Sunday, 1 October 2017

How to Legally Work on a SOFA visa (ex. Teach English)

If you're coming overseas with your spouse and are hoping to get a job off base, you'll need to jump through some hoops in order to do so legally. If you want to do it off base, you're going to have to go to the immigration office and get permission. The only way that you can work legally on a SOFA visa is if you're doing it on base. If you want to work on base, there are many options available. You can find out more in the post, getting a job on an American military base overseas.

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Please don't believe people who tell you that you can work on a SOFA visa. The SOFA visa allows you to live in Korea. Live. That's it. Not work. Not study. Just be here. If you work, it will not be legal. If caught there will be repercussions for you as well as your sponsor, so don't risk screwing up their career because you didn't go to the source. Fines, deportation, counseling for your sponsor have all happened to people who have been caught. Don't risk it. Same goes for modelling. Here's more info about modelling in Korea.

Go to the Source
The people you need to ask are immigration. The Legal Office does NOT issue visas. They will refer you to immigration, who are the people who issue visas, fines, and revoke visas.

If you're in Korea, the immigration office can be reached from 9am-6pm on 1345. Like everyone else in Korea (except teachers), the entire country shuts down and they have a lunch break from 12noon-1pm.

The immigration website can be hard to navigate since the url doesn't change and it's not globally friendly at all. You have to use an antiquated version of Internet Explorer and even then it's not guaranteed to work. 

What will happen to your SOFA visa?
You have two choices. What you choose depends on your situation. I choose the second option since my sponsor was leaving Korea and my SOFA visa would be cancelled. By getting my own visa, I could stay in Korea.

1. The first is to keep your SOFA visa and simply get "permission for activities outside your sojourn" added to your SOFA visa. That means you have your A3 SOFA visa but have asked for permission to do something else and they have granted it. Basically, you're legal. Go to the immigration website and choose "immigration", then "immigration guide" on the left you'll see "foreigner sojourn" then pick "participation in activities certified for current sojourn status? According to their website it costs 120,000. I think that since SOFA visa holders are not required to have an ARC, then you wouldn't have to pay 30,000 for the card plus 3,000 for delivery, but don't quote me.

2. The second option is to cancel your SOFA visa and get another visa. You do not have to do a visa run. You can do it right here in Korea at an immigration office. This cost 100,000 to change your visa, 30,000 for a new ARC, and 3,000 to mail it to you. Here's the fee info.

Going to the Immigration Office
Many immigration offices now require you to make an appointment first. This has to be done on their website. You need to register first and download a whole bunch of random keys, ActiveX, and TouchEn. It's a pain. I'd see if you can get someone to help you. The other option is taking your passport to your immigration office and getting them to make an appointment for you. They'll then send you a text with the info. Screenshot that text.

What docs you need depends on what job you want. Basically, you need to fulfill the same requirements as anyone else who would get that visa would need. Let's say you want to teach English and would get an E2 visa. Here's what you need.
  • A passport from the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, South Africa, New Zealand, or Australia
  • An apostillised criminal background check (within the last 6 months) (more info)
  • A bachelor's degree and apostillised copy (more info) with sealed transcripts   
  • A self-medical check
  • A medical check from a specific hospital or clinic
  • 2 photos 3.5cm X 4.5cm
  • Fee (bring about 200,000)
  • Lease with your name on it (or document that certified you live there. Go to the immigration website and choose "Application forms" from the bottom right. It's at the top of the pop-up under "sojourn related forms")
  • Utility bill
  • Your school will also have to provide you with docs, like your teaching schedule, contract, business registration, and educational certificate.  
  • Photo copies of everything 
Congrats!
Get the right paperwork together and you CAN legally work on a SOFA visa. No need to worry about doing something illegal and getting yourself and your sponsor in trouble.

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