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Immigration Policy for South Korea

Some people have wanted to live in South Korea their entire lives. Others find themselves needing to move there for other reasons. No matter the reasons, though, it’s important to know what to expect before taking on a task like moving to a new country.

Here’s what expatriates need to know before they move to South Korea.

Immigrating to South Korea

Immigrants are people who go to a new country to start a new life there. Some of them intend to live in their adopted country forever, while others eventually want to return home. No matter the intent, though, most immigrants live long-term in a country that is not the land of their birth.

Immigrants generally set up new lives for themselves in the county they adopt. This means doing practical things, like finding a place to live and setting up new bank accounts. It also means making new friends, figuring out how to pursue their career in their new country, and getting the support they need to live well. 

Immigrating is different than visiting, even if the visit is a long one. Visitors always intend to return home, while immigrants are trying to make a new home for themselves.

Reasons to Immigrate to South Korea

There are so many good reasons to move to South Korea. In fact, every immigrant usually has his or her own set of reasons why they chose to make such a big move. Here are some of the most common reasons why people choose South Korea. 

  • They find work there. Whether a current job is asking a person to move to South Korea or they get a new job opportunity in the country, many people move to South Korea so they can complete their job’s obligations.

  • They want to study there. South Korea offers a wide variety of educational opportunities, from university courses to language courses and more. In order to take advantage of these, students will need to live in South Korea.

  • They are fleeing persecution. People who are afraid to continue living in their own countries may flee to South Korea in search of safety. They want to build a better life for themselves and their families.

  • They have family in South Korea. Family is important in Korean culture. People who have previously moved away may choose to return to the country to reunite with family members they have not seen in a long time.

  • The cost of living is relatively low. South Korea offers a wide variety of first-world benefits at less than what they would cost in some other countries. Many people choose South Korea because they can live very well there for less.

How to Immigrate to South Korea

There are a number of different visas available to choose from when immigrating to South Korea. These include: 

  • A foreign-language teacher visa

  • A professor visa

  • A special profession visa (the professions covered under this visa may be subject to change)

  • A research visa

  • A technological guidance visa (for people with technical skills unavailable in South Korea)

  • A culture and art visa

  • A long-term news reporter visa

  • A visa for those participating in special activities through the Korean Ministry of Justice

  • A job-seeker visa

  • A business visa

  • An entrepreneur’s visa

  • A family visa (for family members of people entering the country under other types of visas)

Each visa has specific requirements. Some immigrants choose to retain legal help to determine which visa is best for their needs and to get aid in presenting the best possible application. Other times, the company or organization one is moving to South Korea for will handle the majority of the application process.

Most of these visas last from one to three years and can be renewed when the time period of the visa is drawing to a close. As long as a person’s job or status has not changed, visa renewal is usually easy in South Korea.

Anyone who enters South Korea on a visa allowing stays of longer than six months will need to register for their Alien Registration Card as soon as possible. This is like a personal ID card that allows a person to open bank accounts, get healthcare, and more. 

People can apply for this card via their nearest Immigration Office. Forms are easy to obtain in the office or online, and applicants will need to make an appointment. They should bring their passport, their visa and any documents supporting it, as well as one passport-sized photo of themselves.

As long as their documentation is in order, they shouldn’t have a problem getting this card. Once they have it, they can really start building their new life in South Korea.

What does it Mean to Be an Immigrant in South Korea

Many expats move to South Korea temporarily, only to realize once they are there that they want to stay. Here are just a few of the reasons why they love being immigrants in South Korea:

  • South Korea is safe. The crime rate is relatively low. People even say that they can leave belongings in public and they will only disappear if someone takes them to lost-and-found!

  • South Korea has amazing healthcare. Healthcare in South Korea costs approximately 4% of most salaries, even for expats. This is much less than in other countries. The quality of healthcare is high, visits are cheap, and people can get in and out quickly, even when they need to see a specialist.

  • South Koreans are loyal friends. While it may take a few months to break into a social circle, once a person is in they will have friends for life. South Koreans love to invite people into their homes and may even invite friends to events like weddings, and may even ask foreigners to vacation with them.

  • South Korea has quality housing. Most apartments offer features that the rest of the world might view as high-tech, like video intercoms, heated floors, and more. Immigrants will need to vet potential living spaces, just like anywhere else, but they can get quite a bit for their money.

Long Term Visit Versus Moving Permanently

Most short-term visas to South Korea last for 90 days, though the exact duration will depend on the visitor’s country of origin and their purpose for traveling. This is generally long enough for someone to know if they want to stay in South Korea.

Most of these visas do not permit people to work while in the country. However, they may allow a person to enter the country long enough to find a job and apply for a long-term work visa.

Visits of up to 90 days can help foreigners know if they like life in South Korea. They will be able to get a feel for what is available when it comes to housing, whether they like the nightlife and other activities popular in South Korea, and more.

If they decide in favor of the country, they can figure out how to move there long-term.

Refugees in South Korea

It is relatively difficult to get official refugee status in South Korea, but that does not mean that people who believe themselves eligible should not try. People can apply for refugee status at either their port of entry or at an official Immigration Processing Center.

Refugees who are already in the country can apply for this status regardless of how long they have been in the country. They will need to submit an Application for the Recognition of Refugee Status, their passport (if they have it), and a passport-sized color photo of themselves.

Refugees may need to submit additional documentation and/or undergo a personal interview. The documentation should prove that they are in danger if they return to their home country, and the interview gives them a chance to tell their story.

Being a Resident in South Korea

Once inside Korea, many people want to apply to become permanent residents. However, this is usually only available to people who are ethnically Korean (even if they were born in other countries), those who have married a Korean citizen, or those who have invested large sums of money in the country (usually at least $5 million USD).

However, it’s possible to live in Korea for a long time on a work visa. People who have long-term jobs in the country should be able to renew their visas for the duration of their time at their job. There are also visas available for people who want to teach English in South Korea and those who want to start their own businesses, and these can be renewed as long as the person continues working.

People who are in South Korea legally have many of the same rights as citizens. They can, for instance, get healthcare and get protection from the police if they are threatened. They cannot vote or hold a South Korean passport, and there are different rules regarding the purchase and ownership of property by foreigners. However, for the most part, their lives will be indistinguishable from those of the Korean citizens they know.

Undocumented Immigrants in South Korea

While South Korea doesn’t allow undocumented people to live in their country, an unknown number of people manage to live “under the radar” and work in South Korea without official permission to be there.

Many service jobs are fulfilled by undocumented immigrants. In fact, some critics of the country say that it depends too much on work by these immigrants. Whether or not this is true, the fact remains that these types of jobs are available for people regardless of their immigration status.

Because living as an undocumented immigrant can be dangerous and stressful, all people in the country are enouraged to try to get permission to live in and work in South Korea.

Move to South Korea Now!

People who need to move to South Korea can start the process anytime. The sooner they get their applications in order, the sooner they will have permission to enter and live in the country. The process may seem extensive but it won’t be long before they are enjoying their new life in South Korea!

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