South Korea may soon be the second North Asian country to offer digital nomads the opportunity to spend years living there. The government aims to make 2023-2024 massive years for its tourism industry, to help the economy recover from the slump during the Covid pandemic isolation. This visa is designed to attract freelancers, digital nomads, KPOP enthusiasts, and corporate professionals. The government has launched the workation visa, as knwon as Working Holiday Visa (H-1), which allows digital nomads to live in South Korea. South Korea has abundant tourist attractions, including beaches, mountains, temples, and museums, and it is easy to travel around due to the smaller land mass.
Gyeongbokgung Palace is a famous place in Seoul to visit while there
LIVING IN SOUTH KOREA
South Korea has traditionally been more popular with expats working in South Korea and has been harder for digital nomads to access due to visa restrictions. However, the country has many features that have attracted interest to other popular digital nomad visas. These benefits include an acceptable cost of living, natural attractions, reliable internet, solid public transportation, and other amenities to support remote working.
Cost of living: South Korea is a relatively affordable place for digital nomads to live, especially if they live outside of major cities like Seoul. The country’s minimum wage is around $7.70 USD/hour, slightly lower than most Western countries. It is easy to find rooms and studio apartments in the $300-600 USD/month range in relatively smaller South Korean cities, while rent in Seoul may be more expensive.
Best cities: If you do not know Korea, Seoul and Busan are likely two of your best options. Busan is an interesting second option, as the city has a mixture of coastal and mountain scenery and a population of only 3.5 million. If you are feeling more adventurous and want to explore other options, there are plenty of cities to consider, and the next eight largest cities have a population between 850,000-3 million.
Internet: South Korea also has acceptable internet speed, as the average fixed broadband download speed is 95.74 Mbps. South Korea is also ranked 7th globally for its mobile internet download speed.
Getting around: South Korea is about the size of the US state of Indiana, so it is easy to arrange day or weekend trips if you are interested in exploring the country. The country is ranked 4th globally for railroad infrastructure quality, and there are plenty of domestic flight options as well.
Related content: What Is A Digital Nomad Visa, And How Can You Get One?
Busan is popular destination for being a mixture of coastal and mountain scenery
OVERVIEW OF WORKING HOLIDAY VISA (H-1)
The government hopes to attract 30 million visitors per year by boosting its tourism industry and offering this digital nomad visa to long-term visitors. South Korea plans to launch many new visa programs to attract long-term visitors and digital nomads.
KPOP: Many people from Western and Asian countries, like Brazil, Portugal, Indonesia and Thailand, are extremely interested in KPOP culture and are interested in travelling to South Korea because of this. The government plans to launch a visa that allows people to travel to South Korea to explore this culture and attend events.
The Working Holiday Visa is intended to enable visitors to enjoy a holiday or vacation in South Korea while also giving them the unique opportunity to work there. However, the visa comes with a restriction that limits the amount of work to 1300 hours over the one-year stay. It is not permissible to work in specialized fields such as medicine and engineering or in entertainment-related roles, such as singing, athletics, music, or acrobatics. This visa is particularly suitable for digital nomads who desire to spend an extended period in South Korea and fully engage in its culture. Citizen of a country that has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or other agreement in regards to Working Holidays policy, and plans to engage in a short-term job to cover travel expenses in Korea.
An individual holding an H-1 visa is allowed to stay in South Korea for up to one year from their arrival date. Moreover, they have the flexibility to enter South Korea within 12 months after the visa's issuance.
Local employment: Another government motive is to help attract foreign talent in key areas of the economy, such as hospitality. For example, the government plans to change laws to increase the number of foreign employees allowed for certain businesses, such as hotels. If you are interested in working for a local company in South Korea, entering the country on this digital nomad visa could be a good way to network locally and explore options. At the moment, you would need to get a different visa if you decided to transition from being a digital nomad to a local employee. However, whether the South Korean government will prohibit local employment on these visas is unclear. Taiwan’s Employment Gold Card is an interesting benchmark as it allows applicants to be digital nomads or local employees once accepted.
Related content: The Basics Of How To Get A Second Passport Or A Second Residency
You can visit Songdo Central Park in Incheon with your digital nomad visa
WHEN CAN I APPLY?
You can apply for this visa online at any time through K-ETA. The Electronic Travel Authorization is mandatory for nationals or citizens of 66 visa-free countries and 46 designated visa-free countries planning to travel to Korea. However, due to covid-19, as of September 1, 2021, only nationals of 49 countries/regions can apply for K-ETA.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS?
Before applying for this visa, you need to know what the documents and requirements are. You must meet these requirements:
- Applicants must be young and between the ages of 18 and 30 when issuing the visa.
- They must be nationals of countries that have signed the working holiday agreement with South Korea.
- They must have a valid passport.
- They should not have previously received a South Korea working holiday visa.
- Applicants must have sufficient funds to provide a return ticket and entry fees.
- They should not have a criminal record.
- They are not allowed to travel to South Korea with their dependents.
Other info: The government has launched a system known as K-ETA, which allows digital nomads to upload travel, criminal background, insurance, and medical information. This expedite the application process, which is online.
Applicants must provide the following documents:
Digital nomads have to provide health insurance, a criminal background check, and other documentation supporting their work and stay in South Korea.
- South Korea working holiday visa application form
- Color photo of the applicant in dimensions of 3.5 by 4.5 on white background
- Original and copy of the passport: It must be valid for at least six months.
- Round trip flight plans
- A bank statement indicating that the applicant can meet travel expenses for the first three months of the stay
- A criminal records
- The doctor’s official letter shows that the following tests have been performed within the last three months, and the applicant is physically healthy:
- Chest X-ray
- Blood test
- HIV test result
- Narcotic Drug Test
- Health Condition Report Form
- Applicant’s current resume
The processing time of documents depends on the workload of South Korean embassies in different countries. But it can be said that it takes an average of 7 to 10 working days to review the documents and issue the visa.
The application fee depends on the embassy where you are applying. Canadian citizens who apply at the Vancouver embassy, for example, have to pay around $82 USD. So I recommend you get this information from your country's embassy.
Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
South Korea offers an excellent balance of high-quality infrastructure and amenities coupled with acceptable living costs. This country is a wonderful destination for digital nomads who want to spend time in Asia. While becoming a resident or citizen by investing in South Korea is very difficult, the government still appears committed to allowing foreigners to stay long-term in South in 2023. This digital nomad visa is a great option to take advantage of, especially as regional options in countries like Japan and China are not available.