Friday, July 17, 2009

Advice on Tourist Visas in South Korea

Here's the question:

I will be finishing my current contract with a university at the end of August. I have an E1 visa until August 25. I am wondering if there will be any problem with me leaving Korea for a week or so and then come back on a tourist visa for the fall semester. I realize Americans have a 3 month tourist visa, so I would have to take a weekend trip to Japan or something to have it "reset." My plan is to take some online classes and maybe do some "part time work" and then go back on the job market for spring semester. My boyfriend and I have our own apartment, so housing is not a problem. I'm just curious if you know of any complications that can arise as a result of staying in Korea on a tourist visa for an extended period of time.

If I understand this correctly, you'll be finishing your E1 on the 25th and be leaving the country within the time allotted by Immigration only to return a week later on a tourist visa. So, if you were to return in early September on a tourist visa, you would be given 90 days in the country. That would give you until the end of November to depart once again. At that point, you could leave the country for a few days again and then come back on a fresh tourist visa until you find another gig and therefore visa sponsor.

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.


Chris in South Korea said...

@Ask the Expat - there are several countries that have an agreement with Korea about not even needing a visa - I'm pretty sure the US is one of them, though I'm not sure of the others...

Alex said...

@Chris - The U.S. and Korea are both part of a visa waiver program where tourists don't need to apply for a tourist visa prior to entering the country, that's true. Tourists are still only permitted to remain in the country for 90 days, however.

@Ask the Expat - There have been incidents/rumors of foreigners being turned away by immigration when they've tried to enter Korea as a tourist on the third consecutive time. It's a fair warning to give to people who are planning to make "visa runs" instead of just getting a long-term visa. If you apply for an actual "multiple entry tourist visa" in advance, though, then you should have no problem.

The Expat said...

Thank you guys for the info.

While there is no application for the tourist visa for Americans, they do need to provide proof of outward travel.

I think this questioner will be okay, but Alex brings up a good point: How many tourist visas can someone get without being turned away?

I wonder.

Anonymous said...

I have been here 3 years and left over 10 times with only having a tourist visa. I have never been asked anything out of the ordinary. I have another friend who has been here on a tourist visa for 7 yrs. They have had no problems going in and out either. I think it is best to leave a few weeks before your actual visa expires.

Lolimahro said...

I am leaving for Korea in about a week and coming on an E-2 visa. My husband and child are accompanying me on tourist (C3) visas. I did not purchase our airplane tickets before we received the visas and had no trouble getting the visas issued at all. My understanding is that if you explain to the Korean consulate (the one we used was Chicago) that the visa will be switched over once you arrive, they are a little more tolerant about it. Also, from my understanding, the C3 in general does not require proof of return airfare (it is not listed as a requirement on the Chicago consulate's site, either), but if you want to enter Korea as a tourist without a visa, then you have to have proof of a return flight.

Then again, perhaps it is because these were dependants and not single English teachers that the process went more smoothly. I'm not sure if it would have been any different if I had tried the same process for myself.

The Expat said...

Thanks for the feedback, guys.


Your husband could also arrive on or get an F-3 visa as an accompying spouse.

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