After putting this together I can’t believe how much money it cost me in the beginning just to apply to be an English teacher in South Korea. I thought it might be helpful for others to see the total breakdown of my budget so that you can try to A) Spend less and, B) allocate the right amount of money needed for the process.
Below, I outline all paperwork it took for me to apply to be an English teacher, specifically through the English Program in Korea (EPIK), using Reach to Teach as my recruiter. I also outline all the costs associated with each piece of paperwork. I’ll make sure to go over the mistakes I made and where I think I could saved a buck or one hundred to, hopefully, keep some money in your pocket.
This budget is solely based on my personal experience with this process. Because my passport is American I can’t speak to the process or cost for applying from any other country eligible to teach in Korea and all costs are shown in USD. Many of the necessary paperwork and regulations mentioned in this post pertain to those applying for Hagwons (private schools), as well, but be sure to double check with your recruiter. As always, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy applying all you future English teachers (in Korea), you!
Two Sets of University Transcripts: $40
There’s no real way to get around this. The cost depends on how much your school charges you to request extra copies. You’ll need two, for sure. I would also recommend ordering an extra copy for yourself.
Bachelors Diploma from an accredited Western University: $65.50
- Photocopy: $.50
- Notary and Apostille: $65
Six Passport Photos: $66
I went to CVS, but I’m convinced you can have this done for a much cheaper rate at Wal-Mart or Walgreens. I kind of laughed when I heard that I would need SIX passport photos. I expect them to use them everywhere, but honestly? They didn’t. It was ages before I was asked for a third one, but once I started working at my school I needed a new one like every day. I don’t know why, but this is actually really necessary. Getting it done in advance will save you lots of hassle and explanation.
FBI Background Check: $88
- Finger Prints: $10
- Application: $18
- Notary and Apostille Authentication: $45
- Shipping: $5
I believe I included a letter with my FBI background check application asking them to notarize it right away, specifically for Korea. Then I used http://www.uslegalization.com/korea/ to order the Apostille through a carrier service. You can have this done cheaper if you choose to do it through USPS, but it will take longer and you risk not having the document as soon as you need it. You can do that through this website.
TEFL Certificate from International TEFL Academy: $1200
I am so happy that I went ahead and completed a 200 hour TEFL certification program with International TEFL Academy, and I highly recommend them to anyone looking to do the same. However, I do think it’s possible to find reputable programs that cost less. You don’t necessarily need to complete these many hours (certainly not to get a job in Korea). Some Hagwons don’t even require it, and if you’re an education major EPIK doesn’t either. For me, this was a good option, but if you’re working with a different budget it’s safe to pick a different school that’s done all online without a practicum (tutoring) requirement).
Cost to Receive Proof from Elementary/Middle/High Schools: $45
Before you get all worried, let me start off by saying that MOST people do not have to do this. If you are most people, feel free to skip this, but if you are on the same boat as I was, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have. I grew up overseas, so I had to jump through some extra hoops to prove that the last 7 years of my education were completed at an American accredited institution. This is for all those military and embassy kids out there who grew up as third culture citizens, just like me!
Cost to FedEX Application to Taiwan to Reach to Teach: $96
(Usually between $50 – $120 depending on your location)
Additional Photocopies: $9.20
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Cost of Flight: $950
This will be reimbursed to you in most situations, either with your first paycheck or separately within your first few months in Korea. If for whatever reason you have not received your flight reimbursement, be sure to speak with your school. For EPIK teachers, you will receive $1300 back no matter what the cost of your plane ticket was. I have heard of Hagwon teachers not even having to put down money for a plane ticket because their school takes care of it right off the bat. If you do need to pay for it right away but don’t have the means to do so, the folks over at The Arrival Store have a plane ticket package that allows you to book your flight and pay 60 days after purchase.
Startup Costs in Cash: $1200
Most recruiters and online resources will suggest for you to bring lots and lots of cash in hand. I’m sorry, but there was no way I was going to be carrying around this much over boarders, through three different airports, on buses and other forms of transportation in a country I was not familiar with.
Visa application Fee: $45
This is the fee you pay at the embassy when you go in to apply for your visa. It’s quick and painless.
Tax Exemption Form Fee: $85
One of my biggest mistakes before moving to Korea was not applying for this in time. Do yourself a favor and apply for the tax exemption form through the IRS a significant amount of time before the suggested 45 days. It will save you lots of time and hassle, and maybe even a little bit of money in Korea because you’ll automatically be exempt from taxes right away.
Medical Exam in SK: $55
For EPIK teachers, you’ll have a medical exam done during orientation where you’ll have to stand in line and wait to go through each station. They will make you give a urine sample for a drug test, blood sample, take an eye & hearing exam, and do a few other things to be cleared. They make you pay for it in cash, so be sure to bring that with you.
Alien Registration Card Application: $30
A lot of the information I read before coming to Korea talked about the ARC application costing somewhere between 60,000WON – 75,000WON. I was very happily surprised to find that it’s half that price and they send it straight to your school (or whatever address you have on file) within 15 days. Koreans are efficient that way.