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Living & Working in Korea – A guide for ESL Teachers and Canadians looking to work in South Korea

Working in South Korea is becoming an increasingly attractive option for a variety of foreign workers including Canadians. South Korea is home to many major international companies and the country continues to pour major financial resources into being a major business hub in East Asia.

The South Korean Economy has seen amazing growth in the last few decades and with this growth comes a need for foreign workers who can speak English. The demand for foreign ESL teachers has been especially strong.

Obtaining a Work Visa for South Korea 

There are a number of different Work Visas that can be obtained, depending on the type of work you will be doing. The South Korean work visa program operates on a system of employer-sponsored visas.  If you are still living in Canada, you will need to obtain your work visa from a South Korean embassy or consulate. If however you are already working in South Korea for the same employer that originally sponsored your visa and wish to extend it, your request can be processed in South Korea.  Most applications take about 2-4 weeks to process and once you have obtained your work visa you will need to receive your residence permit from immigration:

Types of South Korean Work Visas

The most common work visas that are issued by the South Korean government are:

C-4: Short term employment – This visa is designed for temporary work lasting no longer than 90 days.

E-2: Foreign Language Instructor – This visa is granted to teachers and allows the holder to teach in foreign language schools, at companies and other organizations in an ESL teaching capacity. Teachers can only teach in their first (native) language and must hold a bachelor’s degree in any field, however degrees in English, Linguistics, Education and ESL/EFL are preferred.

H-1: Working Holiday – This visa is specifically designed for tourists originating from countries that have entered into an agreement with South Korea called: “Agreement on Working Holidays”. This work visa allows for short-term work to earn enough money to cover travelling expenses. Canadian residents must be between the ages of 18 and 30 to qualify for this type of Visa and can live in South Korea for up to one year.

Requirements for obtaining South Korean Visas

The documents you’ll need in order to apply for a South Korean work visa vary from country to country, but in general include the following:

  1. Passport photos
  2. Passport photocopy
  3. Any educational certificates you have obtained
  4. Your resume
  5.  Criminal Background check along with fingerprints. This is a requirement for all Canadians wishing to work in South Korea, including ESL teachers. The criminal record check must be issued by the RCMP in Canada and be notarized by the Canadian Embassy / Consulate before it is submitted to the Korean Immigration office.  Pacific Fingerprint can help you with this step, which includes taking your fingerprints and preparing a C-216C fingerprint form as well as submit your application to the RCMP using encrypted software on your behalf.  Click here for more details on how we can help. (
  6.  A Health Statement Form – On arrival in South Korea you will be required to get a medical health certificate from a hospital or health centre in order to apply for the Alien registration Card.
  7. A signed contract of work from your employer in South Korea.

Teaching ESL in South Korea 

Most English teachers wind up working in a Hagwon (a private language school). Others work for private corporations, and others still wind up working in government schools or universities. Job security and conditions in Hagwons can vary widely so we encourage you to do your research online before committing to a working contract. Many hagwons provide housing but vary widely on providing meals or airfare. Here are some more resources about teaching English in Korea:

Additionally here are some resources for South Korean expats:

Please note that while we try to keep the information on this page as accurate as possible, foreign immigration requirements and policies change all the time. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the official Korean Immigration Service website:

Pacific Fingerprint does not provide any services related to obtaining a Korean work visa, with the exception of any necessary fingerprinting services for the purpose of a criminal background check that the Korean government or your place of employment may require.

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