Applying for a visa

Many countries do not require a visa for visiting South Korea, though entry is limited to 90 days. Working or studying in South Korea requires a visa, however.

Visa types[edit]

E-2 English teaching visa[edit]

The E-2 visa is a common initial visa for foreigners living in Korea. It allows the bearer to live in Korea while teaching English for a particular school or 학원. It does not offer much flexibility. In particular, it does not allow the bearer to quit their job or take a second job, or even perform a job teaching something other than English. For example, teaching music (even in English) will often not be permitted.

One needs to find a job before entering the country on an E-2 visa.

F-6 spousal visa[edit]

An F-6-1 visa, as it appears in a passport.

The F-6 visa is for foreigners who are married to a Korean citizen. An F-6 visa allows unrestricted work and travel for 12 months. It can be extended every 12 months indefinitely. For those married to a Korean, it offers the greatest flexibility.

There are two types of F-6 visas:

F-6-1 
Married to a Korean. The most common type of F-6 visa.
F-6-2 
Sired a child with a Korean, to be raised in Korea, after being married with them, but not eligible for F-6-1

Note that you typically do not apply for an F-6 visa from within Korea unless you already have an existing visa (such as an E-2 visa). If you do not already have a visa, you would apply for an F-6 visa outside of Korea. There can be some exceptions, such as if the wife is pregnant, but typically you will be allowed to apply for an F-6 visa from a Korean embassy in a foreign country.

The ideal for getting an F-6 visa is as follows:

  1. Get married
  2. Get and fill out the F-6 application package from the foreigner's Korean embassy. This will require:
    1. Get a physical examination (likely only required if the foreigner is from Southeast Asia)
    2. Get a criminal background check (likely only required if the foreigner is from Southeast Asia)
    3. Have the marriage registered in Korea (is this strictly necessary?). Both parties do not need to be present for this, so the Korean half of the marriage can do this. If the marriage was in a foreign country, the marriage certificate will have to be translated into Korean. However, a professional translation is not necessary. The Korean half of the marriage can translate the certificate themselves and register at the local 구청
    4. Have proof of income and finances
  3. Apply for the F-6 visa at the foreigner's local Korean embassy
  4. Wait a few months while living in the foreigner's country
  5. After the visa has been approved, fly to Korea
  6. Enter Korea with the new visa

This path has an obvious downside, which is that it requires the couple to either live apart or live in the foreigner's country of residence until the visa is approved, which may not be ideal. If you are already living together as a married couple in Korea and wish to remain living together in Korea, it may not be convenient to go back to the foreigner's country of residence and live for a few months. Many Korean embassies abroad will approve F-6 visa for any foreigners, not just foreigners of their home country.

Another possible path is to go to an embassy close to Korea for a short trip. Embassies which may help with this are:

Country City Approximate number of days required to process visa application
Japan Tokyo 3
Japan Sapporo 3
Japan Osaka 4
Singapore Singapore 4
Thailand Bangkok 7
Canada Toronto 180

Email the desired embassy before going to ensure they will be able to process your visa application.

If all of the documentation is already in order, a couple living in Korea can travel to one of the cities listed in the table above, apply for the visa upon entering, travel/shop/etc for a few days until the visa is ready, then reenter Korea under the new visa.

After applying for a visa[edit]

A visa allows you to enter Korea, but does not allow you to work yet. Entering on a visa also requires you to register for an Alien Registration Card, after which you will be able to work and enjoy other benefits.