*** Update *** - As of March 2011, I have my completed FBI Background check and you can follow the link to see what it looks like.
E-2 visa applicants from The United States who want to either start teaching in South Korea as of January 1st, 2011, or currently teach in South Korea and want to renew their contract after this date, must submit an FBI criminal background check to Korean immigration.
The reason for this change in policy is obvious. Example, if an American lives in the State of California their whole life, commits numerous crimes, maybe even serves time in jail, then moves to any another state, they then have a clean criminal background check in that new state. Up until now, Korea has been accepting criminal background checks from any state, regardless of how long a person has lived in that state.
I actually have heard about several past E-2 visa holders (gone now) who have had criminal backgrounds in one state that would have kept them from teaching in South Korea, and they simply moved to another state, waited a month to establish residency, then applied to work in South Korea with their new state's criminal background check. Nobody in Korean immigration could have possibly known they committed crimes in the United States and were able to teach here by way of this loophole.
The downside of FBI criminal checks is that they do not include everything. Any time you are fingerprinted after being arrested, it is supposed to show up in your FBI background check. However, state and local authorities have some discretionary authority on what to report to the FBI. Likewise, the FBI might get a report and choose not to include it for whatever reason. Then, there is also just the gauntlet of paperwork involved and stuff slips through the cracks and does not make it on. Whatever...
If you have ever been fingerprinted for anything ever in your life, the only way to know what is on your FBI background check is to ask for a copy and see for yourself. There is a process to dispute what is on there if you feel like a mistake has been made.
This process takes between three and four months. Do not underestimate it because it could end up costing you your job if you do not get it done. No other English speaking countries have a process that takes this long to get an equivalent national background check. Additionally, numerous things could go wrong in this process causing further delays. Americans are put at an extreme disability in applying to teach in South Korea from now on.
If you are living in the United States now, then simply go to a local police station and request to be fingerprinted. Let them know it is because you need to apply for a FBI criminal background check to work abroad. They should be able to help you no problem.
If you are living in South Korea right now because you want to stay another year, then you need to make it to a local Korean police station to be fingerprinted. You need find a Korean police station that has a CSI crime lab. It looks like this. The bigger the station, the more likely they will have one. You can ask a Korean to help you call around to learn where they have CSI departments. Going with a Korean is preferable, but you can also just go on your own with a written note. I suggest trying to get time off work during the day to go get this done.
Before you go...
1) The website with the information on requesting a criminal background check is here. (LINK) Read it.
2) Fill out and print off the application form. (LINK)3) Print off five copies of the standard fingerprint form (FD-258) and fill each of them out. Printed on a color printer is preferable. (LINK) You should get a full set of prints on three of them to mail in, but if the officer or you makes a mistake, it is good to have two extra blanks to start over if needed. You need to send in three in the event the FBI rejects one because of smudging and wants a new one.
4) Print one copy of an example of a completed fingerprint card. (LINK) The officer who took my prints had never used an FBI print card before and really appreciated the example I brought him.
5) Fill out and print off the credit card payment form. (LINK) They do not accept personal checks.
6) Bring with you to the station your passport and alien registration card. You actually should not need to provide them, but they will want to see them to confirm your identity and make a copy for record keeping purposes.
You need to write a cover letter for your application form to the FBI. On it, you are going to need to add several important things.
1) Include any kind of contact information you have. Your e-mail, your phone number, your mailing address and possibly a mailing address in the United States or a person and contact number in the United States if they need to contact someone about the processing.
2) Include a request to the FBI asking them to use their official seal for the document and have a division officer sign it.. You can say something like this:
"Please include with the background check a FBI seal and signature from a Division Officer. The purpose of this document is to be sent next to the US State Department for a Federal Apostille."Mail your cover letter, your application form, the three copies of your finger prints, and your credit card payment form to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
The FBI contact number for the FBI Office in West Virginia is 304-625-5590 if you have any questions.
Once you have received your FBI criminal background check with official signature and seal. You then must mail it in to the Office of Authentications for the US Department of State. (LINK)
Effective as of March 1st, 2012, the US Department of State has altered their paper work process in the Office of Authentications. Before, there was just a regular PDF to download, print off, fill out, and then mail in.
That has changed and now "copies of the DS-4194 form are not permissible!" The new instructions for filling out the form to get an Apostille Seal placed on your FBI background check are as follows:
1) - Download form DS-4194 using this link (HERE)
2) - Install Cerenade Visual Reader Application (HERE)
3) - Open Cerenade Visual Reader Application
4) - From within Cerenade Visual Reader Application open DS-4194.FAR
5) - Complete the entire form for the finalized barcode to appear
For more information on this form and program click (HERE)
1) Include a personal check or money order for the processing fee made out to "The US State Department". They do not accept credit cards. The amount you owe can be found in the estimate cost section of the form.
2) Include the FBI background check and be certain that the signature and seal of the agency is present.
On the notes and special instructions, be certain to mention you need a Federal Apostille for this document for the purpose of obtaining a work visa in South Korea. It is important that they know which country wants this and why they want it.
The State Department explicitly says this:
Please include a cover-letter ( see example) with your name, telephone number, address and email address. Please indicate the name of the country where the document will be used. We suggest using a self-addressed stamped envelope for faster return of your documents. Documents received without a return envelope and postage will be returned through the State Department regular mail, which can result in a 2-3 week delay. You can use Fed/Ex, UPS, and express mail services for faster receipt/return of your documents. However, you must enclose a prepaid airbill and envelope.Mail to:
U.S. Department of State
518 23rd Street NW SA-1
Washington, DC 20520
Bring this document with you to the immigration office when you renew, or else supply it to your recruiter when you apply. Congrats!