Read this guide first! This is your shortcut to finding a job, applying for your visa and moving to South Korea! And what to expect in terms of the teacher lifestyle in South Korea. Hint hint: It looks like this…lots of love.
Whereas the first school I taught in was exhausting for both the teachers and the students. Not all schools are created equal!
In this guide, I am going to teach you how to choose your school (and city in Korea), how to get a job, and how to prepare and pack for moving to South Korea.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be ready to move to South Korea!
Depending on which kind of school you’re applying for (private or public), you’ve got 3 options when looking for teaching jobs in South Korea….
Can negotiate salary
Can choose precisely where you teach
Small class sizes (max 12 students)
Can apply to teach as a couple
Only 10 days vacation time
Typically more performances/plays/competitions to please high-paying parents
There can be lots of “desk warming”
I’m going to be totally honest…
An added benfit of teaching at private schools is the culture of showering your teacher with gifts.
It was not uncommon for me to come into class and have a Starbucks sitting on my desk…sometimes two! And on holidays, like Teachers’ Day, my desk would be filled with Chanel, Prada, and high-end gifts.
It wasn’t WHY I taught in a Hagwon, but it certainly was a luxury I wasn’t used to or I expected. It made teaching a little bit sweeter. Especially when you got an “I’m sorry” box of chocolates from a parent after their child bit you…
This differs depending on where you’re teaching and in what kind of school. Here is a general breakdown of what to expect.
THE E2 VISA FOR TEACHERS IN
Teachers in South Korea work on E2 Visas, sponsored by their school. This visa will allow teachers to live and work in South Korea for 1 year. You will receive this visa BEFORE you fly to South Korea. That means you must first process all of your visa paperwork in your home country (we’ll get to this in the next section).
Because this paperwork can take weeks or even months, to complete, schools want to interview potential teachers who have already started preparing their E2 Visa documents.
I highly suggest that you begin processing your documents even before you start interviewing or writing to recruiters. If you can tell your agent “my documents will be ready by XYZ date”, then a school will be confident to hire you (instead of someone else).
The Korean E2 Visa process goes like
The whole process, from applying for your criminal background check to getting your visa in your passport, can take as little as 6 weeks and as long as 3+ months depending on your method of document collection.
Now, let’s talk about these documents…
➤ DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR AN E2
SOUTH KOREAN TEACHING VISA
National Background Check with Apostille Stamp
University Degree Photocopy with Apostille Stamp
Your criminal background check must be squeaky clean. You cannot teach in South Korea if you have an arrest record.
THE DOCUMENT COLLECTION
PROCESS IS A PAIN IN THE ASS!
(but worth it)
So, I am going to break down what documents you need to get an E2 Teaching Visa for South Korea step-by-step.
(This process is specifically for Americans – other nationalities will have an easier process)
Document 1: FBI Criminal Background
Check with Apostille Stamp
You need a national (not state) background check with a verified Apostille Stamp (a stamp that says, “hey, this is a real background check and not faked by some terrorist”).
The process of getting your background check used to be long, stupid, stressful and took up to a minimum of 12 weeks. But you can do what I did and use an expedited service!
My favorite FBI Background Chanelling Service, Korvia Consulting to expedite the process. These miracle workers do the heavy lifting for you and keep you from making any mistakes. You’ll pay $50 for a 1-week turn-around (compared to the standard $20 for a 12-week turn-around).
To get started…follow these steps…
Document #1: Your Background Check
500 Park Boulevard
Itasca, IL 60143
On to the next document!
Document #2: Apostille Copy of your University Degree
While you’re waiting for your FBI Background Check with Apostille, get started on Document #2. You need a notary to basically confirm that the degree is real and belongs to you. To do this…
Step 1: Get a copy of your Bachelors Degree and take it to be notarized by a licensed notary (most likely, you can find a notary working in your bank). Go to them with the following:
Your original University Degree
1 photocopy of your University Degree
1 form of photo ID
Type up and print a version of this document
Step 2: Send your Notarized Degree Photocopy to be Apostilled
Each state has 1 official secretary to do this job. You can visit them in person or mail in your document. Consult this list of Secretary of State offices where you can request the Apostille Authentication. Each state is different in terms of price and cost- so call ahead.
This state-level university degree apostille should only take 1 week. When you get your apostilled university degree returned from the state, it will look like this example apostille.
Step 3: Download and Fill Out Additional Forms found here.
Document 3: E2 Medical Check
Document 4: Consulate Questionnaire
Document 5: Visa Application
Final Step: Send Your Documents to Your School in South Korea
Your school will give you instructions on where to send all of your documents. Now you can breathe!
Since your school pays for your rent, your cost of living will be relatively low depending on how much you spend on entertainment, travel, and partying. Hard life, right?
In any given city, you can spend $500-$1500 total per month- it all depends on you!
Most teachers are able to save up a nice chunk of change, while teachers with student loans find it very easy to pay off their debt with the salary in South Korea.
Here’s an idea of what to expect to spend while living in Korea…
Compare your current cost of living to South Korean cities here.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO LIVE IN SOUTH
What’s it like Living in…
The heart of South Korea, Seoul is the city of endless possibilities. Connected by an extremely efficient subway system, it’s easy to get from one side of the city to the next. Jump from K-Pop shopping districts to the western nightlife area or go from the business district to the red-light district in 30 minutes. A city with a population of almost 10 million, you’ll have to search out your social circle by joining trivia nights, dance classes, or Korean language classes.
Busan is the “Miami Beach” of South Korea but with less skin. You’ll find yourself hanging out on the sandy beaches of Gwanju or Haeundae where beach bars and sky rise bars are packed every night of the week. You’ll find great fish markets, fresh seafood, and tons of BBQ joints. There are also a plethora of Jimjibangs (spas) in Busan. This city is where old meets- explore old school neighborhoods one minute then step into lavish department stores the next. The only downfall is that Busan gets crowded with tourists during the summer.
A tight community of western expats who are very involved in clubs, sports, and activities. Join the Daegu Softball Beer League; participate in open mic nights downtown; become active in the Daegu theatre troop; dance your heart out in the active Korean salsa and hip hop scene, shred the ice with the indoor ice hockey league- the list goes on. It’s very easy to make Korean friends in Daegue in your hobbies or while going out in the small downtown bar scene where everyone knows everyone.
A small community of just 500,000, Pohang is an easy city to settle into. Located on the coast, you’ve got a beach to play volleyball on in the summer, a softball league to join in the spring, and temperate weather that won’t make you freeze to death in the winter. You’ll find hiking trails and waterfalls not too far, Busan is just a bus ride away, and local prices are very reasonable. If you’re looking to a laid-back, intimate experience in South Korea, go to Pohang.
Often called “the Hawaii of South Korea”, it’s easy to see why Jeju island is such an appealing location for teachers. You’ve got gorgeous waterfalls, stunning beaches, and the highest mountain peak in South Korea. The pitfall to living on Jeju is that you are isolated from the rest of the country. There are flights and ferries to the mainland every day, but it’s an effort to get there. If you’re comfortable with living in the smallest province in South Korea and enjoy a slow-paced yet naturally beautiful lifestyle, then go for it!
The all-inclusive teacher package is rewarding and generous
Easy to save money and pay off student loans
Korea is extremely safe for foreigners
“Kong-lish” or Korean-English is an easy way to communicate
Strong English teacher community
You won’t regret it. Whether you want a fully-paid adventure, are obsessed with Kpop or have student loans to pay off…South Korea is an amazing place to live, is super safe, and offers you the opportunity to deep dive into a culture that isn’t your own. Go. Just go.
Want to contribute to the blog? I love to feature the perspective of other solo female travelers.
I'm a bestselling author, hotel reviewer and pickleball player. I teach women how to travel the world solo without going broke or getting kidnapped.
In 2011, I left Seattle with just $200 in my pocket to travel the world solo. Today, I'm the founder and creator of The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide, the #1 travel guide book series for women - and the author of The One-Way Ticket Plan.