Getting Deported: 6 Things You Can Learn from My Mistakes

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Getting deported is not fun. I should know.

Thankfully it was not recently and not when in Germany where I’m now living after immigrating 8 1/2 years ago.  It happened almost twenty years ago.  I had just finished university and I had turned down three solid job offers to “go teach English somewhere.” I couldn’t wait to live abroad.

My mother was less than impressed with this rather vague plan. I ended up in Taegu, South Korea on the recommendation of a professor’s former student who was looking for a replacement teacher.

what you should know about being deported from Seoul, South Korea

Getting deported was the scariest experience I have ever had while travelling.

But I did learn a few things that are worth sharing:

Lesson #1 Learned from Getting Deported:  There’s No Such Thing as a “sort of legal” Visa

In the eyes of immigration and the law, you either have a valid visa, or you don’t.  To teach English in S. Korea, you must possess a university degree in any subject.

I had this, but would not receive my actual degree, the piece of paper they hand out at convocation in May and I was to start teaching English in January.  In the intern, the university had written a letter stating that I had completed all of my coursework and would be receiving my actual degree in May.

My predecessor who spoke some Korean with my soon to be Korean boss who spoke no English cleared this with him and said it was “close enough.”  After arriving in South Korea and trying to make my visa legal, I discovered that I needed the actual degree to obtain the necessary visa. But not to worry, my boss would just throw some money at Immigration and all would be good.

At this point, I was thinking “Wow, corruption can be a good thing.”  Those words would come back to haunt me.

#2 Immigration Officers are Not Welcome Visitors

getting deported from S Korea

Flash forward a few months later. I  find an Immigration Official paying me a personal visit to my school just as I was about to start a class. And I was told to come to the Immigration Office the following day with my boss.

I didn’t understand the conversation that took place as it happened in Korean. The message was passed on to me later that day through my Korean roommate who excitedly told me that I was allowed to stay in South Korea.  “That’s great,” I said, relieved.

Then she informed me of the  “small condition” that had to be met to keep me from being deported.  I had to sleep with my much older Korean boss who was so short he barely came to my shoulder.  If I slept with him, my visa problems would simply disappear.

If I didn’t sleep with him, my visa issues couldn’t be sorted out. I would receive deportation papers immediately. But first I’d have to pay a large fine.  I was outraged at the corruption. It turned out he had friends in the Immigration office.

Lesson #3: The Embassy is Not Always Willing to Help.

I immediately called the Canadian Embassy or tried too.  It took me three days of trying before I reached a person.

Then I was informed that since there is no such thing as a “sort of legal” visa. The Embassy wasn’t in a position to help me. It was my choice whether I slept with my boss or not.  For the record, I didn’t, nor did I even remotely consider it.  She then reassured me that if I did go to jail to call the Embassy back and they would try to help at that point.  Gee thanks, Canada.

Lesson #4 Learned From Getting Deported:  I Now Know What Happens When A “Bad” Passport is Scanned

despite being deported I enjoyed S. Korea's cultural siights

After evaluating my now diminishing options and on the recommendations of some expat friends who previously had friends in similar situations I decided it was best just to try and escape S. Korea. The plan was to avoid paying the fine which was several thousand dollars.

At that point, I had heard from multiple sources that the Taegu Immigration Office was inefficient at reporting “persons of interest” to the powers that be. My chances of leaving undetected through Seoul Airport would be good. Note: That’s not true today. Immigration intelligence has progressed since this incident occurred.

I waited nervously in the immigration line, hoping to make my flight to Thailand.  As the Immigration Officer scanned my passport, I avoided making eye contact. I was secretly hoping he wouldn’t notice my sweaty palms.

Suddenly a red light started blinking. Three Immigration Officials sprang out of nowhere, escorting me through the jam-packed security line. I heard rumblings from other passengers.

They were speculating what this fresh-faced early 20 something had done to get in so much trouble.

The consensus was that it had to be drugs. I  angrily shouted “It wasn’t drugs, I didn’t have sex with my boss.” to the shocked passengers.

Admittedly it wasn’t my finest moment. But I was petrified that I was about to be thrown into an S. Korean jail never to be seen again.

I waited impatiently to find out what was going to happen to me. I was informed that I needed to go back to the Immigration Office in Taegu, on my own dollar.  For some reason unbeknown to me the immigration office in Seoul wouldn’t suffice.  I thought this was ridiculous and didn’t understand the logic.

Once again the Canadian Embassy was no help.  I had no other option but to return to the Taegu Immigration Office.

#5 Sometimes Throwing Money at the Problem is the Best Solution.

Canadian Embassy wasn't helpful when I was being deported

Upon arriving at the Immigration Office in Taegu, employees poked and jeered at as I passed on the way to my appointed Immigration Officer. I knew him quite well by this point.

I waited nervously for some time. My fingernails chewed off; I  turned my head to the small TV screen.

Several Immigration Officers were watching television, and I assumed they were watching soccer.   As I turned my head to the small screen,  I was shocked to see two men dressed in immigration uniforms.

They were beating what I’m assuming were three illegal immigrants in what looked like a dark, dingy jail cell.  I swallowed back vomit.  I had heard stories of female expats who were gang-ranged by Immigration Officials. Then deported.

Now that I had seen abuse by Immigration officials with my own eyes, I began to realize that perhaps these stories were more than the urban legend I had hoped they were. I immediately changed my strategy. Despite not having much money, it was time to throw whatever money the Immigration Official demanded to try and avoid a similar fate.

Upon meeting with the Immigration Official, he mocked me for several minutes. His mouth was smirking as he asked me if I had enjoyed my trip. 

It would have been funny under other circumstances.

After all this, he reminded me that my visa problems would disappear if I became “friendlier” with my boss.

He looked genuinely surprised when I told him that I was not a “friendly kind of girl”.  I would accept the deportation that awaited me and pay the fine.   The Immigration Official told me that he could deport me for up to five years. Then, in imperfect English, he informed me “You are a woman, but like man, you are strong.  You not cry like other women do.  I like you so I only deport you for one year, then you come back to S. Korea.”

At this point, I didn’t think it was an appropriate time to tell him what I really thought about his country. Instead, I politely thanked him and paid up. I was sad that almost all of my savings save for several hundred dollars would likely be boozed away. Paying off my student loans would have to wait. But I was also immensely relieved when I considered the alternative.

Lesson #6 Learned From Getting Deported: Having a “Deported” Stamp in Your Passport Makes for Lots of Questions When Traveling to Other Countries.

And so after all that, I uneventfully left S. Korea for Thailand, never to return.

I have never been more relieved to get on a flight in my life!  But the “deported” stamp in my passport always (and understandably) followed me. It resulted in further questioning from Immigration Officials when travelling to other countries.

It was also suspected I was deported on a drug charge. And they never believed me when I told them the truth.  But really who could blame them?  When my passport was up for expiration, I was only too glad to hand over my old tainted one with the big black ugly stamp. 

In retrospect, I should have told the Canadian Embassy that I had lost my passport and got a new one. But I didn’t.

Afterword: I was young and naive when I went to S. Korea. It was the first country I had ever been to besides Canada and the U.S. and  I have since wised up.

I wanted to share this experience with others who are considering living abroad as a cautionary tale of the importance of having a proper visa in place.

There are many expats that I know who teach English in S. Korea. Many of them have had a positive experience. So I am not saying “don’t go to S. Korea.” I’m only sharing my deportation experience.

I highly recommend that you have the proper paperwork in place and the appropriate visa before you go. Let my experience of being deported be your cautionary tale.

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93 thoughts on “Getting Deported: 6 Things You Can Learn from My Mistakes”

  1. Uhh Laurel, what a nasty experience. It is good though that you have written about it. I often wonder when I read the blogs of RTW trvalers and they say how they make a living by teaching here, there and everywhere, how long they will be able to do that without a proper visa and work permit which they simply can’t have.And, if you ever have a ‘deported’ stamp in your passport you are in big dog poo!!!

    • Hi Laurel,
      I realize this comment is now a while after you’ve written this post, but any idea if being deported from a country shows up on your FBI background check? I havent experienced the situation, but I’m just curious if I was ever in this position, as I’m also a teacher in Asia and sometimes it can be a grey area with regulations. Thanks !

  2. @Inka -Thanks and part of the problem is that often small or new schools don’t know exactly what is required either so it can really leave teachers in the lurch. I was sooooooo happy when my passport finally expired to get get of the “deported” stamp πŸ™‚

  3. Wow, that is terrifying! I’m always nervous going through customs, etc. and I have nothing to hide! Can’t imagine having this experience as a young person. Thanks for sharing; it may really help someone.

  4. Sorry to hear about it but then again, you’ve written some great tips where only experience can relate this. Sometimes non-English speaking countries are so confusing.

  5. Wow! That’s so scary!! Glad you made it out ok. Sucks to lose money, but better than jail… There’s really something to be said for having your paperwork in order. There are so many people around the world who just take a chance as an English teacher, dive guide, etc. A lot of times it works out, but when it doesn’t, it’s just bad.

    I wonder why you didn’t just “lose” your passport and get a new one before it expired? I can imagine that a “deported stamp” makes things so much more complicated.

  6. WOW!! What a story! I am amazed at all that you went through. I can’t imagine what that must have been like – especially as a female. It’s a shame that even in a country like South Korea corruption like this still exists. You have a great story to tell with this but thankfully nothing happened to you!

  7. I felt like I was in a movie reading your post. I was anxiously reading quickly to see what happened! That must have been so scary. I’m glad it all worked out for you. this is an important story for anyone who travels the world. Make sure you have all the legit visas needed before entering.

  8. Holy cow, what a crazy story! Good for you for keeping your wits about you. I’m pretty sure I would have tried to do the exact same thing–get the hell out of there and hope nobody catches on. I can’t imagine how horrifying that must have been at the airport to get drug out by a bunch of immigration officers. Great story!

  9. This is an awesome post Laurel. Getting deported has been my greatest fear while living and working at a foreign country. Immigration officers can be a nightmare. Also couldn’t believe your boss would think you were desperate enough to sleep with him! Ugh- things like this really make me angry.

    Best line for me: β€œYou are woman, but like man, you are strong. You not cry like other women do. I like you so I only deport you for one year, then you come back to S. Korea.” I admire you for being strong.

  10. Wow. That sounds really scary. It’s really too bad that you weren’t able to cross the border without being caught. That alone would be scary enough. I’m very glad that I chose not to go to China to teach English when the school told me to come with a tourist visa and they would work out the work visa after I arrived. I’ve heard too many stories about those situations going bad. I think your’s is probably the scariest I’m heard. Glad your ok!

    Can you renew your passport to get a new one so you don’t have the deportation stamp anymore? Or is it an electronic note on your passport that they see in other countries when they scan it? A border officer at the Turkey/Bulgaria border thought I had overstayed my Turkish visa (90 days) but I had really just stayed for a few days over 60 days (he must have looked at the month wrong). It sounded like he wanted to put a black mark in my passport, but I realized his mistake and he apologized. I would have been so mad if he had put a deportation stamp in my passport by accident! If he had, I would have just applied for a whole new passport so it was ‘clean’- but that’s expensive and complicated to do from abroad. Maybe you could try that if it’s still a problem.

  11. Yikes! This sounds so intense. You always hear about government corruption, but most of us (thankfully) don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to see it in action. Seems like you saw a whole lot of it in this situation!

  12. Wow, that’s horrible. Sounds like it was planned on the boss’s side.

    Complete opposite to my experience in Czech Republic where most TEFL teachers I knew were only on tourist visas and getting paid cash in hand.

  13. β€œIt wasn’t drugs, I didn’t have sex with my boss.” Classic! You must have been so scared – thank goodness nothing terrible happened to you. All good lessons learned. It is not a good idea to be on the wrong side of immigration in a foreign country, especially ones where people have the tendency to be corrupt about it.

  14. Holy shit, what an experience! When I started reading was “seriously??, wow!”

    Being deported has always been my worst fear because as a traveler I value my passport and my ability to travel relatively freely and I know that deportation can bring a shitload of troubles. You’re lucky in a way that it happened in Korea, where you presumably don’t go often (or rather probably didn’t go back).

    I had my share of uncomfortable encounters with US immigration officials. The second time I was in the US we basically bused from Ottawa to Mexico (three-day non-stop by Greyhound). I was given the green “visa waiver” card upon entering but the official didn’t take it from my passport when I entered Mexico. A few months later, when we flew back to North America, I was stopped in Houston because I still had the visa waiver papers in my passport. I didn’t even know at the point I was supposed to give it back and I didn’t speak much English. I was accused of overstaying in the US which was ridiculous considering you could clearly see my entry stamp, exit stamp three days later and then a bunch of stamps from all Central and South American countries. I left the immigration office in tears. Fortunately, I didn’t have any problems later on. Being banned from the US had always scared the shit out of me considering that so many Canadian flights go through the country.

    Now I travel to the US with my Canadian passport, much easier!

  15. Wow, this is one of the craziest and scariest stories ever!! I would’ve just crumbled into tears. And I can’t believe your roommate was excited that you could avoid deportation by sleeping with your boss! Insane! As for your passport afterwards with the deported stamp, why didn’t you just report your passport as lost or stolen and get a new one? Would’ve been a pain, but at least it wouldn’t have that stamp. Ugh, I’m glad you made it out without getting raped, beaten or forced into bribery sex.

  16. I’ve had similar experiences – what is it about English teachers that makes them less than welcome in some places? – and I particularly recognize the scary visit from the immigration officials. Makes you feel for refugees…

  17. I can’t believe they wanted you to sleep with the big, but little boss. I’d have thrown the money at them too and wished them to please deport me. What an experience. Craig almost got deported once from the States when he arrived before me on a visa that I was the main visa holder for. We had no idea. They confiscated his passport instead until I arrived and proved I was indeed coming. He gets grilled every time we go through LA now.

  18. @Jan – Thanks Jan, I’m always more nervous going through customs now as well πŸ™‚

    @David – Thanks, I hope it helps create an awareness since getting a visa in most places is not a straightforward process.

    @Sabrina – Agreed, when it does go wrong it can really go wrong and usually at the very least the expat is out a lot of money. I ended up teaching in Thailand and as I had the work visa in my passport, it was too much of a hassle to get a new passport, so I just put up with the questioning.

    @Jeremy – Thanks and I was surprised as well, and even more surprised at how many expats knew of other expats who had experienced something similar, that’s what was really scary. This happened over 10 years ago so hopefully things have improved since then.

    @Debbie – Thanks for your kind words and yes, the importance of having a proper visa cannot be underestimated as I learned the hard way πŸ™‚

    @Christy – Thanks. I still have the old passport (somewhere) but I hope that’s the last time I ever see the big black ugly “deported” stamp again.

    @Adam – I was actually a wreck the minute I left the Immigration Office, but “I never let them see me sweat” so to speak. I felt like a criminal, which was an interesting experience to say the least.

    @Grace – Thanks so much. Immigration officers are scary at the best of times, but more so when there are huge cultural differences. I actually cried like a baby a lot during this time – just not in front of the Immigration Officers.

    @Amy – Smart move, even if you would have ended up leaving and not getting deported, it could have ended up costing a lot. I now have a new passport thankfully as that one has expired. Glad to hear your issue with Immigration was quickly sorted out.

    @Scott – Yep, I definitely learned a lot πŸ™‚

    @Christy – “Intense” is an excellent way to describe the description and I had heard about corruption but was surprised to see how open it was and to experience it first hand.

    @Roy – Funny you say that, I wondered the same thing myself. Very interesting to hear about teaching in the Czech Republic. That would make me nervous though in case Immigration decided to crack down one day.

    @Andrea – Thanks, and agreed you definitely want Immigration on your side, or at least not against you πŸ™‚

    @Zhu – Thanks for sharing your experience, that does sound really scary and agreed, the U.S. is one country you don’t want to be banned from, especially when you live in Canada. Glad it didn’t cause you any problems in the future.

    @Lorna – Thanks, it now makes a good story, but still gives me shivers when I think about how it could have turned out.

    @Ali – Oh believe me I crumbled into tears every time after I left the Immigration Office, but I knew it was important to look “tough”. Regarding my roommate she assumed that all western women had sex freely so didn’t think it was that big of a deal, especially since my boss was rich (apparently that was supposed to sweeten the deal). But when I asked her if she would do it, she acted all insulted and said of course not. Regarding the visa, stayed in Thailand for 2 years with the appropriate visa in my passport, so would have been a huge hassle to get a new passport with a new working visa.

    @Mette – Oh so sorry to hear that you’ve had similar experiences. My heart sincerely goes out to refugees and “non welcome” expats who I saw first handed were treated much worse than I was.

    @Caz – I think it would have been a sort of status symbol for him to sleep with a white girl more than 30 years younger than him. Craig’s situation sounds very scary, especially having his passport taken from him – yikes! Glad to hear it worked out though.

  19. Wow! A scary experience I hope to avoid. I cannot imagine how I would have reacted had something like that happened to me at a young age and on my first big trip.

    I didn’t realize they actually put a “deported” stamp in your passport. Simple solution though… get a new passport when you get home πŸ™‚

  20. Wow, Laurel — what an unforgettable experience (I know I won’t forget it)! That’s really learning the hard way, but seems that’s how it works sometimes. Thanks so much for sharing this — it may be just the thing that saves someone else from a similar situation.

  21. That is some story! It’s so sad how those men treated you. I’m glad you made it out somewhat safely. I have only had to get a student visa for Italy and that was a process. However, it is so important, otherwise you could face never returning or being horribly harassed in your case. I can’t believe the Canadian embassy didn’t help you.

  22. Whoa, what a nightmare! I think it’s rare to be treated that way in Korea, where most of the people I’ve met are extremely polite and honest, but at the same time, corruption occurs in every country if you’re in the “wrong” place. And it’s horrible because I’m sure those disgusting men (eww! your ex-boss!) tainted your views on what is, in general, a good country to live in. I’m glad you got out safely, at any rate. Curious, how much money did you pay them?

  23. This…is one hell of a scary experience. Geez…I don’t know if I can stay cool in those circumstances. I would probably have freaked out and don’t know what to do already.

  24. That’s an “interesting” experience indeed.
    Reminds me of my only “entrance” in Korea a few months ago.
    It was unexpected, our flight out of Japan took off late and we had missed our connecting flight and had to spend the night in the city of Incheon.
    When I arrived at the immigration desk, for a moment, I thought the officer wouldn’t let me inside the country (despite the fact that she was a young cute lady and not the middle aged grumpy old guy that usually sits behind that desk in pretty much every country I’ve been to). It was because I hadn’t listed an address of where I was staying, as the airline had booked us a hotel room except that we had no idea where it was or anything else for that matter.
    It’s only when she saw that it was 5 of us in this situation and that her coworker had already let two in that she allowed me to enter her country.

  25. Yes, you don’t fool with Korean immigration. Knock on wood, I have never been on there radar in my 10 years here, and I never want to be.

    Your boss really was a scum bag, and sadly those kind of private school owners will probably never to away.

  26. Wait…so did you have an actual E2 visa before entering the country or not?? And did u check with the South Korean Embassy in Canada? Always pays to check online, too – has exhaustive amounts of accurate information on what you need to secure a legal visa that enables you to work.

    Anyways, the deportation scenario sounds awful – the immigration officers sound especially nasty. Still, trying to skip the country without paying the fine…not the smartest move in the world, despite what advice others may have given! πŸ˜‰

    I LOVE living here in SK, and plan on staying at least another year. Yet, I know many others like yourselves who end up in scenarios like this due to scumbag bosses who lie, lie, lie. I wish the academies/hagwons were regulated better to so situations like yours could be avoided :/


  27. Looks like I got away lucky. I came to Germany to move in with my girlfriend, now my wife, and try to find a job. One year later and many months after my tourist visa had expired I was still living with my girlfriend, However, when I did eventually find a job an external company was hired to do my paperwork. I was so worried the whole time that they would find out I had been there illegally the whole time. But somehow, probably just dumb luck or everything being lost in the bureaucracy, it worked out.

    This was a really amazing story and I enjoyed it very much. Thanks for sharing it!

  28. This must have been so terrifying! It’s terrible the way employers in any country can try and take advantage of young or inexperienced employees who might find it difficult to stand up for themselves, and it happens so often. I can’t believe they actually tried to get you to sleep with the boss…that’s incredible!

    It must have made you terrified to go through customs and immigration anywhere on your future travels! Thanks for sharing the story – sounds like the experience just made you stronger.

  29. Laurel,
    I can’t imagine how tough that was to get through. I know that you must have been heartsick to get that deportation stamp. I’m sure that there’s no love lost between you and South Korea….yuck!

  30. Great tips Laurel. Too bad you couldn’t have just ‘lost’ your passport so that you didn’t have to keep showing the deported stamp.
    I hate the blackmail that goes on in this world – that we mostly never hear about. I’m glad you stood up to the guy even if the repercussions weren’t good.

  31. What a story – Kafka himself would have struggled to come up with that. think the visa requirement to have a degree that many countries impose on (even qualified) English teachers is a shame. A degree in ceramic arts hardly guarantees any proficiency in teaching. A real waste of everyone’s time and energy.

    I got kicked out of Israel once. The girl at immigration shouted at me. She looked like she was twelve years old. I shouted back at her.

  32. Wow, amazing story of corruption and slimy men. Surprising this happened in S. Korea, but I guess every country has their share of corrupt and slimy men. Good lesson to learn about immigration issues. It is best to have all of your ducks in a row and not have any loose ends.

  33. WOW, that was a scary story. I’m glad nothing bad happened!

    I have experience being ilegal in a country, twice I overstayed my turist visa in Argentina. But I never was scared.

    * I speak the language very well (very important)
    * I was a student of law in the last year (in Argentina) – I know how the system works
    * the imigration office told me that it was not a problem, unless they would search for me, I’d had to pay a fine of 100 euro while leaving the country, and the other time (I went a couple of days before it expired) they told me that it was no problem because I had schowed my intention to obtain a visa hehe

    • Hi Jeanne,

      Quick question. I overstayed my visa in Argentina for 2 years on a tourist visa. When I was leaving the country, immigration officers were just mean saying they were not gonna let me back in and that it was going to be complicated, furthermore; because I was American. This was in March this year 2013.

      A friend of a friend was there on a student visa, it expired, she overstayed, returned to the US, then went back to Argentina where she had no return ticket, no student visa, so she got deported.

      I’m just freaking out they are not gonna let me in even though I do have a return ticket back to the US but then I have on the itinerary that I go back in October to Argentina….I paid the fine on the way out, did everything, so…I don’t know…this is at the Airport in Buenos Aires where I’m returning to.

      Oh yeah..I leave in one week. I’m freaking out…any words of encouragement?

  34. Hi Laurel,

    That’s appalling !!!

    Have you thought about naming and shaming your ex-boss on this blog? Even though it was ten years ago, he’s probably still up trying it on. And the language school ?

  35. @The Travel Chica – The “deported” stamp is a big ugly black thing, there’s no missing it when any customs official looks through your passport. I did get a new passport but as I was working in Thailand for 2 years immediately following the deportation it took a while.

    @Michael – Thanks and I was also really surprised. I don’t think I would have had a problem had I been a male.

    @Cathy – I hope so as I know there are lots of shady bosses out there.

    @Suzy – I was extremely disappointed with the Canadian Embassy as well and shocked by their response.

    @Odysseus – I had a lot of friends who also had very positive experiences in S. Korea, I was just unlucky I guess. I ended up paying the US equivalent of ~$2500, down from the $4000 they had originally requested.

    @Eastgate – The minute I was out of the Immigration Office, I had no cool, I would literally start shaking and crying.

    @Jill – Due to space limitations I didn’t have time to mention that he also owned my apartment and he would come in – usually when I was just getting out the shower in a towel. I used to sleep with my bed shoved in front of the door.

    @David – I had no idea that something as simple as not indicating the address you were staying at could get you denied entry into the country. Glad it worked out.

    @Nancie – Glad to hear you haven’t had any issues. If I had to do it again, I would start with a larger school and then change to a smaller one once I knew which were the good ones and which ones to avoid, since it’s really hard to tell when you’re making a decision from another continent.

    @Tom – No I did not have the actual E2 visa, but was told as long as I got in the first few months that would be fine as it was just a quick trip to Japan. I contacted the Canadian Embassy in Seoul many times, and was shocked that they wouldn’t help me. Today info is more available on the internet, but that was when I had just finished university, and our university had just gotten email, so info wasn’t as easy to fine. I wouldn’t escape the country today either, but at that time things were different. Glad to hear you’re having such a good experience there. There’s definitely lots to explore and it is an interesting culture.

    @GoingKraut – Thanks and thanks for sharing your story. You are a brave man. German immigration officials scare me :). Glad it worked out for you.

    @Megan – It was a terrible experience but you’re right it did make me stronger and I learned from it, especially that your Embassy is not always very helpful!

    @Renee – To be honest, I can’t say I’m in a hurry to go back to S. Korea (which I know is not fair to the country) and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. Never say never, but it’s at the bottom of my list.

    @Leigh – I was very naive and it was a good lesson for learning first hand about black mail.

    @Robin – I have mixed feelings about having to have a degree, but what upset me most was that I did have a degree. Re: Israel, do tell, would love to hear the rest of this story!

    @Ted – I was surprised it happened in S. Korea as well, but then I was also shocked by some of the Canadian and American teachers behavior with their female students in Thailand.

    @Jeanne – So glad your immigration issues worked out so well. I’m sure that knowing the language would help and a 100 euro fine isn’t too hard to take.

    @Ted – Well my bosses name was Mr. Kim, which isn’t very helpful since the country is filled with Mr. Kim’s and last I heard it had shut down as it wasn’t located in a very prosperous part of the city. If it was still running or if I knew he was still running a language school I would have no qualms about sharing the name of the school as if I could prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else I would do it.


  36. Wow what a terrible situation to find yourself in. I’m glad you were able to get out with just the fine and deportation rather than some of the other possible results.

  37. Very nearly found myself in the same situation here in Uganda… after a sleepless night flight, said the wrong thing at immigration and they wanted to put me straight back on the plane to London. only gave me two weeks entry into the country (instead of three months) and only let me out of the airport on condition that I bought a return ticket to London! it was humiliating – but will make a good chapter in my book one day πŸ˜‰ Like you, I was initially quite blase – but immigration simply are not people to mess with! Never again.

  38. Hi Laurel! This is one good entry and I’m glad you got out unscathed and remained strong. Something similar happened to me recently (well except the “sleeping” and “corruption” part). Honestly, I feel that it was the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me. Although it could have been worse and I did get a positive experience from this, I feel that I’m not ready to open up this experience to my friends (well I had no problems opening up with my parents since they witnessed the whole thing). So I was wondering, did it actually take you 10 years to get past the experience before sharing it to the world?

    • @Kristine – Sorry to hear that you were also deported. I think it’s a lot more common than people realize, but people don’t talk about it. I was pretty open about it with friends, but didn’t write about it until last year since that was just when I got around to it. I hesitated to write about it since it happened such a long time ago, but I get lots of comments and emails from people who can relate to it. Of course, I also get comments from people who call me an “idiot”. In retrospect I would have done some things differently, but it wasn’t all a dumb mistake on my part – I was advised (by the teacher I was replacing) that I would just go over to Japan for a few days and sort it all out there. Glad to hear that you also got something positive from your experience.

      • @Laurel: Every time I want to start writing about it, the bitter feeling begins to surge so I decided to put it off just until I have completely moved on from experience. I got to meet new people (although we never got around to the part where we should keep in touch) in the process and passed the time having girl talk and I got to practice my mandarin chinese (making me realize that I need to brush up my language skills). But the most important thing of all, no matter how the immigration officer had resigned to the idea that whatever I say is a lie, I know that I have been completely honest with them and got nothing to hide. Although I am quite afraid to travel abroad at this point so I’m hoping for the best. Needless to say, you’re not an idiot. Maybe we needed to experience this for an underlying reason. Anyway, have fun and I’m greatly inspired by your story. Should I find myself in Germany, I’m definitely contacting you for best places to visit and have fun πŸ˜€

  39. What an interesting story of a brave and courageous woman faced with an arrogant and bullying boss and corrupt Korean officials. I had a similar experience in an Asian country a number of years ago. Taken from my workplace and thrown into a small cell for approximately a week, I wasn’t as lucky as the author. I had little or no money and was forced to sleep with my boss who was a dwarf and wore monocles. That experience still haunts me and I wake up screaming some nights. It’s best to fix all your papers and talk to expats ( don’t listen to the locals ). I made the biggest mistake of my life listening to locals and it cost me dearly.

    • @Jack – I’m sooooo sorry to hear your story. It sounds beyond awful. Thank you for sharing. I sincerely hope that others will heed your warning and learn from your experience.

    • @Khan – Sorry to hear that. I was able to go to other countries, but it might depend on why you got deported, i.e. if it was for criminal activity that might be different. I did get a big black stamp in my passport though, so immigration officials everywhere did ask a lot of questions. Best of luck.

  40. That’s a pretty scary story! I worked kind of illegally in Slovakia about ten years ago (same as you, I was younger and naive) because the school I worked for was so slow at getting the paperwork done and it was very complex (they had to pretend we lived in the Czech Republic so we could apply as you either had to do it from your home country – Australia for me – or from Prague). Every time I re-entered Slovakia I was a bit nervous but looking back I should have been a lot more concerned and I’m lucky nothing worse came of it!

  41. My friend was deported from Germany back to her home country of Ghana. She did not declare a package of gold. She was not trying to smuggle it, just was a first time traveler and did not understand so very much about any of the requirements. She was naive to all of it actually.
    My question is this: Now the Ghanaian officials state she must get a “new” passport and attached the old one to it. WHY? and will this cause her even more troubles to enter the US? She is very naive about so much of the world. She is not a smuggler or anything like that. Will all of this cause her more problems? I need to know as she wants to travel here soon and wants to apply for “green card”.

    • @Ralph – Sorry to hear about your friend getting deported. Unfortunately I’m unable to answer your questions as I am not a lawyer. I hope that it does not impact her future travels.

  42. I has deported from Korea last year for marijuana. I also received a big black stamp and was forced to go back to America. Is it possible to get another passport. I still have my old one and want to teach in other countries. My experience was horrible, but I deserved it. I want to clean up my life and continue teaching abroad. What do you think is the best thing for me to do at this point? Any suggestions would help.

    • @Adam – I was still able to use the same passport until it expired and had no issues getting a new one. I never had an issue getting into other countries (just some questioning), but it probably depends on the country that you will be going to. Best of luck.


    • @Katarina – Yes, I got questioned every single time I went to another country as I had a big black deportation stamp in my passport, but I was still able to enter other countries without a problem – just more questions than usual. I haven’t been back to S. Korea since then though, but I was told it wouldn’t be an issue. Best of luck!


        • @Katarina – It was MUCH easier once I got a new passport, but I’m sure there’s still a record of it when they scan your passport. As long as you are legally entering the country, you should be fine – just be prepared to answer some questions. Best of luck!

  44. Hi, Laurel, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m an American attorney who is about to be deported from Taiwan for reporting a shady law firm in Taipei for hiring me illegally without a work permit in 2014. Yes, I reported them. The problem is pervasive, and I have two other entities I could report. I’m facing a US$1,000 fine. As far as I’m concerned, Taiwan can pound sand. Thoughts?

    • Hi Jeremy, Sorry to hear about your experience. I’m not familiar with Taiwan, but in S. Korea I had to pay a $2500 fine, which I negotiated down from $4000. In my case, the only alternative was going to jail. My guess is that since you’re an attorney, you won’t have much negotiating power regarding the fine, since they will assume you have the money. I pleaded mine on financial need, which was true as I had just graduated from university and had very little savings. Best of luck. Let me know how it goes.

  45. Wow. Weirdly, I had the same experience in the same city – Daegu! I have wanted to go back for the past 5 years to visit some friends but I’m afraid of being stopped at the border even with a new passport.

      • my brother is deport from south Korea .and south korea migration department draw this symbol { 46-(1) } in his passport. please explain what is the meaning of this symbol ?.

        and how many year is he block in south korea?

        • @Ghani Sorry to hear it. Not sure what it means. From what I understand, they usually deport you from 1 – 5 years, but can also permanently deport you.

  46. Whats a story…
    I was deported from S.Korea a few month ago… and its still shocking me… in a few words, I missed my flight to Vietnam and couldnt buy new ticket cuz of credit card problems. so immigration office just put deportation stamp. now i wonder is it gonna be problem if i want to work in malaysia in the future? at this moment I have new passport. do you know do immigration offices of different countries share with deportation information? I am going to work in malaysia so scared about deportation can influence on my working visa application.

    • @Valen – You may get more questions, but you should be OK. I didn’t have any issues in other countries, I just got questioned more, and when I got my new passport, the questions stopped. Best of luck.

  47. @Laurel wow I’m also got deported from S.Korea for stupid reason. “The immigration officer : I dont trust you” I was with my friend . We are from morocco , so i though that he has concerns about we wont return back. but did nit though that could happen to citizens from Candada , USA or Europe. Thanks for sharing your story again laurel.

  48. Hello, I read your story recently after googling deportations from Korea. I don’t know if you’ve heard about the recent news in Korea but tons of English teachers (on visas issued by immigration) are getting deported for teaching subjects other than English (I.e. Teaching science kits in English, etc). Basically I was wondering if your deportation affected your future travels at all? Do you have to answer whether or not you’ve been deported? Do immigration officers pull you aside often? And does the trouble go away as soon as you get a new passport or does it stay with you permanently through an online record? I have not been deported but many friends and fellow teachers have, so everyone is worried. Just asking because it’s hard to find info after the after effects of deportation from Korea on google.

    • @Rose I hadn’t heard the news, thanks for the update. I got questioned by immigration officers when they saw the black stamp in my passport but was always allowed into a country. Once I got a new passport I was never questioned. Not sure if that’s changed now as it may all be online now but other than some additional questioning it hasn’t impacted future travels – with the exception that I wasn’t allowed to return to S. Korea for a year.

  49. To those googling this from Korea. I lived there eight years. Wasn’t deported, but I was from China. Pregnant soon to be wife in Hong Kong…. Company fudged documents for cotrol, we got screwed… Passport held for five months… A rough… Rough… Time. I went to a visa office the day I got into Hong Kong. They said to replace the passport immediately, and I did. 2 years later.. Not a problem…. Besides still wanting to firebomb that Chinese recruiting company…

  50. hi, is it possible to check from the korean immigration site whether i am blacklisted to enter their country?Or is there any other way to check?

  51. Hello,
    My brother has just been charged with expired visa in Malaysia. And he is to be deported. Please any idea of the deportation process and what’s involved. Thanks for your time

  52. Yikes! I got deported recently(for other reasons). The detainment room in the airport was extremely inhumane. Also the chances of your embassy doing anything is very slim lol.

  53. Dear Raquel, i deportated from japan in december because of my hotel booked just for 1 night (my plan stay in japan in 7 days) but my passport is clear, theres no deportated stamp. My question is, can i apply a korean visa?

  54. Yes. Visa game is very “black” and “white”. Deported stamp (or electronic stamp on digital file) may make you look like an offender to other countries even though you might have just overstayed.

  55. It will surprise you Laurel that I just got deported from S Korea for not “having enough evidence to proof why I want to tour the city”. It is my first international trip. What baffles me now is why they won’t let me hold on to my passport while I travel back home. Just an ordinary innocent vacation/tourism trip turn sour. I hope I can visit other countries in peace.

      • Yes Laurel, I got my passport back. I am home and back to my life again. I wish they would just stop making people spend money and wasting time on applying for their visa only for you to be refused entry at the airport. Very unfair


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