Korean Immigration informed the Embassy on July 17, 2008, that they will no longer accept criminal records checks provided by an on-line service as some states and private companies are able to do. Korean Immigration will only accept an FBI criminal records check or a local police letter from your city or state of residence.
Remarkable. Checking around for a cached version of that page I came across this line in the opening paragraph from July 15th:
At this time, we do not have any further information about what specifically the Korean authorities will require of E-2 visa applicants.
Not reassuring at all that not even the Embassy knew what was up. You'll recall that I wrote about my visa process a couple of weeks ago. I took my online check to the Embassy, got an affidavit, and ran to Yeosu the next day, only to be told that I didn't need one since I'm employed by a public school and had already submitted one in 2006. This, of course, in contradiction to the information that had come out up until then from immigration, from my supervisors, and from other teachers going through the same process.
I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see local criminal checks prohibited as well in favor of mandatory FBI checks. I say that because I'm curious if Embassy employees and immigration officials even know what to do when given a background check to peruse. Perhaps they could be trained to simply recognize a single type of form, rather than fifty or so nuanced ones.
Regardless, a little organization----HAHAHAHAHA---would have been nice. As you remember this latest moral panic was stirred up rather quickly last fall, and implemented hastily in December. I don't recall how many changes we've seen to the visa regulations, but there have been at least a few, and there's plenty of misinformation out there and plenty of contradictory practices going on. Reading about this latest update via Zen Kimchi made me think of the comments some Ministry of Justice official said back in December:
“I just don’t understand why they cannot make some exceptions to accommodate the needs of their own nationals,” Choi [Nam-il] said. “In Korea, criminal records can be easily obtained online. But they don’t have a centralized system.”
Wow, in Pennsylvania records can be easily obtained online, too~! But since apparently nobody around here knows what to do with them, they're about as useful to a local immigration official as a Korean-language background check would be to a desk jockey in Pittsburgh. Moreover, I don't think there's any need to point out the hypocrisy of an official here bemoaning a perceived lack of organization in another country. After all, how many times have I had to show my diploma and transcripts? How many times do I need my ARC photocopied at the bank? And how many times will these visa regulations be changed on a whim with little regard to how they'll be carried out?
That quotation was printed in an article that talked about how these new regulations were announced without actually considering the feasibility of them. Here's Choi again, talking about a meeting he had with local consulates after the new regulations were announced and five days before they were to take effect:
“We had the meeting to explain some details of the policy to the consuls and we also wanted to get responses from them on whether embassies in Korea can set up some sort of centralized system to provide the additional documents,” said Choi Nam-il, visa policy coordinator at the ministry. “The gist of the meeting was they told us they respect the policy, but the embassies cannot provide those services.”
Then on December 26th, some guy from the Ministry of Justice wrote in to the Korea Times to go after two articles that mentioned these new regulations. He attempts to clarifjaofu08932u0jalsja wait wait wait hold up, this is what he actually said of David Louis Quick's piece:
When one makes arguments, it is very easy for people to fall into the trap of emotional feelings and become very illogical, unless he is well trained in logical reasoning. He was too farfetched in many ways.
Fu-hu-hu-huck. He attempts to clarify Quick's misguided notions in the repulsive manner only an arrogant, condescending, middle-aged Korean man can do:
He also argues that it may take up to seven months to get his criminal record if he uses the FBI services. Thanks to my personal experience as a member of the New York bar and with experience working at an American court and the Korean Ministry of Justice, I can say he was wrong or at least very misguided.
There are several ways he can get his criminal record from Korea. Other than using the FBI service, he can use the following options:
(1). If he contacts a local police station by fax or by mail, he can get the documents sooner and notarized at the U.S. Embassy in Korea.
(2). If he is uncomfortable with the local police station, he can use a privately-run criminal check system, for example an online site (http://www.criminalbackgroundrecords.com), although he may be charged up to $59.95.
He needs to have the documents notarized in his embassy. However, in the process of notarization, he can be charged if he commits perjury.
Then he put me on the map, pun sort of intended, by calling me Mr. Deutschland, obviously knowing I'd have traumatic flashbacks to sixth grade gym class. As far as this last excerpt, option number two was taken off the table long ago, and option number one isn't exactly speedy or feasible either. Moreover, as the U.S. Embassy has said over and over again, they don't notarize the background checks but rather provide affidavits that say the information the bearer is providing is truthful and accurate. But as Zen Kimchi speculated---on what grounds, I don't know because I didn't see any mention on the Embassy's site---the Embassy may no longer provide these affidavits, either, meaning this all is a lot of work for a visa that binds me to a single employer.