Sorry, Trees! or Shifting Paper, Government-Style: Visas, the Hague, and Me

As you may have read, I’ll be Vietnam-bound in less than a month to teach English as a Foreign Language.

Unwittingly, I myself have been learning a foreign language for a couple of months. The language’s name escapes me, but the title of this post is a fairly accurate description. It’s like this: if you plan to visit, let alone work in, a foreign country, you’ll have to learn this language, too. To satisfy my host country’s authorities, my own country’s authorities, and my employer, I must copy, affix, staple, get notarized, get certified, get apostiled*, and submit numerous copies of oh just a whole mess of paper.

Even if you’ve combed the Web, and you are utterly convinced that you don’t need an apostiled FBI Criminal Background Check, you should get one immediately anyway, because you’re wrong.

And y’know, if I had read this post on the blog Live. Travel. More… before asking the Feds for my rap sheet the first time, I could have saved enough dong to feed 20 of my friends in Saigon, drinks included.


Timah, dear lady, thank you for writing such a clear and concise guide to getting an apostiled FBI Criminal Background Check (CRC). Her blog describes her experiences teaching ESL for the public school system in the Republic of Korea. And the ROK doesn’t mess around, Jim, when it comes to tree-killing in the name of legality. Many other countries in Asia and otherwise have, in fact, modeled their own regulations on Korea’s. If you plan to travel/work in a foreign land, the FBI CRC should be your first concern, as it can stretch out for weeks, or even months. I have to get mine all over again, just because the FBI CRC I got back included a paragraph that said something along the lines of “This document is for personal review only and cannot be used as verification in matters of employment blah blah blah pursuant to article ZYX-? blah blather mutter etc.”

Anyway, read Timah’s post and her blog, and get right with the proper authorities. Because even if you have combed the Web, and you are utterly convinced that you don’t need an apostilled FBI Criminal Background Check, you should get one immediately anyway, because you are wrong.

So, tomorrow I’ll be visiting the Madison, TN precinct of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department, Office of Fingerprinting, plunking down 5 bucks, and getting fingerprinted again. Then a money order and an express mail envelope and you get the point. The whole thing may not even be complete by the time I’m already in Vietnam, in which case I’ll have to get my mom to send it to me. After which I shall invest my meager savings in FedEx stock, for obvious reasons. And thank my mom, of course.

*Apostile: “…a certificate issued by a designated authority in a country where the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement for Legalization of Foreign Public Documents, Apostille Convention, is in force.” — US Department of State website.

In other words, it’s like getting something notarized, but it’s recognized at the international level by a bunch of nations that agreed to it.**

**I should add that any references in this weblog to instructions for obtaining or processing any documents for purposes legal or otherwise should not be construed as fact, because I’m not a lawyer, a diplomat, or an authority on the matter of any kind, and I’m simply writing this stuff so that readers can set about proving me wrong, which I often am.