Bureaucracy is Painful in Every Country You Go

My son’s Kindergarten teacher has been asking us to get an Alien Registration Card (ARC) so that she can complete her files at school for him. Normally, we can get all of our paperwork done using our passports but the local Korean school isn’t as equipped to deal with USFK personnel. That’s fair, most people at Camp Humphreys aren’t nutters who send their kids to a school where they can’t speak the language.

UPDATE: No more wait times. Now you must make an online appointment at http://www.hikorea.go.kr. You might want to ask a friend, your kid’s school, realtor etc to help you or go here to learn more. 

Pyeongtaek opened a brand new immigration office in 2016 so we decided to go there instead of driving an hour to Suwon. First time we went, we got a ticket but were told they had no more slots for the day. It was 3:00pm before a holiday so that made sense. Next time we went at 2:00 there was a little sign covering the button for the ticket we needed. The third time we went we were there by 12:00 on the dot and that damn little sign was already up.

City Hall

The gardens at City Hall were beautiful and fun for the boys to run around in.

By then I realized it was going to be impossible to go and bring the husband at the same time because he couldn’t do mornings. The information desk didn’t speak English so I wasn’t sure if I needed him or not and I dreaded having the kids miss out on school. But I decided to give it a go and be there at 9:00 with kids in tow and no service member.

 

We arrived on a Tuesday at 9:15am (best laid plans, right?) and we finally won a category 1 ticket! We were also the 58th person in line. It turns out the doors opened at 8:50 for people to start getting in line and the place was packed. So the boys and I hunkered down and did some schooling on our iPads and we read some books. I looked up 40 minutes later to find that only 2 people had been called. I couldn’t believe it. We ended up hanging around for 4 hours until our number was called at 1:00pm.

Now this extraordinary wait time should not reflect poorly upon the Pyeongtaek Immigration Office. The facilities were clean, the staff were professional and expeditious (it took 10 minutes to complete my paperwork), and everything was very organized. But this little office is just not big enough for the size of its municipality. There is a Suwon branch that everyone used to go to but I don’t have any information on that.

During our wait, we walked around the bustling back alleys and played in the beautiful gardens across the street at the Pyeongtaek -Songtan City Hall. There are a lot of coffee shops and restaurants in the area.

On a totally unrelated note: I broke my crown while eating a late lunch after the Immigration office! Maybe I was grinding my teeth during the 4 hour wait? Luckily, I was at the Katusa Snack Bar on Camp Humphreys near the walk-in gate and CI Dental told me to come right over to have it looked at. What a long day!

 

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Update June 2016: Thanks to my friend Katie Howell who confirmed that SOFA stamp residents are not required to pay a fee for an ARC card since it is an A-3 Visa. Also, military personnel can receive an ARC card with a copy of their military ID. 

Getting an Alien Regstration Card (ARC) at the Pyeongtaek Immigration Office

Why does anyone with a SOFA stamp need an ARC?
The honest answer is you don’t. The SOFA stamp covers all of your visa needs when it comes bureaucracy. I had no problems getting a bank account in the ville using my passport. There are stories from Expats that banks will delay delay issuing a debit card for a few months but banks outside of military bases are more lenient.

Offpost SOFA

SOFA stamps are available at the Songtan Immigration Office but the wait times are terrible. The Osan Passenger Terminal office has no wait time.

Other uses for the ARC may include getting a local library card, foreigner discounts, signing up for Korean rewards programs, receiving discounts on utilities for families with 3+children*, enrolling children in local schools, signing up for Korean social media sites like Naver etc.

The biggest benefit I can see to getting an ARC is having a document that confirms my status AND fits in my wallet, unlike a passport. This is useful for discounts, entering casino’s, registering kids in schools etc.

*Everyone, including the children, would need an ARC. Ask your realtor first about any utility discounts.

Documents required

Filled out application – These are available at the office with an example form completed.

One Passport photo for each applicant – We had leftover photos from our tourist passports but there is a photo booth available at the office. It only accepts 1,000 and 5,000 bills and does NOT give change.

For Dependents:

Passports with SOFA stamps – the 90 day stamp for entering the country will not work

Photocopies of each passport’s ID page and the corresponding SOFA stamp – There is a room in the office that charges 100w (About 10cents) per page

For Active Duty:

Three Photocopies of their Military ID- Which is legal under sofa because they are a Korean government agency using it for official business

 

Update (May, 2016)- I needed a copy of my Command Sponsorship orders with our names to pick up our ARC cards from the office. I’m not sure if this is normal procedure because I had an option for them to be mailed. This may have been that particular officer’s way of confirming identity instead of my Passport. When doing anything in the military, ALWAYS CARRY ORDERS!

Photobooth

Photobooth

Photo Booth

Exact Bills needed. Fee is 7,000won for photos.

Notes:
-Service Member and children do not need to be present to turn in the applications. The passports are enough proof of identity and existence. Yes, my kids missed school and sat around with me for 4 hours for no real reason. We had fun but they didn’t need to be there.
-ARC’s will be ready in 3 weeks and they can be mailed to the home address or picked up again at the same office.
-There is no fee for the ARC cards because the SOFA stamp is an A3 Treaty Visa. All other Visa’s may require a fee.

Directions to the Pyeongtaek Immigration Office

3rd floor
CK Tower 1375
Gyeonggi-daero (814, Seojeong-dong)
Pyeongtaek-si
Gyeonggi-do

WAZE: Type Pyeongtaek City Hall and go there. City Hall is pass Homeplus on route 1 through Pyeongtaek City.

– The Immigration Office IS NOT at city hall but across the street. The City Hall information desk was very helpful in giving us directions. Cross the street and go right down the sidewalk. The stores that you will pass will be a Daiso, The Best Family Restaurant then Angelinus Coffee. The building with the Shinhan bank is the building you want but don’t enter through the front doors. Go around to the side and enter the building where you’ll see a sign. Take the elevator to the 3rd floor.

Doors open at 8:50am. Get the number 1 ticket. UPDATE: No wait times anymore. Now you must make an online appointment. Go here to learn how. 

PARKING: Parking at city hall is very cheap but for free parallel parking that is very crowded, one could try the back alleys behind the immigration office. Do not park in front of restaurants or shops, you might get towed.

Strip Map Immigration Office

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As seen from across the street at City Hall. It’s the Tallest building in this photo, before the dark glassed one.

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Go to the 3rd Floor, not 4th.

Go to the 3rd Floor, not 4th.

 

~Sig

See anything I need to fix? Am I missing something? Email me at SigFlipsTheTable@gmail.com or leave a comment.

Last Updated: June 9, 2016

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