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South Korea Work Visas & Work Permits

How to apply for South Korea work visas, how to hire foreign employees in the country, and more information to help you expand into South Korea

When preparing for hiring into South Korea, an important part of the process is to acquire all the necessary work visas for the employees you want to bring with you. However, the process of applying for and obtaining South Korea work visas can be difficult. There are multiple categories of visas and strict requirements, so failing to prepare in advance can lead to expensive delays.

At Horizons, our expansion experts offer extensive South Korea work visa services, immigration support, and outsourcing, giving your organization everything needed to expand into South Korea along with your experienced workforce.

Basic requirements for South Korea work visas

The various categories of work visas for South Korea have differing requirements, so the first step in the visa process is to determine which visa is suitable for each of your employees. However, there are some general requirements for most applications, including:

  • A valid passport
  • A criminal record check
  • Job offer
  • An application form
  • A visa application fee

Types of work visas for South Korea

The visa system in South Korea is relatively complex, with various different types of visas for different purposes. Some of the most common include:

  • E-1 Professor Visa
  • This visa is for those giving lectures or conducting research at the tertiary level (i.e., college and university). It is valid for one year, but allows multiple entries. It can be renewed year by year. In exceptional cases, it can be allowed for longer periods of time.
  • E-2 Foreign Language Instructor Visa
  • This is for instructors of a foreign language (e.g., English) for a private company at a level above elementary (or at the elementary level where the applicant is to be an assistant). The visa allows multiple entries, is granted for two years, and is renewable. 
  • E-3 Research Visa
  • This is for researchers in the natural sciences or technology. It is valid for one year, allows multiple entries, and is renewable on an annual basis. In some cases, it may be allowed for up to five years. 
  • E-4 Technological Guidance Visa
  • This is also available for specialists in the natural sciences and technology, but can extend beyond researchers. It allows multiple entries and is renewable. 
  • E-5 Special Profession Visa
  • Specific professions such as lawyers, architects or software developers may be able to enter via this route. Applicants must meet licensing requirements both internationally, and in South Korea. The visa allows multiple entry, lasts for one year and is renewable.  
  • E-6 Culture and Art Visa
  • This visa covers those working in the entertainment, art and sports industries. It is a one-year renewable, multi-entry, visa. 
  • E-7 Specially Designed Activity Visa
  • This covers activities explicitly specified by the Ministry of Justice. It is a multi-entry visa, valid for between one and three years and is renewable annually.
  • D-5 Long-Term News Coverage Visa
  • This is a visa specifically for reporters from foreign media. It is a single-entry visa, valid for three months and renewable in one-yearly intervals.

Which Other Types of Visa Could be Relevant? 

In addition to work visas, a range of other visas might be used to conduct business or business-related activities in South Korea. 

  • C-3 Short-Term Visa
  • This includes the C-3-1 (general) and C-3-4 (business) visa sub-types. 
  • This can cover those engaged in daily business activities including market research, business communication, consulting and negotiating contracts. 
  • It has a time limit of 90 days and cannot be used for profit-making activities. 
  • C-4 Short Term Employment Visa
  • This covers individuals who seek to stay for 90 days or less with the intention of making profit via short-term employment, including commercials, lectures, fashion modeling, research, and service provision under a contract. 
  • D-7 Intra-company Transferee Visa
  • This is available for an individual who has worked at the headquarters, branch office or local office of a foreign organization or company for at least 1 year and is going to be transferred to South Korea as an ‘indispensable professional specialist’.
  • It has a maximum length of two years, and it is not available for those who are eligible for the D-8 visa. 
  • D-8 Corporate/Foreign Investor Visa 
  • This comes in four sub-categories: D-8-1 visa (Incorporated Enterprise Investment), D-8-3 visa (Unincorporated Private Enterprise Investment), D-8-2 visa (Business Venture Investment) and the D-8-4 visa (Technology and Business Startup).

  • This visa is for foreign investors involved in technology businesses or businesses requiring special skill. 
  • It is available for 2-5 years depending on the visa sub-type. 

Obtaining work visas for South Korea

The application process for South Korea work visas can be done online, by paper, or at an official diplomatic location such as an embassy. In general, your employees will need a formal job offer, which will need to come from a registered South Korean entity.

Further considerations

Employees commonly need to bring family members such as spouses and dependent children when they relocate to South Korea. To do this, each family member will need to apply and be accepted for F-3 visas, and the validity of their visas is usually linked to the employee in question.

How can Horizons help?

At Horizons, we assist organizations of all kinds with their successful expansion into South Korea, and we are experts in obtaining work visas. Our South Korea work visa specialists offer dependable advice and outsourcing services to support you through South Korea’s complex immigration process quickly and effectively. We can ensure that you and your valued employees are fully compliant with South Korea’s unique regulations, save you time, and answer any questions you may have along the way.

Additionally, we provide extensive outsourcing services covering recruitment, payroll, HR, administration, employer of record, and more to help your business start trading in South Korea as efficiently as possible, even if you don’t have an established subsidiary in the country.

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How can Horizons help you expand in South Korea?