Hi, I am Bryan, an exchange student to POSTECH University, in Korea. Here’s the short story of  my stressful first week and how I almost did not manage to study in Korea. (Not as dramatic as it sounds)

During the first week of arrival, we had to go to the Pohang immigration office to apply for our Alien Registration Card, which is something necessary for long term stay in Korea. Everything was going well at first, as I passed the registration document to the immigration officer and she began to process. It all went downhill with a simple question: ‘is there a reason why you applied for a tourist visa’.  This set off a flurry of Korean between the school staff who accompanied us and the officer and resulted in the school staff making many frenzied phone calls to see how to settle this situation.

Visa Application Form
My Visa
Types of Visas

So, what had happened is that instead of a D4 visa which was the visa for long term study in Korea, the Korean embassy in Singapore had issued me a C39 visa, which was tourism visa. This visa meant that I was not technically allowed to study or be an exchange student in POSTECH. This had escaped my view when I first got the visa, as I had been satisfied with getting the visa and did not think to check what type of visa it was. This was also missed by the school staff when checking my documents.

Also, somehow, my friend, who I had gone with to the embassy and submitted visa documents together with at the same time, had been issued the correct visa. Funnily enough, instead of the student visa, they issued me tourist visa (normally meant for short term) for the same time period, meaning they somehow allowed me to holiday in Korea for 4 months but not to study there.

In this situation, I had to either hope that the Korean Embassy was able to fix my visa from Singapore, or else I had to fly back to Singapore to get a new visa, before I was able to start class officially. This led to a few stressful days of worrying and waiting for news. Luckily, as the first week was online class, I was sent the links for the class, I was still able to attend class, albeit stuck in the limbo of not being a student. Luckily, after a few days, I received a call from the Korean Embassy (during one of my online classes), telling me that they had made a mistake and it would be fixed over the next few weeks by them.

The moral of the story: Check all the paperwork before heading off to exchange, especially something as important as a visa.

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