Visas and Work Permits 6 min

Work permits and visas in South Korea: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
Sally Flaxman

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To hire or relocate an employee to South Korea, you’ll have to understand immigration laws and policies and ensure team members have the right work permit and visa to live and work there. This is the case if you’re:

  • Hiring employees and contractors without having your own legal entity in-country  

  • Hiring non-citizen nationals

  • Relocating employees or contractors within or to South Korea

  • Meeting all — and evolving — requirements to hire and pay digital nomads to work compliantly in South Korea

Partnering with an employer of record (EOR) like Remote makes it easier and cost-effective to deal with the different processes in global hiring. From global payroll and benefits to international taxes and compliance with employment legislation and immigration rules, working with an EOR can make it simple to hire abroad.

This article gives you an overview of work visas in South Korea, the work visa sponsorship process, and how Remote can help you handle compliance while hiring in South Korea or beyond.

The importance of immigration compliance in South Korea

Compliance with local labor laws and regulations is non-negotiable in South Korea. Failing to comply, inadvertently or intentionally, exposes you to a series of regulatory penalties and possible civil and criminal charges. 

Do non-citizens need a work visa or work permit in South Korea?

Yes. The most common path for employers to hire non-citizens legally is under the Employment Permit System. It applies to foreign workers who hold a non-professional work visa (E-9).

In addition to a non-professional work visa (E-9) for low-skilled workers, there are several short and long-term visas for businesses and high-skilled workers, including:

  • C-3-4 (Short-Term Business Trip), is issued for 90 days or less and is intended for purposes of market research, business consultation, contracting, deal closure, etc.

  • C-1 (Temporary Journalism), is issued for 90 days or less and is intended for temporary news coverage or foundation of a Korean subsidiary from Hong Kong or Macau media organizations.

  • C-4-5 (Short-Term Employment), is issued for 90 days or less and is intended for temporary work under a service contract, equipment installation or maintenance, art performances, modeling, English language instruction at camps and research, etc.  

  • D-5, 6, 8 (Dispatch), is intended for individuals who perform certain duties for media or religious organizations and investment firms

  • E-2 (Foreign Language Teaching), which is intended for individuals applying for and passing the EPIK, TaLK, and CPIK exams as well as a language teaching assistant in elementary and high schools.

  • E-3 (Research) is for technologists performing research activities for a government-funded research organization.

  • E-5 (Professional Employment), is intended for aircraft pilots or captains recommended by a department head at an organization for domestic routes.

  • E-7 (Special Occupation), is aimed at foreign consular staff stationed in South Korea.

  • H-1 (Working Holiday), is issued for one year and is intended for Hong Kong (HKSAR) or British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders who wish to work while on vacation in South Korea.

Long-stay visas in South Korea fall under a broad banner of residence visas, and the eligibility criteria and documentation requirements are explained in detail in the Visa Services section of the website.

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What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in South Korea?

There is no official work visa sponsorship per se in South Korea. Instead, employers interested in hiring non-citizen workers can do so via the Employment Permit System, whereby workers are invited (usually via an employment center in the country of origin) by employers in South Korea. 

As you can see, the range of visa requirements and documentation for each visa type is daunting for any employer to navigate. Going solo may not be your best option if you are unfamiliar with local laws and regulations and employment practices in South Korea. Contact our Mobility specialists for guidance and advice on how you can move ahead with relocating your employees internationally.

What are the visa requirements for digital nomads in South Korea?

South Korea has no specific digital nomad program or visa. Instead, a workcation visa has been recently introduced (designated officially as an H1-Working Holiday visa) which allows vacationers to work while staying in South Korea. 

This arrangement is perhaps ideal — at least so far — for remote workers and digital nomads, provided that workers and employers stay vigilant to income reporting and tax filing requirements.

How Remote makes compliance in South Korea so much easier

Relocating a team member to South Korea or hiring an employee in the country is not a simple process. The country’s employment and immigration rules are complex, and it can be a hassle to understand labor rules and deal with the tedious documentation. Plus, compliance with international tax practices, immigration regulations, and changing employment laws can be tricky.

That's why reaching out to an established employer of record (EOR) such as Remote can help you manage your global hiring efforts end-to-end: smoothly, quickly, and compliantly. At Remote, we make it easy to hire and pay employees abroad by:

  • Ensuring all requirements for immigration and visas are duly met.

  • Providing you with informed and expert advice on international taxation, using our in-house legal expertise. 

  • Educating you about permanent establishment risks, using our extensive knowledge of global labor and major business markets.

  • Staying compliant with local labor laws and regulations, using our in-house and partner legal, financial, and HR experts. 

Download Remote’s Relocation Guide for an overview of the steps you can take to manage international employee relocation efficiently. You can also get in touch with our Mobility specialist for guidance on your options today!

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