FBI Criminal Background Check Blunders

Living abroad is not easy for anyone.  [Side note: I am sure that living in the US as a foreigner is even worse if you are not fluent in English, given the general distain for non-English speakers and the general lack of willingness to help others- likely for fear falling victim to a crime.] For me, the great times FAR outweigh the bad times so I chose a life of foreign living. However, there are moments in time when everyone (who lives abroad) wants to give rude hand gestures to their host country and call it quits. Prolonged moments are labeled as culture shock. No matter how long you have been in a country, it IS possible to experience culture shock. But, that is not what this blog is about (really) so let’s move on to the subject at hand: FBI Criminal Background Checks.

E-2 visa holders [English instructors/ teachers being the main holders of this] are now required to provide FEDERAL background checks. Prior to January 2011, a state background check would suffice, and if the foreigner had not moved back to the US before renewing their visa, the original check met the requirement for renewal.

Having worked in Corrections for 8 years, I know I have a clean record. So, pretty simple, right? HA, I WISH!! We must go to several locations, getting the necessary paperwork and then figure out how to get US Dollars, in an acceptable form (not cash), and how to get US or International postage to provide a prepaid return envelope. Yea… it gets even more complicated!

THIS blog is about my blunders in my quest to get the FBI Criminal Background Check. I will make another blog– a guide so to speak– once I am successful!! My hope is that, by having gone through the process and trying to get things figured out, YOU won’t have to go through as much inconvenience and frustrations as I did. So, here’s my story….

~ Fingerprints ~

A friend of mine went to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy to pick up a few FINGER PRINT CARD forms. (He got a few in case of mistakes and because he knew I needed one.)  One weekday, we ventured out to get the fingerprints done. We were told you can get it at any local police station– WRONG! Not every police station does fingerprints. We end up making it to the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) department of a police office to get the fingerprints. Lunch time? Oh, we’re closed. (Let the laughing out loud begin— in leiu of getting mad, I chose to laugh– at that point.) Wait around until 1:30 (Fortunately, I had the “luxury” (?) of a strange schedule and didn’t have to be back to work that day until 3pm.)  Fingerprints… CHECK!

~ Application ~

The application is fairly straight forward. Just need to access a printer and print off the pdf file from the website. You CANNOT save an edited copy, so my friend let me print it off, fill it out, then scan a copy for my own records.  (I cannot print stuff at work –because of military security– nor can I download or bring in a usb with it on there.)

~Paying ~

Each request costs $18 (US) and can be paid by credit card— print off that form and fill out your credit card info. Simple enough. You could also pay by Cashier’s check, but those are not available here so the credit card option was the only one fit for me.

~ Sending and receiving ~

Ok.. here is where the most frustration, for me, has been. The application asks where you would like the results sent. I need mine in Korea, so I put my Korean address. Now, it asks how you would like the FBI to get it to you (three options):

  • FedEx account # (IF you have a FedEx account, this is the easiest– although not the cheapest– route.) If you don’t have a FedEx account, getting one is not that difficult (paperwork wise) but you (once again) must go to a MAJOR HUB FedEx location. I had called the Seoul Tourist line and inquired about where I could do this and they gave me the nearest location — which happened to be a 40 min subway ride away– a Kinkos FedEx. I was sure to confirm that I needed to set up an account, not mail a package. She said she just got off the phone with the location and it would be fine— WRONG AGAIN! I get there, they tell me I have to go to a hub location. I wasn’t in the mood.
  • Prepaid return envelope: Now, in the States, this would be fairly easy. Throw a stamp on an envelope with your own address on it and away you go. Since I live in Korea, this is problematic for a few reasons. First, I don’t have any US stamps. Secondly, I wasn’t sure how much postage was needed anyway. (Later I remembered that a standard envelope is 98 cents.) Thirdly, it must be actual stamps and not a postage sticker, because postage stickers are date stamped. Fourth, can’t just charge the postage to the credit card. Lastly, and most frustrating reason is the lack of availability. I have been to 4 different post offices and had no luck. Basically what I need is an International stamp (costing about $1 US= 1,100 local currency). One of my students called the largest post office in my area (about 20 min by car) and they told him I can get this stamp there. I arrive on Saturday morning, wait 20 minutes in line, to find out that they don’t do that on Saturdays! WHAT?! You don’t give international stamps on Saturdays!?! OMG! I pick up my stuff, bow my head, turn and walk away. [I’m done laughing, and can barely eek out a non-frown.]—– Monday I go back during lunch time and: mission accomplished!! Now, let’s just see if I have done it correctly. It’ll likely be 4-6 weeks before I get my results back.
  • First-class mail: I don’t even know what they mean on this one. Yes, of course I know what first-class mail means, but does that mean they’re paying for it? I should put the first-class stamp on my envelope??
So, here is the ultimate issue:
For those of us who work during the week [which is the vast majority of us], getting ANYWHERE during normal business hours is just plain difficult! Not to mention that we have to find our way to SEVERAL different locations during the weekday, business hours in order to complete this task.
I have a car. I am decently proficient in reading Korean, communicating and sticking to a task to see it to completion. Most people I know do not have these advantages. I predict that there will be a drastic drop in the number of American E2 visa renewals over the next year. The reason I believe this is because of the enormous difficulties one has to go through to get this done.  Stateside, it is not that big of a deal: we speak the language, we have access to US money and US postage, etc. I hope Korea is ready for this. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are.
Not wanting to end on a negative note (although, admittedly,  this entire blog is quite negative– sorry), I will conclude like this: Once I make a guide (that means I first have to be successful at this process.) I will try to get it into as many hands as possible. I hope that you will help me. I don’t want others to have to go through this. Because, honestly, if I didn’t have the affection for Korea that I have, I would have already given up and decided to go back to the States.  바이팅!!
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