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.



Sending Money Home

One thing I worried about was how to send money back home. I had been banking with PNC for years and wanted to continue banking with them. When I found out they were going to charge me $50 every time I deposited money from a foreign account, I quickly looked for alternatives.

Option #1: CitiBank
CitiBank has banks all over the world which makes it one of the most convenient ways to transfer money. Since they are from the same bank, there are no fees to receive money. The problem with a CitiBank account is that they are only located in the larger cities in Korea. Before arriving in Korea, I had no idea what city I would be placed in and if it would have a CitiBank or not. I couldn’t risk opening a bank only to be hit with fees for not being able to maintain it.

Option #2: Ally Bank
Ally Bank is ultimately the option I chose. It’s an online bank that has no physical banking locations. It has free checking, free checks, and no maintenance fees. It also has free bank transfers for money deposited into  your Ally Bank account. I thought it would be a pain when I was in the States. How will I deposit money? (use Ally Bank app) How will I get out cash? (Use an ATM like a normal person. Ally reimburses up to $10/mo. for ATM fees) What if I need to talk to a banker? (Call the 24-7 customer service line) I’ve been using Ally for a year in Korea. It’s a fantastic little bank, and I love that it has 24-hour customer service and the longest wait time I’ve seen is 2 minutes. The only pain is setting up the bank path from your Korean bank to Ally. So you don’t have to go through the stress that I did; here’s all you need to know:

Ordering Customer: You
Sender’s Correspondent: CHASUS33 – JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Address: 1 Chase Manhattan Plz.
New York, NY 10005
Intermediary Institution: CHASUS33 – JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.
Account with Institution: ALLYUS31 – Ally Bank
Beneficiary Customer: You – Your Bank Account Number
ABA/Routing Number: 021000021 (Please double check with Ally to make sure this is your routing number)

While we’re on the topic of banks, look into a NongHyup One bank account when you get to Korea. A NongHyup One account is like a middleman account. Any money you put into this account will be automatically remitted to the bank of your choosing. The perks of this being that you pay less in fees from your Korean bank. You don’t have to have a NongHyup (NH) account to apply for NongHyup One.

There are several ways to send money home.

1. Go to the Bank
I used to leave work a little early so I could go to the bank and transfer money home. I made sure to bring my previous receipt of transfer to show the teller in case I got someone new. It’s also easier for them to transfer cash to your overseas account than directly from your account. I’m not sure why. This method is time-consuming and annoying.

2. Online Banking
When you apply for a bank account, be sure to take your cell phone and request online banking. The teller will have to set up the app for you. The NH bank app makes it super easy to transfer funds and everything is in English. This is the most convenient method.

3. ATM
Using your NongHyup One account requires you to use the ATM to transfer funds. ATMs are rather plentiful in the downtown areas so it’s only a slight inconvenience. This is the cheapest method.

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 Request Adoption Records – Holt Children’s Services

My first step to opening a birth family search was to request my adoption records. My parents had some paperwork in a filing cabinet in the house, but I always found misplaced papers between files. I wanted to be sure I had everything. Requesting my file was fairly easy after I found the right contact. You can read more about my experience later. But for now, let’s focus on how to get your adoption files in hand.

Step One: Make Sure You were Adopted from Holt Children’s Services
Holt Children’s Services is a different agency than Holt International Children’s Services. If you know you are from a Holt agency but are unsure which one, you can always contact both.

Step Two: Fill Out Paperwork
Petition for Adoption Information Disclosure
Holt Request Form
Fill out as much as you can.

Step Three: Scan the Information Page of Your Passport
It’s the colorful page with your picture on it. If you do not have a U.S. Passport, you can read my step-by-step guide to getting one.

Step Four: Send an Email
Attach all three documents and send an email to Hotmail? Yes… Hotmail. I bet ya didn’t even know that people still had Hotmail much less an international organization. I was skeptical, too, but it’s legit. Make sure to put “Post Adoption Services” in the subject line and give a brief introduction in the email body.

Step Five: Wait for a Response
I know it’s hard. But remember, Korea is 12-13 hours ahead of us so you may get a response in the middle of the night.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right? For more information about Holt Children’s Services of Korea you can go to their website.

If you’re interested in going a step farther, you can open a birth family search.

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