Plans to introduce a new South Korea electronic travel authorization (ETA) for international travelers have taken a leap forward. A revision of the Korean Immigration Law was passed at the start of 2020, which will enable the introduction of the new ETA system.
The South Korean ETA will permit foreign visitors from certain countries to enter the country more quickly and easily, while the amendment to the law will also help to prevent people from staying longer than they are legally allowed to.
How will this new system work and what does it mean for travel to South Korea?
When Will the ETA for South Korea Be Available?
Ministry officials have announced that the new online visa for South Korea , ETA should be implemented in 2021 after the development of the relevant systems is complete.
The latest amendment to the Immigration Law represents a major step towards this goal. The legal provisions to make the ETA a reality and allow travelers from visa-waiver countries to obtain it before embarking on their journey to South Korea.
South Korea’s Current Visa System
South Korea currently has a visa waiver agreement with a large number of countries. Citizens of these countries do not require a visa to enter South Korea. A valid passport is the only requirement.
Nationals of the following countries and territories can enter visa-free for the specified number of days. Individuals who wish to stay longer must apply for a visa.
- EU countries
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Eswatini (Swaziland)
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- Vatican City
Visa-exempt travelers must currently fill out a disembarkation card before going through border control. This card is stamped and may need to be presented at the hotel the visitor is staying at. It is also needed when leaving the country.
The introduction of the electronic travel authorization will change the policy of visa-free travel to South Korea for nationals of these countries.
Travelers from other parts of the world must acquire a valid South Korean visa by applying at an embassy.
Check the requirements for South Korea visas and ETA, including which countries are currently permitted to visit visa-free.
Korea ETA for Visa Waiver Countries
When the new electronic travel authorization for South Korea is introduced, citizens of the aforementioned states that currently enjoy visa waivers will no longer be able to travel to the country with only a passport.
They will also have to register beforehand via an online application form for the South Korea ETA. This system will be similar to the US ESTA and the Canadian eTA.
Eligible travelers will be required to provide details such as the following:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Passport number
- Passport issuance date and country
- Passport expiration date
- Travel plans and arrangements
Applicants will be screened, checking their details against security databases to ensure that no threats are allowed to enter the country.
Advantages of the South Korean ETA
The ETA will be a more convenient option than a traditional visa as it will be obtainable online. Traditional visas must be applied for in person at an embassy.
Once the ETA is approved, the traveler will be able to arrive in South Korea and enjoy the following advantages over the current system and travelers with traditional visas.
- There will no longer be any need to submit a disembarkation card
- Special ETA-only counters at airports will allow them to pass quickly through border control
- The process will be completely digital and no interview process is needed.
Overall, the ETA will make the process of entering the country faster and smoother.
How Will the South Korea ETA Help With Immigration?
In recent years, the number of nationalities with visa-exempt entry to South Korea has been expanded to include more countries. However, the percentage of illegal stayers who are visa-exempt has also increased.
This has had the unfortunate side-effect of causing thorough checks and long waits at airports. Some visa-exempt travelers have even been denied entry due to suspicions about their intentions to stay in the country longer than permitted.
The ETA will allow authorities to screen travelers before they arrive, which means less time will be spent on border checks. The process of entering South Korea will, therefore, be much quicker.
When the South Korea ETA becomes available, it can be obtained by applying through this website.