Monday, May 18, 2009

How Long Can You Overstay Your Visa in South Korea? Is There a Penalty?

Here's the question:

I am just getting ready to leave for Canada. I'm wondering if you know if I have to extend my stay if I stay a day past my work visa expiration? Or is there a grace period between the expiry date of my visa and the time I fly out?

Sheri


First of all, my response pertains only to E2 visa holders....

Immigration issues are always unclear as I've mentioned many times before. The rules and laws are not enforced consistently, and this issue in particular is very ambiguous. I've heard from other teachers that you can stay anywhere from an extra week all the way up to a month. None of that is true of course.

I just got off the phone with the immigration office here in Seoul (02-2650-6212) where I made three calls and spoke to three different people. To my surprise, I got the same response. You are supposed to leave the country within 24 hours of your visa expiration date. If you want to know when that date is look at your ARC, not the visa in the passport. They're usually the same, but immigration officers only look at the ARC date. I know departing in 24 hours seems a little rigid and many people want to spend a couple days or even weeks saying goodbye or travelling to a part of Korea you never got a chance to see. Luckily, you have a couple options.

You can go to immigration with your boss and they'll give you an "exit order" date which must be within a month of your original visa expiration. For this, you will not need to purchase a plane ticket to be granted the extension. However, since you're doing this with your boss, they'll still be sponsoring your visa, so they might expect you to work or stay within ear shot in case your replacement falls through. I would not recommend this option.

Your other option is to visit the HiSeoul Portal site or the G4 website. From there you can file a petition for an extension. You will need provide your departing flight information which should be within a month (30 days) from your visa expiration date and that's it. The website is more specific, but it's as simple as following directions. I would recommend that you do this a week or two before your expiration date because it can take up to 14 days to process.

OpenMicah, five time Expat Dancer of the Year, adds...

If you want to do it online with the Korean government's HiKorea Portal (which is the fastest option), you probably want to apply for a "Temporary Extension of Stay for Departure of Registered Foreigners". It is the application I used and it only took a few days to process. I don't know if that's typical, though.

A few catches with this application (and perhaps most of them):

1)You MUST have your airline ticket before applying. At the end of the application they ask you to attach your e-ticket.

2) You want to have an explanation ready. They ask you on the application why you are applying for an extension. It's a not a big deal, but you probably don't want to say you're staying "just to fuck around some more". Chances are that's actually what you want to do, but don't say it. I personally wanted an extension just to be around for my last weekend, but I officially told them that I needed to arrive back home later than my visa so I could arrange transportation once I got there.

3) The "Temporary Extension" application is only for under 30 days. If you want to stay longer, you need a different application. Different applications might have a more specific, less-lenient process. Be careful.

Your last option is probably the one most people are wondering about. Can you just wing it? As you might know by now, there are many elements of the Korean government that don't care about the application of rules or laws, but instead focus on minimizing difficulties. The whole point of the departure rule is to get you out of the country legally. If you were to "confuse" the rules and, say, try to leave a couple weeks after the date on your card, then immigration officials have very few options. This comes with a warning though. You could be fined and detained until payment has been made. Typically, the fee will be waved and infraction ignored if you've only overstayed by a week or so, but if you're really pushing it, then expect to face some sort of penalty. However, it is totally dependant on the individual officer handling your case.

Furthermore, if you intend to go this route, I would arrive at the airport a couple hours earlier than normal. Depending on the season, you might be held up for awhile and need to work that delay into your schedule. If you are detained, it'll be for an hour tops and will mostly be filled with a lot of questions in broken English. They might give you a piece of paper to sign that amounts to some confession/apology, but in the end, they will let you leave because after all, that's the point of the law.


As many public school teachers now, there are no quick-access records kept of such an infraction just like there are no records kept on your previous visa or criminal background check. The second you leave and apply for a new visa, you're a totally new person with no record (unless it's a serious crime). It's not an efficient system in the least, but it works to those who want to overstay their visa.

Of course, I would suggest you extend your visa properly or make arrangements within the scope of the law for a late departure. Don't rock the boat over something so easy to adhere to.

If anybody has any questions, just send me an email at asktheexpat@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

5 comments:

Open Micah said...

If you want to do it online with the Korean government's HiKorea Portal (which is the fastest option), you probably want to apply for a "Temporary Extension of Stay for Departure of Registered Foreigners". It is the application I used and it only took a few days to process. I don't know if that's typical, though.

A few catches with this application (and perhaps most of them):

1)You MUST have your airline ticket before applying. At the end of the application they ask you to attach your e-ticket.

2) You want to have an explanation ready. They ask you on the application why you are applying for an extension. It's a not a big deal, but you probably don't want to say you're staying "just to fuck around some more". Chances are that's actually what you want to do, but don't say it. I personally wanted an extension just to be around for my last weekend, but I officially told them that I needed to arrive back home later than my visa so I could arrange transportation once I got there.

3) The "Temporary Extension" application is only for under 30 days. If you want to stay longer, you need a different application. Different applications might have a more specific, less-lenient process. Be careful.

jeanluc said...

Hey I've got kind of an urgent question, that I'm certain you may be able to help with. My new Academy director has disappeared for the last 10 days and has not returned any call e-mails by myself or the recruiter. I may have to start my job search again. My ARC expires on September 9th. What happens if I get to immigration only a day or two before Sept 9th, given that it takes at least a week to issue me a new E-2? Thanks in advance!

jeanluc said...

BTW, the director has failed to return a copy of the signed contract and we were suppose to meet in Mokpo on August 25th to head over to immigration. I'm near Busan and only have next week remaining for vacation. - Patrick

davgm said...

Im a moroccan stizen i have been in s.korea on february 2006, i depassed the limit ligale stay of my tourist visa , i stay on the overstay situation working in korea for 1 year and 3 month then i go back by my slef to morocco , what i want to asking for , is if i can back to korea againe as a tourist and how many years i should waiting before go back to s.korea , i heard its about 10 years ! and im not sure .

plz can you help me to know how long of years is the overstay penition of iligale immigrant on south korea .

thank you .

Namdong-gooner said...

November 2011 -
Another option is to visit your local immigration office. I wanted to stay 3 days over my E2 visa, I live in Incheon so I went to the Incheon immigration office two weeks before my flight. (if not in Incheon, go to the office that grants your alien reg card), filled in a simple form, they ask for a reason why you're overstaying but it's such a small space to write. I just said my flight is booked after the visa date.
I showed them my passport and alien reg card and gave them a copy of my flight itinerary out of Korea. The guy scribbled something on the back of my alien reg card in pen, and that was it, I was in the office a total of 15mins. No charge. If you don't speak Korean, best to go with someone who can translate but not essential.