As of April 13, 2020, the following measures have been implemented to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in South Korea. Visa-free entry and visa-waiver programs will be temporarily suspended for nationals of countries imposing entry bans on Koreans.
This guide to South Korea’s visa policy explains the different types of visas available. Travelers can use the information to decide which South Korea visa they require based on their nationality, the duration of their stay, and the purpose of their visit.
South Korea has visa waiver agreements with more than 100 countries. This policy means that most visitors can enter South Korea and stay for a limited time without applying for a visa.
To stay in the country for an extended period, a South Korean visa is required. Several different types of visas are currently available, including work visas, student visas, and business visas.
There are also other schemes, such as the APEC Business Travel Card, which allows certain groups of visitors to enter without a visa.
From 2021, an electronic travel authorization will also be available. The South Korea ETA will provide an efficient, online solution for travelers from select countries.
South Korea Visa Policy
When planning a trip to South Korea, the first essential step is to consult the visa policy of South Korea.
Whether or not foreigners can take advantage of South Korea’s extensive visa-waiver program depends on their nationality and how long they will stay in South Korea, more details and a full list of visa-waiver countries can be found below.
Travelers who are not exempt from visa requirements should apply for the relevant South Korea visa at an embassy or consulate ahead of their trip.
Passports with visa-free entry: which countries do not need a visa for South Korea?
To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in South Korea, visa exemptions have been temporarily suspended until further notice. Visa-free travel will resume as soon as the South Korean government deems it safe to restart the program.
Under normal circumstances, passport holders from more than 130 countries can enter South Korea without a visa and remain for a specified amount of time. The list below shows all the countries eligible for the B1 visa exemption and the maximum number of days they may spend in the country visa-free.
- Czech Republic
- United Kingdom
- Antigua and Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- St Vincent & the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Arab Emirates
- United States
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Marshall Islands
- New Caledonia
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- Vatican City
Travelers from countries that do not appear on the list above are not exempt from obtaining a visa for South Korea. Those from non-exempt nations are required to obtain a visa to enter South Korea.
Similarly, citizens of exempt countries who wish to stay in South Korea longer than the maximum stay indicated above must obtain a permit.
Visa applications are made at a South Korea embassy or consulate.
Special immigration policy for Jeju Island
Visa-free entry to Jeju Island has been suspended since February 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeju Special Self-Governing Province has its own visa policy. The majority of passport holders can enter the island without a visa and stay for up to 30 days. To be eligible, foreigners must travel directly to Jeju island or have it named as the final destination.
Visitors from the following 11 nations are required to obtain a visa for Jeju Island:
Chinese citizens may stay in Jeju Island for 15 days without a visa provided they have a valid passport issued by the People’s Republic of China and join a tourist group hosted by a Chinese or Korean travel agency.
APEC Business Travel Card
Visitors who possess an APEC Business Travel Card, who are from certain countries, can enter South Korea for business trips for up to 90 days. ABTCs are issued to citizens of the following countries:
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
South Korea Visa Types
Travelers should consider several factors when deciding which South Korea visa they require.
The first relevant point is the number of times they would like to enter South Korea: both single and multiple-entry visas are available.
Foreign citizens can then select one of the South Korea visa types listed below, based on their reason for entering the country and duration of the visit:
- ETA South Korea (from 2021)
- South Korea Tourist Visa
- South Korea Business Visa
- South Korea Family Visit Visa
- South Korea Work Visa
- South Korea Student Visa
- South Korea Working Holiday Visa
Currently, all visas must be obtained from a South Korea Embassy or Consulate. However, the South Korea ETA application process will be online once it becomes available in 2021.
(Available in 2021) Electronic Travel Authorization
The South Korea ETA is set to be launched in 2021. The electronic travel authorization will offer a faster and more convenient way to gain access to South Korea.
Unlike when requesting other kinds of South Korea visa, there will be no need to present paperwork in person at a diplomatic mission. Instead, an electronic form can be completed and all supporting documents uploaded digitally.
South Korea Tourist Visa
Foreigners who would like to visit South Korea on vacation should apply for a tourist visa. The South Korea tourist visa allows eligible foreigners to enter the country for any of the following purposes:
- To visit a family member or friend
- To attend a religious, cultural, sporting, or music event
- Receive short-term medical treatment in South Korea
Short-term visa holders can stay in South Korea for up to 90 days. This permit is not valid to carry out paid work in South Korea and is intended only for leisure and recreational activities.
South Korea Business Visa
General South Korean business visas are available to foreign citizens carrying out activities such as:
- Engaging in commercial activities such as market research
- Business meetings
- Signing contracts
- Small-scale international trade
South Korea Work Visa
Foreigners who wish to carry out paid employment in South Korea must apply for a South Korea Work Visa.
There are multiple categories of work visas available to professionals including professors, researchers, and technicians. There is also a work visa for job seekers.
Applicants must check the specific requirements depending on the job opportunity.
South Korea Student Visa
To study at a South Korean university or other educational institution, foreigners can apply for a student visa.
South Korean student visas are issued either on a short-term basis, to complete studies lasting up to 90 days, or long term for extended periods of study.
Foreign students should examine all the different categories of study visas depending on the length of the course and the type of studies.
South Korea Working Holiday Visa (H-1)
South Korea has an agreement with several countries allowing young people to stay in the country for 1 year and engage in some educational activities or employment.
The work visa is for people between the ages of 18 and 25 or 30. The main purpose of the trip should be as a vacation with the work simply carried out to cover expenses.
There are some additional requirements for obtaining a working visa. These include having enough money to cover the beginning of the trip and having a clean criminal record.
This is a useful and popular option amongst young adults who would like to spend their gap year in South Korea.
The countries eligible for the South Korea Working Holiday Visa are:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- The U.K.
South Korean Family Visit Visa
A South Korean Family Visit Visa is required by people who will stay with a relative living in South Korea for more than 90 days.
This type of visa is also for a spouse of a South Korean national or the spouse or dependent child of an overseas Korean visa holder.
Required Documentation for South Korea Visa
Currently, South Korea visas can only be obtained at a South Korea embassy or consulate. Applicants should make an appointment to present the visa form and supporting paperwork in person.
The South Korea ETA, once it has been launched, will allow eligible travelers to submit the request and required documents electronically.
Basic document requirements
All visa applicants should have the following documents obtain a South Korea visa:
- Passport valid for a minimum of 6 months
- Passport-style photo which meets the specifications
- Proof of sufficient funds for the trip
- Payment of the visa fee
Additional travel documents for a South Korea visa
Depending on the type of visa required, travelers will need to supply some additional documentation to support their application.
Student visa: admission letter from the educational institution.
Business visa: invitation letter from the host company.
Short-term employment visa: employment contract.
How to Apply for a Visa
South Korean visa applications by making an appointment at a South Korea Embassy or Consulate. Travelers can download the relevant form and fill it in in advance.
They should then present the completed application form together with all the required supporting documentation, at the diplomatic mission. The South Korea visa fee is paid when submitting the request for review.
Applications can be made between 15 days and 3 months before the intended date of departure. Processing times vary depending on the embassy and demand.
The South Korea ETA application will be 100% online and travelers will receive the approved travel permit by email.
Extending a South Korea Visa
Visitors who wish to stay in South Korea beyond the expiry date on their visa can apply for an extension.
South Korea visa extensions can be made at the immigration offices in Seoul. Travelers are asked to complete an application form and provided proof of the need to stay in South Korea for a longer period.
The immigration officers will then decide whether the visa extension may be granted.
Questions and Answers
Passport holders from most countries can enter South Korea and stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
To stay for longer than 3 months, or to visit from a non-exempt country, a South Korean visa is required.
South Korea visa processing times vary depending on the embassy and the level of demand they are experiencing. Applicants can submit the South Korea visa request anywhere between 3 months and 15 days before traveling.
The introduction of the South Korea electronic travel authorization will reduce waiting times, most countries that offer similar permits promise processing in just a few days or less.
Currently, all South Korea visa applications are made at an embassy or consulate. Applicants complete the visa form and present it at the diplomatic mission along with the relevant supporting paperwork.
A South Korea ETA will soon be available, the application process will be more straightforward and fully online.
A B1 visa exemption is issued to visitors eligible for visa-free access to Korea. The maximum stay permitted with the B1 visa exemption is 90 days and this cannot be extended.
A B2 tourist/transit visa is for non-exempt passport holders traveling to South Korea for tourism or to catch a connecting flight to another destination.
There is a vast range of South Korean visa categories and subcategories valid for different lengths of time and purposes. The price of these visas also varies, further information can be obtained from the embassy or consulate where the application will be made.
The visa fee must be paid in full at the time of applying.
In most cases, all foreign passport holders require a visa for South Korea, regardless of their age. This means that children must also submit a visa request, an adult can do this on their behalf.
Occasionally, a minor may be included on their parent or guardian’s visa. This depends on the type of South Korea visa and the specific set of circumstances. Anyone traveling to South Korea with children is advised to contact their nearest embassy for guidance.