How to Apply for an F-4 Visa

This is information on how to apply for an F-4 visa for Korea as an adopted American citizen. This is information from my own experience.

To be eligible for an F-4 visa, you must meet the following requirements:
1. Born in Korea –or– a parent born in Korea
2. Be at least 22 years old
3. Not a Korean citizen*

*If you currently have Korean citizenship or dual citizenship, you will need to renounce your Korean citizenship before you are able to apply for an F-4 visa.

Step 1:
Contact your Korean adoption agency. Keep in mind that Holt International and Holt Children’s Services are two different agencies. If you do not know which agency you were adopted through, it would be better to send an email to both. Explain that you would like 2 copies of your adoption certificate (입양사실확인서). This is a different document than your adoption records. One will be used to apply for your visa, the other will be needed later when you apply for your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Give as much identifying information as possible.

Step 2:
Contact your local Korean Consulate. Explain you would like to apply for an F-4 visa and ask what documents are needed. Here are all the documents I had to turn in:

  • Passport
  • Visa application form
  • Korean registry application form
  • Adoption certificate
  • Original Certificate of Naturalization
  • Payment ($45.00 for visa plus $1.50 for family registration fee)
  • Self-addressed stamped envelope (since I couldn’t pick up in person)

It’s highly recommended to send with tracking to and from the Embassy. About 2-3 weeks later, you should get your Passport back with a shiny F-4 visa pasted in it. Oh and you’ll get your Certificate of Naturalization back, too.

Benefits of an F-4 Visa

  1. Unlimited entry
    This doesn’t really mean much if you have an ARC. If you don’t have a job in Korea but want to come and go as you please, an unlimited entry comes in handy.
  2. Valid for 2 Years
    Standard teaching work visas are E-2s and are only valid for a year. You will have to go to the immigration office if you want to renew your contract. Tourist visas are good for 30 days.
  3. More Employability
    Having an F-4 means your employer does not have to sponsor your visa, which makes them more willing to hire you. This is especially useful for some hagwons. Don’t want to work as a teacher? No problem! An F-4 also gives you the freedom to work anywhere as a Korean citizen would. 
  4. Notoriety
    Don’t like the new girl in school? Just hang a red card in her locker and let Goo Joon-Pyo do the rest. Don’t get the reference? Please watch more classic Korean dramas.

 

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Busan Fireworks Festival

Every year in October, Gwangalli Beach is filled with people to watch the Busan Fireworks Festival. This year, over 1.5 million people watched from locations all over Busan. The fireworks show follows a theme and storyline and uses the lights on the bridge, music, and narrative. Last year’s theme was a love story. It was beautifully portrayed and could be followed without knowing Korean. This year’s theme was seasons of love. The seasons theme was clear, but I’m not entirely sure how love came into play.

When:
End of October. The actual fireworks start at 8:00 and lasts for an hour. This year, there were periodic pre-shows that lead up to the main event.

Where:
I’ve only been to the Gwangalli Beach location. Take the train to Busan Station. Then get on the subway Busan Station to Gwangan Station. There should be signs posted to point you in the direction of the beach. It’s about a 20 minute walk (maybe?).

Cost:
Free if you sit in one of the free zones. Tickets for VIP seating and VIP table seating is 70,000-100,000 won respectively.

Tips if you want to go to the Busan Fireworks Festival

  • Go early
    I arrived at Gwangalli Beach last year at 4:30 and it was already packed. This year, I got there around 5:15 and people were already resigned to sitting in the street. Luckily a friend was prepared and saved us a spot. The police will set up a blockade when there’s too many people in the area. It’s better to be early than blocked out.
  • Bring a mat or blanket
    You know those mats that look like what you would use to reflect the light from your car windshield? Those are the perfect way to mark your territory. You can buy them from a street vendor for about 5,000 won or from the camping section at the store.
  • Pack snacks, drinks, and games
    There are lots of convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants, and street vendors close by, but there are also a ton of people. The lines are quite long. There are also guys selling chicken on the beach. Just be aware that the chicken might not be hot.
  • If you feel like you need to go to the bathroom, go. Don’t hold it in.
    The bathroom lines are quite long. If you try to hold it so as not to unseal the deal, you might be sitting in a pool of your own making later.
  • Check final train times
    Last train out of Busan is around midnight. It takes about 35 minutes by subway from Gwangan Station to Busan Station. Since the subways are packed, you might have to wait for the next train or two. Do yourself a favor and schedule plenty of time for travel.

Mountain Hiking in Changwon

August 30, 2015
Hey Andrea. Let’s hike up a mountain!
Okay. Have you ever hiked up a mountain before?
No. But I like hiking back home so how bad can it be?

Heh. “How bad can it be?” My host Se Na gave me directions to the mountain trail entrance. She used a temple as a landmark. Piece of cake.

Temple 1

Success! But where was the trail? There was a sign that blocked the road. A few translations came up with “grounds, worship, silence, spectator, forbidden.” Well that can’t be the right road. I asked help from a couple doing yard work at their home. The man looked at the map sketch Se Na gave me and explained I was not at the right temple. He walked me across the street and motioned where I should go, all the while talking in Korea. He watched as I went on my way until I couldn’t see him anymore.

Well crap

Well crap. Did I go the wrong way? This is where Sena said the entrance was. Where does this trail lead?

Where does this leadlead

Success again! This time I got the right temple.

Success again20150831_095243

The actual hike was a lot of fun aside from the 100% humidity and the fact I was wearing jeans, Chuck Taylors, and carrying a purse. A few side trips led me to some really cool sights. And seriously? What’s the deal with the exercise equipment ON THE MOUNTAIN? And there were multiple outdoor mini gyms. I passed at least three.

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While I was huffing away, I passed by two older Korean men. They later passed me when I took a rest. As they passed, one of the men handed me two pieces of candy and told me, “It’s hard to reach the top.” Eventually we all reached a plateau where we sat and picked up a conversation. The other man gave me a bag of what looked like some brownish green liquid. Turns out it’s some kind of onion juice. “It’d be good if you drank it all,” he told me. Uhhh- ok. Down the hatch! It actually didn’t taste bad. I’d drink it again.

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It was my second long conversation in Korean since I got here. They told me I should marry a nice Korean man, asked about my adoption and family back home, and talked about wild pigs that lived on the mountain. They also advised me that this was a good place to turn around and head back down.

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I originally took this picture to try to capture the baller Korean hiking gear that everyone donned. Little did I know that these two men would turn a fun little hiking adventure into a lasting memory.

Korea Day 2: Changwon House and Drinking with a Korean

I’m slowly getting used to Korea. It’s been an adjustment to be sure. But even the sounds are different. There are these giant bugs in the trees that slowly rise into an ear-splitting crescendo together. (I know they’re cicadas but I’ve never heard them so loud!) There is a man who chants, “Ohhhhhhhhh— hhhoooooooooo—” every morning at 6 am. There is a weird sound that I can’t place. It could be a bull frog or it could be a machine. Even the dogs howl and whimper slightly different in Korea.

In other news, I went to Changwon House (창원의집) today. I took about a million pictures but none really do it justice. When I got back to the apartment, Se Na (세나) was home alone and  we went out and ate 팟빙수 (patbingsu: a shaved ice and sweet red bean dessert). Se Na explained to me that her husband, Hee Jun (희준) is considered a Gyeongsangnam-do man. He doesn’t express his feelings well and doesn’t talk a lot. She said that he wanted to talk to me but wasn’t confident in his English skills. …ironic foreshadowing… Continue reading

How to Unlock a Cellphone – Sprint USA

I’ve been stressing out over life in Korea. The latest topic: cellphone. I could buy a new phone in Korea, but that’s super expensive. I have no idea if I’m staying for longer than a year, so it wouldn’t make sense to commit to a 2-year contract just for a cheap phone. I have a perfectly good Galaxy, so why not use it? Since Korea and the US use different frequencies, I have to get my phone unlocked in order to use it.

I thought the process might be difficult, but it was really a walk in the park.

Continue reading

How to Get a U.S. Passport

If you want to travel abroad, you’re going to need a Passport. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to make sure you have everything you need.1 2

  • Buy a Passport photo
    • You can have these done at any major drugstore like Walgreens ($11.99 for a set of 2). Make sure your hair is not in your face or covering your eyes. Keep your prescription glasses on if you normally wear them. I’ve heard varying reports if you can smile or not. Play it on the safe side and do not smile.
    • You should need only 1 for your Passport.
  •  Find a Passport Acceptance Facility
  • Gather Required Documents 
    • Evidence of U.S. Citizenship – Must be Original
      •  Acceptable Documents:
        • Certified U.S. Birth Certificate
        • Previous undamaged U.S. Passport
        • Consular Report of Birth Abroad
        • Or a Certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship
    • Photo Identification – Must be Original
      • Acceptable Documents:
        • Valid Driver’s License
        • Undamaged U.S. Passport (if issued less than 15 years ago)
        • Certificate of Naturalization
        • Valid government ID (city, state, or federal)
        • Or Valid Military ID
    • Form DS-11
      • Download a paper copy here
      • You can also fill it out online and print it following the prompts at this website
  • Arrange Payments
    • Payable to Department of State $110.00
    • Execution Fee $25.00
    • Optional Expedite Fee $60.00
      •  Acceptable forms of payment
        • Money Order
        • Cashier’s Check
        • Personal Check
  • Go to Passport Acceptance Facility and Apply for a Passport Book
    • Don’t forget anything!
      • Passport photo
      • Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
      • Photo Identification
      • Form DS-11 – Completed and UNSIGNED
      • Payments

For more information, you can visit the U.S. Passport & International Travel website.

I’m not gonna lie, I freaked out when they told me my original Certificate of Naturalization had to get sent away in order to get approved for a Passport. However, I received my CoN a week or two in the mail after I applied for the Passport. You should receive your Passport in 4-6 weeks if you choose not to have it expedited.

1Minors may have different requirements. 2This is a guideline. Go to the U.S. Passport & International Travel website for details.
Updated 10/10/2014