- Download our Moving to South Korea Guide (PDF)
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 if an expat needs to leave South Korea for a holiday 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 registering for a Residence Card.
Residency card in South Korea
A Residence Card, formerly known as an Alien Registration Card, is required to open a bank account, sign a lease, get a cell phone contract and apply for a driving licence in South Korea. A Residency Card can be obtained from an expat's closest immigration office.
Applicants will need their employer’s business registration number, passport photos, proof of residence, their passport and an application form as well as the related fees. Further fees are required if an applicant wants to change from a single-entry visa to a multiple-entry visa. It is also advisable for expats to bring their criminal clearance certificate and academic credentials 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 their passport and Residence Card will be ready for collection. Expats will need to book an appointment online to access the immigration office.
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 to change employers, a foreign employee must 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 Residence 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.
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