For non Korean citizens, the two main types of visas (apart from tourist visas) used to enter the country is the E2 visa, and the F class visa.
E2 will be applicable to all foreign teachers, irrespective of what kind of school you work at. Under the rules of an E2 visa you are only allowed to legally work at the designated work place(s) that’s stated on your Alien Registration card. Any additional or private work is considered illegal.
F class visa’s are only for people with Korean ancestry or individuals married to Koreans. The F class visa allows for more work options and private English tutoring is legal.
If you have Korean ancestry or are married to a Korean national, you should definitely try and get an F2 or F5 visa, which simply opens up many doors for additional employment within Korea, something that’s impossible with an E2 visa.
But most foreign language teachers will arrive in Korea on an E2 visa, which is valid for one year. Public school teachers will however have to stay in the country longer than one year (just a few days longer), since your contract doesn’t start until after the mandatory 10 day orientation. This means that you’ll be in the country for at least 375 days a year. Which means you’ll have to extend your visa to avoid an illegal stay.
If you nelgect to do this, you’ll have to pay a hefty fine (I’ve heard 100,000 Won) for every day you overstay your visa. So you’ll need to get a ‘extension of sojourn period‘ from your local immigration office to remain legal and eventually be able to leave the country without hassles. This must be done in the last 60 days before your current visa expires and must be done in person at a local immigration office. Take your passport, Alien Registration Card, copy of your contract, and the fee amount. Your co-teacher or employer will probably help you with the extension application.
It’s important to note that your E2 visa is a single entry permit. This means you’re only allowed to enter the country once (at the beginning of your contract) and leave once (at the end). So don’t leave the country on vacation on this visa alone, your Alien registration card will be confiscated, your visa cancelled and your boss very, very angry.
Instead, you’ll need to get hold of a Multiple entry permit from your local immigration office. It costs 50,000 Won (about $50 as of 2010) and allows you to enter and exit the country as often as you like during the duration of your contract. If you’re planning on travelling to the rest of Asia while working in Korea, get this permit when you apply for your Alien Registration card at the beginning of your contract. An additional single entry permit is also available if your only planning on travelling abroad only once during your contract. The price for the single entry permit is 30,000 Won ($30).
For more information on re-entry permits, contact your local immigration office in the city or town where you live in Korea. They will have at least one person on staff who’ll be able to help you in English.