Monday, August 27, 2012

Unemployment by Visa

Once again, because of a visa problem and despite the fact that my coworkers and my boss want me to stay, I will be unemployed at the end of the week. Visa problems come suddenly and tear lives apart. I wonder, is this just in Korea? Or is this everywhere?

This time, I could get a visa through a third party for an exorbitant price, or I could just not get a visa. My company is in the middle of laying off people around the world and putting a hiring freeze on every subsidiary not told to make massive cuts. There's no way the big boss would approve that price for my visa. And other third parties that could sponsor me for 5 months legally without a visa (I'm not exactly sure how that works) all refused. So, after 5 months of working here, instead of the visa and the promotion I was expecting, I get laid off instead. But I'm not mad this time. It's what I expected. I'm just sad because I love this job.

Let me tell you a little about Korean visas for Americans. You can find all of this in a very confusing and misinforming format at

There's the F series, which is like the prime cut of steak. Everyone wants it. F-2 means you're married to a Korean or someone with an F-5. F-5 means you invested a lot of money in Korea and employ some Koreans and therefore are worthy of permanent residence, or you've been in Korea so long they just made you a resident (5 years on valid visas). F-1 means you're Korean, but not really; for instance, Korean American or adopted as a baby to another country. F-6 is new and therefore not on the site and means you got married to a Korean, but you can keep it in case of divorce. This was made for Southeast Asian women whose husbands beat them, so white people can't get them easily. The Fs are like green cards. You can get whatever job you want. That's how I got my job at Samsung, and when I divorced my ex-husband, that's why I got fired even though the third party company planned to sponsor a working visa for me.

Then there's the E series, which is working. E-2 means you are an English teacher. You have to go home once a year to renew it, and you're at the mercy of your school or academy, which is at the mercy of the parents, which means you could be fired and lose your visa for no reason and have to leave the country. This is why Craigslist Seoul has lots of awesome free furniture. E-7 are the lucky ones who fit into one very specific category of job description (not English teacher) out of something like 80 specific jobs, including "casino dealer" and "textile engineer". Your employer must also be licensed and/or have a very good reason for sponsoring said visa. I could be an "other teaching professional" but my pharmaceutical company wouldn't be able to sponsor that, because why would a Europe-based company that needs all official documents to be in English need a native English speaker to edit documents and teach the staff English? That doesn't make sense at all, says the government. Or you could have a master's degree and/or PhD and then you could get the E-1 Professorship (generally English professor) visa or maybe the E-3 research visa.There are more, but I've never met anyone on an E visa that wasn't E-2 or E-7.

Then we have the confusing D series, which includes the D-1 Cultural Arts visa, D-2 Study Abroad visa, D-6 Religious Affairs visa, D-10 Job Seeking visa, and more. So basically you can't make money on a D visa.

A is official/government business. As far as I know there is no B. C is short-term stay. There's a Miscellaneous G-1 and Working Holiday H-1.

Here's the funny thing: I more than qualify for the H-1 working holiday visa, the D-10 job seeking visa, the E-2 English teaching visa (which I consider a last resort because I hate teaching), and E-7 working visa under "other teaching professionals" (for editing documents and running workshops) or if I could get a job in marketing, under a marketing category.When I call and ask how to get any of those visas, they tell me that those visas weren't made for people like me so I can't get them. The girl on the phone once told me, after I told her I needed a visa because I just divorced and that I hate teaching, especially children, that I should marry a Korean, teach kindergarten, or get out.

This country has a visa system as tight as the US, plus being subjective in favor of NOT handing out visas. This is exactly opposite of the image they give of inviting foreigners to live here. There are new laws put in place to help people who marry Koreans, while the noose is tightening on the rest of us. If you don't let any of us stay here without getting married, you're gonna have a much bigger problem on your hands, Korean government. Honestly, Korea is not the US. It's not a country that everyone in the world wants to go to. Many people in the world don't even know where Korea is or whether North or South Korea is "the bad one". There is no reason or justification for this visa policy. Your citizens are leaving for better opportunities overseas, and you're not letting foreigners with potential build lives here.

I loved Korea. I did. Now I just want to go home. I'm so tired of these visa issues. I'm tired of having to leave and come back every 90 days and worry if they'll let me back in the country. I'm tired of losing jobs  because of visa problems. I'm tired of worrying if I be able to pay rent next month when I had job security last month. I am a bright, hardworking young woman with a lot of skills and even more potential. Korea is throwing me away. Now I'm waiting for my boyfriend to take the GRE and TOEFL tests. If he gets into Stanford or Berkley or he gets a job in the San Francisco Bay area, we will move there together. If he can't do that, I will leave him here in Korea and go home to the US and this blog will be effectively over. I could blog about something else, I guess, but maybe it wouldn't be as interesting to you all.

So thank you Korea, for making my life miserable. I tried my hardest to be an asset to you and you spit in my face repeatedly. I'm giving you another chance only because I don't want to give up on this boyfriend and because I have friends and a life here. Don't screw me again or I will tell the world that Korea is the worst country to live in because it's a lie. You welcome people and kick them out when they want to stay. You will stagnate industrially and intellectually because nobody will want to deal with your ridiculous visa system.

Just as a little proof of my potential so you know that I'm not bluffing: I have an IQ over 130, which is not quite genius but way above average; I graduated from one of the top 100 universities in the world (Michigan State University); I worked at a Fortune 500 company (Samsung C&T) for 14 months and was denied contract renewal only for visa reasons; I can translate documents from French to English and from Korean to English, and interpret normal conversations in Korean and English, as well as get around Japan with the Japanese I remember. I can understand almost anything from people's motivations to the ideas behind superstring theory to what people want and how to market to them. I am only 24 years old. Korea is throwing away the future I could have had here as a great asset to the country. All I need is a chance and a direction and I exceed expectations. The problem in Korea is that there are no chances for me, so I have no direction.


  1. Can i know how do you live in korea?? Do you went to korea and tell the government?

  2. I can stay in Korea for 90 days at a time because I am a US citizen and there is an agreement between the two countries. I have all the stamps in my passport to prove that I've never been in Korea without a visa or on a traveler's visa for more than 90 days.

  3. I am having a hard time in processing my visa for Korea. Very strict in requirements,

  4. @Juls: They really are strict when it comes to documents. Everything should be clean and clear before you could pass into their backyard. This only shows how disciplined they are when it comes to following the rules.