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Allow Jeju E-2s part time work
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승인 2011.06.09  17:00:59
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There is a win-win situation waiting to happen when the process is streamlined for E-2 visa holders to legally work part time. The people of Jeju will benefit. Foreigners will benefit. This is a clear and logical picture.

The one problem standing in the way of positive change is a lack of awareness. The Jeju Provincial Government has not put forth any efforts to improve this situation because they simply do not know what is going on and what the problem is – yet.

This we can appeal.

The overwhelming majority of government and private institution English teachers temporarily reside on Jeju Island because of an E-2 visa issuance. Part time work is usually not allowed. If any one of these E-2 visa holders has been granted a half-page sticker in their passport to work part time which reads “Permission For Engaging in Activities Not Covered by the Status of Sojourn,” that foreigner is both rare and lucky.

Currently, it can be a long process to get this aforementioned special permission. It is tedious, time-consuming and counterproductive to the point the party trying to sponsor an individual foreigner has to weigh the cost of even submitting a completed application to the government agencies. However, Jeju has a certain level of independence from the central government, and an autonomous right as an international city to create a way to make this process happen in two weeks or less.

Jeju is losing out on specialized labor of E-2 visa holders that can improve the community through media (newspaper, television, radio) and other areas, which ultimately serves the public good. Foreigners now legally working or volunteering in these capacities are not doing so because of a selfish, monetary transaction. Rather, they are helping the community where they temporarily live. When some foreigners find out about an opportunity, time is of the essence. They may be on the way out in four, six or 12 months. The long process of bureaucratic red-tape hoopla does not help.

Here is the problem. A lot of documents are needed to get a special permit. Some are easy to acquire and present. These are a passport, Alien Registration Card, school transcripts and/or a diploma directly from the school, and a 60,000 won application fee. However, two banes exist. First is the application requesting E-2 visa holders describe why they want to work combined with a sponsoring letter from a ministry or central level agency. Second is obtaining consent from the original workplace tied to the E-2 visa.

Of the first bane: Final permission is not granted from the Jeju Immigration Office, but from the central level. The Jeju Immigration Office presents all the documents again to them. The officials in charge do not understand Jeju’s special situation, and there is not enough communication between the Jeju Immigration Office and the Ministry of Justice Department in charge. The Jeju Weekly, for instance, is asked to get a letter from the tourism ministry, to which it really has no deep personal connections. Strike one. In addition, there are frequent reshuffles of government officials in this area. Having good relationships only goes so far because all the work explaining what a special permit does for the public good is washed away when there is a reshuffling of officials. Strike two. Finally, prejudice exists even before submitting the application. Certain government officials see E-2 visa holders in a negative light. Strike three. Perhaps, cracking down on private tutoring is the only story heard about E-2 visa abuse. No one seems to talk about the countless foreigners volunteering for women’s shelters, orphanages, churches, local media and animal shelters on a daily basis. Also, these actions are altruistic, not forced duty.

Of the second bane: This should not even be an issue. Working part time should never interfere with school work hours. Conditions should be attached and agreed upon so no regular work duties are compromised. This is common sense. Furthermore, if a foreigner E-2 visa holder cannot execute his or her duties for a 40-hour work week and have a bit of responsibility to decide what to do with the other remaining 128 free hours in the week, the question has to be raised, why was this person allowed to get an E-2 visa in the first place?

The officials in charge do not understand the current contributions of foreigners and the future possibilities which exist. The Jeju Weekly and other media have done a lot of work by introducing Jeju Island in a public relations manner internationally and also improving the lives of foreigners on the island.

Much more is yet to be accomplished. But, if international people cannot do anything more than 40 hours of work and if the island’s government cannot deal with this kind of problem, can we call Jeju an international city?

One example is now on the table how Jeju can swiftly certify its “international city” slogan as a living and breathing action. The Jeju Provincial Government should be involved and talk with the ministry level and the immigration office to make them understand why the island needs this. A number of foreigners leave Jeju with negative feelings. Making changes alleviates this and other problems.

A globalized world is rapidly developing. There has to be a way to strike the archaic thinking here that E-2 visa holders are subjects of control and supervision, always being cast upon with suspicious eyes, a ne’er do well around every corner.

True, foreigners are here for work. And equally true, there is so much more. If they are involved in community service and other activities, a trust-based relationship emerges. Jeju should be thinking: Foreigners can do for us and we can do for them. Taking and using can co-exist with creating and giving. We all win with a positive institutionalized system.

The Jeju government must successfully sponsor this action to improve the process to allow foreigners to work part time. When it is law, immigration will cooperate.

This is a simple goal, striking a match to let the Jeju Provincial Government see.

Contributor Steve Oberhauser is an EPIK teacher who has a Master’s in education and worked for five years as a teacher in the US public school system.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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