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.