If you are already residing in Korea on a work visa which has not yet expired, it is generally possible to change from one kind of work visa to another without needing to leave the country. If you are currently in Korea on a tourist or landing visa, it is not possible to change to a work visa without first leaving Korea. Most international staff newly hired at IBS are hired while living outside of Korea and will apply for a visa at their closest Korean embassy or consulate.
There are a number of different visa types available for working at IBS, and for dependent families to live in Korea, but most of the visas that IBS sponsors are E-1, E-3, and E-7. C class visas are for short-term work and IBS uses C-4 to hire persons for less than 90 days. D class visas are for education and certain job types. D-2 is available for UST students engaged in an MA or Ph.D. course and this visa does permit holders to legally work but only under certain conditions. D-4 is for education programs that do not offer a degree.
E class visas are for long-term employment. E-1 is for professors or lecturers at a university, E-3 is for researchers, and E-7 is specialized employment not necessarily research based. F class visas are frequently the hardest to obtain as they are for residents (F-2), accompanying spouse and children (F-3), ethnic Koreans with overseas citizenship (F-4), permanent residents (F-5), or married to a Korean citizen (F-6).
Only one visa type, the F-5, allows holders to vote in local elections. But all visa types are not allowed to participate in political activities in any other way, shape, or form. This includes, but is not limited to participating in political protests, speaking at political rallies, or holding placards about election candidates.
|Visa type||Eligibility||Maximum residence period|
|Individuals who do short-term employment and are financially compensated for it. Work can include lectures, research activities, or a wide variety of other jobs.
Holders of C-4 can legally work in Korea.
|Individuals studying in an accredited university program for BA, MA, MS, or Ph.D. studies. Visa also allows holder to conduct specific research at a college, university, graduate school or other academic institutions established under the provisions of the Higher Education Act.
It is possible to work under this visa class but only under very specific conditions and only after the first semester of study has been completed. These conditions make it difficult to find work outside of a university or institutional setting. Thus, it is better to think of this as a non-work visa unless arrangements have already been made.
Holders of D-4 can legally work in Korea but it can be difficult to do so.
|Individuals studying in programs that do not hold accreditation and do not offer a formal degree. Can include those who are obtaining training for research and technology at national and public research institutes. Holders of a D-4 visa are not allowed to work.
Variations of this visa class include:
D-4-1: Korean language trainee
D-4-2: General trainee (other)
D-4-3: Elementary/middle/high school student
D-4-5: Chef trainee for Korean cuisine
D-4-6: General trainee (private institute)
D-4-7: Foreign language trainee
Holders of D-4 cannot legally work in Korea.
|Individuals who are qualified, as defined under the Higher Education Act, who wish to teach or conduct research at educational facilities. Applies for full-time lecturers or professors hired by academic organizations (e.g. college or university). Also applies for research professors in certain academic fields, laboratories attached to a university or college, or individuals who provide lectures or conduct research at science-related educational facilities.
Holders of E-1 can legally work in Korea.
|Scientists and engineers engaged in science or high technology research at a college, university, national institute, public institute, or non-profit research institute in science and technology.
Holders of E-3 can legally work in Korea.
|Skilled individuals who possess specialized knowledge, technology, or skills as defined under Article 16 of the Framework Act on Treatment of Foreigners Residing in the Republic of Korea.
The law was updated in 2015 so that international students who received a degree within Korea are no longer limited to jobs that are directly related to their university program major.
Holders of E-7 can legally work in Korea.
|Individuals who will stay in Korea more long-term compared to previous visa types. Can be obtained via a few different methods. If an F-2 is held for 3 years, then the holder can apply for F-5 permanent resident status.
F-2-1 or F-6 can be obtained by marrying a Korean citizen.
F-2-7 is nicknamed the “points-based visa” as applicants can “earn” the visa if they get enough “points” as determined by the combined social value of their age, education, tax bracket, work experience before moving to Korea, and Korean language ability, among other aspects. Points are removed for violations of Korean Immigration law, including taking more than two weeks to register your new residence with Immigration. The F-2-7 was first introduced in February 1, 2010 and the point value of each aspect has been updated several times in the years that followed. If obtained, international spouses and children also get the same status.
Holders of F-2 can legally work in Korea.
|Family of IBS staff (spouse and unmarried children up to international age 18 or Korean age 19) can live in Korea on a F-3 visa. Their status is that of a dependent of the spouse/parent which means their visa is valid for the same length of time as the spouse/parent on any D or E class visa. When the working partner extends their visa, the family needs to also extend theirs.
As dependents, F-3 does not allow holders to obtain legal employment. If you wish to work in Korea, you will need a different visa to do so.
Holders of F-3 cannot legally work in Korea.
|Length of stay matches spouse/parent|
|Individuals who are ethnic Korean but were born outside of Korea and hold citizenship outside of Korea. Also applies to former Korean citizens who renounced their citizenship. This visa has greatly expanded in usage, going from almost 130,000 issued in 2010, to over 500,000 issued in 2017.
Holders of F-4 can legally work in Korea.
|Permanent residency can be obtained if an individual has lived in Korea for a minimum length of time and can provide other necessary documentation, which will vary depending on the current visa status held before applying for F-5.
From 2005, individuals holding an F-5 can vote in local elections if they have held the F-5 visa for at least three years.
Holders of F-5 can legally work in Korea.
Marriage to Korean citizen
|Individuals who have married a South Korean citizen. This visa type was previously only obtainable if the marriage was registered in both Korea and the home country of the international spouse. The law changed in 2014 so only registration within Korea is necessary to get this visa.
Holders of F-6 can legally work in Korea.
▼ Sample of South Korean visa
The content on this page has been taken from the 2019 edition of Living in Korea. The book was created in support of our international researchers and has been completely rewritten. The book is available as a 6 MB download here and in paperback form in IBS Centers.