After a 5-month preparation period, the South Korean government has confirmed that it will begin a trial of the K-ETA from May 3rd, 2021 before fully rolling out the Electronic Travel Authorization from September.
The ETA for South Korea is being implemented for all South Korean visa-exempt nationalities in order to pre-screen visa waiver visitors before they arrive in the country. It is being introduced partly with the aim of screening passengers for infectious diseases such as COVID-19 during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Once approved, the K-ETA will be valid for a total of 2 years from the date of issue. It will permit multiple short stays in South Korea for purposes of tourism, family visits, or to conduct business activities such as participating in meetings in the country.
Who Needs a K-ETA for South Korea?
During the pilot period of the K-ETA, which will last from May to August 2021, citizens of the following countries will be able to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization for South Korea:
- New Caledonia
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- San Marino
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- United Kingdom
- United States
Priority visitors, including business travelers, from the roughly 90 countries for which visa-free entry is currently suspended due to coronavirus entry restrictions will also be able to submit an application for the K-ETA. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these eligible countries for the K-ETA trail may change as the worldwide situation regarding COVID-19 develops.
During the trial period, a K-ETA for South Korea will be optional for these citizens and it will not be necessary to pay a processing fee for the online application. However, from September 2021, it will become obligatory for travelers from the roughly 110 countries identified as visa-exempt in the South Korea visa policy to have an approved K-ETA to enter the country.
How to Apply for the South Korea K-ETA
Visa-exempt citizens are able to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization for South Korea through the government K-ETA online portal. This simple online application can be completed in a matter of minutes. The government has also announced its intention to launch a South Korea K-ETA mobile application in the coming months.
To fill in an electronic form, it is necessary to supply basic personal, passport, and health information, including:
- First Name
- Last name
- Date of Birth
- Current email address
- Passport number
- Passport expiry date
- Criminal history
- Details of any infectious disease contracted.
After supplying the necessary information, applicants are advised to ensure that all the data provided is correct before they submit the form. This is because even small errors in the details provided could result in unnecessary processing delays or the denial of the K-ETA.
Once processed, a copy of the approved K-ETA will be sent to the traveler’s email inbox. They will then be able to print a copy to present to South Korean border officers upon arrival alongside the same passport they used to apply online.
In most cases, a K-ETA application will be approved almost immediately after it has been submitted. However, South Korean authorities advise travelers to apply for the electronic authorization at least 24 hours before departure to allow for sufficient processing time during busy periods.
Check the official South Korean government press release about the launch of the K-ETA for further information about this new electronic travel authorization.