eBriefing: “Answers to Top Questions about Business Visas in Korea”

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Download the Following Weblog Article in PDF eBriefing Format.

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3-8-2013 8-55-31 PMJared Muloongo–intern on KBC and job-seeker in Korea–and I are working to figure out some key information about the visa situation in Korea in order to share it with our members on KBC.

Based on the recommendation of my associate General-Secretary Yong-Moon Kim of the Gyeonggi Association of Foreign-Invested Companies, and through a couple people I worked with at InvestKorea last year to put together the KBC interview with Comissioner Hank Ahn, I was able to get in touch with the official from the Korea Immigration Service who is currently dispatched to InvestKorea to advise on visa matters for foreigners investing in Korea.

I visited his office today with a bundle of questions and the following are the answers I was able to get.

What are the visa options for foreigners who want to work in Korea in non-executive positions which are not teaching/ESL positions? (ex: E7, D8, E9, D9…)

To answer the specific visas mentioned in the question:

  • E-7: This is for foreign employees contracted with Korean companies to provide in-house services in Korea. It’s the visa best-matched to most entry-level foreigners looking for a white-collar job in Korea.
  • D-8: This visa requires a large investment by a foreigner in Korea.
  • E-9: This is the visa under which laborers from certain countries come to Korea to work in factories in Korea at low wages.
  • D-9: Foreigners who have a proven record of having achieved a certain degree of Korean exports in a trading business can be eligible for this visa.

Other visas which a foreigner might consider:

  • D-7: A foreigner who has worked for a foreign company or public agency overseas may be dispatched to Korea to work in the Korea branch or subsidiary of their employer and such person would be eligible for this visa.
  • E-1: Persons with an academic background may obtain a professorship and be sponsored by their university with the E-1 visa.
  • E-3: Foreign researchers at Korean research institutions (does not include professors) generally work under the E-3 visa.
  • E-5: Any number of foreign professionals, such as attorneys, doctors and accountants, would generally work in Korea under this visa.

What can you tell me about an E-7 visa? What are some of the requirements for this visa? 

The key point of this visa is that it’s for foreigners working in positions in Korean companies which the Korean companies have demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Korea Ministry of Justice cannot be filled suitably by Koreans. (This is the reason most former ESL teachers who have gone from the ESL visa (E-2) to a E-7 visa are still working in language-related tasks.)

What is a D-4 visa for? What kinds of interns get this visa? Is it only at investment companies?

The D-4 visa has a very specific purpose. It’s for the foreign local employees of the overseas branches and subsidiaries of Korean companies who wish to bring the foreign workers to Korea for on-the-job training. It is not a visa that can be easily issued under the sponsorship of a Korean company or otherwise to just any foreign intern.

Can you briefly explain what the E-9 visa is for? Who can apply for this visa and what are the requirements to qualify for this visa?

This visa is for foreign laborers (particularly those from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and a few other countries) willing to work long hour in dangerous and dirty conditions for very low wages (currently about W900,000/month is average, or so I’ve heard). You don’t want this visa.

Are these visas country-dependent? For example, are they available only to citizens of certain countries and not to citizens of other countries? (Does this include African countries?) 

As I understand, the E-9 and H-2 visas are available only to persons from countries which have signed agreements with Korea for these visas. The other visas depend on finding a company or organization willing to sponsor, and which can also persuade the Department of Justice that they need the specific foreign employee and will properly take responsibility for that person. Also, as Korean companies now have to pay into four kinds of national insurance/workers compensation plans even for foreign workers, this can also be a significant burden, both in terms of costs and paperwork hassle.

How long does it take a candidate in Africa to have their visa procesed? What are some of the best places to have your visa processed quickly and efficiently?

I don’t know, but the official at InvestKorea did say that the visa issuance isn’t a country-based thing. No doubt, citizens of certain countries will have an easier time of it, but there aren’t specific regulations that would affect this.

If a company states that an individual they are hiring must get their own visa, what recommendations would you make to the individual? How can they get a visa without sponsorship?  What visas would you recommend for people coming to do business in Korea, especially if they want to invest but are below the $200,000 dollar mark?  

Certain visas are available without a company sponsorship, don’t require a ridiculously high investment or export record and allow the foreigner to work in Korea. They include the following.

  • D-10: Foreign graduates of Korean universities may be awarded this visa for 6-12 months, which allows them to stay in the country to look for work. In fact, it’s called a “Get a Job” visa. This visa does not allow the individual to work though.
  • F-2: Those who are able to jump through lots of hoops and pass the points system may be awarded an F-2 residents visa. F-2 visa-holders may work in Korea.
  • F-6: Foreigners married to a Korean get this visa and they can work too.
  • F-5: This is the visa for permanent residents who have fulfilled various long-term residence and other conditions, and these persons can work, also.
  • G-1: This catch-all visa only requires the foreigner to convince the Ministry of Justice to give it to them. It appears to be intended for special situations.
  • H-2: This visa covers a very wide range of work roles and based on this document which I downloaded from the Ministry of Government Legislation‘s website, it appears to be similar to the E-9 visa in that it helps Korean manufactures get low cost manpower. Online articles indicate that these visa-holders are only from a few countries which have signed certain agreements with Korea.

What are the process and minimum requirements for a Korean company to sponsor a foreign employee?  What conditions must the foreign employee meet in order to get a work visa? Can an individual ever sponsor the visa of another foreigner without being family? Is there a way to work legally as an intern in Korea without having one’s visa sponsored by the interning company? Are there any loopholes that would legally allow someone to work in Korea without having a business visa?

There don’t appear to be formal minimum requirements for a sponsor, but the company has to find a way to persuade the Ministry of Justice that the visa is warranted and that the company will take full responsibility for the employee. Apparently the representative of the company must take personal liability for the foreign employee.

I asked if I, as a foreigner with a non-corporation company in Korea, would be able to sponsor a foreign employee. The official said that, in theory, it’s permitted, but that it would be very hard to persuade the Ministry of Justice to award one in this case. So basically, the visa sponsorship process is just a matter of persuading the government that it’s necessary but there aren’t formal conditions; in some cases it’s easier than in others.

The only way to work legally in Korea without a sponsored work visa is to get one of the non-company-sponsored visas mentioned above.

Can you explain about the visa points system?

I found this PDF online which explains it.

What can a business visa applicant do to speed up the visa process? What professonal support services are available/helpful for getting through the visa process?

The fastest way to get through is to prepare the paperwork and submit it properly. The official told me that Korea doesn’t have attorneys specializing in immigration work; I guess there’s just not that much work to warrant it and the Korean system appears to be a little more approachable than the US immigration, which is a black box. Most visa information is available at Hi Korea. Foreigners should also be able to get free help from offices like the Seoul Global Center (which I believe has a free hotline for questions).

I asked if there was a document which explains all this in one place (including a comprehensive list) and in English and the official said there isn’t. He did give me a Korean-language print-out listing all the visas and their summaries which he said don’t exist in English, and much of the information provided in this article is based on that document, in addition to my discussions with the official.

If your visa application is rejected, can you apply for another visa type? If your visa is rejected for not having the correct documentation, can you reapply or is there a specific waiting period? 

I didn’t specifically ask these questions, but based on what I learned, I would say that the Korean system is quite flexible, with discretion for the government officials, and doesn’t automatically lock people out for set periods of time. However, if one is rejected once and then applies again without improving the application, the officials will notice the previous record and are unlikely to award the visa the second time, either.

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Thus, in terms of recommendations for a foreign entry-level job-seeker in Korea who doesn’t have the option of ESL teaching, or other short-cuts (such as marrying a Korean), here are what I’ve come up with as options.

  • D-2 (Foreign Student) – I’ve learned that Korean universities help their students (including foreign students) get internships and jobs, and that a D-10 visa (which would be awarded after graduation) would give the graduate up to a year to find a position.
  • D-7 (Korea Dispatched Employee) – Persons working for a company or organization with operations in Korea could get transferred to Korea after a time.
  • B-2 (Tourist) – Come to Korea and look for a job through intense networking and research… and hope for the best.
Other than these, there’s the E-7 visa which can, in theory, be obtained from abroad. But without coming to Korea first, it’ll be hard to find a job and compete in the application process with others who are already in-country. In addition, the company still has to persuade the Korean Ministry of Justice that the prospective candidate brings skills/expertise that they can’t find from the tens of thousands of Korean graduates who also can’t currently find a job, and it’s really not reasonable to ask a Korean company to make this case to the Department of Justice for an entry-level job applicant whom they haven’t met before.

26 Responses

  1. sagara says:

    Can I woke in korea with g-1 visa

  2. jiro says:

    there are some mistakes in the statement…
    about the E9 visa holders: we are not working in factories and low wagers, I think, he/she is talking about other visa… not true for E9.
    I am working in one of the biggest multi-company here in Korea.
    FYI only.. ^_^

  3. jiro says:

    sorry… he’s right… hahaha… just dizzy..
    back to work..

  4. Farid says:

    Hi..this is really helpful.
    Is there any minimum salary stated for E7 visa?
    Appreciate you clarification.
    Thanks.

  5. I don’t really know for sure about a minimum salary per se, but I think the point here is whether a company is willing and capable of hiring you based on the employment laws of Korea. Presumably, they will have to pay a legal minimum wage and be liable for all reporting, taxes, legal benefits (such as insurance), etc. You’d have to discuss with someone more knowledgeable than I on the specifics.

  6. Ferdinand says:

    Hi Steve! This post helped me a lot after hours of Googling. I still have a few questions though, hopefully they aren’t silly or anything. What visa would you recommend to apply for if these scenarios apply:
    1. If you were offered an executive job by a company in Korea that had a foreign origin (Europe).
    2. While having this current job, you plan to attend a university to earn a second degree.
    3. You also hope to manage your own business in the future.
    4. Is it true that you can automatically get a F2/F5 visa if your company invests $4M or more?
    Working and studying at the same time is tedious but I’ve done this many times. Since it’s. new country, I don’t know how or where to start. Thanks in advanced for reading!

  7. Ed says:

    Dear Steven, thank you for this great article. This is an eye-opener.
    I’m planning to visit Korea under a 30 days B-2 Tourist visa. (Unfortunately I can’t get 90 days visit visa)
    Then let’s say I applied for a D-8 business visa (while in Korea) just 4 days before B-2 expiry (on day 26). Can I stay in Korea and get the business/work visa done WITHOUT leaving and re-entering the country?
    If yes, do you think of some exceptions were nationals of certain countries (i.e. holders of refugee travel documents) are required to leave and receive the long-term visa from an embassy abroad?
    What if I couldn’t extended my visit visa and overstayed while waiting for for D-8 application results? Can I always “regularize” my status without leaving the borders?
    Thank you again, and apologies for the long post.

  8. Abdur Rouf says:

    Dear sir / Madam,
    I am a Bangladeshi. My wife is by birth Philippine. But at present she is Korean Citizen. My one son (27) in Bangladesh and her niece in Philippine (32) want to visit us in Korea. It could be C-3 tourist or medical visa. Is there any agencies can help us to get or prepare this kind or any kind of visa. And if can how much we have to pay.
    Thanking you,
    Abdur Rouf,

  9. r.hegartytefl2009@yahoo.co.uk says:

    Hi,
    I’m Rob, I’ve been in Korea for a few years and more recently I have been giving thought to staying here for the foreseable future.
    I have a question relating to the F2 visa. What I would like clarification on is the Korean Language proficiencey catergories. Do you know where I can find this information?
    Thanks!
    Kind regards
    Robert

  10. Joe says:

    I got drunk in Canada and woke up in Korea with a E2 visa. I also had a job babysitting kids. Man, that was one hell of a night. I’ve tried to turn the clock back by drinking soju and beer. So far, I have got drunk but haven’t awoke back home. Maybe try mixing them for better results? Sure, ok.

  11. I am here on F6 visa and I have run into enough obstacles to be able write several books, but it would only raise my blood pressure by listing them. I have the equivalent of a tutor’s license, so that is how I am earning a living. The IRS shields me for foreign income up to $97,200. I would like to do something other than teach ESL and I am hoping that the answer might be an drop shipping business. I am getting the run around from the Korean government entities and opening a Korean bank business account seems to depend on the particular branch and which side of bed the bank officer one is speaking with got up in the morning.
    I have been told that I can avoid 99% of these hassles by using my US bank accounts and credit cards and getting an EIN from the IRS. I live in South Korea and I do not want any hassles from the IRS or the Koreans when I have to pay taxes.
    Any advice?

  12. I”m afraid I can’t give you tax or accounting advice; you need to get professional counsel from both US and Korean accountants who know what they’re talking about. I can tell you that it will be very complicated and your headaches and hassles are only beginning…. Good luck!

  13. Andrew Matteson says:

    Hey Steven,
    First thanks for the post. Tons of useful information that’s nearly impossible to find anywhere else. I was hoping you’d know at least a rough answer to my question so I don’t have to spend the entire next year figuring it out, but..
    My question is about a foreign company establishing a Korean branch. If I’d like to work (as a computer programmer with..”indispensable” English skills) for such a company as a non-Korean resident, what are my options? It seems like the D-7 would work but only if I’d already worked for that company overseas for a year. If I have not, is there absolutely no way they can hire me? I actually can’t find a visa type for this purpose, and that’s why I’m curious. Surely there must be many foreign companies here who hire foreign nationals (and I don’t mean factory work), or is that because they all registered as actual corporations rather than mere branches? As I understand it, for that the main difference on the surface is just the investment of a large amount of capital?
    Or at least if you could point to more specific people who would know the answer to this, that would also be great. I looked at nearly every visa post on the InvestKorea site, but they only seem to answer questions relevant for foreign “investors”.

  14. As I understand it, unless you have a visa that lets you work in Korea without sponsorship, you can’t work in Korea for a Korean company (or Korean branch office of a foreign company) without being sponsored by your employer.

  15. Dmytro says:

    Hi! How can a person with D-7 visa change his workplace to a company non-affilated to the empoloyer?

  16. You would probably have to cancel your first visa and get a new visa sponsored by the new employer.

  17. Inessa says:

    Hi,
    I have a question regarding obtaining a suitable visa for the internship that I found.
    I was an exchange student at a Korean University last spring so I have a D-2 visa until the end of September. I found an internship in a Youth Center for Cultural Exchange and it’s supposed to start in the beginning of october and will last for 3 months. I read a lot of information about the visas in Korea that left me only confused.
    As I understood from this article I should obtain an E-7 visa, so I looked the requirenments in Google up. I found more confusing information as this one:
    “The E-7 visa is basically for all the people working here who don’t fall into other visa categories. The process for getting an E-7 is similar to the E-2 and E-3 visa processes. One special requirement is that you have to have been working in your field for at least 2 years. And the visa is not available for just any type of work. Unfortunately, it’s not clear what jobs do qualify for this visa, but they probably fall under the category of computer programming, engineering, and other technical fields.”
    My problem is that I don’t know under which occupation my work falls.
    Another question: Is there an official document for the sponsorship?
    Thank you! You would help me a lot answering my questions.
    Sincerely

  18. Inessa – I don’t really know. I’ve heard that exchange students are often given a period of time after graduation during which the university sponsors them while they look for a job. However, as a general rule, if you’re working and don’t have a special visa (such as a spousal visa or permanent residence), you’ll have to be sponsored by your employer to stay legally. You should visit your local immigration office to get specifics, such as the documents needed to set up the sponsorship. Good luck!

  19. safewayalliance@gmail.com says:

    I opened my company under D8 visa category and finished 0ne year..
    2.what is the process for opening the Branch office(Restaurant) of same Company~under the name of Korea Lanka Restaurant
    *need any approval from Immigration or Municipal?
    *Anymore investment procedure?
    *Separate lease agreement can be done for branch (Restaurant)
    Pls reply

  20. bhagya says:

    can E7 visa holder take his/her spouse to Korea for F1, F3 visas?

  21. Dawn says:

    Hi Steve,
    I’m a Singaporean and I’m looking to get an ‘unpaid’ internship in Seoul for a marketing/PR agency that will give me monthly stipend and some allowances. However, they’re unable to sponsor me a visa. As a tourist, I’m able to stay in Korea for up to 90 days. Must I get a visa even though this is mostly educational? Could you please advise me on this matter? Thank you!

  22. Sarlia says:

    Hi,
    Can a person with G1 visa go on a vacation to neighboring countries?

  23. Sarlia says:

    how can a g1 visa to be changed to a student visa

  24. Pelin says:

    Hello,also ı would like to ask a question to related to this one..Can g1 visa holders go to their country to see his/hr parents ? or if you do this your visa will be cancelled ?
    If somebody knows it please let me know ._.

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