Laws Foreign Nationals Should Know
Entry into the Republic of Korea
People who want to enter the Republic of Korea need to carry a valid passport and visa issued by the Ministry of Justice. While in the country, be sure to check the expiration dates of your passport and visa to avoid any difficulties stemming from overstaying your period of sojourn. Make sure to carry your passport with you, as it will be necessary for various purposes.
Those who intend to stay in the Republic of Korea for more than 90 days have to register as an alien within 90 days. If the period of stay is, for example, 59 days in your passport, then you must apply for extension before the 59 days pass. If a person is granted permission to stay or has changed their status, he or she has to register as an alien as soon as his or her status has changed. To receive an Alien Registration Card, refer to local immigration offices (Tel: 1345).
Extending Period of Stay
Foreign nationals who need to stay in Korea beyond the period of authorized stay have to extend their period of stay. If they apply for an extension of the period after it has expired, they will be fined. Although it’s possible to submit an application form on the day before the period of stay expires, it may not be granted, which would make your stay illegal. Therefore, applying in advance is recommended. Application forms for extension are available at local immigration offices or branches.
Changing Visa Status
Foreign nationals who want to change their visa status need permission from
the local immigration office.
- Foreign nationals with short-term business visas (C-2) who want to invest in Korea (D-8)
- Foreign nationals who have finished language training (D-4) and want to study in Korea (D-2)
- Foreign nationals who wish to change their visa after marrying a Korean (F-2)
Other Activities Outside Visa Status
If foreign nationals staying for more than 90 days (people with 90-day shortterm visas excepted) want to participate in activities that their present visa status
does not allow, they need to get permission to engage in those activities.
- Foreign students (D-2) want to have a part time job (S-3) while they continue to study
- Missionaries engaged in religious activities (D-6) want to teach students at a university (E-1)
Permission for Re-Entry
Foreign nationals staying in Korea for more than 90 days who wish to leave Korea and return within their period of sojourn need a re-entry permit from the local immigration office before leaving. Single re-entry permits can be obtained the same day a person leaves Korea at the airport or harbor of departure regardless of where they are staying. If a person exits the country without a reentry permit or doesn't enter within the period allowed for re-entry, the existing visa will be nullified. Be careful!
Foreign spouses of Koreans (on F-2-1 visas) are allowed multiple re-entry within the period of their visa. However, if the F-2-1 visa holder is in the midst of divorce proceedings where the period of stay is extended by 3 months at a time, only a single re-entry permit will be issued. A foreign national who exits the country after obtaining a re-entry permit but fails to re-enter the country can apply for an extension of the re-entry permit at a Korean embassy or consulate.
Acquiring Permanent Residence
The following people have a right to apply for permanent residence:
- A person who has stayed in Korea for more than five years
- A foreign national married to a Korean. A spouse and underage children of a
- person who has permanent residence
- Foreign nationals who have invested more than US$500,000
- Koreans who are citizens of another country and meet certain requirements
- Chinese who were born and are living in Korea
- A person with a PhD in cutting-edge technologies
- Holders of bachelor's degrees with certification in cutting-edge technologies
- Those with abilities in specific needed areas
- A person of special merit
- Beneficiary of a pension
- Foreign nationals who come to Korea to marry
A foreign national married to a Korean can acquire permanent resident status by applying for a change in status if he or she 1) has lived in Korea for more than two years, 2) survives a Korean spouse who has died or is judged missing by a court of law, 3) is divorced or living apart from the Korean spouse and has proven that he or she is not responsible for the situation (divorce or living separately) and 4) is responsible for underage children from the marriage.
The following people can apply for Korean citizenship at local immigration
offices with the required documents.
People who have lived in Korea for more than five years
- Korean-born foreigners who have lived in Korea for three years or longer may apply for citizenship if their mother or father used to be Korean citizens or had been born in Korea.
- A foreign national married to a Korean and staying in Korea for more than two years
- A person whose father or mother is Korean
- Children whose father or mother is naturalized can apply for special naturalization regardless of their age, marital status or the period of stay in Korea.
- People who have made a special contribution to the Republic of Korea
- People who immigrate to Korea for the purpose of marriage
Other people who are qualified for Korean citizenship include people who have entered Korea, registered as aliens and stayed legally for more than two years; foreign nationals married to a Korean for more than three years and who have stayed in Korea for more than one year; widows or widowers of Korean spouses (or those whose Korean spouse has been declared missing) who live in Korea; and foreign nationals who are responsible for raising the underage children born of a marriage to a Korean national.