Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Will I be blacklisted from getting a new E2 visa for breaking a contract?

Here's the question:

I have been in Korea and have been screwed by 2 hagwons. I am signing with my third but do not plan on finishing my contract. I just signed last week and plan on leaving in 4 months. I make tons of money by teaching kindergarten in the mornings and doing privates so I would like to come back to Korea and teach at a later date. I'm leaving because I've been here for almost a year and miss my family and I need a vacation. My question is......if I run and then go back to the US for 3 months and have a vacation (which Koreans don't seem to respect), can I get another VISA when I am ready to come back to Korea and make more money? Or will Immigration blacklist me when I reapply?

I seem to be getting a lot of 'midnight run' questions these days. Sorry to hear about the bad hagwons. Have you taken the time to add them to ESLBlacklist, yet? If so, you should. I would also suggest that you stay away from hagwons. You seem to have a knack for finding the bad ones.

Pulling a midnight run and leaving the visa early is really not that big of a deal. It does, however, perpetuate a nasty stereotype and you would be screwing the school and your fellow teachers for a week or two, but in the end, the school will be fine and your tenure there would be nothing more than a bad memory. However, since the school didn't pay for your flight tickets or recruiter fee (since you were already in Korea), I would suggest that you tell them a month ahead of time. If you want, make up an excuse, but there is no need to do the late night sneak away.

Typically, the school will cancel your visa pretty quickly once it's discovered that you have left and in most cases they will not try to "blacklist" you. If you trash your apartment or get an advance the day before you flee, then they will try something, but there really isn't any clear evidence that hagwons have the authority to get your name on a blacklist. After all, you're not a criminal. You just left the country. Brian linked a Korea Times article that suggests Immigration "does not retain data on foreign nationals who have had work experience [in Korea]."

Technically, you should be fine to bail after four months and return on a new visa, but again, there is no risk in telling your new school that you've gotta leave either. Sometimes things happen at home and, if you're open and honest with them, then you should be fine.

If anybody has any questions, just send me an email at or leave a comment


Anonymous said...

Ah, the proverbial and mythical blacklist. While I have yet to hear first-hand (or reliable second-hand) stories of said blacklists, the Korean Immigration Service seems not organized enough to make such a blacklist unrealistic. Perhaps the hagwon association keeps one that they check before making a hire - but that seems a bit disorganized...

On a practical note to the original question - consider taking your vacation now, THEN come back to Korea... At least then you're not deceiving a school, damaging whatever reputation English teachers in Korea have, and can avoid being a blacklist - whether real or not.

Brian said...

Yeah, I kind of think you should:
(1) do your homework and not sign with bad schools.
(2) do a little soul-searching to make sure you're not the common demoninator (after all you're going to break three contracts).
(3) not go into a school with the idea of abruptly leaving. Take your vacation now, as the previous poster said, and come back to do a full year.

I know that there are schools that don't honor their contract, but you shouldn't be breaking them yourself. Not only does it make you look unprofessional and contribute to an unpleasant stay in Korea, but it reflects poorly on all the NSETs Korea imports.

The Expat said...

Both of you are spot on. Take your vacation now. Save yourself the trouble.


Thanks for saying what I can't. I try to be as non-confrontational as possible, but I think you're on to something with your second comment. I've only known a couple people who have been through as many contracts in such a short amount of time and both of them were the actually the problem.

Thanks guys...

Unknown said...

In my defense, my first hagwon only had one teacher finish a contract in 4 years and the second hagwon fell on harsh times financially and cut back to 1 native teacher instead of 2 and the director felt terrible about letting me go. We are still friends to this day. I taught History in the states and am far more qualified than my peers. I did have a minor dispute with the first hagwon but all other things were done diplomatically. I am not a problem. I am a professional. Sometimes the cultural barrier is difficult but in 9 months I've never missed a day or mistreated a staff member.

Unknown said...

I had 2 hagwons break contracts on me and I feel awful about actually breaking one myself but I've found that Koreans do not honor contracts so why should I? I have to pay for both sides of my airfare and my "year" is up. I love Korea but I need to see the states. That was my plan and I'm sticking to it. I am going to take the expat's advice and make up an excuse and fulfill my year that I said I was going to before I was exposed to treachery and lies. I've had one terrible experience and one unfortunate one. All in all, I'd do it again now that I know the deal! Thanks for the input guys! Great website!

The Expat said...

Thanks for the question, Timothy and good luck!

Unknown said...

hi i was in korea last 2007 since i have 1 year contract i worked as a waitress in a bar but i decided to run away because my boss wants us to go out with customers. i was deployed and now im planning to take a vacation there for 4days with my brother and his family as his graduation gift for me. do i still have a chance to travel and work there if its possible? thanks i need ypu reply asap pls free to contact

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