Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Getting Documented

Migrating back  to Korea has given me firsthand experience with going through the documentation process. Because, even though I was born here, I am treated legally as a foreigner.  Just like in the US.

When I first arrived in Korea, I only had a tourist visa. I had to wait about a month to get my work visa. Without the work visa (or another valid resident visa) I was unable to get most things done. Foreigners in Korea need an Alien Registration Card (ARC). You can’t get one without a visa. Without the ARC I couldn’t get a cell phone. I couldn’t open a bank account. Because I didn’t have a phone, I couldn’t get anything delivered because the apartment building I lived in at that time had no door buzzer/intercom system (delivery men telephone recipients to open the door). I broke the cheap chair my apartment came with, but I couldn’t buy a new one at the first two stores I went to because they only display chairs. Then they order them for delivery to your house. I could use my US-issued credit card or ATM card to get cash, but I couldn’t get a credit card that would work with the Korean websites (and then there was the delivery issue again.)

Things are different in the US. There you can open bank accounts with a foreign passport and proof of address, like a bill. You can buy a phone and get an account without a bank account, credit card, or even ID. It’s not so difficult to spend money in the US.

All this and I should have an F4 visa which is for overseas Koreans. You have to prove that you gave up your Korean citizenship by showing an original naturalization certificate. When I left my adopter’s house back when I was 18, I didn’t take my certificate. I have a US Passport, which in my ignorable opinion, proves my US citizenship, but the government of the Republic of Korea doesn’t seem to agree with that logic.

Before I left the US (even before I got a job offer in ROK) I started the procedure to get a replacement certificate. I had no information about it. No certificate number, no date of issuance; I didn’t know which court swore me. I made an appointment at a USCIS service center in Suffolk County, NY. It would have been a 2-3 hour trip by subway, commuter train, and taxi, to ask what my “A” number was. That’s the file number that identifies you with USCIS, or their processor INS. I kept trying and got another appointment just 15 minutes away by subway. The agent there jotted it down on a notepad slip and handed my TWO A numbers to me. Plus the date that was on my naturalization certificate: 01/00/1980. Yes, that’s right January 00. Do you remember where you were on January 0, 1980?

I sent them the form and payment $345 and passport photos for the new certificate. They sent me a receipt for it and then I moved to Korea. I changed my address with them before I left. My friend who would be receiving the mail from them got a notice that I changed my address. Then I got a notice that they needed further documentation from me. I receive this notification via email. I didn’t know what kind of documentation they wanted. I waited. And waited. And called. And waited. They re-issued the letter and re-sent it. My friend received the letter, finally. They had sent the first letter to my address in New York after I received the change of address acknowledgement. Hrmph! They wanted proof that my name changed legally and they needed it 80 days after the first letter was issued. That gave me two weeks to get my marriage certificate, or an official copy, to them. Since I didn’t know how to get an official copy from Brooklyn to Korea to send to Texas, I just sent the original one to them via Korean express post and my Maine friend and USPS first class mail.

They acknowledged receipt and issued the decision that they will re-issue the certificate. I’m still waiting for the certificate. Hopefully in January 2014 I can apply for an F4 visa. To be continued…

PS People who were adopted away from the ROK can reclaim their citizenship, but that has advantages and disadvantages, particularly for adoptees. I probably will not be getting dual citizenship after getting an F4.

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