Before I could go over to Korea to start my new job, I had to get an E-2 work visa. Here's what I needed:
1. College diploma, in its original format: Yup, I sent my original diploma to South Korea. Why doesn't a copy suffice? Why do they need the diploma and not just transcripts and/or a certificate of completion? And what was I thinking blindly sending a complete stranger my original college diploma? Good questions all.
2. Criminal background check* (presumably a clean one): This was kind of cool, I got to get fingerprinted and then received a lovely letter from the Department of Justice in Sacramento stating that I was a fugitive and had a warrant out for my arrest. Just kidding, I believe the letter had one line: "No record found." Sweeeeeet!
3. Passport photos: I don't know why they needed pictures, but this seems to be a trend. When I originally applied, the recruitment agency quickly accepted me after a 5-minute interview, however, as they searched for a job for me they demanded pictures. I sent them a picture of myself standing atop a sand dune, shoes in hand, which I thought made me seem adventurous, laid-back, and cosmopolitan. The agency sent me a quick "nuh-uh," they needed additional pictures of my face. Apparently ugly people need not apply. Fortunately for me, after I sent a few more pics they found me a job pretty quickly.
4. Visa code from your South Korean employer: This was the kicker. You'd think that securing a job in May would allow said employer ample time to process my visa code by August, but you'd be wrong. It took a very long time for them to send this to me and my August start date got pushed back to October, then November, and then finally December.
Next, you make an appointment at the Korean consulate**, drop by with all the aforementioned items, and fill out some forms. It takes just a couple of days for them to process it all.
*You actually have to get this notarized and apostillized. Notarizing something is easy and can be done at many postal stores, but getting an apostille is a bitch and a half. An apostille is kind of like a fancy certification done by the State Secretary, and if you know anything about capitals or California you'll know that our State Secretary is located in Sacramento. Do you have to go all the way to Sacramento to get an apostille? Nay, fortunately they have two branches in L.A. and San Francisco, however if you use one of these branches you have to do the additional step of having the notarization certified by the county. So, first I got the criminal background check (that letter with one line) notarized at a local notary public, then I took that to the county clerk's office to get it...I dunno, clerk-ized, and then I finally went to the State Secretary's office in San Francisco to get an apostille affixed to it. By the end, that one-page, one-line letter became three pages with three different seals.
**I lucked out, the nearest Korean consulate happened to be in San Francisco. They only have a few locations across the country, however, and the San Francisco branch serves those located in California, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.