So, you’ve been accepted to that awesome study abroad program. You’re looking at plane tickets (nothing new, probably) that you might actually buy (that’s very new, actually). You’re googling the best places to visit in Seoul, the best way to travel to Busan, the top tasty spots in Myeongdong. You’re reviewing your vocab lists. You’re wondering if you can work in a trip to Jeju Island during Chuseok. What’s happening? You’re going to Korea!
But first, you have to apply for a visa. And the process is a maddening, confusing, difficult process.
But it’s a necessary evil. That’s why I’m going to explain how I did it, what went wrong, and how I survived the process.
Disclaimer: This post’s information on the visa process is valid for US citizens as of August 2014.
Part I – Identify which type of visa you need
Firstly, make sure you know which sort of visa you need. I needed a D-2 visa because I am a US citizen going to study abroad for a semester in Seoul. If you’re from the United States, you’re able to stay in South Korea without a visa for up to 90 days if you’re only there for “tourism and visitation.”
Part II – Identify your nearest Korean embassy
Secondly, find out which embassy corresponds to you. I live within the region that corresponds to the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago, so I sent my application to them. I found most of my information for applying on their visa info page, but I also scavenged better directions from the websites other Korean embassies in the US.
Do not use this blog post as your only resource for applying for a visa. Check your corresponding embassy’s requirements.
Part III: Gather the required forms and paperwork
Thirdly, you need to gather the paperwork and information that the application needs. This step was my nightmare. But with this guide? It’ll still be tedious, but you’ll have peace of mind knowing I successfully completed the process.
If you still have questions after reading this section, I recommend that you check out the comment section below, as I’ve fielded numerous additional queries over the years. Still unsure? Leave a comment!
Verify not only that your passport is valid but that it will still be valid until after you return from South Korea. This may set you back a week or more if you need to submit your passport for renewal. This is the passport that the embassy is going to stick a pretty, shiny visa in, so you have to send it. Or no pretty, shiny visa for you.
2. Copy of Picture Page of Your Valid Passport
Clearly a valid passport isn’t enough! They want to keep your passport information on file just so you don’t make any funny business, any at all, or you’ll be locked in your cupboard for a week (cue Harry Potter theme song)!
Make sure the copy is in color. And while you’re at it, make at least four copies. Leave one at home with a trusted family member or friend, take two with you (and keep it secret! Keep it safe! But keep it with you when you leave), and send one with your application to the embassy.
3. Visa Application Form
And you thought you were done filling out endless boxes of personal information when you got into college! This part was my greatest nemesis in this whole process.
I encountered the following problems.
- PDF formatting: I typed directly into the PDF app, and the tops and bottoms of my letters were cut off in the boxes. The numbers looked so ambiguous. How could the embassy know what foreign script my name was written in?! So, I printed a blank app and hand-wrote my answers only to decide that I was in danger of being rejected based on my handwriting. In the end, I returned to the original typed and printed version, took a ball point pen, and labored to fill in where the PDF had cut off the numbers and letters.
- Ambiguous boxes: I wasn’t sure what to do with some of the boxes. If you scroll to the bottom of the app, it will tell you to ignore some boxes (such as 3 and 12. They aren’t applicable unless you can write your name in Chinese characters or for some reason you have a National Identity No. – and no, that’s not your Social Security Number). It’s easy to overthink some of these boxes.
Now let’s go over the application, question by tedious question. Ready?
How to fill out the D-2 visa application form:
- What’s your occupation? Student. Studies will occupy much of your time in Korea, hence the D-2 student visa. Ignore the rest of that section, and onward to Marital Status!
- What’s your martial status? If you’re sexy, free, and single, then check that box, 춤 a little, and onwards again!
- Purpose of Entry? Exchange Student.
- Potential Length of Stay? For me, it’s 4 months – I leave for Seoul on August 23rd and return to the US on December 22nd. No matter how long you’re going to be studying, make sure your length of stay includes how long you’ll be in Korea both before and after your program. If you arrive two months early to hang out in Busan, then include those two months!
- Address in Korea? I don’t know my exact dorm address yet, but it’s completely acceptable to put down your Korean university’s address – especially the address of the office of international affairs. You should have received a packet from that office – use their address.
- Phone Number? I won’t know my phone number in Korea until I buy a SIM card there. If you already know what number you’ll have, eeeeeeggggcellent. If not, leave it blank.
- Who will pay for the expense of your stay? This one is tricky. I ended up entering it as Self and School. I’m using a Gilman scholarship, grants from my university, and other scholarships to fund this adventure. Then I have my own savings. This answer is important because you’ll be required to provide proof of these funds, so if you’re going to only put Self, you need to make sure you really have all those funds in your bank account. You could also put down someone else’s information, but you’re going to need them to have the minimum amount in their bank account, along with an official bank account statement that has their name on it. And a letter/statement from them saying that they’ll fund your expenses.
- As of when I applied for my visa (July 2014), you are required to have minimum funds of $5,000 (that’s USD) in your bank account if you want a visa allowing you to stay for one semester. If you’re going for two semesters, you need $10,000 on your bank account statement.
- Is your home university covering part or all of the costs? You need to print out your official financial aid award with enough loans, scholarships, grants, etc. to meet those same minimums for a semester or two semesters. It doesn’t state this on the embassy website, but I highly recommend contacting your financial aid office and requesting a brief letter from them to include in your application that states that the funds are available for you to use. Don’t stress out and just explain the situation; they’ve had tons of students ask the same thing!
- This part was awful because I did not receive my official award notice from my home university until sometime in late July. I had been trying to get my visa since May, and I kept getting delayed by waiting on documents to prove I won’t end up living on the streets of Seoul. It was a long process, but luckily I had a fantastic financial aid advisor helping me and replying to my worried emails.
- Guarantor or Reference in Korea? Under Relationship, you can put School Director. Probably. You should check the packet that your Korean university sent you to verify the person’s name. If you know how to type/write in 한글, go ahead and input their name that way. If not, just do the romanized form. Don’t worry about nationality, gender, or date of birth. The embassy understands that you don’t necessarily know this about your school director.
- DO NOT FORGET TO SIGN AND DATE THE APPLICATION AT THE BOTTOM.
4. Recent Passport Photo
No hats, glasses, scarves, etc., and it needs to be taken within 6 months of your application. You can’t scan it. It has to be an original photograph printed on photo paper. Go pay a ridiculous $12 for someone at CVS to take the photo for you, or find somewhere else to print it properly.
5. Original Certificate of Admission
This made me sad. I wanted to keep my pretty certificate from Yonsei’s packet, but you have to complete #8d and #10 (sign and date it), and send it to the embassy. You won’t get it back (you won’t get anything back except for your passport), so make a copy of it for your records.
- As mentioned above, I just put down Self under #8d – Relationship again, left all other options blank or as Yonsei filled them out, and signed and dated it.
6. Copy of Business Registration Certificate
You should have received a copy of your university’s Business Registration Certificate, which validates to the embassy that you really are studying at that school – and that the school does exist.
7. Certificate of Graduation & Copy
Send them the most recent transcript you have from your home university, and a copy of it. I know people who submitted just two unofficial transcripts that they printed out themselves from their school’s online records. I sent both an official transcript printed by my university and a copy of the official transcript I printed myself. Just make sure you send two transcripts, and make sure they’re the same recent transcript.
8. Bank Statement or Letter of Financial Aid
As I explained in that spiel about writing down Self and School, either provide an official bank statement with your name on it proving that you have $5,000 or $10,000 in your account for funds for your trip, or provide a letter from your financial aid office + your official financial aid award notice. If someone else is paying for you, you need their bank account statement and a letter from them.
They will not accept a previous year’s financial aid award; it must be awarded to you for the term(s) that you will be abroad. I know this; I suffered through asking the embassy this in Korean on the phone.
9. Money Order of $45 payable to your embassy (for US citizens)
Do NOT forget to buy this when you go to mail your application. I almost did. This is nonrefundable and cannot be paid in any other way. Money order is your only option if you’re mailing this. You can only pay in cash if you go in person.
Go to your local post office and ask to purchase a money order for $45 – they’ll walk you through the process. There is no fee for buying the money order, just the amount of the money order itself. You will need to exact title and address of the embassy you’re mailing your application to. You can buy this money order at the same time that you mail your entire packet of application materials to the embassy.
Well now. You have your things all in order, hopefully. Did anyone warn you how nightmarish this process is?
Part IV: Mail or submit your D-2 visa application
Fourthly (forgot we were on thirdly and fourthlies with all those necessary documents, didn’t you?), go to your local USPS store with everything your application requires.
Swallow your bitterness at the cost of security, and pay for your money order and a next-day delivery with a tracking code. You will also want to purchase a return service with next-day delivery and tracking code. Tell the USPS person helping you that you are applying for a visa, that you need to send a self-addressed, prepaid envelope. I used USPS Express Certified Mail and am so glad that I did.
All of your documents will go inside an unsealed USPS-provided cardboard envelope which will then go inside another envelope. This outside one will be sealed. MAKE SURE YOUR MONEY ORDER IS INSIDE THE PACKAGE. You’re paying for both envelopes, because you want your passport back with that shiny, oh-so-necessary visa on it, don’t you?
My total cost for all of this was roughly $90, because I paid $45 for the money order, around $20 for certified, next-day delivery (no signature required in case the embassy wasn’t personally open to accept and sign for my package) by 10AM, and $15 for next-day delivery (with no signature, not guaranteed to arrive by 10AM) once the embassy sent back my passport.
Part V: Wait patiently for your passport and visa to be mailed back to you
Fifthly (is fifthly really a word?), stop holding your breath and get other things done. They ask for about five business/working days to process your visa, so don’t expect it to be on your doorstep two days after you mail it.
Mine came about six days later, safe and sound, protected by the money I spent to make it zoom between my home and Chicago.
I sincerely hope this is helpful, because I experienced the pain of this process and just about lost my mind trying to figure out how to do everything right. If I can answer any questions, I’m happy to try! Or did you already experience the joy of applying for a visa? How did you survive? Tell me in the comments!
지금 재생 중
Edited for clarity on 10/23/18
22 thoughts on “How To Obtain A D-2 Student Visa For South Korea”
Hi! this is possibly the most helpful thing i’ve read about visa’s! just curious though, for the bank statements, could they be ones you print off your internet banking or do they have to be ones you get through the post? ( as i only get them online now i’m a bit worried about this) also as you said that you were supported by yourself and another source, did you put ‘Myself’ and the name of the other person/organisatio, or what?? Thanks so much
I’m not sure if your online or mailed statements suffice: I believe the requirements are that it shows your name (proof that it is YOUR account statement or that of the person supporting you) and the total amount of funds in that account. If you can, I recommend you personally go into your local bank branch and ask them to print it off for you with your name on it. If you explain what you need, they can easily help you 🙂 I put ‘myself’ because I used my own funds, and since I had a mixture of scholarships from various organizations, I also included a brief statement written by my financial aid advisor that listed my scholarships & my official scholarship award notice from my university. Thanks for reading and commenting – I hope this helps! Best of luck^^
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Thank you so much for such a helpful post!
I will be going for a Spring Semester and my home university has an exchange program with the university I will be going to in Korea. Because of this connection, I will still be paying my home university tuition, while abroad I only need to care for food, transportation etc. out of pocket, so this will count as “self” for expenses in Korea. But will the Gilman Scholarship account for my home university tuition or it is used for expenses abroad, there changing my status from “self” to “Self and School”?
Thank you so much for your help!!!!!!!! Keep updating us on your adventures! Wishing you the best of luck in everything you do!
Congratulations! I also received a Gilman scholarship. I used it for my round trip flight there and I believe I also used it for room/board, so I counted that as Self and School because my housing was through my exchange university….hope that helps! Sorry, it’s been a year since I filled this form out so my memory of it is pretty hazy. What university in Korea will you attend? I’ll be at Yonsei again this summer 🙂
Thank you! I’m going to be at K-Arts from March to June 2016! I’m finally getting around to applying for my visa and I’m wondering, when I enter Korea, do authorities needs to see proof that I have a return flight booked for the U.S or can I buy it while I’m in Korea? Thanks so much for your help, I hope you have lots of warm memories of your time in Korea!
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That’s fantastic! I know people who did not book their return flights in advance, so you should be fine when you enter. The fact that you have your visa should suffice because you have to prove that you have enough money to get that return flight in order to get the visa in the first place. I would recommend booking in advance if you can simply because the fare will be several hundred dollars cheaper, but it’s up to you and I understand if you’re not sure when you want to have your return trip 🙂 Let me know if I can help at all! I do indeed^^
Thanks so much for posting this! It was nice being able to hear this stuff in normal english. ^.^ I will be studying at Konkuk University in August so I need to get this stuff together. Thanks for the help. 🙂
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Glad it helped^^ I’m sure your studies there will be lots of fun and that you’ll learn a lot! Korea is a great place to study abroad.
Thanks for making this entry, it has been really helpful!
I’m attending Yonsei this fall and the Visa is driving me nuts.
I noticed that you said to check the admission package for the name of the guarantor, but I can’t find that information in my Yonsei packet. Did you take it from there? I know it’s been a while since you filled the papers out, but any help would be greatly appreciated!
So glad you found this helpful! I completely understand the visa madness.
The packet doesn’t explicitly say anything about a guarantor but I just checked the copy of my visa app that I submitted successfully last year and I used the name of the person who signed my admission letter (it was 임방울, or Im Bang-wool). I simply listed the relationship as “School director.” I did not fill out nationality, date of birth, or gender.
Hope this works for you to finish your app for the visa! Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂 Best of luck and have fun this fall!
Thank you so much for posting this! I’m about to apply for my visa to study at Yonsei as well, and I was worried because my aid won’t release until shortly before I leave, so I’m happy to hear that getting a letter from your school proving your aid works! I also have a question – how did you wire transfer the money to Yonsei? I used my bank’s wire transfer service to pay the application fee, but the fees were very expensive, so I was wondering if you used Western Union or another service, and if so, what you put for the receiver info (because WU asks for a person’s name and for them to pick it up and present ID, so I’m not sure how it would work for a university.
So glad it helped 🙂 I actually wired from my own bank which isn’t a major bank, and just paid the huge fee regardless. It was perhaps $50-$100 but I don’t remember exactly how much (the fee to pay for housing in the Yonsei dorms). If this is for the housing fee, I used the information provided by Yonsei on their housing website. If this is for tuition, I’m afraid I don’t know. My home university paid the tuition as I went via a direct exchange last year, and this summer I’m back on a scholarship so again, I did not pay tuition directly. If you can’t find the information, I recommend emailing Yonsei’s international exchange office and asking – I’m sure they get that question all the time 🙂 You could also ask your home university’s study abroad office for help^^ Best of luck! Yonsei/Seoul/Korea is an amazing place to live and study.
Thank you for your reply 🙂
If it helps, I have also been suggested to leave the space blank, and that’s actually what I did because I couldn’t figure out anything else. Even so, my visa arrived with no problems.
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Oh fantastic! Glad you have your visa with no problem 🙂
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I know this article was written a couple of years ago, but it’s very helpful! Did you buy your plane ticket before or after getting your visa?
Hi Abbey! Thanks for your question and I’m glad you found this useful still 🙂 I purchased my flights as soon as I got the documents necessary from Yonsei University at the very end of July in 2014, and I also immediately applied for my visa, which I received my visa back about a week after actually purchasing my flights (but yes, I technically purchased my plane tickets before officially having my visa).
This is so awesome! I have been mind boggled with this visa stuff and reading this has been extremely helpful. I know its been a while since you’ve applied but just wondering for the estimated travel cost did you just put the $5000 required for visa?
Glad you found it helpful! Unfortunately I’m currently in Korea and don’t have access to my files at home, but I would think that travel cost is specifically referring to the cost of a plane ticket (which varies based on where your starting city is). I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a separate line for that, and all I filled out was the overall cost ($5,000). I’m sorry I can’t remember more clearly! Hope your app process goes smoothly and well 🙂
For your financial aid award letter did you have your financial aid advisor write a letter for you? Because I want to get my visa complete asap but I have to wait till late june to mid july for my financial aid awards too?
Yes, I did contact the person who is specifically in charge of financial aid for people studying abroad, and I explained my situation and he immediately wrote a brief letter (it’s just a statement that was signed by him as an official representative of my home university) which I kept a copy of for myself and sent a copy with my application. Don’t stress – I had the same exact thing!
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