Today is the day that I’ve been dreading for the past two months. I needed to renew my F-4 visa at the Seoul Immigration Office (서울출입국관리사무소) in Mokdong, Seoul. Normally this immigration office is always crowded and there are always long lines of foreigners waiting to apply for visas.
However, as of February 1st, 2016, the Korean Immigration office has requested foreigners living in Seoul to schedule an appointment on their HiKorea website (hikorea.go.kr) in order to have the immigration offices handle your visa needs. You can still go without an appointment but there may be a long waiting time ahead of you. If that’s the case, I hope you bring a book or download some games to your phone to make the waiting time go by faster! (and possibly a portable battery charger just in case you drain your phone battery ㅋㅋㅋ)
In order to schedule an appointment, you need to create an account on their website. I have to admit that this can be a very confusing and complicated process so I strongly advise our G.O.A.’L members to ask G.O.A.’L or a Korean friend to help with creating an account and scheduling an appointment on the HiKorea website. You will also need to use Internet Explorer as your web browser in order to complete all of these requirements.
**PLEASE BE FAMILIAR WITH YOUR DESIGNATED DISTRICT AREA** At the Seoul Immigration Office, there is also the Seoul Nambu Immigration Office
(서울남부출입국관리사무소) on the 3rd floor!
Seoul Immigration Office in Mokdong on the 1st floor handles the following districts: Gwanak-gu, Gwangjin-gu, Gangnam-gu, Gangdong-gu, Dongjak-gu, Songpa-gu, Seongdong-gu, Seocho-gu, Yongsan-gu — [Gyeonggi-do] Seongnam, Anyang, Hanam, Gwacheon
Seoul Nambu Immigration Office in Mokdong on the 3rd floor handles the following districts:
Seodaemun-gu, Mapo-gu, Gangseo-gu, Yangcheon-gu, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Guro-gu, Guemcheon-gu — [Gyeonggi-do] Gwangmyeong
Seoul Sejeong Immigration Office next to Jonggak Station (inside the Seoul Global Center) handles the following districts:
Jongno-gu, Jung-gu, Eunpyeong-gu, Dongdaemun-gu, Jungnang-gu, Dobong-gu, Seongbuk-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Nowon-gu
Please also keep in mind that normally February and March are the busiest and worst times of the year to go to the immigration offices due to the new school year for Korean universities and English academies. Therefore, there tend to be a lot of English teachers and foreign exchange students going to get their work and student visas throughout these two months.
Since Korean Immigration requested foreigners living in Seoul to schedule an appointment regarding visa needs, I decided to try this new system out for the first time and experience it firsthand. I had our lovely office manager at G.O.A.’L help me make a reservation online. My online reservation was for Thursday morning (February 25, 2016) at 11:20am. My reservation number was #29 and I had to go to the “Foreign Visa Service” counter on the 1st floor and wait for my ticket number to be called. I also planned to get there 30 minutes early to pay for my F-4 visa renewal fee which is 60,000 KRW at the stamp counter on the 1st floor. **PLEASE REMEMBER TO PAY WITH CASH (KOREAN WON)**
This is what the HiKorea online reservation confirmation form will look like when you print it out.
**On my reservation, it does state 서울출입국관리사무소 (Seoul Immigration Office). At the time that I made my reservation last week, the HiKorea website only provided me with Seoul Immigration Office and Sejeong Immigration Office as the only two immigration offices to select for Seoul. However, our office manager checked the HiKorea website again today and noticed that Seoul Nambu Immigration Office is now an office that you can select on their website. I'm pretty sure that is the reason why so many reservations were "wrong" because it was not available to select last week**
Once I arrived at the immigration office, I paid for my application fee and went to the office on the 1st floor, but the customer service worker said that my reservation was wrong and that I needed to go to the 3rd floor to renew my F-4 visa. I was confused because I didn’t know why my reservation was wrong. He informed me that my district is for Seoul Nambu Immigration Office and not the Seoul Immigration Office. I informed the man that I had entered the right information online, but the website gave me the 1st floor immigration office as my reservation location. Unfortunately, the man at the front desk was not very understanding and barked at me to go to the 3rd floor to renew my visa.
I got to the 3rd floor, took a ticket and I had 14 people in front of me so I knew right away that the waiting time was going to be way over an hour especially with the immigration officers having their lunch break coming up soon. There was also only one counter handling F-4 visas and Foreign Visas while the other two were for reservations and the last one being for special requests. I was preparing myself to just play games on my phone and browse Facebook and Instagram to make the waiting time go by a little bit faster.
During that time, a foreigner next to me was on the phone talking about how his online reservation was wrong and that it was his second time that the HiKorea website gave him the wrong reservation. After he got off the phone, I made small talk with him and we both complained about how the website was not reliable. Five other foreigners overheard us talking and they also said the same thing that their online reservations were wrong and they were also forced to go to the 3rd floor and take a ticket number and wait. However, I noticed that some foreigners were able to proceed with their visa requests while using the online reservation on the HiKorea website. I’m guessing that there could be a glitch or a technical issue on the HiKorea website. It only made things more baffling and confusing for myself and for some of the other foreigners near me who all had the “wrong reservation”.
Maybe about after 20 minutes, the man who was sitting next to me had his Korean wife come to help him with his reservation problem. He was actually able to get his visa needs done right away so he actually ended up giving me his ticket. His ticket number also happened to be #237 and the Foreigner Visa counter was on ticket #234 so I was very lucky and thankful that he was kind enough to give me his ticket number. I probably thanked him over 20 times before he left to go back down to the 1st floor with his wife.
Finally, my ticket number was called and I had no problems reapplying for my F-4 visa. The immigration officer only took 5 minutes to look over my documents and to enter my information into the computer. Right after that, I had to wait maybe 10 minutes for a woman to call my name to hand me back my F-4 visa card with the new expiration date on the back. Overall, I was in and out of there within an hour. If it wasn’t for that kind gentleman who gave me his ticket number, I think I would have waited either 2 or 3 hours just to submit my documents for renewing my F-4 visa. Regardless, I was able to finally renew my F-4 visa for the first time and now I don’t have to worry about it again until 2019!
For the time being, I will try and talk with Korean Immigration about their website reservation issues and hopefully they can fix this problem within the very near future. The fact that many foreigners (including myself) were complaining about the online reservation system and how their website didn’t work, I feel that this situation needs to be resolved immediately especially since the Korean Immigration offices are making a strong push for foreigners to make online reservations instead of doing walk-in appointments. Hopefully Korean Immigration can fix this problem so that foreigners including Korean adoptees who wish to apply for the F-4 visa can make an online reservation and not have to deal with the same problems that I went through today.
Please also remember that you can always contact me (Jacob) at G.O.A.’L for any F-4 related questions or requests by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!