As an industrial powerhouse, South Korea has a huge demand for industrial workers. Having a highly educated small population has also driven up the need for physical laborers. Workers in manufacturing, agriculture, and fisheries are, especially in high demand. Since Korea is suffering from a chronic low birthrate, the government had to figure out another way to supplement the demand.
You guessed it. South Korean encouraged foreign workers to fill in the gap. To do so, they engaged in a Monument of Understanding with 16 countries. The citizens of these countries can come to Korea to work in the industry that Korea so desperately needs.
Who Qualifies? And How do I apply?
Any individuals who can work in a factory, farm, or a boat can apply for an E-9 visa. Of course, they have to be a citizen of one of the 16 countries that have signed an MOU agreement with South Korea. Those countries are Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, and Laos.
You can apply for an E-9 visa at your local South Korean embassy or consulate. The documents that you need for this are below. 1. Valid Passport and a copy, 2. Visa issuance certificate (Sent from your employer), 3. Two full-color photos (3 cm x 4 cm), 4. Processing fee, 5. Personal Bank certificate, 6. Income Tax Return (Copy), 7. Application form, 8. Original & Copy of Valid Visas and Arrival Stamps to OECD member countries for the past 5 years, 9. Invitation Letter & Copy of Korean Company Business Permit.
What Can I Do?
After obtaining an E-9 visa, you can obviously work. But then you may be wondering about particular restrictions or things that you should be concerned about. Firstly, it is quite difficult to change your employer unless there is a clear and undeniable reason for you to change your employer. Secondly, the length of stay given to you is 3 years, but you can extend it again if your employer wants to re-hire you. The extended term is 1 year and 10 months. Thirdly, you have to leave South Korea and reapply in your own country if you would like to renew your E-9 visa upon working in Korea for 4 years and 10 months.
The information above is straight from the immigration manual. However, there is something that most people won't tell you. You can change your visa to a G-1-5 visa and then change it back to an E-9 visa. Of course, this is assuming that you have not stayed in Korea for more than 4 years and 10 months as an E-9 visa holder.
There are some cases where a worker failed to get a visa at the end of the third year. But the worker had a legitimate reason to stay in Korea for her safety. So, she decided to apply for refugee status and obtained a G-1-5 visa while waiting for her result. Although she was denied from receiving refugee status, she was able to get a job again as an E-9 visa holder. Therefore, she was able to stay in Korea for more than 5 years. This allowed her to apply for am E-7-4 visa which would give her a chance to apply for a resident visa down the road.
Just like the example that I have mentioned, wonky cases solutions exists, but a foreigner cant take advantage of because they simply don't know. That is why I highly recommend you to get some professional help. What I do is too general to be useful. You need to get specific advice that fits your particular situation.