Changing of visa + house contract stamping

Every KGSP student who went through the one year language course like me would have to subsequently change their D-4 visa to D-2 visa. It may be a very tricky process especially for those who are planning to return to their home country or travel outside of Korea during the vacation period. But fret not, the International Office of your respective language and post graduate university will be there to advice you on the procedure. However, based on my personal experience Yonsei University does not offer any help to change our visa and ARC but I received some guidance and advice from the person-in-charge in our faculty. Most post graduate universities do not take charge in changing the visa on our behalf, but this differs by university.

This blog post will cover two aspects: visa and Alien registration card (ARC) change and house contract stamping process. It may be a very daunting experience for those who cannot speak and read Korean fluently because law and immigration related phrases tend to be more difficult and generally there are not many people who can speak fluent English (well, at least those I have encountered in my own experience). Best advice I could give is to ask for advice from your universities or seniors and ALSO doing your own research online to understand the process and required documentation to ensure a smooth and hassle free process.


Visa and Alien Registration Card change

Within 14 days after we shift to our new place, be it living outside in a one room like me or living in the dormitory, we will need to make a trip to the immigration office to change our address. So since we have to change our visa from D-4 to D-2 as well, we can just do it together by making a visit to the immigration office. As far as I know, there are 2 immigration offices in Seoul that covers different neighbourhoods so be sure to check which one your neighbourhood falls into on the immigration website first! For my case, I live in Mapo-gu so mine falls under Seoul Southern Immigration office.

Before heading to the immigration office to submit my documents, all of us had to go online and set an appointment at the immigration office home page (https://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/main_en.pt). This is a pretty easy step as the website is available in English. Remember to check the correct immigration office while setting the appointment! After keying all the personal information and selecting the time slot, there is a confirmation slip in which you are required to print out. I didn’t print mine so I just took a photo of it and I didn’t encounter any issues with that BUT some friends of mine who went to another immigration office HAD TO have the printed copy before her application can be processed. So it is better to be safe than sorry.

Pro tip 1: Based on personal experience, different immigration office and different immigration officers may have different required set of documents for them to process your application. I’m not sure what is the reason behind this but just to be safe, call up 1345 (immigration office hotline) to check on the list of documents required. I spoke to a lady who knew how to speak good English and she told me that I should bring the following:

  1. Original copy of passport
  2. Alien Registration Card (ARC) original
  3. Original house contract or proof of residence (if you are living in a goshiwon or hasukjib like my friend, they do not have any written contract as there is no deposit involved so you would have to download another form from the immigration website and fill that up)
  4. Transcript from language university (attendance and results, proof of completion)
  5. Printed and filled application form (download from immigration website) + passport size photo x1 (P/S: you CANNOT re-use the same photo that you are using for your current ARC. I found out about this in the immigration office and almost freaked out)
  6. Original copy of acceptance letter/ acceptance certificate from post graduate university
  7. For KGSP students – Scholarship certificate (by submitting this we will only need to pay 30,000 won to change our visa)
  8. 30,000 won CASH

On top of that, I also brought along the original copy of my Bachelor’s degree certificate and transcript and NIIED invitation letter just in case they may require it. But they did not request for mine so I did not have to submit them. But my Indonesian friend who was there with me has to submit a stamped copy of his Bachelor’s degree certificate and transcript. Hence, my advice is just to bring everything so that we don’t have to make another visit again.

In case you made a blunder like me regarding the passport photo, fret not as they have a photo booth that you can take and receive your passport sized photos instantly. It costs 8000 won for 6 pieces of photos. Also, you may be requested to photocopy some documents by the officer too. There is photocopying services next to the photo booth where we can photocopy our documents for a small fee (100won per piece). Next, we have to pay the 30,000 won via the bank ATM, which is also located right next to the photo booth. Over there, the bank staff will assist you in operating the ATM machine and they require your passport to scan while making the payment. Lastly, if you want the ARC to be sent to your house directly, you just have to pay an additional 3000 won to do so (which I did because it cost almost 3000 won for me to head back to the immigration office via bus anyway and I did not want to travel under the hot summer sun more than I need to)

So, after submitting all the required documents, it took about two weeks for my ARC to reach my house!


House contract stamping

Another important thing that I needed to do was to get my house (one room) contract stamped at a local court. My main purpose of doing this is to ensure that I can get my deposit back in case anything happens to the building (public auction etc). I went to a nearby local court (서울서부지방법원 Seoul Western District Court) to get this done. All the signage inside the court building is in Korean, so if you do not speak any Korean it is best to bring a Korean with you. Anyway, I went to the floor where they handle real estate registration (부동산등기). I went directly to counter 7 and told the staff that I need a 확정일자. Then, I just had to surrender my original copy of contract and paid 600 won to get it done! The whole process took about 10 minutes and it is a very simple procedure.


It may be a little daunting to deal with these paper work, especially if you are doing it alone. But I did everything myself and it went well as I did my homework and asked around before I actually went to the court and immigration office. I’m fortunate to have helpful Korean friends, university staff and also fellow scholars who helped me along the way. Hopefully this post will help those who would go through the same process like I did!

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SHIFTED TO SEOUL!

FINALLY found some time late at night to type this blog post in my new room! I shifted to Seoul from Gwangju 2 weeks ago the day after we finished our last finals for summer semester in language year and man, I have been so busy for the past 2 weeks just by cleaning and buying new stuff for my new room! Oh, and not to mention all the paper work to be done within 14 days after I shift because we need to declare our new address and change our D-4 visa to D-2 visa, which I would write a separate post to explain in more detail.

Anyway, in this blog post I will be covering some tips and my shifting experience. After signing the room contract in Seoul in July, I went back to Gwangju to wrap up the final month of language classes but although the homework and study load is significantly lower because towards the end almost all of us has at least TOPIK 3 already, we still had to attend classes everyday from 9am – 1pm. So basically in August, my weekends are mostly spend either saying goodbye with friends, going to my favourite hang out places (for the last time before I leave LOL), house shifting planning or PACKING! I’ll only be focusing on the latter two in the post though so hopefully my experience can be informative!


House shifting planning:

I think a month before the actual shifting date is a good time frame to start planning AND packing. Although I’ll admit some people may think it is too long of a time but I like planning my journey and process slowly without a hurry just in case something unexpected happens. Plus, I like to enjoy the process of planning and packing because it just adds to the excitement!

So, what did I planned?

1. Bus ticket time – It takes 3.5hours from Gwangju to Seoul so I left Seoul at 9.20am because by the time I reach Seoul I can have lunch and start cleaning my house instead of coming late and sleep in a dusty house.

2, Delivering stuff through parcel delivery – There are many companies offering to send our parcels. For my case, I could go to the post office but I decided to go with CJ Express because I found a 4000 won/box (20kg) deal online. Normally a 20kg big box will cost around 8000 won – 9000 won depending on the area. Plus, roughly a month before I left CJ Express came to our dorm to sell boxes used for the delivery (size 6 btw) so I bought 7 of them. The boxes itself is 2000 won each and I ended up sending 6 boxes up to Seoul.

Point to consider: Due to box size and parcel weight limit, it is good to take some time to consider how many boxes you may actually need. And it is always good to have some spare room because if I did not buy enough boxes, I would have to make an extra trip to get more boxes under the hot summer sun. (You really won’t want to do that, really)

3. Getting help – I was fortunate enough to get a Korean guy friend to help me shift. I live on 4th floor without an elevator and even after sending 6 boxes up, I still had 3 luggages + 1 hand carry luggage with me on my moving day #dontjudgeme. It is not easy to pull these heavy luggages up the stairs so make sure you get all the help you can! If you have friends in Seoul who can help, call them. If not, you can also request help from your agent. Mine was kind enough to handle all my parcel delivery boxes that was sent 1-2 weeks prior to my moving date.

4. Budgeting and shopping list – Actually this is the most important aspect of the ENTIRE PLANNING and I should have put this at first place but forgive me as I am typing this at 11pm and I am typing this post wherever my mind leads me as I recall on my experience :p Glad you have made it this far though haha. Anyway, the tip is it is best to start saving some allowance 6 months before language year ends because if you don’t have some savings to fall back on, chances are you will be running short of money because moving costs A LOT. Even if you are planning to move to the dorm and you will be paying cheap rent (unlike me), considering the money needed to pay to travel and sending your stuff up is also quite a lot of money. If you are planning to stay out in a one room like me, even with a full option one room, you still have to buy lots of daily necessities and electrical appliances too so it’s best to fatten up your account beforehand.

Things to consider:

  1. Parcel delivery
  2. Bus tickets to Seoul
  3. Necessities to buy (WiFi router (if not provided), toilet paper, clothes hanger, detergent, drinkable water if needed, room cleaning tools like brushes, detergents, cloths etc)
  4. Any extra furniture and electrical items to buy for the room (not applicable for dorm I guess) – These are the heavy weight items in terms of weight (literally) and cost
  5. Taxi fare to travel from dorm to bus station to new place or T-money reload cost

Pro tip: Due to lack of budget as we are not allowed to do any part time work to earn some extra cash, consider setting a priority list and wait till the next allowance to come in before buying stuff that you don’t need urgently.

Pro tip 2: While shopping it is best to check out a few online sites first to check on the price of a certain item. You may be able to find a really good deal randomly! It helps with budgeting and it will also save you a lot of time when it is time to order them at your new place!

Not-so-pro experience of mine: I needed to buy a water filter to filter tap water into drinkable water. I asked around and my friends suggested to buy a Brita jug since it is the most convenient way to filter and it is not too big or expensive. I searched online on a website that I always go to because I thought I could get a good deal there and not any other place. Turns out another platform was selling the same model at a cheaper price and they were offering a faster delivery time too! So lesson learned, always go to several websites!

Another not-so-pro experience of mine: I had a clothes hanger in the Chosun University dorm but since I shared it with my roomie, I left it in Gwangju since she still needs to use it. We bought the hanger at E-mart and it was quite a good deal because it costs like 18,000 won and it has a really nice structure. I searched other platforms for a cheaper option but I couldn’t find any so I ended up buying the same one in Seoul. Turns out, I found cheaper options in Ikea last week… (different model and structure though but I would have bought that if I found out earlier……..) So the lesson is, never assume that everything that is under a more premium brand to be ALWAYS more expensive than lesser known brands.

5. Dorm check in date and check out date – Not my own experience but I am just relaying what I observed among my friends who signed up to stay in their university dorm. So our Chosun University dorm only allow us to stay latest until 17th August. But, the degree university dorm would only allow students in earliest on the last week of August, if not by beginning September. So most of my friends are actually left stranded without a place to stay due to this mismatched check-in and check-out date. Most dorms are pretty strict when it comes to this so it was almost impossible for my friends to ask for an extension in our Chosun dorm or an early check in from their university dorm. So extra cost will also incur because you would have to live outside in a goshiwon or something with all your stuff for 2 weeks.

6. Paper work – OK this is like the second most important thing, if not, actually THE most important thing in the eyes of the law because within 14 days of shifting we need to change our address in the immigration office. For those staying outside of dorm at a place where there is a deposit involved, I would advice to also go to the local court to stamp your contract. More info on this in next posting! Also, we need to change our visa from D-4 to D-2 and there are a lot of documents to prepare even BEFORE you move!


Packing:

After buying the boxes it is time to pack and send my stuff to Seoul! I was fortunate enough to receive help from my agent and I could send my stuff to my new room 2 weeks before moving. But this varies case by case because some dorms will not be able to store any luggage before hand so it is best to check with your agent or person in charge of the dorm!

Since it was really hot in the middle of July, I reckon it won’t be wise to send food stuff or sensitive items like make up, skin care, medicine etc first so I sent other non-perishable items like notebooks, clothes, handbags that I will not need to use for the last 2 weeks up first. Then, few days before moving up I sent the remaining like food, electrical items (I bought a mini fan because dorm doesn’t have AC for certain hours) and more clothing. To reduce cost for delivering the parcel, I actually left quite a lot of clothes, make up/skin care and valuable items to be stuffed into my 3 big luggage bags.

For some reference, here is my priority list for packing from pack first to pack last:

  1. Winter clothing, followed by thick clothing that is not worn in hot summer weather
  2. Unused notes, books, documents, extra stationary, souvenirs, memorabilia
  3. Stuff bought in bulk/extras that I know for sure I won’t be able to finish in the last 2 weeks – mask packs, free make up samples, handbags etc
  4. Shoes that I won’t be wearing till I move, summer clothing that I can do without for 2 weeks
  5. Unused, big electronic items
  6. Food, Make up, Skin care, Medicine (these are perishable items and not advisable to leave them outside in hot weather for too long)
  7. Summer clothing – Because you still need to wear some clothes while running around hahahaha. I would suggest keeping at least 1 week worth of clothes for home wear and outside wear.
  8. Electronic Items – Laptop, camera, chargers, powerbank etc (CARRY THESE WITH YOU!)
  9. Bedding – pillow, pillow covers, mattress covers, smelly bolsters (It’s an Asian thing) (I have the whole complete set so I just fit all of them in a hand carry and took them to Seoul with me!)
  10. Important certificates and documents! (DO NOT SEND THESE VIA PARCEL DELIVERY!)

Pro tip: Head to Daiso and buy some vacuum packs because they are super handy while packing bulky, furry winter clothing! It is not too expensive and you can reuse it again and again so it is worth the investment!

Pro tip 2: Maximize all the space in the box! Just make sure it doesn’t go over 20kg. If you live near a gym like I did, you can weigh the boxes using the weighing scale in the gym!

Pro tip 3: In relation to pro tip 2, you can sometimes fill up small spaces/gaps in the box by stuffing a pair of socks in it HAHAHAH. I have like almost 30 pairs of socks and I actually managed to stuff more than half of it just by filling up the empty gaps~

Pro tip 4: In case of rain/leakage of roof or for whatever reason your box comes in contact with water, always lace your box or wrap your items in plastics bags! My items are literally flood proof hahahaha because I didn’t want to risk losing my items if it somehow gets soaked.

Pro tip 5: Somehow we would end up having a few fragile items like glass cups, porcelain plates and so on that we HAVE to send via parcel so it is nice to keep some bubble wrap that you get when you buy things online because they do come in handy! Also, prior to packing just do a small check on what fragile items you have and just stuff it in between all your clothes after wrapping it in bubble wrap! We are warned by the delivery staff that the boxes are sometimes thrown to the ground rather harshly so any broken items will not be their responsibility. So pack well!

Pro tip 6: Aside from bubble wraps, save up some cardboard boxes along the way too because it is easier to pack smaller items into them and arrange them in the bigger courier boxes.


All in all, it was really hectic to pack everything and plan for the big move to Seoul! But it was also an experience that taught me a lot and definitely will come in handy if I need to move to another place again. I hope this post will provide great help especially for KGSP students who will be moving from their language university to their major university. Even though it was a tough process mainly due to language barrier and also lack of experience on my part, it also fun and exciting because finally after one year of language course, I am going to start my new life in a new place for my long awaited masters degree! At this point of time, everything will feel so real and in a flash, here I am in Seoul!

Photo of the Month – May 2018

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Been lagging behind my photo of the month postings because it has been a really hectic June and July for me. There is nothing much left to do in Gwangju anymore except for some final packing and farewell dinners with friends. So before I get busy again once I move to Seoul, time to squeeze another posting!

May is still technically spring in Korea and there were loads of flower related festivals all around. Close to home (as in my dorm in Gwangju), they had the famous Rose Festival because we have a really nice rose garden here in our very own campus. But for this posting, I will be sharing more about my trip to a small town called Hampyeong for the Butterfly Festival!

I went with 2 guy friends (one from Korea and one from China). As per popular belief that Koreans like to take photos AND they take good photos, the photo above is taken by my super experienced Korean friend using the Foodie app ahahaha. Aside from butterflies, we were also able to feast our eyes on weird looking cactuses in the greenhouse, colourful flowers all over and also fields of yellow flowers that make perfect Instagram shots!

First lemme show you some shots taken by my Korean friend~

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Next are some photos taken by myself HAHA using my phone~ Photos of me are taken by my friends though~

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My parents would probably freak out if they read this (Hi mum and dad~), but in the festival I tried some dried larva (as shown in photo above). I never thought I would eat any kind of insect or worm but I DID IT HAHAHAHAH. To be honest it doesn’t feel or taste gross. It just tasted like crispy, bland flour so it wasn’t totally bad. #achievementunlocked

It was a pretty tiring day because it was the golden weekend so we actually got stuck in the bus for 2 hours on our way to the festival. Fortunately the traffic cleared up and it only took us 30 minutes to get back to Gwangju. All in all, it was a really nice experience spent with the company of really fun friends!

My house hunting experience in Seoul – Part 2

In continuation of my previous blog post about my room hunting experience in Seoul, in this posting I will highlight on several aspects to look out for while doing the room check prior to signing the contract, the contract signing process and what to look out for! I guess I will leave out the process of shifting from the dormitory to the room for now because I haven’t experienced that yet hahaha.


So after deciding on the room I wanted to rent, I contact the agent again to view the house for the second time. My agent gladly obliged and I purposely chose to view the house again at night after sun set (the first time I viewed it was on a gloomy afternoon). It was raining cats and dogs that evening but it worked in my favour because I can also then check if there is any leaking anywhere.

Here are a check list about important stuff to check:

  1. Boiler – Make sure it is working for both hot water and floor heating (mine has 2 separate buttons for each function). Gas fees can get really expensive in colder seasons. Newer boilers take lesser time to heat up the floor and water, thus more conservative on the amount of gas used. For a point of reference, my room floor heats up almost immediately (i.e. when the floor heating button was turned on, in around 5 seconds I can feel the floor warming up). For water tap, it took around 2-3 minutes for the taps to produce warm water.
  2. All lights (toilet, room, front door automatic light, and even lights outside of your room at staircase area) – Ensure all lights are brightly lit, if not request the agent to change/repair it.
  3. All water taps and shower hose – Ensure water pressure is OK, no leaking.
  4. Toilet bowl flushing system – It may feel a bit weird that this is actually something important. Older toilet systems with older pipes or certain design of toilet bowls may not have a flush that is powerful enough to flush down toilet paper (this is why in Korea they either provide really thin toilet tissues in public toilets or provide a dustbin in the toilet area for us to throw used toilet paper). The toilet flush in my dormitory is pretty strong but still it got blocked for a few times in the past year. #noescape
  5. Windows – any holes on mosquito net, if the windows can slide open smoothly.
  6. Furniture – If the room is fully furnished (full option), check all cupboards and drawers to see if it is clean (depending on individuals but this is important to me).
  7. Kitchen – Most newer onerooms have induction stoves instead of traditional gas stoves. You may want to consider the amount of stoves because my friend who only has 1 stove said she wished she had two stoves so she can multitask while cooking instead of doing her dishes one by one #shehasapoint. Mine has 2 stoves btw.
  8. Wallpaper – Some owners may opt to change the wallpaper every time a new tenant moves in. If the room’s wallpaper is a bit dirty or run down, try check with the agent to see if it is possible to change.

Next, after confirming everything is OK it was time to sign the contract! Contract fee is normally 10% of total deposit and there is also a separate agent fee. All of these details will be listed in the contract. The contract should start on an agreed date (the date when you move in, NOT the date you sign the contract unless you are moving in right after signing lol) and the duration of contract must be stated clearly on the first page of the contract.

The biggest tip I could share is, make sure everything is ALRIGHT AND CORRECT before signing the contract! The agents are normally busy and they tend to rush us into signing the contract even before we manage to read everything. To be honest, I was rushed into signing the contract but I withhold the contract fee until I ensure everything in the contract is OK and the owner of the building has a clean record. I would prefer if I could sign it after letting my Korean friends check the contract. Fortunately everything turned out OK for me but others may not be so lucky!

Basically the signing of contract is done in the agent’s office. For my case, the agent has the name stamp of the building owner so on behalf of the owner himself, the agent acknowledged the contract using the owner’s stamp. The contract itself has three pages, the first page bearing important information like monthly rent, maintenance fees and what it includes (differs by room and negotiation results), amount of deposit, contract fee (normally 10% of contract fee), my ARC number and other personal details like handphone number, full name etc, the owner’s full name, house address and agent details. Make sure to check EACH AND EVERY details listed and request to change if there is ANY mistake no matter how small the mistake might be. The subsequent second and third page are basically information about the room like nearest bus stop, subway station, schools (primary, secondary, high school), size of room, condition of wall paper, water taps, boiler system etc. To me every information in the contract is IMPORTANT, so if there is anything you don’t agree with, for example if the wallpaper is dirty but in the contract it is stated as new/clean, request to either change the wallpapers or request to change the details in the contract. Ensure that all details regarding the room is tally with the contract to avoid discrepancies in the future when you move out!

Before finally signing the contract and paying the fees, there are TWO very important things to do. The first one is to check the 허가 번호 (registration number/authorization number) of the real estate agent.

You can do it here: http://www.kar.or.kr/pinfo/brokersearch.asp

The webpage is all in Korean but basically we just have to select the filters that indicate the area of the agent’s office (address is normally found on their name cards) and viola~ agents that are registered can all be found on this webpage. Once you verify the authenticity of the agent, then you can move on to checking the 등기부동분 of the building. This is a pretty complicated process and it is ALL in Korean. You would need to download an app called 인터넷등기소 on Playstore. It cost 700 won per check and you would also need to key in a phone number (for them to send the results to) and a Korean ID number. This is where you will need a Korean that you can trust to help you. The report will be in 2 pages. I am also not really sure on this part but from what I know, as long as the building doesn’t have multiple owners, the owner is debt-free and the building is not under mortgaged then it is OK. The report for my room shows none of these so it was an all clear.

P/S: The reason why multiple owners can pose a risk is because most likely the deposit you paid will be split across these owners so you will get into potential trouble if one or more of them runs away with your money.

After all these checks, it is time to sign the contract and wire the contract fee to the owner’s bank account as stated on the contract! Technically, we would have to wire the monthly rent to the same stated account too. Also remember to counter check if the person you are wiring the money to is indeed the building owner himself and not somebody else!


After signing the contract, it is time to make plans to shift! I know I would surely miss Gwangju when I leave because I got used to the life here already. But on the other hand, I am excited to start the new chapter in my life in Seoul! Having my own space and being able to experience living alone is also something that is pretty exciting and I am pretty sure it can be life changing too! Till then, I’ll continue enjoying the remaining weeks here I have in my language year~