Last Updated on by Lohanna Reis
With the rise of Kpop and Kdrama series, many people worldwide have become fascinated with Korean culture and the Korean language. The Modern Language Association reported that US college enrollment in Korean language studies skyrocketed to 78% from 2009 to 2016. It has led to East Asian Studies struggling to accommodate the increasing demand.
How influential is Kpop? Bangtan Boys, better known as BTS, is a popular Kpop band that has brought billions of dollars back to Korea’s economy. For example, Business Insider stated that 1 out of 13 tourists came to South Korea because of BTS. You might even be wondering if you can be a digital nomad in South Korea. Yes, you can be a digital nomad in the “Land of the Morning Calm.”
If you want to learn more about how you can become one and what documents you’ll need, then keep on reading!
Why South Korea has Become Digital Nomads Destination
CEIC data reported as of September 2022, South Korea’s market capital is worth 1,402.079 billion USD. It has become one of the most developed economies in the world, leading in various trade and industries.
In terms of internet connection, it boasts the fastest internet connection, up to 200 Mbps. With over 98% of the population using the internet, many international companies have seen a lot of opportunities to expand to this market through digital marketing.
Due to this, it’s not surprising that many freelancers and digital nomads are flocking to this country. Even though the cost of living isn’t as cheap as in other Asian countries, like China or Laos, it’s still more affordable compared to Japan or Singapore, except for its capital, Seoul, as the most expensive cost of living in all of South Korea.
Besides its modern society and fast technology, Korean culture has become popular due to the rise of Kpop music and Kdrama. The rise of Korea’s pop culture icons and films has sparked a rise in demand for learning the Korean language.
What makes it a fascinating country is that despite having the most advanced technologies, they’ve managed to preserve many cultural practices and traditions. So for digital nomads seeking to learn new cultures and traditions, South Korea is the perfect place.
Lastly, to increase the number of skilled foreign workers in Research and Development and new sectors like artificial intelligence, the South Korean government is creating a “digital nomad visa” that would allow more IT-based workers from all over the world to work for companies in Korea.
It’s expected that there will be a rise in foreign visitors living and working in South Korea in the coming years, especially with the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Types of Visa You Can Apply for Living and Working in South Korea
We’ve listed a couple of Visas that might fit your situation as a digital nomad, as follows:
- Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) – If your country is part of the eligible list of countries that can enter South Korea without a Visa for a period of 30 to 90 days. Even though you will not be required to apply for a visa, you’re still required to apply for this before you enter South Korea.
- Tourist Visa – Now, you might be wondering. What makes this different from K-ETA? Well, unlike with K-ETA, you can enter South Korea twice within six months if you temporarily leave the country when your stay is up.
- Working Holiday Visa – The main objective of this Visa is to allow you to take a holiday or vacation so you can travel around South Korea. But you’re given the special privilege of working in Korea despite being a visitor. However, you cannot work more than 1300 hours during your 1-year stay. You cannot work in specialized niches like medicine and engineering or be allowed to work in entertainment job positions, like singer, athlete, musician, and acrobatics. As a digital nomad, this is perfect for those who want to stay longer in South Korea and be fully immersed in its culture.
- Technology Startup Visa – If you’re a business owner of a startup looking to expand into South Korea, you can apply for this Visa, which allows you to stay within the country for up to 2 years. Since numerous digital nomads are startup founders, this Visa is great for those who see a lot of potential in their businesses flourishing in the South Korean market. They need to have a bachelor’s degree or higher and be a corporation’s founder. You have intellectual property rights or high technical skills.
Regardless of the type of Visa and travel authorization you’re applying for. We suggest you be prepared and have all your official documents translated from English to Korean.
Should You Need Korean Translation for Official Documents?
Since we’ve listed a couple of types of visas, we decided to research all the requirements you will need depending on the Visa you’re applying for. The question we often get is, should you seek specialists in certified Korean translations to handle your official documents?
Although it might be explicitly mentioned by most Visa guides out there, you should consider translating a document from English to Korean by an ISO-certified agency. It’s because it’s better to have professional Korean translators certify your documents than having to redo your application because Korean government officials wanted it to be in Korean.
Also, who is to say you will be only using your translated documents for Visa? Maybe, while you’re staying in South Korea, you might be presenting them to an employer or government official for verification.
Some basic information and tips for when applying for a Korean Visa:
- You may submit your application via mail or in person. But you cannot do walk-in interviews. You can only make an appointment with the office of Consulate General of the Republic of Korea.
- The processing time for a Korean Visa is around four to five weeks. It will NOT BE EXPEDITED so just be patient with your application.
- If your US Visa is B-1 or B-2, you’re not eligible to apply for a tourist visa.
- Make sure to sign your Visa Applications or it will be rejected right away.
- Be sure to fill up all the pages accurately.
- Do NOT print your photos at home.
- The fees will vary and it will depend on the type of visa you’re applying for.
( C-3-9) Tourist Visa Requirements
- Original Passport
- Original US Permanent Resident Card
- (Alternatively, if you don’t have a resident card) Long-term US Visa
- A 2×2 printed photo of your latest photo not older than 6 months.
- Round trip itinerary
- Proof of Hotel Reservation Confirmation of your stay
- Proof of Financial Ability (Bank statements for the last 3 months)
- Copy of valid Driver License or any ID as proof of residency
- If you’re staying with a relative or family you will need to provide the follow:
- A copy of an Alien Registration Card
- Certificate of Domestic Residence Report
(H-1) Work Holiday Visa Requirements
- Original Passport and one photo (3.5 x 4.5 cm)
- Return ticket
- Proof of Financial Ability (Bank statements for the last 3 months)
- Criminal background check
- Flight itinerary and confirmed hotel details
- Negative Tuberculosis Test Result (original copy)
- Health Insurance while your stay in Korea
- Travel Plans on a A-4 sized paper which includes your signature
(D-8-4) Technology Startup Visa
- Original Passport
- Corporation registration certificate
- Copy of business registration certificate
- Copy of foreign-invested company registration certificate
- Speculation of in shareholder (original copy)
- Proof of Professional Manpower
- Documents for proving the source of funds
- Foreign-invested company registration certificate
- Office lease agreement
- Foreign exchange purchase certificate
- Copy of Telegraph
- Documents in Bank statement
- Documents for corporate tax
- Documents regarding the corporate
- Power of Attorney
Regarding if you need to present vaccination cards and other Covid restrictions, South Korea starting October 1 will no longer require it. But besides Covid there are other vaccines that you still need before you can enter the country. Be sure to present your medical certificate, be up-to-date with your vaccinations, and have your insurance ready.
5 Tips When You Live in South Korea
There are several interesting things about South Korea, like their cultural and social practices that will make your experience living there entirely unique. For this reason, you should do all the preparations and research before you arrive in this beautiful country. It’s so that it lessens the blow of culture shock and helps you immediately adjust.
Since we have discussed all the things related to your visa application as a digital nomad living and working in South Korea, we listed a couple of tips that you need to consider before and during your stay in this beautiful country.
1. Learn the Korean Language and Practice Speaking It
It might seem a no-brainer, but you must learn the Korean language. But you’d be surprised how many people go to a non-English country without basic knowledge of the official language or know simple phrases to get by. Language barriers will be one of your primary concerns when temporarily staying in South Korea, so we advise you to prepare ahead and pick up some phrases.
Due to the rise of Kdrama and Kpop, many language learning institutions have seen a rising demand for learning this language. So it wouldn’t be hard for you to find an online class or language-learning app that you can use to learn Korean and practice it.
Another benefit to learning the Korean language is that you can work in the language industry and help companies translate content from Korean to English and other languages. You will be surprised that many companies are interested in employees who have mastery in two or more languages.
It’s not surprising because South Korea is one of the most advanced economies, which is why many Korean-based companies would be interested in hiring foreign nationals proficient in English, Korean, and other languages.
Learning the Korean language also ensures you can communicate with them efficiently with your peers and develop relationships with the locals.
2. Read Up on the Common Mistakes Foreigners Make
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” There are certain truths to this statement. If you can, research the common mistakes or misconceptions other foreign visitors have made while living in South Korea.
It’s not just to save you from embarrassment but also to prevent unnecessary conflicts due to misunderstandings. For example, a waiter will not bring the bill to your table after eating a meal at a restaurant. You will have to go to the counter and pay your bills there.
Another mistake many tourists make when visiting Korea is that they haven’t booked with Korean tourist guides. Regarding tourism, South Korea doesn’t have a strong industry compared to other countries. So if you were to go to a tourist spot without tour guides experienced in communicating and translating from Korean to English, it would be empty, and you wouldn’t understand the context of what’s happening.
3. Pace Your Budgeting
Going beyond your budget while staying in Korea is more common than you think. It’s especially true if it’s your first time visiting another country. Because of this, we decided to include it in this article.
We advise that while staying in Korea, plan how much you will spend per day. Try to make sure you go below your daily budget so you still have enough money if you ever need extra cash.
Besides this, you can also buy from local markets and bargain shops to save on food and other necessities. Use public transportation rather than a taxi as you go around Seoul and other cities in Korea to save money. If you are staying for months in Korea, stay in a condo, apartment, bed n breakfast, or hostel.
Seoul is the most expensive place to live in South Korea. If you’re looking to get the most out of your experience traveling in this country, we highly recommend you leave the capital and go to the provinces. Not only is the cost of living there cheaper than in Seoul, but you also get a glimpse of what provincial life is like in Korea.
4. Don’t Get Stuck in Seoul, Explore Other Places
Seoul is beautiful, but there is more to South Korea than just its capital. You’d be surprised to know that Koreans love to hike, and it’s their favorite pastime. It’s no wonder because it’s full of national parks and hiking spots.
After Seoul, Busan is the 2nd largest city. But even so, many have found it less overwhelming compared to South Korea’s capital and more laid back. As a coastal city, it’s the perfect place beside Jeju Island if you love to have fun in the sun.
We highly recommend you research the areas you will be visiting outside Seoul to go to during festivals and other occasions to make the most out of it. It’s also good to know about the location you will be going to so you know where to buy items at a bargain price. It’s so you can immerse yourself fully into Korean culture and connect with the locals better.
5. Immerse Yourself in the Korean Culture
From experience, many foreign visitors come to Korea and fail to get to know and immerse themselves in the culture truly. They often stay within the city areas, locations that just present the technological and modern side of South Korea. They don’t bother to check out cultural heritage sites, go to Korea’s wet markets, or try the street foods and delicacies that this country has to offer.
The whole point of traveling and living in another country is to broaden your mind and go beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not willing to try new things, what is the point of going to Korea? The culture and language barriers will be an issue, but it’s part of the experience while you stay there. It shouldn’t be a reason for you not to try visiting areas outside Seoul and trying to connect with locals.
We encourage you to practice talking in Korean, even if it’s just a couple of phrases. Even if we said that you should learn from the mistakes of other foreign nationals that came to Korea, it shouldn’t discourage trying things and making mistakes because that’s normal. It’s a part of life.
Online Korean translation tools can help you a little bit with language barriers. But a word of caution, it’s not hundred percent accurate. So we highly recommend that you still learn the Korean language for a more enjoyable experience.
Many digital nomads are flocking to South Korea due to its modern society and cultural uniqueness. Our guide to applying for a Korean Visa will hopefully help ensure the process runs smoothly, especially with the help of a trusted Korean translation company, ensuring the translated documents are accurate and certified.
There are a lot of places in Korea that not a lot of tourists go to, and besides bragging rights, when you go back to your country, it can change your perspective on many things about culture and society. So go out there and make the most of it!
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