Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Tag: Criminal Background Check for Korea

CSI Korea

No, it’s not a Korean version of the popular CSI television series, but where you go in Korea (at least in Daejeon) if you are a foreigner and need to get fingerprinted so you can have the FBI do a criminal background check so you can continue working here (E-2 visa renewal).

I went to be fingerprinted for the fourth time in three years the other day. Why so many when I haven’t been in America in five years? Good question. The first one, in 2008 wasn’t good enough; it was good enough then, but now you have to get an Apostille for the FBI background check. Fair enough, but if my record was clean in 2008, and I haven’t been back to the States since, you would think that I would still be good to go. Right?

And if I had a criminal record, would I be stupid enough to have a criminal background check done, just so I can prove it officially?

It takes almost four months to have one done, too. You have to send the fingerprint cards to the FBI, which takes 2-3 months, and then, once you get them sent back, you have send them back to the States, this time to the State Department for the Apostille.

Last time I had them done, the CSI officer did not fingerprint me correctly and, after waiting for over two months for the results, the FBI sent back a letter telling me to do it again. Fortunately, I did not have to pay the $18.00 fee again. When I had them done again, I had four sets of fingerprints done—just in case.

However, I missed the deadline (the background check is only good for six months) so I went to the CSI office again, had four sets of fingerprints done, and waiting for the results. I am a little nervous because when I had them done, the officer smudged a couple of them. Good thing I had four sets made.

I don’t mind doing all this criminal background check stuff, but when your job and livelihood hangs in the balance because of bad fingerprinting or a backlog at the FBI—well, that’s when I start feeling a little nervous as my visa renewal deadline approaches. It’s still five months away, but I just want to have a peace of mind.

Good to go for Twenty-one

The taxi ride took longer than it would take me to hand over my documents to an immigration official to get my updated Alien Residence Card and to be good to go for another year.

In this case, good to go for my 21st year teaching in Korea.

In this past, at least the first couple of years I was in Korea, it was an ordeal to have to go out to the immigration office in Mok-dong (when I lived in Seoul). Back then, it could anywhere from a week to ten days to extend one’s sojourn. Now, it takes no more than 10-15 minutes.

Fortunately, I was able to dodge another bureaucratic bullet—a mandatory criminal background check—for another year. Even though I had an FBI criminal background check done in 2008, last year a law was passed, which made it mandatory for all E-2 Visa holders to submit an FBI background check in addition to having copies of one’s diplomas certified with an apostille. After a number of English teachers got in trouble here with drugs and falsified documents, as well as a couple pedophiles caught teaching in Korea, the government cracked down with stringent Visa requirements.

Those of us already in Korea and whose contracts came up for renewal in 2011 were given a year’s grace period to have the criminal background check down. The reason? It takes time. It can take anywhere from 2-4 months to have an FBI background check and then, once you receive the document from the FBI, another month to send it back to the US State Department for the apostille.

I’ve already had my background check done (it took two months). Now, I have to send it to the State Department.

I know it seems a bit strange to have a background check done in the US when I have lived in Korea for 20 years. You just do what you got to do—even when it doesn’t make any sense.

The good news is that when you extend your sojourn, you don’t have to pay extra for the multiple re-entry permit (40.00). Now, you can come and go as you please. It only cost me 30,000 Won, about 25.00 to stay in Korea another year.

21 years. Who would have thought?

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