Working as a professional hiphop artist and producer in Korea can be a good source of income. Plus, you have the added bonus of doing something you love. The problem is — one cannot legally work at these other jobs on the E2 visa. In order to do anything outside of normal work duties, one must get the permission of their visa sponsor. Sure, some might do a few weekend gigs for cash, but to make real money you need something other than an E series visa. How does one accomplish this? Well, there are two options: 1) Marry a Korean national and enjoy the benefits (and hope your spouse doesn’t drop your F6 sponsorship) or 2) Get a “new” F2 visa based on a point system.
The Korean F2 visa was implemented about three years ago because it has become popular for Koreans to marry women from South East Asia. The Korean government developed the F2 visa program in order to help these women adjust to Korean life, educate them in the language and culture, and give them an alternative Visa process to stay in Korea if their marriage ended.
However, one does not have to be a foreign bride to take part in this program. Soon after its creation, expats began applying and taking the courses needed to acquire points. There are 120 points possible in the F2 visa application. One can earn points based on: age, level of education obtained (abroad and in Korea), volunteer work, income, taxes paid, and of course Korean language ability. Eighty (80) points is the magic number to get the visa. Most of us get 23-25 points for our age (23 points 25-29, 25 points 30-34) and at least 26 points for education (this number can be higher depending on your field and level). So that’s a minimum of 49 points. We’re over half way there and we haven’t even done anything yet! How does one gain the other 31 points?
n the last issue of Elect Row I talked about the infamous F2-7 Korean visa and how some of the basic points could be added up towards the final goal of 80 points. Age will get at least 23 points if you’re 25-29 years old, and 25 points if you’re 30-34 years old. If you completed university and a degree of some discipline was received, that earns a minimum of 26 points. You earn 28 points if the degree was in science or an engineering discipline. So, for example, that’s 49 points for a 25 year old with an arts degree. More points are awarded to those with higher level degrees. A master’s degree yields 30 points and a doctorate in Science and Engineering brings 35 points. (see the table below)
Eighty (80) is the minimum number of points needed for the F2-7, so other points need to be earned from additional categories. One of the most important categories to earn points is the Korean Language section. Up to 20 points can be earned, if you can master the TOPIK level 6, which is no easy task. Unless you have been studying Korean for a while, you’re going to have to take the longer route. (see the table below)
However, let’s say you’re in a higher age and education bracket; you could easily get 10-12 points by passing the basic TOPIK test; which is passable with only a month or two of studying. The test is offered 5 times a year in Korea, so chances are you’ll have more than enough time to prepare. Here is a great resource for the TOPIK, with test schedules and practice tests you can download to prepare with.
However, many of you might find it difficult to pass the TOPIK test, so you’ll need to study in Korean classes. While this can be very helpful while living in Korea, there are some issues. The biggest issues with learning Korean are the time it takes and the amount of money it can cost to study. The Korean government realized this and fixed one of the problems. Signing up at (http://www.socinet.go.kr/) allows foreigners to register for FREE Korean classes offered through the immigration office. The classes are held all over the city, and have classes during the days, evenings and weekends. So it is easy to find the time to study. Before the classes start there is a “level test” that is given 3 times a year.
The level test is pretty similar to the TOPIK test style. The test is broken up into listening, reading, writing and speaking. The first three are done in the classroom with a group of up to 30 other students. A 2 hour time limit is given for this portion of the test. Following the written section of the test, there is a “group” speaking test. It was a little awkward, but everyone reads a sample paragraph and then is asked to answer questions or make comments. After taking the level test, everyone is placed into one of the five available levels. Each of the first four courses is 100 hours in length and takes about 3 months to complete.
After each level there is a test that must be passed with a score of 60% or higher. If a passing grade is received you will move onto the next level. Level 3 is worth 14 points and a completed level 4 will earn 16 extra points towards the 80 points needed for the F2-7 visa. Passing level 5, which only requires 50 hours of classroom time, nets an additional 10 points for completing the social integration program. Therefore passing levels 4 and 5 will net to a total of 26 points. Add 26 points to the original 49 received for age and education and your total stands at 75; so close you can taste it. Now, you are only 5 points away from the 80 points needed to acquire the F2-7 visa.
*The TOPIK test has just changed, so we may see the point system change in the very near future.
Korea is the land of opportunity, it presents lots of ways to make money. Just take a stroll down Itaewon’s main streets and side roads, any day, and you’ll see people from all over the world making a living in Seoul. Teaching is not the only to earn a pay- check here. The previous two issues have outlined a step by step plan on how to acquire the initial 75 points for an F2 visa. Now it’s time for the final 5 points that will send you to the immigration office to apply for the visa.
Getting started on obtaining the final 5 points is quite simple. Just go to your employer for the last fiscal year, and ask for a copy of “Earned Income Tax Withholdings”. It is an official government document that is used to show the amount of money earned in the last year. It’s pretty easy to obtain. A simple photocopy will supply everything you need to get a few points. The points are given by annual income. If you earned 20 million or less, 1 point is awarded. Every 10 million more a year awards 1 more point. The scale maxes out at 100 million a year, which would give 10 points to the F2-7 visa applicant. Teaching English will award you around 2-3 points, depending on your monthly salary. This should bring your total points to around 77 to 78 points.
The last few points, just like the last few miles of a marathon, are the most difficult to acquire. Most of these points will come from the “Extra Points Criteria” section. This section starts off with the Annual income Tax Payment Record. The lowest level for this section is a single point. To earn this you have to have paid less than 100-200 million won worth of taxes that year. The points increase by 1 for every 100 million paid in taxes. The scale maxes out at 500 million+ with 5 points. To acquire these points you simple need to bring in your tax records from the previous year, which you already used to prove for your Annual Income points. There are no guaranteed points from this section. It all depends on past tax records.
A majority of points can be earned in the “Study Abroad Experience in Korea”. You’ll receive 1 point for any formal Korean language study done at a academy in Korea. Upon completing a level, an official document should be received from the school. This is only good for 1 point, no matter how many semesters you have attended. However, if you have earned a degree in Korea, you can get the following points: associate’s degree (2 points), bachelor’s degree (3 points), a master’s degree (4 points) and a PH.D (5 points). To acquire these points, the Immigration Office has to receive a copy of the official diploma from the school. Enough points can be acquired simply by obtaining any higher form of education in Korea. However, earning points in these areas requires a large investment of time and money.
Another way to earn some points through nothing but time is volunteering. Now, not just any volunteering will count for points. It has to be an organization that the Korean Government recognizes. This can be tricky, but in order to officially count volunteer hours, you must register with this site (http://www.vms.or.kr/index.jsp). Ask any Korean friends or expats with the visa where they did their hours. Volunteering for 1-2 years will earn 1 point, 2-3 years will earn 3 points, and 3+ years of donating your free time will earn 5 points. For me, this was a critical area to acquire the points in, so if you’re really interested in obtaining this visa it’s time to get to work.
For those that didn’t come to Korea fresh out of university, there is a “Professional Experiences Abroad” area to earn some points. 1 to 2 years experience earns 1 point, while 2-3 years get 3, and 5+ receives the maximum points of 5. The difficulty in getting these points is proving work experience. The Seoul immigration office requires a signed letter from the CEO of the company verifying the employment period. I would also suggest bringing in any tax records that prove/verify your employment.
Follow these not-so-simple steps to acquire the F2-7 Visa. It will take time, but it’s worth it if you want to consider a long term stay in Korea. Be sure to check back in the next issue for tips at the immigration office- what to do, what not to do, and how to save a lot of time and frustration.
*Thanks to ElectRow.com for allowing me to use the article. Please check out his site for underground entertainment.