Apostilled FBI background check for teaching ESL in Korea

[Note: This post is part of a series on the paperwork you'll need to teach English in South Korea.]

[Update May 1, 2012: Since the US Government and others involved like to change things up, some of this information might not be accurate anymore. It's still probably the best source you have online in one place, so definitely start here. That said, some of the links might not work. If you find any inaccuracies, please contact me, and I'll update as soon as I can. Thank you.]

This is what takes the longest, the background check. Evidently, as of 2011, you need a federal background check, which takes up to 16 weeks. That’s like four months, so if you’re thinking about doing this, you need to get started on the background check as soon as possible.

I didn’t know this, and it’s part of the reason I’ve been delayed so long. As they say, don’t let this happen to you.

[Also note, the background check, once you get it, is only valid for six months. So if you're close to that date, consider getting a new one all over again. They won't let you get your visa if the background check isn't current.]

So here’s the process (it’ll cost about $60.00 for the whole deal):

  1. Fill out the background check application form
  2. Get your fingerprints
  3. Choose payment option
  4. Send documents to the FBI for background check
  5. Fill out apostille application form
  6. Write a check to pay for the apostille
  7. Send background check to U. S. Department of State for apostille

Fill out the background check application form

This is the form you’ll need to send to request an FBI background check. Click here to see it, fill it out (minus signature), and print it.

VERY IMPORTANT: Write, somewhere on the form, that you need the FBI seal and the signature of a division official on your document so you can get it authenticated. I literally wrote exactly that:

“I need the FBI seal and signature of a division official on my background check so I can get it authenticated (apostilled).”

In fact, I wrote that at the top of the form and at the bottom. Without this, you can’t get your background check apostilled. And if you can’t get your background check apostilled, you’re wasting your time – the Korean consulate won’t accept it.

Get your fingerprints

If you want to try doing it yourself, you can find a form to use here (print it out on card stock). If you risk it, though, and the fingerprints don’t turn out, you’ll have wasted a lot of time mailing the documents around. Still, the decision is up to you.

If I did it again, I’d probably try it myself because I’m more familiar with the process now. But at the time, I had mine done at the UPS Store for like $10.

Just make sure you get decent rolled prints for all your fingers individually and prints for them all at once, the signature of the person taking your fingerprints, the date, your full name and your signature, your date of birth (DOB) and place of birth (POB), and your sex, race, height, weight, eye color, and hair. That’s what they asked for when I called the FBI number.

Choose payment option

The FBI currently charges $18.00 for each background check. You can pay with a money order or cashiers check made payable to the Treasury of the United State. They don’t accept personal checks or cash.

You can also pay with a credit (or debit) card by filling out this form. That’s the option I chose.

Send the documents to the FBI

I sent mine Priority Mail so it wouldn’t take as long. If you’re in even more of a hurry, you might send it Express Mail. Whatever.

You’ll need to pay the postage to get it to West Virginia, but you’ll also need to pay for the return delivery (unless you want it to take a while).

I bought a flat rate Priority Mail envelop with tracking and addressed it to myself. Then I put that envelop, with all my documents for the background check, into another Priority Mail envelop with delivery confirmation, addressed that to the FBI center, and sent that whole package.

This way, it wouldn’t take too long in the mail, and I’d be able to track what was going on online.

Here’s the address to send this to:

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

[Note: You can make sure all this info about the FBI background check is up to date by checking the official FBI site here.]

Then the waiting begins.

Everyone’s going to ask, “So, heard anything about Korea?”

And you’ll say, “Just waiting to get my background check back.”

Until one day, you’ll get it back. And you’ll rejoice. And take a picture of it or scan it (for the celebration but also in case you need to verify that you received it). And then…

Fill out apostille application form

This is the form you’ll need to send to the U. S. Department of State to request that your background check be authenticated (apostilled). Click here to see it, fill it out, and then print it. [Warning: This is a link I updated after going through the process because someone told me my information was outdated. To the best of my knowledge this is the right link now, but I don't have any personal experience using it. For for information, see this page on from the US State Department.]

Write a check to pay for the apostille

It’s $8.00, and you can just send a personal check made payable to the U. S. Department of State. They don’t accept cards.

Send background check to U. S. Department of State for apostille

Again, I sent this the same way I did the other documents:

I bought a flat rate Priority Mail envelop with tracking and addressed it to myself. Then I put that envelop, my background check, the apostille application form, and the check into another Priority Mail envelop with delivery confirmation, addressed that to the U. S. Department of State, and sent the whole package.

Here’s the address:

U.S. Department of State
Authentications Office
518 23rd Street NW.
SA-1,  Columbia Plaza,
Washington, DC 20520

[Note: You can make sure this info about the U. S. Department of State authentication process is up to date by checking the official site here.]

It’ll usually take two to four weeks to get this back. Once you do, though, you’ve got it. Your background check is done, the paperwork that takes the longest to get back. You’re now free to get on with the rest of the process.

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