I almost had an F4 visa.
The application process has come full circle back to the original problem of my mother not having her US citizenship papers. (Horns sprout.) Who loses these important documents not once but twice?
Who qualifies for an F4 visa?
If you’re the child of a former Korean citizen or a Korean-born adoptee, you qualify for an F4 visa. Better than a student (D4) or a teaching (E2) visa, an F4 visa lets you stay in Korea for two years and is easily renewable. The F4 visa provides all of the benefits of being a Korean citizen (pension, work eligibility, healthcare) without recognizing you as a Korean citizen. Most important, you can work in any job in any capacity, as your visa is not employer-sponsored.
What documents are needed for an F4 visa?
The application process is straightforward. The difficulty is the family registry is difficult to obtain from the US. You need:
- F4 visa applicant’s passport + one passport copy. This is me.
- Copy of former Korean citizen parent’s American passport
- Copy of applicant’s birth certificate
- Copy of Korean family registry*
- Any marriage/divorce/name change records to show the name on your parent’s passport = the same person on the Korean family registry
- Copy of your former Korean citizen parent’s US citizenship
- Former Korean citizen parent’s application for losing Korean nationality
Korean family registry*
The Korean family registry is difficult to obtain from the States. Part of the complication lies in Korean names being Romanized in America, so is your mom’s name is Yong Nim (용님), Yeong Nim (영님) or Yeong Lim (영림).
I was able to get our registry after asking my aunt for her ~Korean social security number. With this unique ID, the census office located our family tree.
No citizenship papers, no visa
To make a long story longer, the Immigration office processed my F4 visa application yesterday! I went to Immigration with no expectations of getting the F4 without my mother’s papers but figured it was worth a shot. My mother’s clearly a US citizen, maybe Immigration will recognize this when I show them her US passport, my US birth certificate and her marriage record to an American.
And they did.
The staff processed my application and told me to come back 2/15 for the visa.
“But first, we’ll need your mother’s signed loss of Korean nationalization form.”
“Here it is.”
“Oh, you need to fax this to the Korean embassy in the US.”
I took the form with me to immigration. Wrong. This form needs to be submitted to the Korean embassy, which then issues you a receipt to give to Immigration. The Seoul Immigration office staff made this sound like no big deal.
I called the Korean embassy in Atlanta last night.
Guess what document they need to process my mother’s loss of nationality?
Ding! Her US citizenship papers.
Essentially, Immigration recognizes me as the child of a former Korean national.
The Korean government recognized my mother as a US citizen once she married my American father in 1972. However, my mother never officially renounced her Korean citizenship by filing papers with the Korea Ministry of Justice. You’re not officially dead, until someone files your death certificate.
Here’s the irony.
The receipt (of loss of Korean nationalization) that the Korean embassy in Atlanta provides comes back here to the Korea Ministry of Justice which oversees the Immigration office which has already processed the F4 visa without my mother’s citizenship papers.
What I most want to do is continue in the Korean language program at Sogang.
The idea of quitting language learning after one or even two semesters is heartbreaking.
With an F4, I could work part-time next semester, March – May, to save enough to see Steve and family this summer and pay for another semester this fall.
But I’m getting a little discouraged.
The US State Department is running at a 3-5 month backlog for replacing documents. And while my mother likely has the citizenship document in her hoarder house, she lacks the motivation to look for it with any gusto.
I oversimplify this in my mind as something I want very much being held hostage by something my mother is unwilling to do. Unfair, I know.
Eddie has come through in a big way though, receiving and sending documents for me, being accessible with the time difference and overall just being there. I’m grateful. This time in Korea has been a good learning experience about trusting others. I hope it doesn’t end in May.