Visas

Last Monday, the day after arriving back home from New Zealand, I went off to the Korean Consulate in Yokohama to get my spousal visa for Korea (the F-6-1).

It probably would have been a lot easier to get to the Embassy in Tokyo, but fortunately I called ahead of time, and they told me that because I live in Yokohama I have to go to the consulate.  Who knew… that they would even have a consulate in Yokohama with Tokyo right next door?  But I suppose there are enough Koreans living in Japan and the greater Kanto region to warrant more than one facility.

The consulate is in the middle of nowhere in terms of public transport, but right in the Yamate area, which is a beautiful (if uphill) walk, especially in the middle of cherry blossom season.

I brought my husband and mother-in-law (who was visiting) along for moral support.  I was also armed with the following:

1. Passport and copy
2. Japanese Alien Registration Card (外国人登録証… I renewed my Japanese visa right before the switch to the 在留カード) and copy
3. Invitation form (downloaded from the embassy website)
4. Reference letter (downloaded from the embassy website)
5. Marriage certificate and family register from Korea (where we got married)
6. Marriage certificate from America (or just the signed letter fom the US Embassy in Seoul)
7. Bank statement for my husband’s account
8. Contract for our apartment in Seoul
9. Picture
10. Fee
11. Application form (which we got and filled out there)

Things I did not have… proof of employment/salary for my husband (it’s complicated), any kind of health check or criminal record, any kind of credit record for either of us.

I was also really surprised because the application form I was asked to fill out was exactly the same as the one for every other visa type.  Having read up on the process rather extensively, I was expecting marriage specific questions, like when did you meet, what’s his favorite food… or something…

I brought along my Level 3 TOPIK results and my college transcript (to show employability? I happened to have it on hand because of the grad school apps, so why not?), but they didn’t ask for anything else.

The lady said to come back on Wednesday and sent us on our way.

We were too busy touring with the mother-in-law, so we waited till the following Monday and went all the way back up to Yamate to pick up my passport with its nice new visa.  Being a worrier, and feeling like we turned in way less than everyone else said they did, I was a little scared that the visa wouldn’t actually be given to me, but I just gave her the receipt for picking it up, and she gave me my passport and sent me on my way again.

Piece of cake!

BUT, I later realized I had turned in my application the day before the law supposedly changes, and requirements get stricter.  Phew!

The new law states that the Korean spouse (or the couple or someone) needs to be able to prove a yearly income of about 15 million won or more, and that the foreign spouse should be able to prove basic Korean skills (or they should prove that they can communicate in a language other than Korean).

On the one hand, this makes a lot of sense, but on the other hand it seems like a really hard thing to regulate.

It seems to make sense that you would want to be able to communicate with your spouse, and a little sad to think that there are people entering into something like marriage without being able to do that (prompting people to make such a law).  BUT, how do you quantify such communicative ability on a visa application?  It seems that level one of a test like TOPIK is the generally accepted level of Korean proficiency, but that seems like pretty basic communication.  And what if you want to prove that you communicate in a language other than Korean?  Do both have to give TOEFL scores if neither’s native language is English?  What if the couple speaks in French? or German? or Chinese?  Who is going to make standards for each, and then test them?

For the financial test, that’s a little easier, and it does seem to take into account that it may not be the Korean spouse who is the main provider in every household.  No problem there for now…  we’ll see.

Still, I’m glad I got in just under the wire….

Just a note, I am in Japan on a working visa, so this is not an account of the typical “visa run” to Japan.  The Yokohama Consulate did ask me on the phone if I was living here, and the impression I got is that they would not have processed my application if I did not.  Contact any Korean embassy/consulate ahead of time if it is not your home country or you are not living there currently before doing a visa run.

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