What is the change? Under a new policy, visa-required nationals who previously could enter South Korea without a visa if they made frequent trips there are now required to obtain a five-year multiple-entry visa at a South Korean embassy or consulate before travel.

What does the change mean? The new policy does not affect visa-waived nationals, such as U.S. nationals, who are eligible to enter South Korea without a visa. However, the policy does affect visa-required nationals who previously would have been able to enter Korea visa-free after having traveled to South Korea at least four times in the immediately preceding two years or at least 10 times overall with at least one entry within the immediately preceding two years. Visa-required nationals fulfilling these criteria will now be required to apply for a C-3-1 visa at a Korean embassy or consulate.

  • Implementation time frame: March 1.
  • Visas/permits affected: C-3-1 visas.
  • Who is affected: Visa-required nationals who meet the “frequent traveler” criteria.
  • Impact on processing times: Visa-required nationals meeting the frequent-traveler criteria can no longer travel to Korea without a visa and will need to apply for a C-3-1 visa before traveling.
  • Business impact:  The change will have a minimal impact on business travelers who require visas and who typically use C-3-4 visas instead of C-3-1 visas.
  • Next steps: Business and tourist travelers who are visa-required nationals and who meet the definition of “frequent traveler” should be aware that they are no longer eligible for visa-free entry based on the frequent-traveler status.

Background: As of March 1, South Korea changed its frequent-traveler policy for visa-required nationals. Affected travelers should apply for a C-3-1 visa valid for up to 30 days per visit. The five-year C-3-1 is not available to nationals of China, Cuba, Kosovo, Macedonia or Syria, or to any nationals who have lived illegally in South Korea or been subject to an order of departure or deportation or fine of 5 million won (about US$4,370) or more for legal infractions, each within three years of the visa application.

BAL Analysis: The purpose of the policy is to eliminate visa-free travel for those who meet the frequent-traveler requirement but to allow them to obtain C-3-1 visas on relatively favorable terms. Nationals of countries who are normally visa-waived are not affected, and business travelers who use the C-3-4 visa – the standard consular visa for business travel – as well as foreign nationals with long-term visas are also not affected by the new frequent-traveler rules.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in South Korea. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

Copyright © 2017 Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. All rights reserved. Reprinting or digital redistribution to the public is permitted only with the express written permission of Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP. For inquiries please contact