How to Enter Korea, South

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

You must have a valid passport to enter the Republic of Korea. As long as you have a valid U.S. passport, you can enter the Republic of Korea without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days if you are a tourist or if you are in the Republic of Korea on business. If you are staying for more than 90 days, or for any reason other than tourism or a temporary non-profit business trip, you must have a visa before you enter. If you are visiting the Republic of Korea for employment, for any profit-making reason, to teach English, or for stays longer than 90 days, you must get a visa at an ROK embassy or consulate prior to your travel. Once you enter the Republic of Korea, if you are staying in the Republic of Korea for longer than 90 days, you must also apply for an Alien Registration Card. Visit the Embassy of the Republic of Korea website for the most current visa information.

The Government of the Republic of Korea considers it very important to control the number of illegal or out-of-status foreigners in the country. If you want to stay longer than your authorized period of stay after you have entered the Republic of Korea, be sure to apply to the ROK Immigration for an extension before the expiration date of your authorized stay. If you stay in the Republic of Korea longer than the time authorized by ROK Immigration without applying for an extension, you will be fined and will be required to pay the fines before you can leave the country. In most cases, you cannot change the status of your visa from one type to another (from tourism to teaching, for example) while you are in the Republic of Korea. You must change your status at a ROK embassy or consulate in another country after departing the Republic of Korea.

On January 1, 2012, the Republic of Korea began collecting the biometric data of foreign visitors at ports of entry (international airports and seaports). U.S. citizens entering the Republic of Korea will have their two index fingerprints electronically scanned at the same time a digital photograph is taken of their face by a Korea Immigration Service inspector. This process will take place while the traveler’s passport is being inspected at an immigration booth. Children under the age of 17 and foreign government and international organization officials and their accompanying immediate family members are exempt from this requirement. Questions about this requirement should be directed to the nearest ROK embassy or consulate.

For ROK-born or Ethnic Korean Visitors: If you were born in the Republic of Korea, if you once held ROK citizenship, or if you are an ethnic Korean (whether you held ROK citizenship before or not), you may qualify for some type of residence status in the Republic of Korea. If you think you may qualify for this status, you should check with ROK Immigration to see what documents the ROK government will require before you visit or stay in the Republic of Korea. For additional visa information in English, please visit the Korean Immigration website.

For Military Personnel/DOD: U.S. military personnel and Department of Defense (DOD) civilians have different entry requirements, governed by the DOD Foreign Clearance Guide. DOD travelers must consult the Foreign Clearance Guide and follow all instructions before traveling to the Republic of Korea. Personnel on active duty assigned to U.S. Forces Korea may enter the Republic of Korea under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Department of Defense (DOD) identification and travel orders. However, while in route to Korea they must be careful not to transit countries (such as China) that require a passport. Family members/dependents of active-duty personnel must have a valid passport to enter the Republic of Korea and should obtain an A-3 SOFA visa before arriving in the Republic of Korea. DOD civilians, DOD contractors supporting the U.S. military in the Republic of Korea, and their family members/dependents must also have a valid passport to enter the Republic of Korea and should also obtain an A-3 SOFA visa before arriving in the Republic of Korea. All DOD personnel assigned to the U.S. Embassy and their family members/dependents must enter the Republic of Korea on either diplomatic or official passports with the appropriate ROK visas obtained through their sponsoring DOD agencies. Other U.S. military personnel may enter the Republic of Korea under the SOFA with proper DOD identification and travel orders. However, all DOD travelers on official business require a country clearance through the DOD APACS system. Non-DOD travelers traveling to the Republic of Korea for official DOD business with the U.S. Embassy, ROK officials, and/or visiting ROK facilities, installations, or activities must obtain a country clearance via the Department of State's eCC system. Active duty service members do not require a country clearance for leave in the Republic of Korea and may enter on DOD identification and leave orders. DOD civilians and contractors must have a valid passport to enter the Republic of Korea on non-official business.

For Third-country DOD employees: If you are a third-country DOD employee traveling on a passport from one of the following countries, you must obtain an ROK visa, regardless of the reason for travel, where you will be visiting, or how long you will be staying. These countries are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cuba, Georgia, Ghana, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Exit Permits: Usually you do not need an exit permit to leave the Republic of Korea; however, if one parent requests the ROK Immigration Service to place a travel restriction on his or her child, ROK Immigration may prevent the child from departing the Republic of Korea, even if traveling with the other parent. Please see also the section below on Passport Seizures, Exit Bans, and Commercial Disputes.

Special Travel Circumstances in Korea, South

Dual Citizenship and Compulsory Military Service: In April 2010, the Republic of Korea passed legislation that allows dual citizenship, with differing rules for men and women. If you believe you may have a claim to ROK citizenship, including as a dual citizen, you should inquire with ROK authorities.

Some but not all U.S. and ROK dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service. The Embassy strongly advises all persons with possible ROK citizenship who are of conscription age to consult the Embassy of the Republic of Korea's website.

Customs Regulations: If you are traveling to or from the Republic of Korea, even if you are just transiting the ROK, you should be aware that the ROK's customs authorities enforce strict regulations about importing and exporting items such as firearms, ammunition, explosives, narcotics and prescription drugs, non-prescription health supplements, radio equipment, and gold, as well as books, other printed material, and videos or audio recordings that might be considered subversive to their national security, obscene, or in any way harmful to the public interest and cultural property.

The same strict regulations apply to items mailed to and from the Republic of Korea. As a result, several U.S. citizens have been prosecuted for participation in drug smuggling via international mail.

Amphetamines are illegal in Korea and even prescription amphetamines and other prescription narcotics will not be permitted into the country without advance permission from the Korea Food and Drug Administration (KFDA) in the form of a "bring-in permit letter." More information on how to obtain a “bring-in-permit letter” can be found on the U.S. Embassy Seoul, Health Information website.

The Republic of Korea has customs laws and regulations to prevent the spread of livestock diseases, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, known as "mad cow" disease), hoof-and-mouth disease, avian influenza, H1N1 (Influenza A), and more. The products which must be declared to ROK customs officials upon arrival include, but are not limited to: live animals, including dogs, cats, and pet birds; animal products, including antlers, bone, and blood meal; beef, pork, mutton, chicken meat and processed meat products, such as sausages, ham, meat jerky, boiled meat, canned products, and boiled eggs; processed dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and butter; and processed egg products, such as egg, egg white, and egg powder. Further information is contained on the Korean Customs Regulations website.

You should also be aware of the items that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection prohibits or restricts from entry into the United States.

Passport Seizures, Exit Bans, and Commercial Disputes: If you become involved in a commercial dispute, the Government of the Republic of Korea may seize your passport and block your departure from the Republic of Korea. While we can reissue a passport to you upon your application, we cannot do anything about the ROK exit ban, which would remain in effect, thereby preventing your departure from the Republic of Korea.

Working in the Republic of Korea: If you are traveling to the Republic of Korea to work, including teaching or modeling, you must enter the Republic of Korea with the appropriate work visa. Once you enter Korea, you cannot change your status from any other visa to a work visa unless you first leave the country. If you begin work without the appropriate visa, you may be arrested, fined, and deported. If you are working without a valid work permit and get into a contractual dispute with your employer, you will have little or no legal recourse under Korean law.

Teaching English: The government of the Republic of Korea requires that you submit a criminal records check and a health certificate when applying for a work visa or extension. We cannot provide criminal records checks or fingerprinting; nor can the Embassy authenticate criminal records checks or health certificates. Contact the ROK Immigration Service, Border Control Division, or within Korea call 500-9116, 500-9117, or 500-9118. Detailed information is also available on the U.S. Embassy Seoul consular website.

We commonly receive complaints from English teachers at private language schools called hagwons. The most frequent complaints are that the schools and/or employment agencies have misrepresented salaries, working conditions, living arrangements, and other benefits, including health insurance, even when the employee has a written contract. There have also been some complaints of physical assault, threats of arrest/deportation, and sexual harassment. Some U.S.-based employment agencies have misrepresented contract terms, employment conditions, or the need for an appropriate work visa. In recent years, ROK police have investigated a number of foreign teachers for document fraud. Several U.S. citizens have been arrested and charged with possession of fraudulent university diplomas that were used to obtain employment in the Republic of Korea. English teachers have also been investigated for possession and use of illicit drugs.

Disclaimer

You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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