South Korea Visas


For the most up to date visa questions, contact the South Korean embassy in London, using the following details:

60 Buckingham Gate
Tel: 020 7227 5500
Fax: 020 7227 5503

You can also visit their website, here. It is important to research your visa personally, as regulations can change at extremely short notice, but below we’ve offered a basic outline of what the visa standards are, and problems you might come across.

Travel/ Tourism: Travel visas for UK citizen are extremely simple in Korea: simply turn up at the airport, and you’ll be granted a three-month stay. To extend this, you’ll need to leave the country, though you can then immediately return. If you try this too many times, though, the visa officers may begin to suspect that you’re working, so it’s a progressively more difficult process as time goes by. Common places to renew a visa include China and Japan. When the North Korean border is open (rarely), this is not an acceptable way to leave the country and re-enter in order to get a new visa.

Business: While you’ll be granted a slightly different visa to those visiting for tourism purposes, you’ll be granted a three-month business visa on your arrival in Korea. It’s important to note that a business visa doesn’t give you the right to buy and sell in Korea, you still need to make your trades legally and through the relevant tax authorities.

Work: Work visas are generally granted after a job has been offered, and with the assistance of the company you’ll be working for. Most interested in working in Korea are intending to work as English teachers. In this case, you’ll need the school to confirm a job offer and apply for a visa on your behalf, which you’ll then need to collect from your local embassy (London in the UK). This needs to be done a few weeks in advance, generally, though schools rarely offer jobs at shorter notice than this, so it shouldn’t prove to be a major issue. Visas are generally one year in length, and have specific requirements (these include having a degree when it comes to English teaching). Providing you have a degree and no criminal record of any significance, getting a visa shouldn’t prove an issue, though recent regulations do require you to carry out a stringent health check that also covers recreational drug use. Should you fail drug tests, you will not be granted a visa, as Korea has extremely strict anti-drugs policies.

Should you chose to stay more than a year, visa extensions will generally be granted for a further year and continue to be granted until you no longer have a job to undertake. It’s important to note that working privately as a teacher in Korea is not permitted, and technically neither is working physically outside of the school that employs you, though the school may sometimes ask you to do so. If you are caught earning money in a way other than that specified by your visa, you will probably be exported, and barred from the country for a period of around five years. This equally applies (harshly), to working for one school whilst holding a visa for another, so be careful to get your visa in order when moving jobs. Korea has a teaching ‘blacklist’, and teachers rarely get much say in things. It pays not to wind up former schools, no matter how much you might feel shunned at times. Many teachers who are planning to change jobs finish their years contract, leave the country and return on a tourist visa. They can then find a new job in the three months they’re on a tourist visa, before exiting, picking up their working visa in Japan or China, and then returning to Korea with the new company. This process is not necessary if you’re simply renewing with the same company.

In other areas, rules are similar, with visas almost invariably taken care of by the company that will be employing you. Exceptions include the likes to the US army, which has a heavy presence in Korea and does things through their own system. When leaving the country to return home, the visa authorities will often ask you if you intend to return – if you’re unsure, say yes, to avoid problems should you decide to come back. Working visas are not always automatically re-entry visas, so this is also something you should check before leaving. A re-entry sticker can easily be added to your passport at no extra cost at the local visa office, but should you leave the country, this’ll prove far more of an issue.