How to stay long term in Korea: visas, residency, and citizenship

In recent years, Korea attracted many foreign people, and those who want to stay long term in Korea need to find information that will make them legally stay in Korea. In this article, we will navigate some possible ways to stay long term in Korea: studies, business, and marriage.

Visas

The prerequisite of long term stay is to obtain a proper visa, and this is not exception in Korea. First of all, travel will allow you to stay in Korea from 30 days up to 180 days (which is actually pretty long to be called “short” term), and this number can be varied depends on your nationality and situation. Korea maintains a visa waiver agreement list and a designated visa-free entry list. The specifics can be found in https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TRV/TV_ENG_2_1.jsp.

The waiver program will make you stay long term in Korea, but if your passport is not included in the list, above all, if you want to pursue study, business, or employment in Korea, you must obtain a proper visa fitting your situation and purpose.

  • H-1 Working Holiday Visa

    This visa is issued to young-adult foreigners and foreign students in countries which have reciprocal agreements with Korea (the list of the countries can be checked http://whic.mofa.go.kr/contents.do?menuNo=90&contentsNo=38). Those who obtain this visa will be able to stay in Korea for up to one year and engage in some employment “and” educational activities (however, it is important to note that the main purpose of this visa is intended to be vacation). But certain jobs, such as entertainments, will not be allowed for holders of this visa to be employed.
  • D-2 Overseas Study Visa

    This visa is issued to foreign students who are planning to study at the (under)graduate studies. In order for potential foreign students to reduce financial burden and provide open possibilities, the government considered granting special work visas to “parents” of students on D-2 visas in 2006. Parents can remain and work in Korea for up to 5 years. It is known that international students illegally/unlawfully work to keep up with their finances. But if one obtains this visa, (s)he can work part-time (not “full-time”) in certain businesses (* Students were allowed to work only 20 hours per week). However, the increasing number of abuse/misuse cases of this visa, it is necessary to see how the situation progresses and be prepared in advance prior to application.
  • D-8 Corporate Investment Visa

    This visa is issued to foreigners who want to pursue small or medium business in Korea or who are sent as specialists to work at businesses owned by foreign companies. Applicants must invest a minimum of 50 million KRW. However, given the fact that the number of this investment has been increasing (and abuse/misuse of this visa), it is necessary for applicants to seriously and carefully examine the current policy and situation.
  • E-2 Foreign Language Teaching Visa

    This visa is issued to foreign language instructors who work in Korea. Applicants are required to be native residents of a country whose mother tongue is the same as the language they will teach and they are also required to hold a bachelor's degree from that country. Applicants need to prepare various documents and materials to submit and prove their criminal background checks, health checks, academic background, etc. There have been controversial issues around this visa regarding the process and nature of issuing this visa. The issue of racism was raised on interpretation and management of countries and races of applicants. For instance, an applicant of Philippines (which is the English speaking nation) cannot apply to this visa system, even if (s)he can be fluent in English. Therefore, again, one needs to carefully check the possibilities prior to preparations.
  • F-Series Visa

    F visas, given the nature of the system, needs to be more carefully explained with particular regard to the permanent residency. The F-visas, which are all long-term residency visas, are a dream for many applicants, but it is not easy to obtain. With these visas, one can live and work in Korea freely and does not to be tied to a contract job out of his/her choice, which means even if something goes wrong at the place of work, (s)he does not have to flee Korea. These visas offer a lot of flexibilities and advantages, but the major drawback of these visas is that they are hard to get.

    • F-1 Visiting or Joining Family Visa - this visa is for those who live with people legally working in Korea. These visa holders may be employed in Korea. The visa process needs to be started in the home country in advance. Documents need to be submitted a Korean embassy (or consulate). The validity period of this visa is between one and three years, and it can be expired in conjunction with the legal status of the person you are with. If you are staying with a Korean family, the situation can be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
    • F-2 Long-term Resident Visa - there are many different eligibilities to apply to this visa, therefore it is necessary to carefully check your eligibility and discuss with relevant institutions. It’s a great choice for working professionals who are not married to a Korean. The F-2 visa allows you to live freely, rather than be tied to your job or school, but it is important to maintain your point system. Points are awarded for conditions such as education level, job status, income/financial status, Korean proficiency, age, and knowledge of Korean culture.
    • F-3 Accompanying Spouse/Dependent Visa - it is, literally, the visa for a family member whose spouse or mother or father is working legally in Korea. This visa simply allows one to enter and live legally in Korea and does not permit one to work or to be employed. The visa is to be expired depends on the visa status of the accompanied person.
    • F-4 Overseas Korean Visa - this visa is a long-term resident visa for ethnic Koreans born outside of the country, therefore, it differs from the other F-series visas. If you are an ethnic Korean and want to stay long term in Korea, this visa will open the wide door for your pursuit of the residency and the citizenship.
    • F-5 Permanent Foreign Resident “Visa” - F-5 visa is categorized as “visa,” but technically, it is the visa as “Permanent Foreign Resident.” Once you get F-5 status, it never expires. In fact, this visa/residency status is nearly citizenship (that is to say, you are no longer sponsored by anyone to stay in Korea - job, school/institution, spouse, etc. You can even have the right to vote), and/therefore, it is very hard to get. The eligibilities of this visa/residency status are as below.

      • If you are an F-6 visa (Foreign spouse visa, recently replaced F-2-1) holder who is married to a korean and have lived for two consecutive years in Korea while married, or if you are an F-6 visa holder with a legally-pronounced deceased or missing Korean spouse, or if you are an F-6 visa holder with who is divorced or separated from your Korean spouse (it is of course necessary to prove these cases), of if you are an F-6 visa holder who is raising minors born of you and the spouse) due to separation from your spouse. In any case, you will need to live for two consecutive years in Korea in order for you to be eligible for this visa status.
      • Or if you are an F-4 visa holder and have lived for more than two consecutive years in Korea
      • Or if you aren E series visa holder and have lived in Korea for more than three or five consecutive years
      • Or if you are an F-2 visa holder and have lived for more than two consecutive years in Korea after obtaining the F-2 status.
      • Or if you have invested at least USD 500,000 in a business in Korea and employ more than 5 Korean nationals.
    • F-6 Foreign Spouse Visa (recently replaced F-2-1 visa) - this visa is issued to one who is married to a Korean national. It must be noted that this visa is different to the F-5 residency visa. The prerequisite of F-5 vsa is to stay long term in Korea, but this visa is issued to those people who are married to Korean nationals and therefore will settle down in Korea. Unlike F-5 residency visa, this visa can be expired depends on the situation and needs to be renewed.
  • There also are many different types of visas in Korea. They can be listed as follows:

    • A-1: Diplomat, A-2: Government Official, A-3: Agreement
    • B-1: Visa Exemption, B-2: Tourist/Transit (ordinary visa for the travel purpose - there is a wide variety of options depends on your nationality and destination. It is necessary to plan accordingly)
    • C-1: Temporary News Coverage, C-2: Short-term Business, C-3: Short-term Visit, C-4: Short-term Employee
    • D-1: Artist, D-2: Student (mentioned above), D-3: Industrial Trainee, D-4: General Trainee, D-5: Journalism, D-6: Religion, D-7: Supervisor, D-8: Corporate Invest, D-9: International Trade, D-10: Job Seeking
    • E-1: Professor, E-2: Foreign Language Instructor (mentioned above), E-3: Research, E-4: Technology Transfer, E-5: Professional Employment, E-6: Artistic Performer, E-7: Designated Activities, E-8: Training Employment, E-9: Non-professional Employment, E-10: Crew Employee
    • F series: mentioned above
    • G-1: Miscellaneous → There also is a wide variety of this series. For example, G-1-1 is for medical treatment due to industrial accidents and the family member, G-1-3 is for involvement in a lawsuit, and G-1-1-5 is for refugee status.
    • H-1: Working Holiday (mentioned above), H-2: Working Visit
    • M-1: Military
    • T-1: Tourist Landing

    Aforementioned visas belong to special cases, in the majority of cases, one needs to check the possibilities for the first 4-5 cases to stay long term in Korea.

Permanent Residency

See the F-5 visa section.

Acquisition of Korean citizenship: Citizenship

The Korean citizenship has gained in popularity over recent years, but it is not easy to get. The easiest and quickest way is to marry to a Korean national or have Korean descent parents (father “or” mother). Without these direct connection to Korea, it is very hard for one to have the citizenship/nationality of Korea. But still, there are some possible ways to have the citizenship. The first prerequisite is to meet the requirement of the length of residence (minimum five consecutive years) and to pass the written test and interview on the knowledges of the Korean language, culture, history, etc. The Korean citizenship can be acquire in a numbers of ways as follows:

    • - By being born to either a Korean national father/mother after June 13, 1998, or to a Korean national father before then.
    • - By being born in Korea to parents who are stateless, or being found abandoned within the territory of the Republic of Korea as a child.
    • - By being acknowledged by a Korean national parent while still a minor (under 20 years of age).
    • - By meeting the requirements for naturalization.
    • - A minor can apply with a foreigner parent who is applying for naturalization.

Acquisition of Korean citizenship: Naturalization

The process of types of naturalization can be summarized as follows:

  • General Naturalization

    • - Applicant must have had domicile in Korea for more than five consecutive years.
    • - must be a legal adult (over 20 years of age)
    • - must be of “good conduct”
    • - must have the ability to maintain a living on his/her own assets or skills, or be a dependent member of family capable of such
    • - must have basic knowledge befitting a Korean national, such as understanding of the Korean language, custom, culture, etc.
  • Simple Naturalization

    • - Applicant must be a legal adult
    • - must be of good conduct
    • - must have the ability to maintain a living on his/her own assets or skills, or be a dependent member of family capable of such
    • - must have basic knowledge befitting a Korean national, such as understanding of the Korean language, custom, culture, etc.
    • - must have had domicile in Korea for more than five consecutive years
    • - be either
      • 1. those whose either parent have been a Korean national in the past, but have since abandoned it for a foreign nationality.
      • 2. born in South Korea, whose either parent was also born in Korea.
      • 3. adopted children of a Korean national.
      • 4. foreign spouse of a South Korean national who either for the past two or more consecutive years, maintained marriage status with the spouse and kept residence in Korea, or for the past three or more consecutive years, maintained marriage status and have spent more than one year in Korea.
  • Special Naturalization

    There are many forms of special naturalization, with different requirements. However, the basic requirements are:

    • - must be of good conduct.
    • - must have basic knowledge about Korea, such as an understanding of the Korean language, customs, and culture

Those who acquire Korean nationality by naturalization, in the majority of cases, must give up foreign nationality within six months.

UPDATE: 19-10-2017

How to legally stay in the United States? Visa, Residency, and Citizenship

If you are a short-term tourist (90 days) from one of the visa exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries (please go to https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html, in order to see those countries and the specific conditions), the USA now opens the wide door for you without any vexatious and cumbersome paperworks and application process.

However, there are many cases (study, business, immigration, etc.) that you must meet to obtain a proper visa. In this article, we will introduce you some feasible ways that will make you legally stay in the United States.

First is to obtain a proper visa to travel, enter, and remain the United States.

There are many different types of visas, and they are represented by the acronym alphabets from A to V (but be noted that these acronyms do not necessarily represent the nature of the visas as in the case of R-Visa (religion). This article will focus on the most widely using visas including immigration, working, and studying visas.

Non-immigrant visa
A couple of non-immigrant visas that are widely issued can be introduced as follows:

  • Visiting (B Visa)
    In the majority of of cases, visitors from one of the visa exempt countries or Visa Waiver Program countries do not need to hold this visiting visa. However, if you want to plan a tong-term stay, it will be necessary for you to discuss with travel agencies or relevant institutions in order to make sure that your situation will necessitate you to obtain this visa. If you have major or minor crime history, or if you have visited certain countries (Middle East or North Africa), or if you have illegally stayed in the United States (therefore have been deported), it is likely to obtain the proper B Visa. In addition to these cases, if you have been rejected to enter the United States for some reasons previously, you might need to retry to enter with this visiting visa.
  • Studying (F Visa)
    If you want to study in the United States (from the short-term ESL course to the long-term degree program) as a foreign student enrolled at accredited US institutions, you need to obtain this F Visa under the premise that you will be a full-time student in your institution. Not all F Visa applicants can obtain this visa easily without any problems. There are wide varieties of reasons and situations that would reject issuing of this visa or prevent your entering at immigration. However, if you can present a proper admission from your institution, it is highly likely to obtain this student visa (but be noted that the current socio-political situation of the US demands applicants and students to be prepared strictly in order to obtain F Visa timely. F-2 is the visa given to dependents of F(F-1) Visa student.
  • Exchange Visitor Program Visa (J Visa)
    J visa is issued to participants of work-and study-based exchange visitor programs administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The widely issued exchange visa categories are exchange student/professor, researcher, intern, trainee, etc. Spouses and dependents of J-1 visa holders are issued J-2 visa. As in the case of student visa, it is anticipated that the policy on this visa will also be conservative in issuing.
  • Working Visa (H Visa)
    H Visas are issued to temporary workers in the United States. In the majority of cases, three years of the valid term are given in first issuing, and the additional three can be followed after the first three years. During the period of these six years, it is available for you to apply to the permanent residency (H-1B). H-4 visa is given to dependents of H visa holders, but H-4 visa holders do not allow to legally work in the United States. Even though this visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few temporary visa categories recognized to have legal immigration intent, that is to apply for and obtain the permanent residency. Besides this H visa, there are the diverse types of visas that will enable you to legally work in the United States, for example, I (media and broadcasting), P (sports and entertainment), O (foreigners “who possesses extraordinary ability” in certain fields), R (religion), etc.
  • Treaty Trader (E-1 visa) and Treaty Investor (E-2 visa) visa
    (It is widely known that E visas are the immigrant visas that will make you legally live in the United States, but please be noted that the actual immigrant visas must be differentiated) E visas are issued to individuals working in businesses engaged in substantial international trade or to investors (and their employees) who have made a 'substantial investment' in a business in the United States. E visas must not be treated as the immigrant visas, but they will allow you to obtain the permanent residency eventually due to the nature of the visa.
  • Others
    There are other types of visas issued to high/special officials, crewmen, etc

Immigrant visas
Immigrant visas are issued to provide a method for eligible immigrant investors or applicants who can demonstrate their extraordinary ability in certain fields (e.g. science, art, education, sports, etc.) to become lawful permanent residents. In order to obtain these visas, petition to immigration must be approved by Department of Homeland Security. Due to the nature of these immigrant visas, you can obtain the residency and therefore legally stay in the United States after the completion of the process.

  • EB-1/2 Visa
    This visa is issued to applicants who can demonstrate their extraordinary ability in certain fields.
  • EB-5 Visa
    This is the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program, which is widely known as “immigrant visa.” This visa provides a method for eligible immigrant investors to become lawful permanent residents. However, if you want to be an eligible investor, it is necessary to carefully examine the socio-economic situation and consult with experts.

Second is to obtain the permanent residency under the legal and proper circumstance.

In order to obtain this residency, the first step to take is to apply to the United States lawful permanent residency program as an eligible individual or institution. The possibilities and cases can be categorized as follows:

  • Family relationships (marriage and immediate family)
    Marriage (with US citizen or permanent resident) probably is the quickest way to obtain the permanent residency, even if the situation can be varied. Another way to obtain the permanent residency is to apply to process for family-sponsored visa for immediate family (that is, parents and children). The situation and priority to obtain the permanent residency vary. Parents and children of citizen take priority, whereas siblings usually are placed on lengthy waiting li.
  • Second is to obtain the immigrant visas as it is mentioned in the previous section.
    Applicants those who can present the consistent tax paying history (and no significant criminal history or violation of the law) for a certain period of time are eligible to apply to the permanent residency. The situation and waiting period vary (from six month to many years) depends on the background of applicants (education, tax paying history, and financial transparency, etc.).
  • As it is explained above,
    applicants who finished the immigrant visa process are able to enter the United States with the permanent residency.

Finally, permanent residents are eligible to apply to the citizenship five years after their residency status.

In the case of entering the military, one can apply to the citizenship immediately after joining the army. The situation (for example, the result of the naturalization test) can be varied, it is therefore necessary to be prepared by studying various cases and examples. In the majority of cases, permanent residents can apply to the citizenship with the stable legal status, but in order to obtain the citizenship timely, applicants must be ready for the naturalization process in advance.

In summary,

Although there are the clear guidelines to obtain the legal and proper US visa, permanent residency, and the citizenship, there is no concrete case or example that one can follow. Almost every situation is “case by case,” it is necessary to be well prepared to carefully meet the requirements by assistant of relevant institutions and experts. For example, if you plan to study English for one year in a private institution, or if you are admitted to a graduate study program with a strong funding, or if you want to pursue the permanent residency after your BA study and working visa status, all of these cases need to be treated and prepared differently. Therefore, it is very important for applicants to be prepared to fulfill the “guidelines” and to discuss with experts prior to application process.

UPDATE: 11-08-2017

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