Korea’s E2 visa requirements being challenged

“I speak English well and I can teach well. I also have certifications. But why can’t I teach English at school? What really matters?”

The requirements for teaching English in Korea have traditionally been quite inflexible but a little hope on the horizon exists as some foreigners seek to challenge those rules.

On Feb. 28th, a 36-year-old Ugandan humanitarian resident who met with the Hankyoreh at the ‘Friends of the Immigrant Center’ office in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul asked, “Why can’t I teach English?” The Constitution of Uganda has designated English as the country’s official language. School classes are taught in English, and English is used in official events such as those involving mass media and public institutions. Mrs. S (redacted to ensure her anonymity) has had hopes to teach English in Korea, having been educated in English for 17 years, including a college course in accounting. However, the Ministry of Justice declined to approve an E-2 (English teaching visa) visa to S, as she was not from the 7 countries where English is her native language (USA, UK, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand).  Not convinced, S filed a constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court in January with a friend of the migrant center, arguing that the standards were unconstitutional. Lawyer Yeji Lee, who represents S, wrote in the claim, “It is discriminatory treatment without a rational basis, and it infringes the right to equality.”

S, who came to Korea in 2011, applied for refugee status, but was not accepted, so she stayed as a humanitarian sojourner. It was difficult to find a stable job with a humanitarian sojourn visa that could only allow for one to engage in simple labor. She was hospitalized for years with musculoskeletal problems after hard physical labor on farms and in various factories.

Korea classroom

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

However, the Immigration Office that informed that it was possible to obtain a certificate said to S last year, “You are not eligible for teaching English in South Korea,” and was not subject to receive an E-2 visa. This is because the Ministry of Justice’s standards for visa issuance stipulates that only Indian nationals who have signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with seven countries whose native language is English are allowed to work as English assistant teachers. However, among the seven countries, South Africa does not use English as the mother tongue, but it is still deemed as the official language.

Regarding the visa issuance criteria, the Ministry of Justice said, “In order to achieve international standardization of English education for Koreans, after consulting with relevant ministries, it was designated by comprehensively considering culture, customs, pronunciation, and people’s preferences among English-speaking countries. In 2001, we started issuing a conversation instruction visa only to the citizens of that country.”

Requirements for Teaching English in Korea Long Overdue for Being Relaxed

Japan’s Native English Language Teaching Assistant Program (JET) allows native English language assistants to work in schools who are not only from one of the seven countries, but also who are from countries where English is the official language, such as the Philippines, Singapore, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. The system was introduced in 1987 in Japan, which accepted only nationalities of four countries (USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) as native English language assistant teachers, however, since then, the country has steadily expanded its teacher qualifications to various countries. Mae-Ran Park, a professor at Pukyong National University (Department of English Literature) said, “When Korea first introduced native English language assistant teachers in the 1990s, they modeled the program after Japan’s JET program.” Professor Park said, “In English education academia, the notion that even non-native speakers can become good teachers if they have subject expertise, teaching methods, English proficiency, and cross-cultural communication skills is the prevailing theory. That said, I think it is time to reconsider such standards governing teaching English in Korea.”

Have questions concerning requirements to teach English in South Korea? Be sure to email us at [email protected] for the latest info!

Requirements for Teaching English in Korea

The requirements for teaching English in Korea are diverse and are always subject to change on a dime. But after going through all these motions, English teachers in Korea can find themselves with an experience that leaves a lasting impression on their lives. And with Adventure Teaching leading you the way and helping you navigate through all the riffraff and pitfalls, that lasting impression is sure to be a positive one! Rest assured, with support staff who are bilingual and also have lived in Korea for many years on both sides of the fence, both as teachers and school administrators, we have got your back.

Before we get too deep into the requirements for teaching English in Korea, please feel free to skip right to the comments at the bottom if you have any questions to start off with or email us in confidence at [email protected].

Otherwise, come along on a deep dive with us as we cover the requirements for teaching English in South Korea as follows:

Visa Requirements for Teaching English in South Korea:Requirements for Teaching English in Korea

  • You must be a citizen from a country deemed to be a native English-speaking nation: U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or South Africa.
  • Bachelor’s degree or diploma from an accredited university or college (4 years if US/3 years if UK).
  • Current background check (less than 6 months since date of issue) indicating a clean criminal record.
  • Clean health check and drug test.

The above are the minimum requirements for what is referred to as an E-2 teaching visa issued by Korean immigration and allows you to work for one year at the workplace of your visa sponsor. Please note that there are other visas that may apply to you where you are able to teach English in Korea, such as E-1 (university professor), F-2 (Long-term Residency Visa), F-4-11 (Overseas Korean, ie. Korean-American, etc), F-5 (Permanent Resident) and F-6 (Spousal Visa, ie., Spouse of a Korean National). If you are eligible for any of these visas or have any questions about obtaining one of these visas, feel free to ask in the comments or contact us at [email protected].

Documentation Requirements for Teaching English in Korea:

To be able to teach English in Korea, you must be able to fulfill certain documentation requirements mandated by the Korean government. Emailing us at [email protected] is your best first step to get started and we can advise you with our documentation checklist that will be most accurate in case of any recent changes to the process.

Throughout the process of applying and interviewing for any of our English teaching positions, and then getting your visa processed via the consulate after agreeing to a contract, all of our incoming teachers must have ready and be able to provide the following documents at certain stages:

  • Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree/diploma (a copy notarized by a public notary along with a letter from the notary. This will later need to be verified by a Korean Consulate. Again, we’ll advise you on all this.
  • Sealed college or university transcript (Stamp/sticker/or registrar’s signature should be over the seal of the envelope)
  • 1 original Criminal Record Check with issuing agency’s stamp (ie. FBI, RCMP, etc) verified by Korean Consulate (no older than 6 months since issuance)
  • Your resume
  • A clear photocopy of the information page of your passport
  • E­2 Health Statement
  • 5 Official Passport Photos (1 of which to be later submitted to Korean Consulate)
  • Completed E2 Visa Application
  • Consul’s Checklist
  • Original contract (issued by your employer for visa processing at consulate)
  • Original passport (still valid for at least one year)


Think you are all ready or have some lingering questions? Comment below or email us at [email protected]!