If you’ve found your way onto this page, it’s very likely that you’re thinking about moving to South Korea and are unsure of which visa to go with. You might be looking to start over in this new country, be it to better your family’s financial situation or simply to adventure outside of your comfort zone.
Whether you’re looking for a temporary solution or more a long-term deal, today we’ll be covering all different types of work visas in South Korea.
There are four main types of visas that will allow you to work here. These are:
- Professional visas
- Work and Visit visas
- International Trade visas
- Non-professional visas
Keep in mind that other visa categories will allow you to work but under different or somehow limited circumstances. I’m referring to Student, Marriage Migrant, and Journalism visas, which for obvious reasons aren’t the most suitable for someone that fits the description above. We will also not be covering those applicable for Overseas Korean or other visa types intended for people of Korean descent.
But if that’s not the case for you, then reach for a notepad and pen, because you’ll be wanting to take notes!
1 – Professional visas
Professional visas are the most commonly sought after by individuals looking to work in South Korea. These are usually valid for one up to seven years, depending on the applicant’s job.
To obtain a professional visa, you will need a sponsoring Korean employer. So, you will have to find and secure a job before applying for a visa. And if you’re having trouble finding work in South Korea, we’ll provide you with a few tips at the end of this article.
Here are some of the subcategories under Professional visas:
- Short-Term Employee (C-4): for those with short-term employment, such as modeling/advertising, temporary shows, lecturing, research, tech consulting, etc.
- Job Seeker (D-10-1): a person planning to train for or find a job in a field that qualifies for the following visa types: Professor(E-1), Foreign Language Instructor(E-2), Research(E-3), Technical Instructor/Technician(E-4), Professional(E-5), Artist/Athlete(E-6), and Foreign National of Special Ability(E-7)
- Business Startup (D-10-2): for people looking to establish a start-up business that will later qualify for an Investment visa
- Professor (E-1): for those who meet the qualifications stated in the Higher Education Act, and plan to engage in education or research at educational institutions of higher than collegiate level (or any equivalent)
- Foreign Language Instructor (E-2-1): for people who meet the qualifications determined by the Ministry of Justice, and plan to teach conversational language at a foreign language institute, affiliated- language research institute, or educational institute higher than elementary school level
- Researcher (E-3): for those who plan to engage in research and development of advanced industrial technology or natural science field at research laboratories (upon invitation by a Korean public/private institute)
- Technical Instructor (E-4): for people who plan to provide education regarding natural science or technology, in an area categorized as industrially special (upon invitation by a Korean public or private institute)
- Professional (E-5): for people nationally certified as a foreign lawyer, public accountant, doctor, etc. under the laws of the Republic of Korea, who plan to engage in professional work in the legal, accounting, medical and other fields prescribed by the laws of the Republic of Korea
- Artist (E-6-1): for those who plan to engage in profitable activities such as music, fine arts, and literature, or professional acting/other entertainment activities, per the Public Performance Act
- Athlete (E-6-3): for people who plan to work in the sports industry as a professional soccer, baseball, or basketball player, their accompanying managers, etc.
There a few other subcategories that we did not include as the number of people who qualify/obtain those types of visas is relatively low. If you don’t think any of the above visas are the perfect match for your professional endeavors, visit the Korean Visa Portal to try and find a more suitable one.
2 – Working Holiday visa
Although there is a Working Holiday Program in the Republic of Korea, we will not be covering it on this article, as it’s only applicable to Australian, French, Canadian, Japanese, and New Zealand nationals.
If you happen to be from any of the above-listed countries, we advise you to check with your local Korean Embassy, as the visa qualifications differ slightly from country to country.
3 – International Trade visas
The International trade visa is intended for individuals who wish to come to South Korea for corporate management, international trade, installment, management, and maintenance of exported equipment/machinery) or for the supervision of equipment production.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a very long-term option. But there are plenty of professionals who have come to South Korea with these types of visas who end up staying much longer than initially planned, acquiring more permanent positions if the employers are satisfied with their work.
It is subdivided into four categories:
- International Trade (D-9-1): trader granted a Trade Business Code (6-digit number) by the head of the Korea International Trading Association, per the enforcement decree of the Foreign Trade Act
- Technician – Industrial Machinery (D-9-2): for people who are dispatched to a company’s industrial facilities, to assist with installation/operation/maintenance of machinery
- Technician – Ship Building (D-9-3): for those who are dispatched to conduct supervision of ship-building and/or industrial facilities manufacturing (dispatched by a professional services company, assigned by the ordering individual/company)
- Individual Foreign Business Man (D-9-4): for people who intend to run a domestic business or company (with business registration under the Value-Added Tax Act) after raising a certain amount of foreign capital per the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act and Regulations of Foreign Exchange Transactions, or an individual businessman of a company with an issued registration certificate of investment, after reporting that a company has made a certain amount of foreign investment per the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.
4 – Non-professional visas
This last one is quite similar to the first category, the main difference being that the applying individuals do not need specific qualifications or past working experience in these areas.
It is amongst the most requested for people who come from South-East Asian countries, like Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia, or Thailand. It’s also common that incomers from these regions will arrive in South Korea on their own, oftentimes seeking work that will allow providing for their families back home.
Below are a few of the subcategories for Non-professional visas:
- Manufacturing (E-9-1): for people who meet the employment requirements defined in the Employment of Foreign Workers Act and plan to work in a manufacturing business
- Construction (E-9-2): for those who meet the employment requirements defined in the Employment of Foreign Workers Act and plan to work in the construction industry
- Agriculture (E-9-3): for those who meet the employment requirements defined in the Employment of Foreign Workers Act and plan to work in the agriculture or livestock industry
- Fishery (E-9-4): for those who meet the employment requirements defined in the Employment of Foreign Workers Act and plan to work in coastal/inshore fishery, sea farming, sea salt farming industry, etc.
- Service (E-9-5): for those who meet the employment requirements defined in the Employment of Foreign Workers Act and plan to work in construction waste processing, cold storage, collection ＆ sales of reusable material or press publishing industries, etc.
- Coastal Crew (E-10-1): for people who are seafarer assistants and have signed a seafarer labor contract of 6 months or more with an employer engaging in a business such as regular/non-regular coast-wide passenger transport service and/or coast-wide cargo transport service
Under this category, there will also be visas specified for ship crewmates or household assistants. Again, if those would be better matched with your abilities than the ones above, visit Korean Visa Portal to learn more.
How can you find a job in South Korea?
Those who come from English-speaking countries are indeed highly favored when it comes to finding a job in South Korea. In fact, there even is a specific visa just for native English teachers.
But if you don’t fit that description or even if you do and don’t think teaching a language is your calling, it can be quite difficult to land a job.
Many people that I’ve come across in my time here have managed to find a job through a friend or family member who was already in Korea. They’ve said there are groups on social media that are created with this intent, especially for those who would fall under the ‘Non-professional’ category.
But if you happen to be college-educated and/or have relevant professional experience, some job search engines might help you find a position faster than LinkedIn would. Some of these are PeoplenJob, Seoul Professionals, or Korea Professional.
Now that we’ve gone over the most important work visas in South Korea, we hope you have found the one that will suit you best. But if that’s still not the case, the Korea Visa Portal has engineered a handy Visa Navigator that will help you out.
Visa requirements, fees, and processing times often vary depending on the applicant’s country. If you’d like to find out more about those, check the local Korean Embassy’s website once you’ve figured which work visa you should go with.