I have posted many stories on my adventures with Korean Immigration. Rarely have I had any — ANY — good experience with them. Simple tasks become nightmares.
Some of the Immigration weirdness I have been able to stave off and anticipate beforehand. For example, I knew from message boards in 2005 that the rules changed that it took a full day to process a visa in Japan, so one day visa runs were no longer possible. Immigration didn’t bother announcing it in any way, not even on their web site. The only way people knew about this was that the branch offices in Japan offhandedly mentioned it to a few foreigners, and they reported it on the internet. I wonder how many people had one day tickets only to find out that the rules had changed after they entered Japan.
Then there was the silly issue about college transcripts. Again, no announcement about this rule change. After some reports on bad foreigners teaching English in the newspapers and on TV, the public demanded something be done about it. In usual “image over substance” form, Immigration required college transcripts (records of classes and grades) be added to visa applications. Their thinking was that university diplomas could be faked but transcripts couldn’t. The trouble is that many universities, particularly mine, does not send transcripts overseas by express mail. I tried it the first time the regular way, and the transcripts took a couple of months to arrive. I had to order them and send them to my family, who sent them by air mail to Korea.
Nonetheless, it greatly delayed my getting a visa.
Later that year, another bad story about foreigners surfaced in the media. The public demanded Immigration do something about foreigners still faking their degrees. So in late 2005, Immigration required all English teachers to come down personally to their branch Immigration offices and give them — their university’s phone number.
Yes, I’m serious.
Did they actually call any of these universities? What do you think?
Since my contract for Unnamed Hagwon started before my visa, it ended before my visa was expired. And since Unnamed Hagwon Owner had not paid me, I didn’t want to spend one day more at the school than I had to. My last day at the school was my last day on my contract.
Nonetheless, I had to work somewhere, and I was going to my current school. We applied for the visa.
There was a problem.
When a person leaves a job, either through quitting or being fired, the employer has to report it to Immigration. There’s no way to enforce this. And Immigration requires that the employer and the former employee both go down there in person.
Do you really think an angry employer would go down to Immigration to release an ex-employee from his visa?
If you have a bad dishonest employer in Korea, you are screwed if you want to change your situation. You have to wait until your visa expires.
Unnamed Hagwon Owner refused to report my leaving Unnamed Hagwon. I still had two months left on my visa. I couldn’t get a new visa. Chris, my new boss, and I frequently made the hour-long trip to the Immigration Office to find out what we could do. Eun Jeong and Chris’ wife frequently were on the phone with Immigration.
EACH TIME we talked to them we got a different answer.
The final answer was to just wait until the visa expired and then apply again. We asked what I should do until then. They told me to just wait. We asked if I needed to do anything like leave the country when it expired. They told us to just wait until the visa expired and then come back to them and apply. No problem.
We waited until the visa expired. We went to apply. They said I should have already been out of the country and that I was illegally overstaying my visa.
“But you told us to wait!”
They didn’t care.
So I had to take an emergency trip to Japan and return to the country in order to apply for my visa. Ever since then, the Immigration officials at the airport scold me for having violated my visa when they look at my passport.
Now I’m running into problems getting permission to do the TV show. The network regularly gets visas for the foreigners appearing on their shows. So you’d think the kinks would have been worked out in the system.
Last week, as I have written, the Immigration lady told me that an E-2 English teacher visa can’t do a TV show, even though I had a copy of the Alien Registration Card of another E-2 English teacher with TV approval written right on there.
The network took up the issue with Immigration and smoothed things out. Immigration told them all the paperwork they needed for me, and the network got it all put together. I went over there Saturday and picked up the paperwork. They were meticulous about each detail.
I didn’t want to wait an hour for my number to be called, so I went on the Immigration web site to make a reservation.
Now, to do this, you first have to get a web account with them, which is difficult if you can’t read Korean. Eun Jeong and I navigated through it and got the account. We then went to the reservation system. That in itself was difficult to navigate.
Note to Immigration webmasters: I currently run a handful of web sites and have been making web sites for over ten years. If even I am having trouble navigating your web site, you have some trouble there.
It took a lot of time, but we set up the reservation. I printed it out.
The next morning, I got up early so I could get to the reservation on time. It took longer than usual to get there, and I ran to the office. I went up to the window and showed the lady my paper. She told me I had made a reservation for the wrong section.
“Please take a number.”
It was over an hour before my number was called. I took out all my paperwork. This time they didn’t give me the bull that an E-2 visa couldn’t work on TV. He started processing my things. Then he said he needed a resume and a recommendation from either the Korean Broadcasting Commission or the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
For one thing, a resume is hardly an official document. I could go into the next room and type one up quickly. I told him that, too.
The other requirement was just crazy. And this time I was tired of just nodding my head and complying. So I asked the question that everyone wants to know.
“My supervisor says you need it.”
Oh, the supervisor. He’s the guy hiding behind the cubicle that all the officers go to. He rarely comes out. I’ve seen him. He’s some skinny young guy with a perm.
“I don’t understand. The network talked to your supervisor in this office. He told them all the paperwork we needed. He didn’t say anything about a resume or the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Listen. Why do the rules change every time we come here? We have called a few times, and this is the second time I’ve come here. Each time this office has told us something different.”
I pulled out the copy of the other teacher’s Alien Registration Card.
“See this? He has an E-2 visa. He got permission by giving you the same documents I’m giving you now. How come he gets permission but not me? Why is it different for me?”
“Who did you talk to last time?”
“The lady in number 7 right next to you.”
“She out to lunch now.”
“You need to talk to her.”
“No, she gave me the wrong information last time.”
He gets on his phone and calls her.
“She said she wrote what you needed on the back of your other application. Do you have it?”
I looked in my bag and pulled out the other application. I handed it to him. There was nothing written on the back. In fact, she had written something on the back of another piece of paper that Eun Jeong had. That evening, we looked at it, and she had written nothing about a resume or documents from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
He went back to talk to his supervisor. I made a phone call to the network. He came back, and I handed him the phone. He talked to the network a bit. He went back to the supervisor. He got on another phone. He returned.
“The network said they will come at four o’clock. The other officer will be back at one. Can you wait for her?”
“Even though I had set up a reservation, I have been here for almost two hours. I’m already way late for work. I can’t stay.”
And that’s where we stand now.