Visas and work permits for South Korea are often filed by the sponsoring employer. Once an expat's work permit has been approved, the Ministry of Justice will issue a Certificate of Confirmation of Visa Issuance (CCVI). This certificate must then be submitted with the relevant visa application forms to the South Korean embassy or consulate in the applicant's country of residence.
Work permits for South Korea
Work visas are usually valid for one year and should take two to four weeks to process. It isn't possible to change from a tourist visa to a work visa within South Korea – this must be done from an embassy or consulate in the expat's country.
Relevant forms can be found at the South Korean Ministry of Justice's Immigration Service website.
When the applicant applies for a visa, it's important to tell their employer and the staff at the South Korean embassy whether they would like a multiple- or single-entry visa.
A single-entry visa means that should an expat need to leave South Korea for a vacation or on business they will need to get a re-entry stamp from the immigration office at the airport, at a cost. It's also possible to change a visa from a single-entry to a multiple-entry visa after having registered for an Alien Registration Card (ARC).
Residency card in South Korea
A residency card, officially known as an Alien Registration Card, is required for opening a bank account, signing a lease, getting a cell phone contract and applying for a driver’s licence in South Korea. An ARC can be obtained from an expat's closest immigration office.
Applicants will need their employer’s business registration number, passport photos, their passport and an application fee. Further fees are required if an applicant wants to change a single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa. It is also advisable for expats to take their criminal clearance certificate and academic credentials with them to the immigration offices and requirements differ between different kinds of visas.
Once the application form has been completed and handed to the immigration official, the applicant's fingerprints will be taken. They will then be handed a receipt with the date on which their passport and Alien Registration Card will be ready for collection.
Changing employers in South Korea
Changing employers is a complicated procedure as work visas in South Korea are sponsored by the employer. This means that in order to change employers, a foreign employee will need to have their visa changed.
This can be done without leaving South Korea if the applicant has all the relevant documents needed for a visa and if their current employer signs a letter of release. The letter is then submitted to the Korean immigration office with the applicant's passport and Alien Registration Card.
*Work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.
►Working in South Korea gives an overview of the job market in the country
►Teaching English in South Korea provides specific insights into teaching in the country.
"I did it myself, and it took about a month and a half. Getting police clearance took the longest, but I wasn't in a particular hurry. Do all of it about two months in advance." Read more about Malcolm, a South African expat, and his experience of life in South Korea.
"I had to gather a bunch of documents and get them certified. I then couriered those to my employer who applied for my visa. Once they sent me my application number, I went to the Korean embassy near me and submitted it with my passport – three hours later my passport with my work visa was ready to collect. Fast and easy." Learn more about Rianca's move to South Korea and her experience of expat life in the country.
Are you an expat living in South Korea?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to South Korea. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
Aetna International, offering comprehensive global medical coverage, has a network of 1.3 million medical providers worldwide. You will have the flexibility to choose from six areas of coverage, including worldwide, multiple levels of benefits to choose from, plus various optional benefits to meet your needs.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.