and others that are not as clear.




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. Public schools in Korea has also cancelled all middle and high school positions for native English teachers. Adult schools in Korea exist, but there are only a few of them. Many have been absorbed by universities, which run their own in-school programs. The adult schools that do hire native English teachers, prefer to hire teachers who are already in Korea, as this allows them to get a reference from the current school at teacher is working at, saves them the cost of flying a teacher to Korea and prefer teachers who can work independently with Korean students. Almost all adult schools have split shifts: 7:00am-11:00am and 6:00pm-10pm. If you would like to teach older students, your best option is to work at a private school with hours of 1:00pm-9:00pm, so you can teach a mix or elementary and middle school students.




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. EPIK does hire on a first come first served basis, so it is very important to apply at least 5-6 months prior to the semester start date (March 1st or September 1st). This will increase your chances of being places in the city of your choice.




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. Before restricting your job search exclusively to Seoul and it's surroundings, please ask yourself: 1) What are your main reasons for wanting to be placed only in Seoul? 2) Are you familiar with cities like Gwangju, Daegu, and Daejon?




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. We will always try to connect you with a current teacher at the school you are interviewing with, so you can ask them questions. You can also focus your search on public schools, if you are very concerned about private ones, as they are government run and more secure.




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. While most schools try to have their teachers arrive on a weekend, so they have time to settle and rest from the journey, this is not always possible. It's not uncommon to arrive and be expected at the school the next day to observe classes and be introduced to their schedule. Not all schools offer training and some teachers are expected to start teachign classes on their own on the first day. Please try to prepare for either scenario and don't be shocked if you have to hit the ground running.

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. You will arrive to a partly furnished apartment, which usually includes some basic cooking supplies. You can also purchase anything you may need at a local "Dollar Store" for an affordable cost. If another teacher lived at the apartment before you, you might "inherit" things scuh as a vaccuum, rice cooker, dishes, utensils, etc. Generally, teachers try to sell things that are of value, but leave small things behind. The level of cleanliness of your apartment can vary widely as well. It will depend on how the teacher left it or if the landlord has had a chance to clean it prior to your arrival. We sometimes find that schools receive possession of the apartment at the last minute and don't have time to get everything ready before the teacher arrives. Always speak with your school if anything is broken and not usable when you first arrive, so they can address the problem early on.




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. You can pay bills and transfer money online, which is simple and hassle free once you get the hang of it.




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 info@teacheslkorea.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. Public schools (EPIK) in Korea require at least a 100 hour TEFL course.




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. The reason schools do not like to release teachers early, is that it's costly for them to bring a teacher over to Korea and they do not want teachers to get pulled away by other schools when they have gone through all that work. If you are not happy with the situation at your school or if there are any issues that can be resolved, please be sure to let your School or TEK/TEC representative know as soon as possible. Many problems can be resolved and worked through amiably with open dialogue.




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. Public school (EPIK) teachers receive 18 days paid vacation - 8 days in summer & 10 days in the winter, as well as all 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.





Everyday Life

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. Many large cities offer Korean lessons to foreigners through the government or local foreign community. Co-teachers are often happy to do a language exchange as well. We encourage you to try, as daunting as it may seem at first!




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. You will hear Koreans pride in the fact that their country has 4 distinct seasons (though we're not sure this is that unique :) You'll see distinct weather changes during the seasons and the spring and fall weather tends to last for a long time. These are also favorite seasons, since the weather is mild and you don't see temperature extremes like in the winter and summer.




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. Eating out can be a bit more challenging as restaurants do not make meals to order, but rather have everything prepared in advance to cook for larger groups. Western restaurants will be more flexible, though if they're run by Korean owners, that might not always be the case. Vegetarian restaurants have grown in popularity in Korea as well. If you have strict restrictions, please be sure to let your Teacher Representative know.





Application Process

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. With that said, if a school is OK with hiring a teacher who is going to be bringing dependants, they may help with finding a slightly bigger apartment, but will ask the teacher to pay extra rent to cover this increase. It will be your responsibility as well to make sure your children have schooling or daycare and this can pose a challenge as well, unless the other partner is able to care for them at home while you work. A spousal or dependant visa is quite easy to obtain and does not require a lot of additional work or cost. For spouses, a long form of the marriage certificate is required and a long form of the birth certificate is required for dependant children.




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. The only time you can not work with more than one recruiter is if you're applying for public school jobs through EPIK. EPIK will reject applicants who submit more than one application, so once you've submitted one, please don't reapply thinking it will increase your chances of being selected.




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.





Teaching

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. Private schools generally do not require lesson plans to be created, as they tend to provide teachers with text and work books to teach out of. Still, it's a good idea to be familiar how to lead a lesson and build on the content provided to you. *Some texbooks may provide you with a general idea, but it will be up to you to turn it into a fun and usable lesson.




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. Public school teachers teach a maximum of 22 (40-45 minute) classes per week. You will also be required to remain at school during "non-contact" hours, meaning that you'll need to be at the school even when you're not teaching actual classes. This additional time is known as "office hours" and is to be used for lesson planning, marking, etc.





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