If you are interested in living in South Korea for a determined period of time or indefinitely, then you should know that some research is required on your part. Korea allows you to go on with your plan of changing your residence for a while, but you need to go through the proper procedures so that you meet all the legal requirements. However, with some diligence, you should be able to find everything you are looking for. If you want to live in Korea, the most important thing is the visa. And finding the right visa will allow you to live in Korea the way you want.
Korean working visa generally fall into two large categories: the E-series Visas and the F-series Visas. Generally, E-series require you to be invited by a sponsor (usually an employer or educational institution). This means you’ll be in Korea for a specific purpose. The F-series visas are not linked to specific employers and offer more flexibility but requires more than just a sponsor to invite you.
The E2 Visa is the most common way most people get their start in Korea. Also known as the Standard English Teaching Visa, it allows Westerners to work in Public and Private schools or other language institutions. You must apply for the E2 Visa at the Korean Department of Immigration or at the nearest Korean Consulate.
To be eligible for the E2 Visa, you need to be a native English speaker and to have completed a 4-year Bachelor’s Degree. Of course, this means you must have a passport. You must also be a citizen of what the South Korean government considers an English speaking country (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, England, and South Africa). Unfortunately, the Korean government doesn’t allow citizens from Singapore, India, Malaysia to obtain this visa. An employer must sponsor your stay, so you are essentially tied down to a teaching job during the duration of the visa.
The E1 visa is basically the same as the E2 visa. The requirements are the same, but the E1 Visa allows you to work in colleges and universities. You need it if you want to work higher on the educational scale. If you’re able to score one of those coveted university teaching jobs , you’ll end up with this visa. Of course, this isn’t limited to language teaching.
The rest of the E-series visas are for those in specialty industries. Generally, these all require you to be invited or sponsored by companies or institutions. Of course, to be invited, you should have some sort of connections through your profession.
E3 – Research – Usually, this is for professionals with expertise in the fields of science and technology. Must be invited by public or private institutions.
E-4 – Technical Guidance – Must provide expertise of technology which is unavailable in Korea.
E-5 – Profession – Lawyers, doctors and accounts that are approved by their respective boards are available for this visa.
E-6 – Culture and Arts – Music, sports, modeling. This is the most glamorous of the visas.
E-7 – Specialty Designated Activities – An “other” visa that the Korean government uses for does not fall into any category above.
The F1 Visa is essentially a long-term tourist visa, allowing visitors to spend extended stays with those already on working visas in Korea. It expires when the visa of the person you are connected to expires. The visa application process must be started outside of Korea, so be sure to get started soon.
This visa is meant for people who have a spouse or parents in Korea. Like it’s name, it’s a dependent visa, which doesn’t allow one to work legally in Korea while on the F3. The visa expires when the visa of the person you are linked to expires. This visa is most common for husbands, wives and children who are dependent.
Just like its name, the F2 Visa is a long-term residency visa that allows one to freely work wherever they please. This means freelancing online editing jobs while signing on the weekends at a hotel bar is totally ok. It’s near complete freedom to work as you please just as long as you’re not dealing drugs or running gambling rings (but you knew that already 😉).
The F2 Visa is based on a points system. People are assigned different points according to different age, education level, Korean language ability, income level and other bonus points (such as volunteer service, Korean language courses in Korea, professional experiences abroad, and income tax record). For a general overview of the points system, check out the charts here.
The F4 visa is one of the best visas there are. It’s essentially a long-term residency visa that is indefinitely renewable, allowing you all the basic rights of Korean citizens except voting rights and military obligations. The only catch is you must have Korean ancestry. That means you must
(1) Have at least one Korean parent or grandparent who renounced their Korean citizenship and is now a citizen of another country.
(2) Be a foreign citizen who had previously renounced their Korean citizenship.
This generally includes Koreans in China and Japan; 2nd, 3rd or even 4th generation Koreans in other countries; Korean adoptees and returnee Koreans. To prove your connections to motherland Korea and current citizenship status of not only you but also your family members, you must produce a plethora of documents – passports, birth certificates, documents that prove change of citizenship, etc. But one of the key documents you need is the hojeokdeungbon (호적등본), which is the Korean family registry. This document officially recognizes you or your family member as a registered citizen of Korea, which is the most important part of this visa.