Miss me? I have been busy for the past couple months and here is a half-explanation, half-review. Enjoy!
As many of you may know, I have been living in South Korea for about six years now. I like the country a lot. It has its ups and downs, depressing and happy moments, but overall, it gives me the satisfactory life I want. That is why last year I decided I wanted to get the F-2 visa.
What is an F-2 Visa?
It is the Long-Term Residency visa (장기거주). If you have lived in this country for over 3 years continuously, you are eligible for this visa. Now, just the 3 years isn’t enough, you also need to have enough “points” to qualify for the visa. Points? Yes, points. It is a point-based system, with points coming from your educational background, work experience, language proficiency, etc. For more information on their point system, please visit F-2 Visa Point System Breakdown . This will give you the actual requirements (though many other blogs have this as well).
Now, why would anyone want this visa? Well, I call this the “Freedom Visa”. You know how Americans love their freedom…(eyeball roll). Anyway, this visa allows visa holders to not be tied down by their job. Meaning, you can work anywhere you want without visa sponsorship. You can work 4 jobs and be homeless in Seoul Station and the government can’t really bother you as long as you pay your taxes. While for some, this may not be worth trying for, to some (including me), that extra bit of freedom is worth it. Many of the jobs I want to apply for, such as companies or government organizations, need an F-series visa in order to apply. So this opens many more doors for you. Those who would like to get out of the Hagwon system might want to opt for this. Also, from what I’ve read on some forums, if you stay two years on this F-2 visa, you can then apply for the F-5 visa without having to have the money aspect. I am hoping this is true because that would be my ultimate goal. F-5 is a Permanent Residency Visa (never going to immigration again for the rest of your life. One step away from becoming a Korean.)
Now, you will notice if you look at the point system that it is actually quite difficult to get. Most people will be 1-2 points short, or even 10 points. And yes, those 1-2 points do matter. So if you can earn more points, take all the points you can. You never know what they will throw out and what they will keep. There are two ways to get enough points. There is the language and culture route, and there is the money route.
- The money route is something like, have $30,000 worth of investments (house, car, bonds, stocks) in Korea and you will get the visa. Money solves many things, right?
- The other is go through the immigration offices language and culture classes. This alone can offer you around 30 points, or even just 10 if you have already studied Korean on your own and take just their culture class.
I did the second route since I already knew Korean. Less points but not much I can do…
I was about 11 points away from the visa (including having at least a 4 on the TOPIK exam). This was driving me insane. So I tried to enroll in the Culture class offered by the KIIP, the language and culture program offered by immigration). If you have a 4 or higher on the TOPIK, you can be exempt from the language classes and go straight into the culture class. You have to submit your TOPIK Certificate to the Immigration Office in Mokdong (not any other place. Believe me, I tried and wasted an entire day). You fill out a form and then you get exempt. But make sure you are already registered on socinet.go.kr.
Then the waiting game.
Waiting for those elusive classes to open up so you can register. I missed the first round in January because of a simple 10 minute car ride. What I mean is, just like college class registration, it begins at exactly 12am midnight. They don’t announce the date of registration really, you just have to keep checking until you find out when the registration period is. Then wait for midnight. And then at midnight, you rush like crazy to register. Except in this instance, it didn’t start at 12am. I waited for 20 minutes. Nothing.
I was at a friends house so I decided to just go home. It’s just a 10-15 minute taxi ride home. When I went home and checked, all the classes were opened and full. I cursed a bit and then decided to wait again.
The next registration period wouldn’t be until May. So I waited until then. This time, I made sure I was prepared, I was at home, equipped with two laptops, and this time successfully enrolled in a weekend class near Sukmyung Women’s University (숙명여대) at남영역 (1호선). These classes are for one month and very intensive. 5 hours a day, Saturday and Sunday, for one whole month. I sacrificed my June to do this. It was worth it. The morning class is primarily Chinese University Students (with other occasional foreigners). They are very sweet and I really enjoyed my class. If you take the afternoon class, it’s filled with many foreign housewives. So a completely different dynamic. I learned a whole bunch about Korea and Korean history and culture, and overall really recommend the class to others. It’s heavy but well worth it. And my teacher was the loveliest woman ever. I wish I could have her as my Korean teacher all the time. Maybe I’ll look her up and try to take a class with her…
After the 5 weeks of classes, you register for the final exam, which is two weeks later. It is nerve wrecking. There’s only 40 questions out of all the material you learned in the 5 weeks (which is a ton). And you have an interview. The interview is done in twos since there are so many people. Luckily, I had a fellow classmate with me so I felt a bit more at ease.
The written portion is only 1 hour. But then waiting for the interview can take between 2-3 hours. Overall, you spend half a day here so really, don’t plan to do anything until the evening for this test. It begins at 12 (you have to be in your classroom really early) and it didn’t end until 4 something for me.
Once the test was over, the results are announced two or so weeks later. Lucky for me, I had this test on Saturday and the TOPIK test on Sunday of the same weekend. I was exhausted this weekend. Luckily, in the end, I passed this class and got a good enough score on the TOPIK to get a 5. Just enough to push me over the 80 points that I needed. Finally! I nearly cried.
Now for the fun part – collecting all my documents to submit the visa. More on that in my next post.