Land of Opportunity
If you are reading this, then I have to assume that you are interested in working in Korea. Luckily for you, there are many opportunities in Korea. You can make a successful career working in Korea and even retire and enjoy your life after your days of working.
Living in Korea is a privilege. There are clearly many perks such as great public transportation, world-leading healthcare system, and did I mention food? K-Pop and culture is also another draw. Apart from these, Korea can present you a rewarding career.
But how do I start?
Well, I am glad that you asked! Getting a job in Korea has many routes. You can study in Korea and get a full-time job upon graduation. Or you can just reach out to the employers and get hired if you already have a college degree.
Does this mean that you need a college degree to work in Korea? Nope. That is not true. Having a college degree does make it easier for you to find jobs in Korea, but you can still find jobs that do not require college degree. Namely, employers in manufacturing, farming, and fisheries welcome anyone who has a good work ethic.
You may feel a little left out if you are an artist, model, or musician because you may not fit in two categories that I have previously mentioned. However, I am delighted to let you know that there is a category just for you! Once you find an employer to work in Korea as an artist, model, musician, sports manager, or even an athlete, you can qualify for a working visa as well.
See? I was not kidding when I said that Korea was a land of opportunity. But this is exactly why it can be difficult to start.
There are so many options
The first thing you should do is figuring out where you fit. Korean visa manual certainly do not make it easy. The categories are not so clearly defined and it is only written in Korean. This also means that if you have a good immigration lawyer, you may be granted some wiggle room if you are on the fence. Of course, many jobs are just black and white and no room for interpretation.
There are some typical routes for visa — especially if you wish to stay in Korea for a long time. Of course, these are not set in stone, but these are most reasonable way to move forward.
This probably does not mean a lot to you right now. But once I walk you through the concepts, you will realize that this is straight forward.
E-9 visa refers to unskilled labor. This does not necessarily mean that the workers do not possess skill, it just means that the job does not require bachelor's degree or higher.
Most foreigners who have this visa work in manufacturing, agricultural, forestry, or fisheries. There is another visa for specific fisheries, but let's talk about that at another time. Jobs in this fields consists of factory workers, farmers, fishers, and other jobs that tends to be hands on. Nevertheless, hands on does not imply that all jobs in this categories are physical labor. Many people also work as a heavy-equipment operator, or tractor operator.
E-9 visa works quite differently compare to other visas. Unlike other visas, changing workplace is quite difficult and it is usually not granted unless the reason for change is indisputable. The length of stay is 3 years, but can be extended to maximum of 4 years and 10 months. If the employer would like to hire the employee again, then they can request to hire them again. The employee must leave Korea and complete the procedure outside of Korea again.
More detailed information will be provided in a separate post that is strictly about E-9 visa. In the mean time, you can always reach out to me for consultation.
People who are interested in living in Korea for a long time often ask if they can extend their E-9 visa indefinitely. Unfortunately, the answer is no. However, they can change their visa to E-7-4, which allows them to stay in Korea for a longer term.
The E-7-4 visa is for skilled labor worker. To measure the skill level, there is a point system. After qualifying for sufficient points, an E-9 visa holder can apply for an E-7-4 visa. Obtaining an E-7-4 visa not only increases the length of stay, but also widens the scope of employment. Individuals with an E-7-4 visa can apply for management and other positions that are appropriate in their fields. The major advantage of E-7-4 visa is that the visa holder can qualify for F-2-7. Once a foreigner obtains an F-2-7 visa, they are in a safe zone in legal perspective.
As indicated by the name of visa, F-2-7 visa is fundamentally different than other employment visas that starts with E. This visa can be extended indefinitely as long as the visa holder maintains the qualifications. Because F visa is a resident visa, the legal status of F-2-7 visa does not depend on the condition of employment. The visa holder can seek any jobs. If the visa holder loses one's job, then the visa holder can simply look for another job — or not as long as the visa holder can meet the qualification without having a job. This is a clear advantage because E visa holders lose their legal status in Korea if they lose their job. That is why D-10 visa exists.
Another advantage with this visa is that it makes it easier for one to apply for F-5 visa (permanent visa). Once a foreigner obtains F-5 visa, the foreigner no longer needs to maintain the points. They can stay in Korea with no restrictions. They are no longer treated as a foreigner in legal perspective for the most part. Upon obtaining F-5 visa, applying for citizenship is just a matter of time. But that is not usually necessary because there are very little differences between F-5 visa and citizenship.
If you are reading about employment visa, you are likely a long away from resident visa. Then you are probably more curious about D-10 visa that I briefly mentioned. The purpose of D-10 visa is simple. It is a temporary visa that is given to foreigners who are seeking jobs in Korea. Typically, most people get 6 months of stay and then they can extend another 6 months. So, this gives a foreigner to find a job within 1 year.
Not everyone can qualify for this and the necessary documents do change depending on your circumstances and visas. Notably, E-9 visa holders cant obtain a D-10 visa. That is why other E visas are preferred over E-9 visa. The pay, flexibility, job outlook, and quality of life is far superior when you have E-7-1, E-2, or E-6 visa.
What is so wonderful about E-7-1 visa? Firstly, the scope of employment is focused on skilled or specific field. This means that the jobs are more socially respected and pays better. The quality of life is far better than working in a factory or a farm. Secondly, you have more flexibility. With an E-9 visa, your employer has a considerable power over your legal status. But with E-7-1 visa, you can simply change your visa to a D-10 visa if the employer is being unreasonable. This factor is huge because it prevents you from blatant lying yourself to a slight or abuses from your employer.
Applying for F-2-7 is much easier as well. You are much more likely to meet the qualifications if you are working in Korea with an E-7-1 visa. In some cases, you could apply for an F-5 visa directly. Although a lot of things are circumstantial, but it is vividly clear that you will have a lot more opportunities as an E-7-1 holder than as an E-9 holder.
Only downside of this visa is that the qualification is higher than other visas and there are so many options. Many of the options are not clearly defined, so it would be the best to consult an expert to see what is your best option. Instead,
E-7-1 is not the only visa that is great for foreigners. E-2 visa holders typically get the best treatment. This visa is for language instructors. Most people who qualify for this visa teach English. The job itself is easy since they are teaching their native language — mostly on how to have conversation. The pay is quite high and the employer typically provides housing. Additionally, the English teachers typically get a good paid leave. Teachers are socially well-respected and typically admired. So, having this visa means that you will likely have a great experience in Korea.
For these reasons, E-2 visa is considered one of the best visa to get in Korea. The requirements are more restricted though. Only graduating from universities in recognized nations will qualify you for this visa. But once you get this visa, you have perhaps one of the highest freedom among other employment visas. If someone with an E-2 visa liked their stay in Korea, they typically apply for F-2-7 visa right away because they usually meet the qualifications.
E-6 visa is another great option. This is for those who are working in music, sports, and arts industries. Naturally, the qualification is sometimes vague and help from an immigration lawyer can dictate your success in getting this visa. The culture of the industry does give a good amount of freedom, but it also brings instability as well. This is obvious if you consider it for a moment. These industry tends to be seasonal and working with one employer for a long time is not an option for many individuals. This is why having a good immigration lawyer matters. You will need to be able to plan your visa status while staying in Korea. It is likely that you will have to change your status to D-10 somewhat frequently if you would like to stay in Korea for a long term.
I have discussed the general overview about the employment visa in Korea. I understand that this may be a little too vague for some of you. That is exactly why I plan on writing more about each visa in the future. But if you have any questions in the mean time. Please feel free to reach out to me.