South Korea’s visa policy is well-structured and caters to a variety of travel purposes with both short-term and long-term visas. Short-term visas, such as the C-3 Visa, are typically used for tourism, business meetings, or short study programs.
On the other hand, long-term visas, like the D-2 Student Visa or the E-2 Teaching Visa, are designed for extended stays involving work or study. It’s important for prospective visitors to understand the specifics of these visas, as each comes with its own requirements and eligibility criteria. This article will provide an in-depth look into South Korea’s diverse visa policy.
The Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) is a critical requirement for visa-free foreign visitors planning to enter the Republic of Korea. Visitors can log in to the official website of the Korean government to apply for the South Korea ETA.
The Korea ETA, mandatory from September 1, 2021, for foreigners from visa-waiver and visa-free countries, is obtained by submitting relevant travel information online. The intended purpose of travel should be tourism, family visit, event participation, or commercial business (profit pursuit excluded). Notably, without a K-ETA or a valid visa, foreigners will be barred from boarding a plane to Korea.
The South Korean ETA application should be submitted at least 72 hours before boarding the flight or ship to Korea via the official website. Owing to the surge in South Korea ETA applicants, the processing time may exceed 72 hours. Applicants can apply individually or for up to 30 people at once.
The K-ETA application requires a valid passport, a credit card for fee payment, an email address, and a recent profile photo. The application results are usually available within 72 hours, though recent increases in applicant numbers may extend this timeframe.
The K-ETA remains valid for 2 years from the date of authorization and costs approximately USD 9-10 (10,000 KRW). If any information entered during the application changes or is incorrect, a new K-ETA application is necessary, even if the current one is valid.
South Korea ETA-authorized individuals are exempted from filling out the arrival card upon reaching Korea. It’s important to note that K-ETA is not a visa, and approval doesn’t guarantee admission to the Republic of Korea. The final decision lies with a Korea Immigration Service officer at the port of entry.
South Korea offers a variety of short-term visit visas, allowing international travelers to explore the country for tourism, business, transit, and other purposes. For visitors from countries under a Visa Exemption Agreement with the Republic of Korea, the B-1 Visa Exempted allows them to engage in activities as per the agreement.
The B-2-1 Tourist/Transit (General) Visa serves a similar purpose. This visa is applicable for foreign travelers who plans to visit South Korea for tourism or transit purpose without a visa. A valid visa is typically essential for foreign travelers to enter the Republic of Korea. Yet, there are exceptions to this rule, as stated in Article 7(2) of the Immigration Act. Certain individuals and groups are allowed visa-free entry, including designated Chinese youth groups on field trips, tourists in transit to third countries, and Chinese group tourists holding Japanese group tourist visas. Other eligible categories for visa-free entry include foreign transfer passengers, Chinese tourists en route to Europe, visitors to Jeju Island, re-entry permit holders, international organization passport holders, and APEC Business Travel Card holders.
Those wishing to visit the beautiful Jeju Island can apply for the B-2-2 Tourist/Transit (Jeju) Visa. Eligible foreign nationals who wish to enter South Korean airports and seaports in Jeju for the purpose of tourism and transit can get this permission. They can enter without a visa.
The C-3-1 Short-Term General Visa and C-3-9 Ordinary Tourist Visa are designed for tourists planning a short stay in the country. Meanwhile, the C-3-2 Group Tourist Visa is ideal for those traveling in groups.
For business-related visits, South Korea offers the C-3-4 Business Visitor (General) Visa, the C-3-5 Business Visitor (Agreement) Visa, and the C-3-6 Business Visitor (Sponsored) Visa. These cater to diverse business needs, such as attending meetings, seminars, or trade shows.
The C-3-8 Short-Term Visitor (Overseas Korean) Visa is designed for Overseas Koreans visiting the country for a short period.
Young travelers interested in working while exploring the country can opt for the H-1 Working Holiday Visa.
Lastly, the C-3-10 Direct Transit Visa (Air-side) is for those in direct transit through the Republic of Korean airports en route to another country. However, this visa only allows for a connecting flight transfer and does not permit entry into South Korea.
The South Korean government issues different types of professional visas to foreigners who wish to visit the county looking for work and other related activities. The Short-Term Employee (C-4) visa is for individuals who intend to visit South Korea for temporary employment purposes. This could involve work in fields such as temporary shows, advertising, modeling, lecturing, research, and technology consulting.
The Job Seeker (D-10-1) visa for South Korea is designed for individuals who wish to participate in training or secure employment in areas relevant to Professor (E-1), Foreign Language Instructor (E-2), Researcher (E-3), Technical Instructor/Technician (E-4), Professional (E-5), Artist/Athlete (E-6), and Foreign National of Special Ability (E-7) visas. This visa includes activities like job-seeking or on-the-job training, but it does not cover adult entertainment businesses under the Artist/Athlete (E-6) status.
For those interested in starting a business in South Korea, the Business Startup (D-10-2) visa is the appropriate choice.
The Professor (E-1) visa is for individuals who, in line with the Higher Education Act, aim to engage in education, research, or guidance in their professional field at higher education institutions or equivalent.
The Foreign Language Instructor (General) (E-2-1) visa is granted to individuals who aim to teach conversational language at various educational institutions, provided they meet the qualifications set by the Minister of Justice.
The Teaching Assistant (E-2-2) visa is issued to individuals who intend to teach a foreign language as an assistant teacher at elementary, middle, or high schools and have signed a contract with the Minister of Education.
The Foreign Language Instructor (by FTA) (E-2-91), Researcher (E-3), Technical Instructor/Technician (E-4), Professional (E-5), Artist (E-6-1), Hotel and Adult Entertainment (E-6-2), and Athlete (E-6-3) visas are for those who intend to work in their respective fields in South Korea.
The Foreign National of Special Ability (E-7-1) and Independent Professional (by FTA) (E-7-91) visas are for individuals with specific skills or who intend to provide technical guidance or be independently employed by a Korean corporation or individual in line with an FTA.
Finally, the Special Talent (F-5-11) visa is for individuals recognized for their excellence in a specific field, including science, management, education, cultural arts, and athletics. The validity of these visas varies, and most of them are valid for 30 to 90 days.
The South Korean government grants different types of travel authorization to foreign investors who wish to invest in the country. The Incorporated Enterprise (D-8-1) visa is for professionals who intend to engage in manufacturing, technical work, management, or administration in a foreign-invested Korean corporation in the Republic of Korea, as per the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.
The Business Venture (D-8-2) visa is for individuals who have either established a venture firm or have been confirmed with a preliminary venture firm, as per the Special Measures for Promotion of Business Venture.
The Unincorporated Enterprise (D-8-3) visa is for professionals who plan to engage in manufacturing, technical, or management roles in a foreign-invested company run by a Korean national. This visa is also issued in accordance with the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.
The Technology and Business Startup (D-8-4) visa is for individuals who have acquired a degree from a Korean university or an equivalent bachelor’s degree from an overseas university.
The Intra-Company Transferee (FTA) (D-8-91) visa is for individuals who intend to transfer within a corporation under a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Lastly, the Big Investor (F-5-5) visa is for foreign investors who have invested more than $500,000 USD at the time of application for permanent residence and have employed more than five native Koreans as full-time workers.
The Republic of Korea provides a range of visa categories for those desiring to work and visit the country, particularly for those of Korean descent or with family connections. One of these is the Work and Visit (Family Connection) (H-2-1) visa, which is applicable for overseas Koreans aged 25 or older, who were once Korean citizens, have Korean ancestry, or have made a significant contribution to the Republic of Korea. Certain conditions, such as being related to a Korean resident or having permanent residency, are considered.
Another category is the Work and Visit (Parents/Spouse of D-2 Student) (H-2-2) visa. This is for overseas Koreans aged 25 or older who wish to join their child or spouse currently studying in the Republic of Korea under a D-2 visa.
The Work and Visit (By lottery) (H-2-5) visa is designed for overseas Koreans aged 25 or older. Eligibility includes Korean Chinese selected through an automated lottery system or an applicant from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) who applies before the allocated number of applicants is reached.
Lastly, the Work and Visit (Expired visa) (H-2-7) visa is for overseas Koreans aged 25 to 60 who have previously stayed in the Republic of Korea with an H-2 visa that has now expired.
South Korea offers various family and visitor visas, facilitating family reunions and enabling diplomatic partners and visitors to stay in the country. Among them is a Cohabitee of diplomat/foreign government official visa. This cohabitee of a diplomat or a foreign government official, who does not officially belong to the household, can apply for an F-1-3 visa. This is applicable for individuals whose partner holds either a Diplomacy (A-1), Foreign Government Official (A-2), or Agreement (A-3) visa. The validity and application methods for this visa category are subject to the prevailing immigration laws and policies.
The spouse or underage children of an Overseas Korean visa holder (F-4) can apply for the F-1-9 visa. The validity of this visa is often linked to the duration of the F-4 visa holder’s stay, but the specifics can vary based on the details of the individual case and current immigration rules.
Parents of international students studying at an academic institution lower than a high school are eligible to apply for an F-1-13 visa. The validity and application process for this visa would generally be tied to the duration of the student’s course of study.
Underage children of a Korean national or a child born from a marriage where at least one parent is Korean (including de facto marriage) and recognized by the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Korea can apply for an F-2-2 visa. The validity and application method for this visa category would typically depend on the status of the Korean parent or parents.
A spouse or a minor child of a permanent resident (F-5) is eligible to apply for an F-2-3 visa. The validity of this visa is typically linked to the duration of the F-5 visa holder’s stay, and the application process is subject to the prevailing immigration laws and regulations.
Unmarried minor children and spouses recognized in the item from Korean Arts and Culture (D-1) to Foreign National of Special Ability (E-7) can apply for an F-3-1 visa, known as the Dependent Family visa. However, families with a person of Industrial Trainee (D-3) status are excluded from this provision. The validity and application process for the F-3-1 visa is typically governed by the prevailing immigration laws and policies.
The Korean Government has introduced two types of visas for individuals seeking medical treatment or recuperation in the country. The first, known as the Medical Tourist visa, is designated for patients planning to receive medical treatment or engage in recuperation activities in a local medical institution in South Korea. This visa also extends to caregivers, which may include family members of the patient.
The second type of visa is the Treatment and Recuperation visa. Like the Medical Tourist visa, it is intended for patients who aim to receive medical treatment or undergo recuperation in a healthcare institution within South Korea. Caregivers, including family members, are also eligible for this visa category. The specific activities allowed under both visas are determined by the prevailing immigration laws and regulations in Korea.
The South Korean government offers a variety of student visas to international students, catering to different educational levels and interests. The associate degree visa is designed for those intending to pursue an associate degree in a college or university established in accordance with the Higher Education Act or the Special Act.
The bachelor’s degree visa is for individuals planning to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program at a recognized institution. The master’s degree visa caters to those who plan to undertake a master’s degree at an institution established under the Higher Education Act or the Special Act.
In addition, there’s a specific visa for students planning to study at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. The Korean Language Trainee visa is intended for individuals with at least a high school diploma or equivalent who plan to study the Korean language at an affiliated language institution or a higher education institution in the Republic of Korea (ROK).
An Exchange Student visa is available for students intending to study a required course or curriculum as part of an exchange program between corresponding universities. Beyond these, the South Korean Government also provides visas for those aiming to complete doctoral degrees, undertake research, or receive training in foreign languages. The exact eligibility and activities allowed under each visa category are subject to the prevailing immigration laws and regulations in Korea.
Apart from the above-mentioned visa types, the South Korean government grants visas to Marriage migrants, journalism and religious affairs, international trade, training in various fields, and intra-company transfer, among others.
Applying for a South Korean visa entails several steps and necessitates a variety of documents. Each applicant must submit a South Korea Visa Application Form, a passport that is valid for at least six months with two blank pages, passport-sized picture(s) that adhere to specific guidelines, a return or onward flight ticket, proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the stay, proof of accommodation, and the visa fee. Additional requirements are present for specific visa types. For a Student Visa, reference letters and a Letter of Acceptance are needed. A Business Visa requires a letter from the applicant’s employer and an invitation letter from a South Korean company, while a Work Visa calls for an employment contract. Occasionally, a cover letter, trip itinerary, and other documents may be requested.
Applicants must apply for the visa from a Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Korea abroad or through a sponsor or host in South Korea via the South Korea Visa Portal. If applying at an embassy or consulate, they need to locate the appropriate embassy, submit the application, and await processing. Approved visas are affixed to the applicant’s passport. If a sponsor is applying on behalf of the applicant, they must submit an application for "Confirmation of Visa Issuance" online, pay the fee, attach the required documents, and await confirmation. Once confirmed, the sponsor prints the confirmation and sends it to the applicant.
South Korea’s visa policy is comprehensive, catering to various purposes of travel, from tourism and business to work, study, and medical treatment. The policy includes Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) for visa-free visitors, short and long-term visas, professional and investment visas, work and visit visas, family and visitor visas, medical treatment visas, and student visas. Each visa type has its specific requirements and eligibility criteria. Whether a foreigner is visiting as a tourist, studying, working, or seeking medical treatment, understanding South Korea’s diverse visa policy is crucial to ensure a smooth travel experience.