Application Teaching Abroad

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 Happy applying all you future English teachers (in Korea), you!

EPIK Application Budget

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 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 

This is how I feel

Image Source Here

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.

I hope this was helpful! For more information on how to teach English in Korea click HERE. If there are any questions I haven’t covered yet, definitely leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them to the best of my ability.


Join the Conversation


  1. A really helpful post to those looking at coming across! I would say I was spending about the same as you to come across. I found that by bringing more than 6 passport pics, really helped. When I had to renew my contract for a second year, it was great just having the extra pics at hand. In terms of the costs, I would say the CELTA course I took cost me much more than the flight across. That was an unexpected high cost I hadn’t planned for. Otherwise, once you are here, all the hard work really does pay off. ^^

    1. Thanks so much Nadia! It’s crazy how quickly it all adds up. I really need to get to writing something about the differences between TEFL, CELTA and TESOL. I was so confused when I researched it at the beginning.

  2. This a very comprehensive! I wish I had found something like this before leaving for Korea. I was surprised by the amount of money the entire process required. You are lucky that your flight was so cheap. My visa was delayed so I had to buy my ticket two days before leaving. That hurt my bank account the most.

    1. Oh my god I think I would have had a panic attack! haha I think I finalized mine a month in advance and even that was not soon enough for me. I’m glad everything worked out for you, though!

  3. Nice list and graphic to help out! It can definitely be overwhelming when you’re starting out the process. Luckily for me, my recruiter was super helpful and clearly laid out what I had to do and how much I had to pay for each step of the process.

    The only thing that caught my eye was the price for your passport photos. $66 for only 6 photos?! Even for CVS that seems extremely high. I got 6 for around $18 at Walgreens.

    It does kind of suck that you have to bring so much for start-up costs. In my case, I didn’t get my first paycheck until I had been in Korea for 6 weeks just because of the timing. So I needed enough to last me until then. I ended up having almost exactly enough to last me.

    1. Thanks Matt. You’re right, I overspent on my pictures. I was silly and should have shopped around, but I think I was in a hurry and CVS was the only place I could get to on my lunch break. I definitely recommend NOT going to CVS haha.

  4. I am very very happy my application was a lot cheaper than this! In South Africa these things are so cheap and relatively easy to get together. My extra uni degree copies were only 5 $ and notorising them was free. I did a cheapish online tefl that cost me 100$ and my FBI background check also cost about 5$, Interesting to see the comparison between the two countries though!

  5. Wow, this is such a useful article! Nice work 😉 I’m really digging that graphic, it’s really well laid out.

    I agree with Matt, that’s a brutal price to have paid for the pictures! Note to self: never get passport pictures taken at CVS, haha.

    I worked for hagwons, and both of them paid upfront for my flight over. The nice thing was that I never had to pay any money for the flight; the downside was they only paid for the flight, and I didn’t get any leftover funds. That was nice going over, especially the second time when I really didn’t have much money!

  6. This. is. awesome! Such a great post and I plan on sharing it all over the place! Definitely something that needs to be read before deciding to come to Korea. People don’t realize how much work it is to get all of these documents together… and how expensive it is!!

  7. I agree with Nathan about CVS. Biggest ripoff ever. I had to get photos made at the Yeosu immigration office and paid basically nothing for them. So try to get them done locally if you can, in my opinion. I know that the ones you need before are unavoidable but don’t bring too many extra if you can. Also, I had to pay a lot more for that Medical Checkup in Jinju so I’m not sure if things have changed since. That Infographic is amazing, btw! I really love it. Definitely sharing this. Thanks again for being so awesome!

  8. Super helpful guide for newbies coming to Korea! The costs can definitely add up and if you aren’t expecting it, then it can hit you hard!

    I paid a good amount of money, though definitely significantly less than you had to shell out!
    -college transcripts cost $5
    -Passport photos $15
    -I have a teaching license so I didn’t need to worry about that, but my bf bought a groupon for a tefl course and it was like $75 for 160 hours
    – I lucked out and my school paid for the medical checkup and our alien cards (I thought they would take it out of our paychecks, but they never did…at least not yet!)

    I think it would be quite interesting to see a breakdown of how much people spend coming from different countries and going through different recruiters etc!

    1. Katie, I think you’re right, that would be SO helpful! Maybe we can get something like that together because, honestly, I would have saved so much money but I had no idea what I was doing… haha. I’m glad I have the TEFL certificate I have, but looking back I probably wouldn’t have gotten such an expensive one.

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