Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tourist Visa

Here's the deal, if I do not obtain a job that starts in November then I will have a certain time period after my E2 Visa expires to find a way to stay in Korea.

I figured that I will leave Korea and stay a few days in Japan and come back on a tourist visa. Right now I am doing research as to whether or not I have to get a special "tourist" visa when I am abroad before coming back into Korea. Or if I can just come back into Korea and have my passport stamped stating something that I have 30 days to be here. After getting that I am under the assumption I can go to the immigration office and get an extension for 90 days. Since I don't want to find out about all this at the last minute, I am doing my research now.

From the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Website:
1. Visitors who plan to stay in Korea for longer than 90 days must obtain visas before entering Korea.
2. Nationals of those countries with which Korea has signed a visa waiver agreement can enter without visas, on the condition that they do not engage in remunerative activities during their stay.
Nationals of Countries allowed for visa-free entry
United States (90 days)
Nationals of the above countries are allowed up to 30 days of visa-free sojourn for tourism or visitation
- Exceptions: Canada is allowed up to 6 months, and United States, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, Slovenia and Japan are allowed up to 90 days.
Okay so what this is telling me is that I can enter the country "Visa free" meaning no extra stamp in my passport and live here for 90 days as a "tourist".

Hmmm Let's go to the Korean Immigration website since ultimately it is them who I will be dealing with. I remember going through this last year when I was leaving the hagwon, but I know these things change over time so I want to be sure I know what to do this time.

The section for tourists lists the visa type and it's conditions.
    • Foreigner who enters Korea without visa for the purpose of tourism or transit

Those that fall in the following categories will be allowed to enter Korea without a visa.
Countries under visa waiver agreements
Designated visa-free entry
Re-entry Permit holders

Nationals of visa waiver countries can enter Korea without a visa as long as the purpose of their visit is tourism or temporary visit. If they want to engage in profitable activities such as employment, they must apply for a Korean visa suitable for their purpose.
It basically continues with the same stuff from the Ministry website. So I feel like I haven't really confirmed whether I can just leave the country and come back without any "tourist" visa in my passport. But since it says "Visa-free" I guess that is what it means.

Oh Korea Sparkling confirms this by stating:
Any foreign visitors wishing to enter the Republic of Korea must have a valid passport and obtain a Korean visa before coming. However, people of 99 countries who want to visit Korea temporarily are permitted to enter without a visa according to visa-exemption agreements (Table 1), or in accordance with principles reciprocity or national interest (Table 2).

A google search is necessary to make sure there isn't any hidden agenda I don't know about. I came upon this from EFL-Law Korea website.

If you are entering Korea on a tourist visa, you must have a round trip ticket. You will not be allowed to board the plane to Korea, or enter the country, if you do not have a round trip ticket.

There is no paperwork necessary to obtain a tourist visa. As long as you have a valid passport with at least 6 months before expiration date, and a round trip ticket, you will be given a single entry 3 or 6 month tourist visa once you enter Korea.

I'll need a round trip air ticket?? hrmm Ok so the Korea Sparkling website continues to say that:

Visitors from countries not under Visa Exemption Agreements must apply for a visa extension if planning to stay for more than 30 days. Depending on the situation of the consulate, the visa extension will be issued 1 to 3 days from the day of application. Applicants require a completed application form, a recent passport-sized colour photo and the application fee. Visitors do not require the outbound flight ticket. Visa extensions are usually for 90 days.
After thumbing around on these websites with all their official jargon I couldn't find the exact answer I was looking for. But my google search came up with "Ask the Expat's" answer I will have to assume his procedure is correct.

I don't see any problem with this except for the fact that tourist visas are issued only with proof of through travel or a departing ticket. In most cases, you will not be issued a tourist visa without your departing ticket. That's easy to get around though. All you need to do is buy a refundable ticket to show to immigration. Once you're through customs and legally back in the country on a tourist visa, all you'll need to do is cancel the ticket and you're gold. There shouldn't be any problems if you follow those simple steps.

So I just need to purchase a ticket to somewhere out of the country that I know will be refundable and show it to the immigration services when I enter the country. Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Just another thing to put on my "To-do" list for getting through this whole ordeal.

I am sure some of you probably knew the answer all along but I bet there are a few out there that have no clue what to do if faced with this situation, so I hope this post will be helpful to those in the future.

If you have direct experience with entering without a visa from a visa free country then let me know how it went. If you have any other suggestions for taking care of this one small detail lemme know too.

OR should I get a C-3 Visa....which I think must be obtained at a Korean Consulate abroad. ><>If you are going to be in Korea less than 90 days then you should apply for the C-3 short-term visa. This visa is generally called a tourist visa or a visiting visa. Students who are planning to study at KLI for only one term (10 weeks) may apply for the C-3 visa. This visa is good for 3 months and can be issued immediately upon application at either a Korean Embassy or a Consulate office.


  1. My friend has been here for nearly a year on a tourist visa (she's Canadian, therfore gets a six month stamp). When she arrived, she had no need for a round trip ticket. It was only Canada that told her she would need one and therefore she purchased a useless return ticket before leaving. Immigration did not ask her or it when she arrived and her passport was stamped just as it would be stamped in any country one visits with a date that she is required to leave.

    When that tourist visa period expired, she simply left the country (to Taiwan) and re-entered, again, no return ticket, and got another visa stamp for 6 months, no questions asked. There are numerous people I know in this area who have also done the same thing.

    My sister came to visit recently, and she had no printout or proof of onward ticket. They never asked, jsut stamped the passport.

    I think it's better to just get the stamp in your passport that one automatically recieves upon arrival. It's an official stamp and the same amount of as the C-3 visa. The C-3 visa is just a tourist visa anyway and it's 90 days which is what americans get so I'm assuming the C-3 is for those from non-visa free countries.

    My advice? Secure a job with a November to January start date. Take yourself a nice vacation, spend about a month travelling China or Southeast Asia or Phillipines or whatever. Come back in ready and refreshed to start a new job.
    Good luck!

  2. Thanks for the advice. Sounds pretty simple. ^^ I don't know if I have enough money to travel around before starting a new job but that does sound nice.

  3. I think you know Lunalil. She did that after she finished her contract and then traveled Southeast Asia and then came back before leaving for the US. The other option you have is to apply for university and get a student visa. I'm sure there are some good art programs for you. I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for writing.



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