Assessing travel and visa obligations in South Korea

When traveling to South Korea, your nationality and the types of activities you will conduct during your trip will determine whether you may travel lawfully as a business visitor or if you require a work visa. Please seek advice from your immigration counsel if you are uncertain about the specific types of activities that constitute business or work.

Traveling for business

What types of activities may I engage in as a business visitor?

As a business visitor to South Korea, you may engage in the activities below. While this list is not exhaustive and other activities could qualify as business, you may:

  • Attend business meetings, sales meetings, conferences, workshops, and trade shows
  • Conduct market research
  • Negotiate and sign contracts
  • Engage in small-scale trade activities


If I qualify as a business visitor, do I need a visa for South Korea?

Nationals of Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and other select countries are eligible for a visa waiver and are not required to obtain a visa to enter and conduct simple business activities in South Korea. However, beginning September 2021, visa waivered nationals are required to apply for travel permission through the Electronic Authorization (ETA) system before arrival.

Holders of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Business Travel Card endorsed with the statement “valid for travel to KOR” may be eligible to enter South Korea and engage in permissible business activities without obtaining a visa. If you are not eligible for visa-waivered entry, you must obtain a C-3-4 Visa from a South Korean Embassy or Consulate prior to travel.

Working in South Korea

What types of activities require a work visa?

The activities below, whether paid or unpaid, generally constitute work under South Korean law. This list is not exhaustive, and many other professional activities are considered work in South Korea, even if conducted for a short duration.

  • Installation, maintenance, and repair of machinery
  • Training for machinery operation
  • Quality control


If I am traveling to South Korea for work, what type of work visa do I need?

The requirements for a work visa depend on your qualifications, on the nature and duration of your work, on whether your employer has an entity in South Korea and on the type of entity sponsoring you. The most common South Korean work visas are:

  • C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa (short-term work authorization)
  • D-7 Intra-Company Transfer Visa (long-term assignee work authorization for “indispensable professionals”)
  • D-8 Foreign Investment Visa (long-term work visa for assignees sent by an overseas parent company to an affiliated foreign-invested company registered under the Foreign Investment Promotion Act)
  • D-9 International Trade Visa (long-term work visas for eligible international traders, skilled technicians, supervisors and businessmen starting a local business)
  • E-3 Research Visa (long-term direct-hire work visa for research and development personnel in specified science and technology fields)
  • E-7 Particular Occupation Visa (long-term direct-hire work visa for those working in designated occupations)
  • Workation Visa (digital nomad visa for overseas remote workers).


Is it possible to be exempted from work visa requirements?

South Korea does not offer work authorization exemptions.

What else should I know?

Inevitably, the legal and strategic considerations impacting visa selection, as well as visa waiver and work authorization eligibility, entail the careful consideration of many factors. We recommend that you consult with your immigration counsel before taking any course of action.


Copyright © 2024 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. Government immigration agencies often change their policies and practices without notice; please consult an immigration professional for up-to-date information. This document does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. BAL maintains comprehensive immigration information and processing specifics for our clients.