what to expect when you’re expecting… to move to Korea… Part 3

*This is Part 3 of my series chronicling my journey to South Korea.

If’ you’re late to this party, you can catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2 if you’re interested.

Greetings, Reader, and welcome back to the “Journey to Korea” saga. Last time we left off in Part 2, I had just received word from my recruiter about getting a “visa code” from Korea that would allow me to officially apply for a work visa through a Korean consulate in the Americas.

Just two weeks before my expected departure date (because it’s never exact; if you’re thinking of coming to Korea, be prepared for almost everything to be “expected,” because “Korean time” is different than “Western time…”),  a staffer from my school went to the local immigration office here in Daegu to get a “visa code.” This process takes anywhere from five to thirty business days (big gap, huh?) and if you effed up your paperwork somewhere, it could be rejected. (The effing up of the paperwork doesn’t happen very often. If you follow all the instructions you’re given to a “T,” you’ll be good.) Waiting this long to get this information baffled me because, I mean, I’m moving to a foreign country, here. Doesn’t it make sense for me and for my employer to do everything as far in advance as possible to avoid any hiccups along the way? That’s what I was thinking, anyway. Remember, I had been planning for this about eight months in advance. My ducks were not only in a row, they were color-coded, numbered, and categorized by flavor. In the words of the beloved Chandler Bing, Could I have been any more organized? I think not.

So, about a week after I had been alerted that a “code” was requested, I got the digits. I scrambled to find the application I needed to apply to the Korean consulate in Chicago, the closest location to me. I was told by my recruiter that it should just take a few days to get all my things finished up from the consulate and that everything looked good for me to leave the Americas on time.

I overnighted the following documents to the Chicago consulate office:

  • my actual passport
  • an additional passport photo
  • the Korean application for an E2 (teacher/worker) visa, completed, with the “code” issued specifically for me
  • a copy of my actual contract from ChungDahm, my employer-to-be in Korea
  • copies of those health declaration forms that you saw in Part 2
  • a USPS self-addressed document envelope for the office to return my passport

The Korean consulate offices will accept mail from any of the major carriers, i.e. FedEx, UPS, etc. However, to get all your crap back, you must mail them the pre-paid USPS deal. Of course, we all know that while USPS is the cheapest route, they’re also known to not be the most reliable… I was a little worried about using them, but I had no other choice. I paid for the initial overnight stuff and the return deal, stuffed the first envelope, and sat. I wasn’t [too] worried just yet. I figured, Hey, I’m in a good place. Nothing is up to me anymore, it’s totally out of my hands and all that’s left is for the consulate to slap a visa sticker into my passport and I’m good to go, man. Piece of cake.


I confirmed online that my passport made it to the consulate in Chicago the following day, which happened to be a Saturday. So it was just sitting there, waiting to be collected and opened. Two days after, my recruiter suggested to me that I call the consulate to get an idea on when my materials would make it back to me. I wasn’t really freaking out yet. However, I’m a natural worrier and am constantly concerned when there’s anything at stake. I was also in the process of moving myself from my grandparents’ house in Kansas City, MO (where I had been living in the six months leading up to my departure) to my parents place in Indianapolis, IN. I called the consulate from the car and got the world’s sketchiest response.

Korean Consulate Lady (KCL):  “Uh, Miss Driver, I don’t see your packet.

Me: Um, well I confirmed two days ago online that it made it there via USPS with the tracking information provided by the post office. My information says that my stuff made it to your office.

KCL: Okay, please wait a moment. Let me look again.

[I wait.]

KCL: I’m sorry, Miss Driver, I still don’t see anything with your name on it. How do you spell your last name?

Me: D-R-I-V-E-R, like “cab driver”. [In a panicked voice] Is there someone else you can ask because if YOU don’t have my passport and materials, the US Post Office has lost them and I need to make a claim immediately.

KCL: [Sounding irritated, as if I am a complete idiot and I am being a total inconvenience] Okay, what is your phone number? I will check and call you back.

Oh my god. Shitting. A. BRICK.

Reader, I think my blood pressure was probably off the scale when I hung up that call. I’m already a serial worrier. This did not help my personal issues.

I called my recruiter immediately and left her a voicemail. I tried to keep the panic out of my voice so she didn’t know just how much I was wigging out. (I don’t think I fooled her. She seemed pretty in-tune to my worried moods.) Then, just a few minutes later, I got a call back from the KCL. Guess what? She found my stuff. Yep. Worried for NOTHING. When I asked how long it would be before they sent my stuff out, she told me that it should be three days. As in, we will send it out in three days.

I was still freaking out on the inside in spite of this information because it was Monday. That meant that they would send my stuff out on Thursday. I had provided an overnight envelope, so I should theoretically get my passport back on Friday morning. The school still wanted me to fly out that weekend to be in Seoul for training beginning the following Monday. (In case you’re not following very well, that means in seven days time, I was supposed to be in Seoul, South Korea to start training for my new job.) This did not leave much room for error.

I called back and left a new message for my recruiter, letting her know what I had learned. (I swear, this poor woman hated me after our “business relationship” was over. I called and emailed constantly, sometimes multiple times in a day, with questions and worries. She was awesome about it, though.) I then made the rest of my way through the traffic jam in St. Louis and continued on my journey to Indy to see my family.

I tried to not get too worried about this stuff. My recruiter called me back and assured me that this flippant attitude I had gotten from the Korean Consulate Lady was very normal and that most likely, they would follow through and there wasn’t anything to be worried about yet.


She told me to call back the next day, Tuesday, just to be sure.

I called back on Tuesday.

Me: Hello, I’m calling to get an update on when I should expect to receive my visa and passport back. I called and spoke to someone yesterday and was told that everything should be mailed out on Thursday.

New Korean Consulate Lady: Um, okay. What is your name again?

Me: Kristine Driver

New KCL: Um, okay… I’m sorry, Miss Driver, I don’t see your name here.

[Are you effing kidding me?!?!?!]

Me: This happened yesterday and I know that my things are there. Please check again. My family name is “Driver,” D-R-I-V-E-R, like “cab driver.”

New KCL: Ah, okay, yes. We received your documents yesterday. We will have them mailed out on Friday.

Me: [Trying not to lose my cool] Friday? I’m sorry, but yesterday I was told that my passport would be sent back to me on Thursday. And now you’re telling me Friday. Which is it???

New KCL: I’m sorry, I’m not sure who you spoke to yesterday. It will definitely be by Friday, not Thursday. We are very busy this time of year.

Me: Okay, thank you.

If I wasn’t freaking out before, I definitely was now. Do these people not talk to each other? I thought. How, in the time of just one day, am I getting totally different information and the lady I spoke to today is throwing her office mate under the bus? What the hell is going on here? 

You’re probably thinking, “Krissi, this is no big deal. So it leaves Friday? USPS still delivers on Saturdays, so you’re safe. You shouldn’t have been freaking out so much. Honestly.”

There’s one part that I didn’t mention in the earlier legs of this story that’s kind of a big deal:

Because everything is so uncertain; timelines in “Korean time” are, apparently, more flexible than “Western time;” and no one seems to care about, well, anything; new teachers are not to purchase plane tickets until they have their passport with the visa in-hand.

My school still wanted me to get to Korea to train the following week, less than seven days later, but I didn’t have a passport or even a plane ticket to get there yet. This meant that I would literally be buying a one-way ticket to Korea within a 24 hour window of leaving the country. Apparently, everyone does this.

So, recommence freak out. I emailed my recruiter and told her the new stuff. She said to call again the following day, on Wednesday, and make sure they were still on track for Friday.

So I called, again, on Wednesday. I was put on hold. And they forgot about me. I waited on hold for an hour and was told by their phone system that I was second in line to be answered. This is precisely why I waited so long, because I assumed it would be my turn soon. Finally, I hung up and called back. The many who eventually answered didn’t have an explanation for what had happened during my hour-long hold and proceeded to tell me that everyone in the department I needed to speak to was out to lunch and would return in another hour. Could I call back then?

Yes, I said. Yes, I would call back. Needless to say, I was fuming. I felt like I was dealing with a building full of incompetent workers.

I called back an hour later and this time, the Korean Consulate Lady had an update for me.

KCL: Yes, Miss Driver. We have all your materials and we will have them sent out on time on Thursday.

Me: Tomorrow, Thursday? I’m sorry, but this is, AGAIN, different information than what I received just yesterday. WHAT DAY ARE YOU SENDING ME MY PASSPORT????

KCL: We are on track to send it out on Thursday.

Me: Tomorrow, Thursday.

KCL: Yes. Tomorrow.

Me: Okay, thank you.

My god, it just kept getting better and better.

Thursday rolled around and I waited until about 3:00 to check if my tracking number for the return envelope had made it into the USPS tracking system. By 5:00, it still wasn’t there, so I called the post office help line. They had no record of that tracking number entering the system, which meant that my envelope hadn’t been picked up from the consulate. Or, it had been picked up, and it was now lost. I emailed my recruiter. Again.

It was now Friday morning, two days before I was supposed to be leaving the country. She emailed and told me to call the consulate. Again. Find out what the deal was. So I called.

Me: Hi. I have called almost every day this week and have received different information every time about when I should expect to receive my passport. I was expecting my things to be mailed back to me yesterday, but the USPS has no record of ever receiving an envelope with my tracking information. Can you please tell me what is going on?

KCL: Yes, your materials are scheduled to be sent to you today.

Me: Okay. Well I was told on Wednesday that my things would be sent on Thursday. Are they actually going to make it out today?

KCL: Yes, they are ready to be sent today. Your visa is complete and your passport has been packaged for returning to you.

Me: Okay, thank you.

I emailed my recruiter – who I was now communicating with more than my own family – and let her know what I had heard. This was becoming the crazy-ass story of a lifetime.


Check back next week to read Part 3 of my “Journey to Korea” story! If you’re looking for more information about how to get to Korea to teach, check out my page with helpful links.




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    • Yes, Tammy, it was a doozy of a week! But, I made it here, nonetheless, in one piece! : ) It was probably one of the most stressful situations I have ever been in, and literally everything was out of my control (which, as a control freak, I really don’t like!). Regardless of the struggle, it sure did make for a good story!

      Thanks for reading! :)

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