Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do same-sex spouses qualify for F3 visas in South Korea?

Here's the question:

I have recently accepted a job in Korea and have in fact only flown in today. I am married to the most wonderful woman, who unfortunately does not have a degree. I am not bothered about her [not] working here, all I want is for her to be able to join me without leaving the country every month. Have you any ideas? I am quite desperate to have this sorted, as I can obviously not be without my partner for a year, but I also know they don't accept gay marriages?

This is a very tricky question and one that I'll have to breakdown into different parts. We're dealing with visa issues, gay marriage recognition and school tolerance of openly gay teachers in serious relationships. The problem is that so many things are totally dependant on the other and there is no real way to guarantee anything.

First of all, if you are legally married, your spouse would technically qualify for an F3 visa which is for accompanying spouses. My concern is that since gay marriage is not recognized under Korean law, your spouse would be viewed as a girlfriend or partner, rather than a "spouse". There is no way to be certain though. Immigration is never consistent, so predicting these things can be difficult. Still, you should try.

To get the F3, you will need your ARC, notarized marriage certificate, proof of employment (tax info or pay stub), copy of spouses passport and a completed Application for Confirmation of Visa Issuance. After you bring that info to immigration and get your issuance number, then your spouse will need to go to the Korean embassy with her passport, 2 passport-sized photos, aforementioned issuance number, visa fees and a completed Application for Visa. (As you mentioned, she would not be able to legally work on the F3.)

Hopefully, the immigration officer handling your case won't think twice about it since you have all of your documents in place. After all, gender shouldn't matter and since you' re married, hopefully that will be that. I'm willing to bet that very few same-sex couples apply for the F3 visa, so procedure for such a case probably won't be on the books.

The next concern I have is whether or not your school will tolerate and/or accept an openly gay teacher. Keeping sexuality and sex-related discussions out of the workplace is always advisable, but I think this case might be more difficult to avoid. Your employer will know that you're sponsoring a spouse (F3) on the visa that they are sponsoring for you (E2). They'll also know that your wife is living with you (eventhough I don't think that matters too much). If you're working in an adult institute, university and perhaps even a public school, I think you should be alright. They tend to be more open-minded, but kid hagwons are run by strong-armed mothers which, of course, tend to be a little less tolerant.

The only thing you can do at this point is get your ARC and other documents in order and start the process. I hope that there are no snags along the way, but you never know what might happen. You might get an ass of an immigration officer who doesn't "believe" in same-sex marriage or you could get the typical lazy-ass officer who will stamp the paperwork without giving it a second thought.

This case is quite interesting and I hope that you keep us posted and maybe some readers out there who have dealt with this will chime in and offer their story.

*** Update 8/6/2009 ****

I wonder, if this case does get through immigration, will it open the door for gay Koreans who wish to marry their partners?


Unknown said...

Has there been any update to this story? I'm in a very similar situation and would love to know the outcome of what happened with this woman and her wife.

Unknown said...

This seems to be a growing issue.

I'm currently considering working in South Korea as a TEFL, but am concerned that my husband may not be allowed to live with me.

What is a simple thing for non gays is a world of "mmm's" for us.

I spoke with the JAPANESE consulate and they said that they WOULD accept a foreign gay marriage performed outside of Japan as valid, so that might be better.

Happiness to all those in love!

Unknown said...

I would love to know more about the result to this. I'm in the exact situation (save we haven't gotten hitched yet.) I need to know if this has had a happy ending...

ALSO! Do they really have to mark on your VISA that your supporting a member of the same sex? Isn't it just... "spouse"? Would that automatically be looked into by the school?

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