This post is a continuation of my series entitled, How to Prepare Documents for an E-2 Visa in Korea.

If you are a US citizen and want to work in Korea as an English teacher, there are several documents that you will need to collect before you can secure a job offer or an E-2 visa. One of them is an FBI Criminal Background Check also called a Criminal History Summary (stating no criminal record found) with Apostille. Procuring this document will likely require the most legwork and patience, so you should begin it first. Using this 5-step guide, you’ll be able to tackle this process with ease.

Here’s how I, a US citizen residing in the US at the time of processing, did it:

Step 1. Get fingerprinted at your local police station or authorized agency. If the precinct gives you a fingerprint card, make sure that it is Standard Fingerprint Form FD-258. Alternatively, you can print out your own card using the FBI’s PDF found here.

  • The instructions state:

IDENTITY OF PRIVATE CONTRACTORS SHOULD BE SHOWN IN SPACE “EMPLOYER AND ADDRESS”. THE CONTRIBUTOR IS THE NAME OF THE AGENCY SUBMITTING THE FINGERPRINT CARD TO THE FBI.

On my card, the officer who did my fingerprints wrote down the name and address of his precinct in the space “Employer and Address”.

  • If you live in New York City, this should cost you around $15 (money order only) at a local precinct or $25 at NYPD headquarters

 

Step 2. Complete and print Form 1-783 from the FBI’s website.

  • Be sure to include a note that states “Please provide an FBI seal and signature from a Division Officer for the purpose of obtaining a Federal Apostille.” You may list this on the application or include it in an attached (post-it or paper clipped) note. I did both.
  • Prepare a money order, cashier’s check, or completed credit card form for $18 per copy of the results.
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Sample CBC Request Form (1-783)

Step 3. Express mail completed Form 1-783, completed fingerprint card, payment method, and a prepaid self-addressed express envelope to

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

  •  Before you mail your documents, make sure you have everything you need by using the FBI’s Identification Record Request Checklist. You should also write down the tracking number found on your outgoing express mail envelope. You’ll want this later to stalk track the arrival of your documents at the FBI.
    • UPDATE 1/29/14: Thanks to a comment from reader chalmozoTed, the FBI has changed their policy re: self-addressed return envelopes. 

Note from the FBI: “Due to changes in processing, effective October 12, 2013, the FBI will no longer accept return self-addressed stamped envelopes with Departmental Order requests. This includes pre-paid Priority Mail, FedEx account numbers, United Parcel Service, etc., foreign postage coupons, and requests to forward correspondence to the Department of State for the apostille process. Envelopes received postmarked after this date will be destroyed. The FBI will return all results, both foreign and domestic, by U.S. First-Class Mail via the United States Postal Service. Thank you for your patience as we try to streamline our processes to improve our service to you.”

 

Step 4. Wait mercilessly for 4-12 weeks for your background check to be returned to you. You can check the status of your request by calling (304) 625-2000 and speaking with a live person at the FBI CJIS Division. If you paid by credit card, you’ll see the charge hit your account once they have begun your request. My CBC, with signature and seal, was returned to me in approximately 4 weeks.The FBI claims that average wait times are around 5-6 weeks depending on the volume of requests received.

 

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FBI CBC

 

Huzzah! You’re almost done. Now you have to get an apostille for your CBC.

Step 5. Complete Form DS-4194 to obtain an apostille from the U.S. Department of State (USDOS). You have several options to get this done. They are listed below in order of slowest to quickest.

  • Option 1: Send your request directly to the USDOS. Express mail a completed Form DS-4194, a check or money order for $8 per document, and a prepaid self-addressed express envelope to

U.S. Department of State
Authentications Office
518 23rd Street, NW SA-1
Columbia Plaza
Washington, DC 20520

Plan ahead if you use this option. According to the USDOS Office of Authentications website,

The average processing time for mail-in requests is 10 business days from the date of receipt from the Department mailroom (different from the date of delivery for most tracked packages) to the date of return to the Department mailroom. Use of tracked mail delivery will expedite handling of your request by mailroom and may prevent damage to documents caused by irradiation of USPS regular mail.

  • Option 2: Send your request to USDOS via professional courier service. You send your documents to the service, they walk them in to USDOS on your behalf, pick them up when they’re ready in 1-3 business days, and mail them to you soon after. I chose this option because it was the quickest and easiest one for me. The courier service I used was US Authentication Services. They were reliable, professional, and affordable. At the time of my inquiry (12/19/12), I was quoted a price of $45 (including apostille fee and service fee). This is the option I chose and my turnaround time of 10 calendar days was pretty quick considering federal offices were closed for 2 business days when I went through this phase of the process. 
  • Option 3: Submit your request to USDOS in person. If you’re near the DC area, you can make an appointment, drop off your documents in person and pick them up in 1-3 business days. Procedures for this are constantly changing, so you should be sure to check the USDOS Office of Authentications website for hours and rules.

 

An apostille was bound to my CBC and had a raised seal on it.

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US DOS Apostille

Yipeee! You’ve now procured a very important document. Pat yourself on the back, do a happy dance, then continue working on the rest of your documents. You don’t want to let this thing sit around for too long because the CBC is only valid for 6 months after the check was run. To be on the safe side, time your job applications so that you won’t have to re-do this process all over again.

Up next, I will walk you through obtaining an apostille for your degree(s).

 

Edit (6/11/13): If you are currently in Korea and need to get an FBI CBC then you can follow the detailed instructions found on Kasham’s informative blog by clicking here.