After my dad got his Tim Horton's coffee we headed out to the highway . . .
Part of the paper work process a foreign English teacher has to do to get a new E2 visa is bringing their notarized copy of a criminal background check (for us Canadians it has to be a sensitive positions check) and notarized copy of your university degree to the Korean Consulate to be stamped by them. After getting the requisite stamp you then send those two items along with a pile of other documents off to the recruiting company's office in Korea (if that's what you've been told to do) so that they can process it and then send it on to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.
Once it has arrived at SMOE someone there then does whatever they have to do and they then send you a 'letter of appointment' stating that you do have a teaching position with them.
After receiving the letter of appointment you then head back to the Korean Consulate (or mail it, but I prefer doing things in person) to apply for a new E2 Visa. And after it has been processed you then go back (or get it mailed to you) to pick it up.
NOTE: I just re-read the entire booklet I was emailed by the recruiting company I'm using and still didn't see instructions clearly stating what you need to do when doing the first initial visit to the consulate to get your degree and criminal check stamped.
This is what you have to bring.
1. photocopy of information page on your pass port
2. notarized copy of sensitive positions criminal background check
3. notarized copy of university degree
4. a sealed university transcript
5. stamping fee: $9.00
In defense of the very well organized and well thought out booklet this is the only thing I've come across that needs tweaking.
On the other hand the booklet DOES say you should get the criminal check notarized on the pages about applying for your E2 visa--but there is so much information that even an expat teacher like me with a fair bit of experience doing the E2 visa thing can get confused . . . and act stupidly.
I usually try to do OVERKILL PREPARATION any time I'm dealing with paperwork for Korea. I did that today by bringing extra copies of my transcripts and other stuff--and that saved me a headache and further delays with moving the process along. I foolishly thought I didn't need to get my criminal check notarized because it was already verified and certified and stamped by the police--nope, if you're told to notarize ANYTHING bite the bullet and just do it even if you think it's overkill.
Anyways, back to my story . . .
Well . . . after arriving at the Consulate and waiting for a bit my number comes up and I walk up to the clerk. She looks at my photocopied and notarized university degree, and then picks up the certified criminal background check for a sensitive position . . . and that's when my heart sinks--argh!
She tells me that I have to have it notarized--I tell her that it's already been certified by the police. She looks at the imprinted stamp and then says the same thing again. I begin to get a little pissed but I keep myself in check, polite, and try again--same response.
She then tells me I'm also missing items: 1) a sealed university transcript, and 2) a photocopy of the information page on my passport.
I look at her and politely but probably with a bit of an edge to my voice say, "The consulate website says nothing about needing these items to get a stamp on the two documents." She replies that it does. In my head I'm thinking that it might be possible that she just doesn't get that the website has instructions for when you are applying for an E2 visa--but it doesn't say what to do when you just want to get your criminal check and degree stamped to send to Korea.
The instructions she referred to here are for getting a confirmation number--I wasn't in the consulate to do that. (OR SO I THOUGHT AT THE TIME).
She then tells me again that I need to give her 1) a sealed university transcript, 2) a photocopy of the information page on my passport, and of course 3) a notarized copy of the original criminal background check . . . in spite of it already being certified by the police stamp on it--yeah, can you hear how thrilled I was?
UPDATE: Damn! It is ON the Korean Consulate website--see here. It's found under the tab "Affixation of the Consular Seals" . . . when I saw that title for some reason it didn't register with me that that was regarding getting stuff 'stamped.'
The website says,
In case of applying by mail, a Prepaid Return Envelope (only Xpresspost is accepted) is also required to return the documents.
The Consular Seals will be affixed on the Official Documents issued by the local government, and organization in the Consulate’s jurisdiction (Ontario, Manitoba)
This Office shall only affix the Consular Seal when it is determined to be appropriate.
Each document requiring the Consular Seal must first be notarized by a notary public or a lawyer registered in Ontario or Manitoba.
A: Degree Confirmation
1. Original degree2. Notarized degree (Notarization on the photocopy of original degree)3. Photocopy and an original of the photo ID ( Driver's License or Passport)4. A University sealed transcript (Consulate will open and keep the transcript for verification purpose)5. $4.40 per document (Cash or Money Order only, Personal cheque is not acceptable)
1. Notarized criminal records search certificate (Notarization on the photocopy of original certificate)2. Original criminal records search certificate.3. Photocopy and an original of the photo ID ( Driver's License or Passport )4. $4.40 per document (Cash or Money Order only, Personal cheque is not acceptable)
NOTE TO SELF: It's a good thing you stayed polite because you're the dumbass who missed the information that was on the website.
And back to the original story . . . with me assuming that I was right--uhm, noooope.
I leave the consulate fuming. I go back to my dad's car and get in and tell him we have 2 hours to find a lawyer/notary public in downtown Toronto on a Friday with no appointment because the consulate only does visa application stuff from 9am to 12pm on weekdays . . .
We drive for about two minutes and see a Shoppers Drugmart. I go in and photocopy the information page of my passport and then my dad notices a sign for a lawyer's office. We decide to head in and see if we can get my criminal check notarized without an appointment. We also had no idea if the law office would even do this kind of thing . . .
Inside a very posh office I politely ask the secretary if I could get my criminal check notarized. She says she'll ask one of the lawyers if he has a few minutes to help me. My dad and I sit down. About ten minutes later I meet a really nice guy and he brings me back to a small conference room.
He tells me I'm like the TENTH person who has walked in off the street after having been at the Korean Consulate to ask about getting a sensitive positions criminal check notarized. He then mentions to me that he wonders what is going on at the consulate and why they don't realize that the criminal background check is ALREADY certified by the police, and that a notarization is extreme overkill. I won't say what else he said but suffice it to say he was puzzled and irritated by the whole situation, and also sympathetic to it. He leaves me in the conference room and goes to notarize a copy of my criminal check.
Five minutes later he comes back in and the deed is done. He then hands me his card and asks me to email him later letting him know if this is what the consulate wants, and I agree to do it. I'm guessing that other people will be visiting him in the future and he just wanted to know if he was doing his job correctly--too bad other people in certain offices over in a certain country don't seem to have the same idea . . .
Oh yeah . . . . this little extra wrinkle in the whole E2 visa process: $40.00 fee. Nice . . . not.
I then head back to the consulate . . . (saw this sign later while driving through Toronto).
I take a number and wait . . . . and wait . . . and finally get back to the same clerk. Her attitude was actually really nice and a little sympathetic. I tell her that the lawyer had said that the notarization was completely unnecessary, and that it cost me more money. She then proceeds to have a discussion in Korean with a guy who I assume must be some kind of supervisor in the consulate. They both look a bit puzzled and kind of frustrated too. Unfortunately I'm not told the gist of the conversation but I think they also thought that Seoul Immigration needs to learn a few things . . .
The clerk and I chat as she opens the copy of my sealed transcript, and checks my notarized degree against the info in my transcript--I was really happy that she did that because if she had done nothing with the transcripts I was going to be . . . annoyed with more mindless paperwork policy that isn't really for any purpose.
While chatting she says that the real problem with the process for getting a stamp on my criminal check is that the Seoul Immigration Office won't recognize the criminal background check without a notarization letter and seal--period. I really appreciated the fact that she could understand that this was utter nonsense . . .
She then asked me where I got my notarization done so quickly. I tell her and she asks if I would give her the address--I become reluctant because I don't want the consulate sending a flood of E2 visa process refugees running to this really decent lawyer's office without him being aware that he's been set up as the go to guy. She then asks me how much it cost me--and when I tell her 40.00 she then asks me again saying that she thought I'd said the notarization of my degree had been 25.00 (which it had been--back in LONDON). . . when she realized that I'd just spent a lot more money to do something I didn't need to do, and which other people wouldn't want to spend that much money either she quickly let her idea go.
Anyways . . . long story short I got the stamps, maintained a polite and friendly attitude when I wanted to pull a Mad Cow protest in the consulate (imagine me running around mooing and saying "I ate an American burger, moowhahahaha!"), and left with my some semblance of sanity remaining after having experienced yet another E2 visa process crazy event.
My dad and I headed to Swiss Chalet to grab some lunch. I ordered a chicken and 1/3 rack of ribs meal. It was pretty good and I began to feel more human again.
Now that some time has passed and I've been trying to figure out a logical reason for wanting me to have 1) a sealed university transcript, 2) a photocopy of the information page on my passport, 3) a notarized copy of the original criminal background check, and 4) a notarized copy of my university degree . . . I thought back to how she entered my name and information into the computer. After doing that she stamped both documents, put a sticker on them, and then wrote some information.
I really should have looked more closely at what she had done to the two documents to see if a visa issuance number had been created for me . . . if it had been then it DOES make sense that she'd need a bunch of things from me . . . it just sucks that applicants don't seem to be TOLD this BEFORE they get to the consulate.
I guess the other reason that just occurred to me is that when SMOE gets my pile of documents they need to know if they're valid before sending out the 'letter of appointment' saying I have a teaching position. This is the best reason I can come up with for the process you have to go through just to get your criminal check and degree stamped when you're not actually applying for a new E2 visa yet.
The bugger with all this is that I wish I'd known BEFORE going to the consulate that I needed these things . . .
The drive home was pretty uneventful and I enjoyed taking pics of the fluffy white clouds in the blue sky . . .