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South Korea’s Digital Nomad Visa

6 min read

South Korea’s Digital Nomad Visa

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 known 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.

The Korean digital nomad visa attracts remote workers and freelancers from around the world and aims to provide opportunities for individuals to live and work in South Korea while immersing themselves in the vibrant culture and language of the country. The digital nomad visa is particularly appealing to English-speaking workers as it allows them to experience a unique workcation, combining work and vacation in a foreign location.

The digital nomad visa offers various types of arrangements depending on the individual's needs and preferences. For those interested in exploring the thriving K-pop and Hallyu scene, there are options to participate in K-culture training programs, where individuals can gain insights into the entertainment industry and learn about Korean music, dance, and fashion. Such programs add an exciting dimension to the workcation experience, allowing participants to immerse themselves in the local culture while pursuing their professional goals.


Gyeongbokgung Palace - South Korea - South Korea's Digital Nomad Visa offers flexible durations, allowing individuals to stay and work in the country for extended periods.  The immigration process for the Digital Nomad Visa is designed to be streamlined, providing a hassle-free experience for those looking to relocate and work remotely in South Korea.  Upon arrival, registration is a key step, ensuring that digital nomads are officially recognized and compliant with local regulations.  The visa considers various income sources, acknowledging that digital nomads often engage in diverse online activities to sustain their livelihoods.

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 it has been harder for digital nomads to access due to visa restrictions. However, the country has many features that have attracted the interest of digital nomads. 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 - Having a valid employment contract or proof of remote work is essential for Digital Nomad Visa applicants, demonstrating a legitimate purpose for their stay in South Korea.  While the visa doesn't require a specific job in the traditional sense, it caters to individuals engaged in remote work, freelance, or digital entrepreneurship.  Extensions for the Digital Nomad Visa are available, accommodating individuals who wish to prolong their stay in South Korea for work or leisure purposes.  The visa categories are designed to align with the diverse activities digital nomads engage in, recognizing the evolving nature of remote work and online businesses.

Busan is a 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 annually 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.

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. 

The Working Holiday Visa is limited to specific countries, with each country having a maximum amount of visitors allowed on this visa for example; the UK is allowed 1000 citizens to get this visa. An individual holding an H-1 visa can stay in South Korea for up to one year from their arrival date. Moreover, they have the flexibility to enter South Korea within a minimum of 3 months after the visa's issuance.

 

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; for example, the group BTS (Bangtansonyodan / 방탄소년단) is one of the most famous group in the world. The government plans to launch a visa that allows people to travel to South Korea to explore this culture and attend events.

 

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. 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.

Employers in South Korea are also starting to recognize the benefits of having digital nomad visa holders in their workforce. These individuals bring a fresh perspective, diverse skill sets, and international experiences to the table. As a result, more employers are embracing the concept of remote work and are willing to offer flexible arrangements to accommodate digital nomads, providing them with an opportunity to contribute their expertise to Korean companies while enjoying the rich cultural experiences the country has to offer.

 

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 - The purpose of the Digital Nomad Visa is to attract individuals who contribute to South Korea's economy through their remote work and technological pursuits.  Recognizing the importance of institutions, the visa allows digital nomads to collaborate with local organizations, fostering a connection between international talent and South Korean businesses.  A solid employment contract or proof of income from online activities is crucial for visa approval, ensuring that applicants can sustain themselves during their stay in South Korea.  The visa application process is facilitated through technology, offering a convenient and efficient way for digital nomads to submit their documentation and receive updates on their application status.

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. 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?

When applying for the digital nomad visa, applicants need to provide certain details and proof to demonstrate their eligibility. These may include a valid passport, proof of employment or freelance work, a detailed itinerary of their stay, and proof of sufficient funds to support themselves during their time in South Korea. It's essential to keep in mind that the visa holders are not allowed to work for Korean employers or on Korean projects, as the visa is primarily designed for remote work or freelancing for clients outside of South Korea.

Before applying for this visa, you must know which documents and requirements are needed:

  • 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 can't have previously received a South Korea working holiday visa.
  • Applicants must have sufficient funds to provide a return ticket and entry fees.
  • They can't 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 expedites the application process, which can be done online.

One of the significant advantages of the digital nomad visa is that it opens up new possibilities for both workers and tourists. It allows travelers to experience the vibrant cities and breathtaking landscapes of South Korea while continuing their professional pursuits. Additionally, for those already studying in South Korea on student visas, the digital nomad visa offers a chance to extend their stay and explore career opportunities without having to change their visa status.

 

Applicants must provide the following documents:

Digital nomads must 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
    • Urinalysis
    • 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 - Certificate of digital nomad status is granted upon visa approval, acknowledging the individual's legal right to engage in remote work activities while staying in South Korea.  The Digital Nomad Visa is distinct from a traditional work visa, catering specifically to individuals involved in online activities and remote work.  South Korea's forward-thinking approach to the Digital Nomad Visa reflects its recognition of the changing landscape of work, embracing the influence of technology and remote connectivity in today's globalized environment.

Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

FINAL THOUGHTS

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.

South Korea's digital nomad visa provides an excellent opportunity for remote workers and freelancers to experience the country's unique blend of work and culture. By combining work and vacation, individuals can make the most of their time in South Korea, immersing themselves in the local language and K-culture training programs. Whether it's exploring the world of K-pop, indulging in delicious cuisine, or marveling at the country's stunning landscapes, digital nomads in South Korea can truly have the best of both worlds.

Embark on a transformative journey of knowledge and inspiration by seizing the opportunity to purchase the ultimate Digital Nomad Visa book today.

 

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Mikkel Thorup

Written by Mikkel Thorup

Mikkel Thorup is the world’s most sought-after expat consultant. He focuses on helping high-net-worth private clients to legally mitigate tax liabilities, obtain a second residency and citizenship, and assemble a portfolio of foreign investments including international real estate, timber plantations, agricultural land and other hard-money tangible assets. Mikkel is the Founder and CEO at Expat Money®, a private consulting firm started in 2017. He hosts the popular weekly podcast, the Expat Money Show, and wrote the definitive #1-Best Selling book Expat Secrets - How To Pay Zero Taxes, Live Overseas And Make Giant Piles Of Money, and his second book: Expats Guide On Moving To Mexico.

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