Getting an ARC card or SOFA stamp at the Immigration Office was difficult before, now it’s even harder.
Remember that post I wrote up on the Songtan Immigration Office near Osan Air Base where USFK members could get a SOFA stamp or obtain an Alien Registration Card (ARC)? You don’t? That’s ok, here’s a link to it but hear me out first. When I went to get my ARC the boys and I waited 3 hours and since then the wait times only grew worse. To solve this problem, everyone must now create an appointment online at HiKorea.go.kr . (Did you click the link? Did your computer love it?)
Creating an online appointment system is a great answer to extraordinary wait times. One problem, South Korea is stuck in the 90’s when it comes to internet security. This problem financially hurts Korea and I have expat friends who have lived here for almost ten years who don’t bother with online banking or using online stores because of the difficulty in creating online accounts.
Why is it so Difficult to Register for Sales Sites or Government Sites in South Korea?
The problem comes down to the Korean Government’s mandate that financial security requires multiple security downloads that have coding from the 90’s. You can read about Korea’s online banking troubles here. I have attempted to install their XecureWeb or Activex security software and after two hours of anti-virus software flipping out and dead end error pages I gave up. I have tried installing the software on Chrome and Internet Explorer. The only way I know this site exists is through my safari browser on my iPhone: I can get to the login screen but when I try to register I get errors across the board.
Is there a way to download the security software, roll my Internet Explorer version back a decade and access most of South Korea’s government and financial websites? Sure, but honestly it’s not worth the hassle. Most USFK personnel are here for 2-5 years and they don’t need to go offbase for immigration services, everything can be done at Osan. The only trouble I foresee is if a local school asks for your child’s ARC number and honestly that can be worked out with the school on an individual basis. Ask the school office to help you make an appointment online with the immigration office. In most cases a passport with a SOFA stamp is sufficient.
If you need to visit the immigration office then have someone help you do it. Your local International Community Center (like the Pyeongtaek International Exchange Foundation), realtor or drinking buddy might be able to help you.
There is still time to visit the Immigration Office before the new system begins.
If you have been waiting to get an ARC card I would do it now. The new system goes into effect February 1, 2017 and I expect Expats everywhere will be up in arms when it’s time to renew their Visa’s. I feel terrible for them but secretly I’m glad I don’t have to deal with South Korea’s bureaucracy. Hopefully this decision gets reversed or an alternative solution is offered. Now let me go archive my post about the immigration office and cry into my Soju.