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A Guide to Visa Types and Work Permits in South Korea

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  • Vladimir Rostev

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People that apply for the South Korean visa should know that getting it might not be too easy. The visa requirements are quite high, and the application process can be confusing as there are many ways to apply depending on what you do and need. The most straightforward part about Korean visas are the costs. The fees are standard and paid in USD, with prices varying depending on the number of entries you are seeking for your visa to grant you.

If you are looking for a self-employment visa, know that you will be assessed on an immigration point system. Point systems are also in effect for a specific long-term stay F-2-7 visa that is common for many expats to obtain as it grants rights that are very similar to holding a permanent residence status. Still, the ability to stay in South Korea indefinitely is only available if you hold permanent residence residence that comes in F-5 type visa form.

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Work Permits and Employment Based Visas

Things to Know

  • All foreigners that enter South Korea intending to stay for longer than 90 days have to register with local immigration authorities within the first three months of their stay.
  • South Korea sees visas as consul recommendations to allow the foreigner to enter the country. This means that having a valid Korean visa does not guarantee entry and a customs officer can still refuse your admittance to the country.
  • South Korean visas are valid for three months after approval. The applicant must claim the visa (pick it up from the immigration office) in that time or it will become invalid.
  • One cannot enter Korea while their visa is being processed. If you do so, your visa application will be withdrawn.

Employment Based Visas

The type of work permit and employment visa you get in South Korea depends on what you do. Your options for a long-term employment visa (allowing you to stay for more than 90 days) are the following:

E-1 Professor Visa

This visa is aimed at expats seeking to give lectures or do research in their field at above college level educational facilities. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year and can be renewed in one-year intervals. In some cases, you can be allowed to stay as long as needed, with renewals available every five years.

E-2 Foreign Language Instructor

This visa is designed for expats that wish to teach a foreign language at a company or broadcast station-owned schools, above elementary school level educational facilities, or similar institutions. Foreign language teaching assistants for elementary, middle, or high school also qualify for this visa. The multiple-entry visa is granted for two years and can be renewed in two-year intervals.

E-3 Research

The E-3 visa is for expats that are invited by a public or private institution to conduct research in natural science or advanced technology. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year and can be renewed in one-year intervals. In some cases, you can be allowed to stay as long as needed, with renewals available every five years.

E-4 Technological Guidance

Expats with expertise in natural science or high technology that are invited by a public or private organization or offer skills unavailable in Korea can apply for this visa. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year and can be renewed in one-year intervals. The single-entry visa is valid for three months and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

E-5 Special Profession

Architects, lawyers, physicians, accountants, and other such professionals can apply for this visa. They must be internationally licensed and hold Korean government permission to practice their field of expertise. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year and can be renewed in one-year intervals. The single-entry visa is valid for three months and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

E-6 Culture and Art

Designed for expats that participate in musical, artistic, and literary activities. This includes for-profit modeling, pop entertainment, adult entertainment, hotel and business entertainment, and sports. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one year and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

E-7 Specially Designed Activities

Aimed at expats that participate in activities designed by the Korean Ministry of Justice through a public or private organization. The multiple-entry visa is valid for one-to-three years and can be renewed in one or three-year intervals. The single-entry visa is valid for three months and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

D-5 Long-Term New Coverage

A visa for reporters working for foreign media (broadcast, newspapers, magazines, etc.). The single-entry visa is valid for three months and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

Alien Registration Card (ARC)

Most people that are staying in South Korea for more than six months need to get their Alien Registration Card (ARC). Expats use ARC in Korea as a personal identification card. With this card you will get a Resident Registration Number that is necessary when opening a bank account or registering at the local medical practice.

To apply for this card, you need to book an appointment at the nearest Immigration Office. They typically work form 09:00 to 18:00 every working day. On the day of the appointment, be on time and bring your passport, a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm), and other documents necessary for your type of visa. If you do not know which documents you need, you can call 1345 (in Korea) or 821345 (outside of Korea) to check. Make sure you get the names of the documents you need in Korean as translations might lead to confusion.

When applying, you will need to complete an application form that is freely available at the Immigration Office. Employees at the office are available to help you fill the form and see if you brought all the right documents. That is where having the Korean names comes in handy as they will be able to tell you if you are missing anything.

You will have to pay an issuance fee that at the moment stands at 30,000 KRW (25 USD).

Applying for a D-10 Job Seeker Visa

Do you qualify for one of the above-mentioned visas, but do not have a job yet? You can still move to South Korea as a job seeker by applying for a D-10 visa. However, the eligibility standards are quite high. You will need to meet one of the following requirements:

  • Your previous employer has recently (no later than in the last three years) been featured in the Fortune 500 list.
  • You are a graduate of a university listed on the Times Higher World University Rankings.
  • You are a recent graduate (graduated in the last three years) of a Korean community college or higher education institution.
  • You have a bachelor’s or higher degree and have completed a research program at a Korean research institution in the last three years.
  • You are recognized by the head of a diplomatic mission.

You can also obtain this visa if you are planning on doing an internship in Korea.

Business Visa

If the purpose of your stay in South Korea is continuing your business endeavors you started abroad or becoming an investor in a Korean company, you might need to look into specifications about the following visas:

  • intra-company transfer (D-7);
  • corporate investment (D-8);
  • trade management (D-9).

More details on self-employment possibilities and starting a business in Korea are discussed later in the guide.

South Korea’s Work Visa Document Requirements

The documents you need to present when applying for a visa depends on which type of visa you opt for. However, all work visas require you to have:

  • a completed application form;
  • your passport (original and/or copies, digital or physical);
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm).

Some visa application procedures also require you to present your employment contract, educational and professional certificates, criminal record, or recommendation letter. When applying, you will also need to pay a fee.

South Korea’s Work Permit Visa Application Form

South Korea allows for both online and physical visa applications. They are:

  • e-visa application (via the visa portal);
  • visa application (via Korean diplomatic missions abroad);
  • confirmation of visa issuance application (via the visa portal);
  • confirmation of visa issuance application (via Korean immigration offices).

The type of job you are planning on doing determines how you should apply for a visa. For example, people that have an offer to work as pilots in Korean airlines or a local transportation company should apply for an E-5 visa at a diplomatic mission. Expat professionals who work as lawyers or physicians will also need to apply for an E-5 visa.

No matter the type of work visa you apply for, the application is only obtained if you apply through a sponsor (i.e. your employer) or a visa agency.

The application forms can be found online. They are available in Korean and English languages.

Family Visa

Spouses and unmarried minor children of holders of all the above-mentioned visas need to get an F-3 visa to legally stay in South Korea. In addition to paying the issuance fee, the applicants need to present the following documents:

  • filled-out application form
  • passport
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm)
  • family relation certificate (birth, marriage, etc.)
  • proof of financial stability (proof of employment, tax payment certificates, etc.)

Depending on the method of application, the family members might be granted a visa that will allow them to stay for as long as the principal applicant (e-visa and confirmation of visa issuance). In other cases, they can only apply for a single-entry visa that is valid for three months and can be renewed in one-year intervals.

South Korea’s Work Visa Costs

Visa issuance fee for a South Korean visa should be paid in USD. Note that if you are applying for your visa online, you will be charged additional fees for electronic payment services.

Type of Visa Costs USD 90 days or fewer single-entry visa 40 91 days or more single-entry visa 60 Double-entry visa 70 Multiple-entry visa 90

Keep in mind that some countries, such as the US, the UK, and Australia, have adjusted visa fee systems while others have fee exemptions for specific types of visa. Find whether different rules apply to your country by visiting the official Korean visa page.

Self-Employment Visas

South Korea allows for a self-employment visa that encourages foreigners to start their business in Korea. As with traditional employment visas, the type of visa you will apply for is dependent on your job industry. For example:

  • a D-8-4 technology and business start-up visa is designed to accommodate promising ventures in the country;
  • the D-10-2 business start-up visa will let foreigners sort out all the documents and attend Overall Assistance of Start-up Immigration System (OASIS) training to prepare for the entrepreneurship path;
  • the D-8-1 investment visa is for those who can invest a large sum of money into their business in order to get it started.

No matter which of the self-employment visa types you go for, all of them are single-entry and valid for only three months. After that, it can be extended in one-year intervals.

South Korea Self-Employment Visa Requirements

If you are only in preparation stages when it comes to your business venture, you can opt for the D-10-2 visa. The eligibility requirements for this type of visa are simple: one just needs to have a bachelor’s or higher degree and appropriate skills necessary to start a business. The necessary documents for application include:

  • completed self-employment visa application form;
  • passport;
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm);
  • education certificate;
  • technology/business start-up plan;
  • if applicable, application certificate (patent proof, intellectual property right permission, etc.);
  • if applicable, OASIS program certificate or confirmation of participation letter.

The eligibility requirements for the D-8-4 start-up visa are the same, however, the document requirements are different. To apply you need the following:

  • completed self-employment visa application form;
  • passport;
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm);
  • corporate register and business registration certificate;
  • proof that you have the intellectual property or appropriate skills.

As this type of visa uses a point-based system to assess candidates, you might need to provide documents proving your visa points (more on that later in the guide).

Investment Visa

If you cannot achieve enough points to qualify for the D-8-4 start-up visa, you can opt for an investment visa D-8-1, by investing 100,000 USD or more into the company you are starting. For that, you will need:

  • completed self-employment visa application form;
  • passport;
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm);
  • dispatch order indicating the period of dispatch and a certificate of employment;
  • foreign investment notification or an FDI company registration;
  • copy of business registration certificate, copy of unabridged corporate registration, or original or copy of a statement demonstrating the change of shareholders;
  • documents demonstrating transfer of investment capitals (documents depend on whether the investment is made through a bank transfer or in cash);
  • additional documents for private investors that invest less that 300 million KRW (242,500 USD) (documents stating the capital, verifying the existence of business, proving the founder’s entrepreneurial experiences, etc.).

Regardless of which of these two visas you apply for, you might be asked to provide additional documents. This depends on your country of origin. Find more on how to get the necessary documents to set up your business in the Working section of the guide.

Self-Employment Visa Process

As mentioned above, to obtain a D-8-4 visa you need to gain a certain amount of qualifying points. There are 340 points in total and one needs to obtain 80 to get the D-8-4 start-up visa. The points are categorized into two sections, prerequisite and selective.

Prerequisite points:

  • intellectual property ownership: patent or utility – 80 points;
  • intellectual property ownership: design – 50 points;
  • intellectual property application: patent or utility – 20 points;
  • intellectual property application: design – 10 points;
  • participating at OASIS-6: Start-up Exhibitions program and receiving third through first prize at invention – 25 points;
  • participating at OASIS-9: Support for Start-up Commercialization and get selected as central or local government-supported business – 25 points;
  • start-up recognition from the Minister of Justice – 25 points.

Selective points:

  • completing OASIS-1: Intellectual Property Class, basic course – 15 points;
  • completing OASIS-2: Intellectual Property Class, advanced class – 25 points;
  • completing OASIS-4: Start-up Class – 25 points;
  • completing OASIS-5: Start-up Coaching and Mentoring program – 15 points;
  • graduating from OASIS-7: Start-up Incubator – 15 points.

You can find more information on the OASIS program in the Working section of this guide.

Self-Employment Visa Costs

No matter which visa you apply for, you will need to pay a visa issuance fee. As start-up visas only allow for single-entry stays, you will need to pay 60 USD for your visa.

Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent

For those considering how to become a permanent resident in South Korea, know that while the government makes it hard to find official information about it, getting permanent residency status is not impossible. Depending on your situation, you might need to go through a few stages of application, going from temporary residence to applying for more long-term options until you become eligible for an unlimited stay. However, enough capital or a marriage certificate can hand you a short-cut that will help you avoid the lengthy application processes.

South Korea’s Permanent Resident Visa Requirements

The F-5 type visa is the permanent residence visa for South Korea. The eligibility requirements you need to meet to get it are:

  • Investing nearly 600 million KRW (500,000 USD) or more in a Korean business and hiring five or more locals.
  • Marrying a Korean citizen or an F-5 holder.
  • Obtaining a degree in South Korea. That can be a bachelor’s degree in Science or Engineering or any type of master’s degree. Additionally, you have to be living here for three years while earning sufficient annual income (higher than the country’s per capita gross national income).
  • Obtaining a doctorate degree in South Korea and getting a job in the field of high technologies.
  • Running a business under a D-8-4 start-up visa in Korea for at least three years, making at least 300 million KRW (256,100 USD) in total, and hiring at least two Korean employees for no less than six months.
  • Getting recognized by the Ministry of Justice for your exceptional talent in Science, Education, Culture and Arts, Sports, or Management.
  • Holding an F-2 type visa for five years or more while having sufficient income to support yourself and your family and the ability to understand Korean culture and traditions.
  • Holding an F-4 Overseas Korean Visa for at least two years in addition to sufficient income or property tax payments.

Have you noticed that none of them can be obtained by holding one of the above-mentioned work visas? That is because before you can apply for full permanent residence, you need to get yourself another one of the F-type long-term residency visas. The F-2-7 and F-2-99 seem to be the two most popular options.

How to Get Permanent Residency in South Korea

Note that the following requirements are for long-term, yet still temporary residence permit applications. However, getting them can lead you to permanent residence in South Korea. Note that both of these visas grant you the freedom to change jobs and create your own business ventures without many restrictions as these visas are not dependent on a contract.

Getting the F-2-7 Visa

Holders of E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, E-6, E-7, D-2, D-5, D-6, D-7, D-8, D-9,  and D-10 visas can apply for the F-2-7 visa after working in the country for one year. The tricky part is fulfilling the requirements necessary to obtain this visa. The applicants are assessed on a point-based system that requires them to get 80 points out of 120 possible. The things you are assessed on are:

  • Age: The age that allows you to get the highest number of points is 30-35 (25 points). The lowest score is given to people aged 51 and over (15 points).
  • Income: Earning more that 100 million KRW (85,000 USD) per year will grant you ten points. Earning less than 20 million KRW (17,000 USD) is worth only one point.
  • Education: The higher the qualification––the better the score. A high school diploma will get you 15 points, while a PhD is worth 35–33 points, depending on the subject.
  • Korean language proficiency: The proficiency is categorized into six levels that are determined by taking the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). The highest level earns a candidate 20 points while the lowest is worth 10 points.
  • The social integration program: Often considered as one of the easier ways to earn extra points, the Korean Immigration and Integration Program (KIIP) is a free education program that helps expats to learn the language and adapt to the Korean way of life. The points are attributed depending on how many levels of the program you have completed. The maximum you can get is 28 points. More information on KIIP can be found in the Education section of our guide.
  • Bonus points: volunteering and study experiences in Korea as well as professional experiences abroad can earn you an additional 1–5 points. And while it might seem marginal, every point counts, as applications just one point shy of the minimum do get rejected.

The visa is valid up to three years.

The F-2-99 Visa

If you do not meet the requirements needed to get the F-2-7 visa, see if you can qualify for the F-2-99. This visa is not as demanding when it comes to criteria as there is no point-based evaluation system. The main requirement is the length of your stay in the country.

  • Holders of D-1, D-5, D-6, D-7, D-8, D-9, E-6-1, E-6-3, F-1, and F-3 visas need to continuously stay in Korea for seven or more years.
  • Holders of E-1, E-2, E-3, E-4, E-5, and E-7 visas need to continuously stay in Korea for five or more years.

For your stay to qualify as continuous, you cannot leave the country for more than one month. Other requirements you need to meet are:

  • You need to be of good character (no criminal record, abiding by the local laws, having sufficient income, etc).
  • You need to be an adult (over 18 years of age).
  • Your household savings (in property or money) need to be worth over 30 million KRW (25,500 USD).
  • Your previous year’s income has to be higher than the country’s Gross National Income per capita.
  • You need to have completed the level 2 KIIP.

This visa is valid for 1–3 years.

Another popular way of getting permanent residence is through the F-6 marriage visa.

Spouse Visa Process for South Korea

Note that the following description of the application process is quite general, and the details might differ depending on where you are from. You will be told what requirements apply to your situation during the first meeting with immigration officers.

Prepare for your meeting at the immigration offices by making sure you have the following documents (most of them need to be provided in Korean):

  • passport;
  • a colored passport-style photograph (3.5 mm by 4.5 mm);
  • Alien Registration Card (ARC);
  • marriage certificate;
  • filled-out visa application form;
  • invitation form (filled in by the Korean spouse);
  • basic certificate, family registry, personal ID certificate (forms that can be found online or picked up from the immigration office, filled in by the Korean spouse);
  • tax records stating you and your spouse earn a sufficient amount of money to sustain your household;
  • employment records stating you and your spouse earn a sufficient amount of money to sustain your household;
  • proof of your eligibility to marry;
  • copy of your rental contract where you and your spouse live;
  • photos of family your home;
  • photos of you and your spouse together (proving the legitimacy of the relationship);
  • proof that you and your spouse can communicate (record of your communications, your Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) scores, or your Korean spouse’s Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) scores).

Some of the above-mentioned forms can be obtained by calling the immigration office and asking for a list of documents you need to submit when applying for the F-6 visa. In addition to getting all these documents ready, you will also need to pay a temporary resident permit fee when submitting your application.

Typically, your visa should be approved within a month. However, it is possible for the process to last for about half a year. After you get it, your visa is valid for a year.

Fiancé visas are not available in South Korea.

South Korea’s Permanent Residency Application

After you have lived in Korea long enough to qualify for the F-5 visa, you can start the application process for your permanent residency. The required documents depend on what type of visa you had before, and which type of F-5 visa you are getting, but usually you will need to provide:

  • passport;
  • Alien Registration Card (ARC);
  • filled-out application form;
  • proof of your income or savings (your employment contract, pay slip, bank statement etc);
  • your rental contract;
  • proof of clear criminal record;
  • KIIP certificate (level 5).

Other documents you might need include proof of education, marital status, or capital.

Permanent Residence Application Fees in South Korea

While there is no official information on how much permanent visa processing costs, people that had to go through the process claim it should be around 200,000 KRW (170 USD).

Benefits of Being a Permanent Resident in South Korea

Permanent residents can

  • stay in the country indefinitely;
  • change jobs and navigate the Korean labor market with no restrictions;
  • freely create their own business;
  • leave South Korea without needing to get a re-admittance permit;
  • vote in local elections (three years after obtaining permanent residence).

Permanent Residence Visa for Dependent Family

Spouses and underage children can apply for F-5 visas as dependent family members of F-5 visa holders. They need to have resided in South Korea for at least two yea

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