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