Saturday, July 02, 2011

F-4 Visa

Southern California weather is a bit crazy lately- hot during the day and pretty dang cold at night. It's exhausting me a little bit, but I know that I'm going to miss this weather once I'm in the watery wonderland that is Korea during the summer monsoon season.

The whole Korea thing has been in the works for quite a long time. I've mentioned previously, even years ago, that I wanted to go to Korea. The opportunity arose through an ex-co-worker who rang me up out of the blue and asked if I was interested in a job opportunity in Korea.

Once I received the introduction, there were a lot of e-mails that went back and forth, a few phone calls at odd hours, and finally, a contract and a plane ticket. The job is for a visual effects company, where I will be for three months. I don't think that the actual job will be difficult, but I do know that I will be stressed out for a little while. For as much as I call myself Korean-American, I'm American in my lifestyle. I don't know how to live in a different country because I left Korea when I was barely three years old. I am aware that I will suffer some sort of culture shock once I'm in Korea; the only question that remains is how much shock I'll feel and how I'll get through it.

For the moment, I'm trying to figure out what to pack (as I will be there over summer and into autumn), if six pairs of shoes is overkill (probably, but I love shoes), and if I can learn to live 6,000 miles away from my family.

The worst part of this entire thing has been, by far, the process of getting a visa. At first, we had planned for me to apply for a C-4 visa, which is a 90-day visa granted to people that have been hired by a company based in Korea.

After some reflection and some research, we all decided that the F-4 visa would be best. The F-series of visas are so-called "family" visas, which are granted to Korean nationals and their relations (if you marry a Korean, you'd get an F-series visa).

Since I was born in Korea, I qualify for an F-4 visa. The visa is valid for two years, during which time I can come and go from Korea as I please. The F-4 visa also grants me permission to make money (legally) in Korea, which is necessary and convenient.

The problem was actually getting the dang visa.

I believe that the Korean Consulate in Los Angeles is the biggest Korean consulate in the United States (if not the biggest in the world), yet it's chaotic, disorganized, and frustrating.

All the paperwork and forms provided by the consulate are in Korean only, and while I speak Korean well, my ability to figure out technical jargon is very limited. As such, I asked my mother to figure out what I needed to take with me to get my visa. And here we arrive at the problem: what they tell you over the phone and on their website is vastly different from the reality of what you need in order to receive a visa.

After several trips to the consulate, frustration due to them closing at 4:00 (who closes at 4:00?!), and some cursing when their stupid copy machine broke, I finally obtained my visa.

First of all, what I needed to get my visa:

- American passport
- Last Korean passport (I was 15 at the time it was issued)
- American naturalization certificate
- Proof of lineage from the Korean government
- Passport photo

I'm hazy on the proof of lineage thing, but I do know how I obtained those two stinking pieces of paper:

First of all, I cannot get those print-outs, with the official seal, from anywhere outside of Korea. So I needed to fill out a form giving my aunt something akin to power of attorney. This form states what information I need, all of my aunt's information, and all of my information.

This form cannot be faxed to Korea, because the government will only accept the original form, with all the consulate's stamps and seals on it. I sent the form to Korea ($30) and asked my aunt to fax back the two forms that she goes to get, as well as sending the originals.

The faxes came through a few days later. Two separate forms- one stating my origins, one stating my family tree. (Koreans have a family register, where all babies are supposed to be listed within a short time of their birth.)

With those two forms (the consulate in America accepts faxes), I went back to the consulate. Armed with the forms, my old Korean passport, my current American passport, and my naturalization certifcate (and copies of each- I made five copies of each just in case, but I think three is sufficient), I first received some piece of paper that I need to apply for a visa. That's right, there's a pre-process before you can even APPLY for a visa. And it costs $2, which was annoying.

I took that form to the next window, where I actually applied for a visa. The consulate worker told me what parts I needed to fill out, I filled them out. She glued my picture to the application, stamped various things onto the piece of paper, took $45 from me, and then told me to come fetch my passport the next afternoon.

Finally, just before the consulate closed the next day, on my fifth trip, I had my passport with my visa inside.

Quite annoying. And the people that work at the consulate are not helpful. They answer direct questions, but there is no attitude of trying to help out and make the process go faster- I think they like when people just stand around and suffer while they're filling out their umpteenth form.

I do have an F-4 visa now, thank goodness. I really like that I don't have to do this again for two years.

However (and this also irritates me), I need to get an alien registration card once I'm in Korea. The government websites don't really have much information on what's needed to get the stupid card, and I can't start the application for the card here- I have to be in Korea.

I'm sure I'll whine about the alien registration card process once I go through it (or maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised? Please, please, please let me be pleasantly surprised!), but for now, my mother's been doing research to try and save me some grief once I get to Korea.

I fly out of LAX at 12:40 on Tuesday, which means that my sister is taking me to the airport on Monday night. I'll spend the Fourth of July with my family, run around trying to figure out if I packed everything I need, and then (hopefully) get on the plane, exhausted, and sleep.

I just hope it's not raining cats and dogs in Korea when I arrive. I lose a whole day en route, so I leave just past midnight on Tuesday and get there early in the morning on Wednesday. Then I have to figure out which limousine bus to take from the airport to get to my residence ... but that's another story that will have to be told post-experience.

It's a bit surreal to me that I'm actually moving to Korea for a few months. It's something I've thought about, but could never quite work out, so I think I'm still in a sort of daze about it. I also don't think that I've really quite grasped that I'm leaving the country in two days, because I still feel like I just got back to LA.

The bunnies are scampering about, the dryer (I will miss you, dryer, when I'm in the land of hanging out clothes to dry) is grumbling, the family is watching TV, and it seems like this is what my life should be. I'm going to try to enjoy and rest over the next couple days before my adventure begins. So far, so good!


william,  July 5, 2011 at 3:55 AM  

have a good flight! will you be in seoul for work?

jeanny July 5, 2011 at 7:38 PM  

Ilsan! Close enough to Seoul.

Arrove, unpacked necessities, showered, and am ready to go explore. Thank merciful heavens that the weather is nice today.

Though the concierge tells me that it will be raining tomorrow.... -_-