Let me start off by saying this: Most people will apply to EPIK with the intent of acquiring an E-2 visa. However, those of Korean descent may qualify for an F-4 visa, which is valid for 5 years and allows for a maximum cumulative stay in Korea of 2 years. But, it is recommended to get the E-2 visa because it is easier to obtain. I opted for the F-4 and will describe the process. Getting an E-2 is rather simple and can be easily explained in a file that EPIK sends once you receive placement. The F-4 is another story.
First of all, only those born with a parent/grandparent who was a Korean citizen at the time of their birth are eligible, which includes second generation citizens (like me) or adoptees. This does not include those born in Korea. For the application, you must first make sure that you are not considered a dual citizen of Korea. You are considered a dual citizen if you were born after 1987 and, like stated earlier, you had a parent/grandparent of Korean citizenship at the time of your birth, but they must now be citizens of the U.S. For me, this was my dad. He was a Korean citizen when I was born but he is now legally a U.S. citizen.
Now, I was born and raised in the U.S. but am still “technically” a Korean citizen by default. You must have either claimed or denied the citizenship by age 18 or you will automatically gain dual citizenship, but I was completely unaware of this. EPIK requires that Korean-Americans make their citizenship status clear before applying. This means either giving up the dual citizenship of Korea and going on an E-2/F-4 visa, or claiming the dual citizenship and going to Korea on a Korean passport, no visa required. I chose the former because going on a Korean passport meant that I may not get the same treatment in Korea had I went with a Korean passport, such as benefits from employment, etc.
So, I decided to give up dual citizenship through a long, arduous process. You have to go to your local Korean embassy, preferably with someone who speaks Korean & English very well. You must then obtain 2 documents: 기본증면서 (Gi-Bon-Jeung-Myun-Seo) which is your individual record &가족증면 서 (Ga-Jok-Jeung-Myun-Seo) which is your family record. You can order these at the embassy for a small fee. With those documents and the application form to give up dual citizenship, you’re all set. This can take anywhere from 1-3 months to process, so take action early! Warning: this process was easier for me because I was already registered on my Korean family registry because I had lived in Korea when I was 4 and my parents did it. This may not be the case for everyone, especially adoptees. Unfortunately, I am not well-informed of what to do in this situation and it is best to ask the embassy workers (also be prepared to be faced with incompetent workers. Not all of them, but some of them don’t seem to know what they’re doing).
Once that’s done, you can apply for the F-4. You can complete the application at the embassy because they provide hard copies. You will need:
- the same 2 documents from before (기본증면서 (Gi-Bon-Jeung-Myun-Seo) &가족증면 서 (Ga-Jok-Jeung-Myun-Seo))
- $45 in cash
- passport photo
- copy of your passport
- copy of your birth certificate
- copy of your parent/grandparent’s proof of naturalization (for me, this was my dad’s citizenship certificate)
- proof of employment with EPIK (which can be as simple as the email indicating placement or a copy of the official document you get a bit later).
Submit these either by mail or by walk-in to your local Korean embassy and you should get your F-4 in about a week.
I feel like what I described is very confusing, and I admit, this process itself is very confusing. If you have any further questions, please feel free to comment below. 🙂