Monday, May 10, 2010


Yes, it is only May. But somehow Seoul has managed to skip spring and launch directly into summer. Summer by my standards at least. I may or may not have mentioned before how much of a wimp I am when it comes to heat and humidity.

Today I had a nutso experience at the immigration office that involved running around town like a headless chicken trying to get a copy of my dad's family registry. When the lady at the office told me my mother's forms were useless in my quest to get an F-4 visa, I immediately felt defeated. My parents have been living in the US longer than they lived in Korea - how in the world would I find my dad's family registry?? But surprisingly, all I had to do was go across the street to some office called a 동사무서, hand over my passport and my dad's old address (which was, thankfully, on my MOM's family registry), and 5 minutes and $2 later I had all the forms I needed.

I can't even imagine being able to get a form that easily back home. I mean, it took me 5 months to get my diploma. And if you want to get your degree verified, you can't just call up the school and ask them "hey, did so-and-so attend your school and get a degree?" You have to register on a website, pay some ridiculous fee, then wait who knows how long just to get a simple "yes"...

Then again, there are other things here in Korea that are surprisingly difficult. For example, a proper thank you card that doesn't have some inane inappropriate phrase on it like "I love you and your smile that never fades!" It took me a week to find two cards that only had the words "Thank You" written on the front. These cards are going to the two professors who were very kind and wrote letters of recommendation for me even though they are very busy and I gave them short notice.

But that's a different story. Instead, let's look at a picture of a cute baby!

You know a baby is cute when he spits up all over you and you don't even care. This is my cousin's 3-month-old son.

And now, some random, perhaps useful, information, aka how to get an F-4 visa if you are a girl and your parents used to be Korean citizens but are now American:

Bring a copy of both your parents' naturalization certificates, a copy of their passports, and copy of your passport, and a copy of your birth certificate. You'll need to get a copy of your father's family registry at the 동사무서 across the street from the immigration office - this is easy if you happen to be listed on that registry (unlikely). You'll most likely need your father's address at the time he was listed on the registry. Luckily, my dad's address was listed on the copy of my mom's registry I had. Just to be safe, I'd bring all the aforementioned documents and just show them all to the person helping you while looking helpless and in a hurry. This worked for me.

Now go across the street to the immigration office. Before you do anything else, get a number. If you get number 155 for example, they will most likely currently be on number 140. And that doesn't include all the people who came before but were missing some crucial document, had to run across the street to get it, then get to cut back in line (guilty!) After you get your number, fill out two forms. One is the general form everybody fills out. Another is a form that says something about korean nationals living abroad. Even though this isn't you, fill it out. You'll need to glue a 3.5x4.5 (cm) photo to each one. You'll also need to go to the basement and ask for 60,000 won worth of "stamps" to glue to your general application. By the time you finish these tasks, they'll be helping person number 143.

I would bring a book.

After that, the rest is pretty easy. They are very helpful and friendly (I had been expecting something like the DMV, but this was not the case) and I was done in about an hour and a half, despite having to leave the building twice to get various forms. I think the issue with using my mom's family registry to get my visa was that my mom was still technically a Korean citizen when I was born, so they needed my dad's registry to see if I had been listed on it.

After you hand over your forms and your passport (make sure you don't need to go anywhere!) you'll get a receipt telling you to come back in a week to pick up your passport.

I'm not sure if it is more complicated if you are a guy - it might be if you are listed on your family registry. Something to do with military service.

Okay, time to go study chemistry to sleep.

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