South Korea feels sympathetic for those who need to escape their country to avoid persecution. Therefore, we have a refugee system. If an individual has fled a region for a valid reason and the immigration office recognizes the threat to that individual to be real, then the individual receives a refugee status (F-2-4). This status is considered a type of resident visa. Therefore, there are little restrictions and the individual has a direct shot at applying for a permanent visa.
Unfortunately, not everyone is so fortunate. Because the resources in Korean government is limited, not everyone is accepted. Just because someone did not receive a refugee visa, it does not necessarily mean that the individual lack a valid reason to live in Korea. In fact, many people who are not recognized as a refugee have a real threat in their country of origin and cant go back without risking their life or safety.
That is why refugee applicants visa exists. This visa allows an individual to stay in Korea for the duration of review and appeal.
Timeline of G-1-5 Visa
Refugee application is handled case by cases. Therefore, there is no correct answer at all times. However, the timeline is quite similar for most cases. An individual can apply for a refugee status and then apply for a G-1-5 visa to obtain a legal status to reside in Korea while the refugee application is processing. The length of stay is typically a 6 to 12 months. The range depends on the individual cases and discretion of the immigration office.
Once the decision has been made, individual can take one of these actions. If the refugee status is granted, then the individual can start preparing for a permanent residence visa. In a case where the application is denied, the applicant has two options. First option is to go back to the home country. But for most individuals do not have this kind of luxury. Second option is to appeal the decision. In this case, the individual may receive another 6 months of stay while the application in under review.
In my experience, the final decision is made between 12 months and 18 months.
The refugee receives some help from the South Korean government. The amount of support varies depending on the number of household members and usage of refugee support facilities. For those who do not use refugee support facilities, the support per months is 432,900 won if there is one household member. For two household members, 737,200 is given. For three household members, 953,900 won is given. For four household members, 1,170,400 won is given. For five household members, 1,386,900 won is given. Even if your household members exceed five, there is no additional payment. Those who uses refugee support facilities to receive half of the payment.
To receive the payments above, the applicant must apply for this. The payment only lasts up to six months. After that, refugee applicants must support themselves. Fortunately, they are able to seek employments outside of restricted fields. The restricted fields are construction, gambling, bar, amusement business affecting public morals, tutoring, and establishing educational institutions. But the immigration office may decide certain fields are unfit for refugee applicants that are not listed.
How Do I Apply?
There are many applications that you must go through in order to apply for a refugee visa and stay in Korea while the application is in progress. First, application for a refugee status is required. Then the refugee applicant visa status is needed.
The required documents for refugee application are application form, passport, alien registration card, proof of residence, and other documents that may be requested by the immigration office. If you are applying for a refugee status as soon as you enter Korea from the airport, then you will get a guidance from a immigration office worker.
Upon applying for a refugee status, an individual can now apply for G-1-5 visa. The required forms are application forms, passport, standard photo, receipt of refugee status application, proof of residence, and fees.
Although the process looks quite simple, it is actually much more complicated because many factors are left up to the immigration office's discretion and handled case by case basis. If it is possible, having an experienced expert is quite helpful because the immigration office could request many documents that are difficult to provide without the help of a visa expert.