The Ministry of Justice of South Korea has announced the upcoming launch of an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for select foreign nationalities following a revision of the South Korean visa policy.
On the 9th of January 2019, the South Korean National Assembly passed a revision of the Immigration Law that will permit the introduction of an ETA system to facilitate entry to South Korea for foreign citizens, as well as to help curb illegal immigration.
The new electronic travel authorization system will allow citizens of South Korea visa-free countries to obtain an electronic visa waiver to travel to South Korea for short stays, and eliminate the need for such citizens to complete a disembarkation card upon arrival in the country.
Authorities have confirmed that the ETA for South Korea is likely to be introduced at some point in 2021, after the development of the relevant supporting systems has been completed.
Travel to South Korea with an Electronic Travel Authorization
At the moment, citizens of a number of South Korean visa waiver countries are able to travel to the Southeast Asian nation without obtaining a travel document for purposes of tourism, business, or transit.
This includes citizens of all European Union countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Australia, as well as a number of South American nations. The period of stay permitted is between 30 days and 180 days, depending on nationality.
However, once the ETA has been implemented, citizens of these same visa waiver countries will be required to pre-register for a South Korea online visa waiver before traveling to the country for short stays.
Eligible applicants will be able to register through a simple online application form that is only expected to take a few minutes to complete, to receive a copy of the approved South Korean ETA sent by email.
It is expected that travelers will then be able to use a copy of the ETA alongside a valid passport to gain entry to South Korea through dedicated ETA-only counters upon arrival at airports in the country.
The South Korean government is expecting the introduction of the ETA to greatly speed up the entry process for visa waiver citizens, as the online screening process will eliminate the need for extensive entry interviews for travelers arriving in the country.
The South Korean Visa Application Process
Citizens of Korean visa waiver countries who wish to travel to South Korea for longer periods or other purposes than those permitted visa-free are required to apply for a visa to visit the country.
This means that it is necessary to apply for a visa from the nearest embassy or consulate of South Korea in order to work, study, or be a resident in the country.
Foreign citizens not from visa-exempt countries are required to apply for a consular visa to travel to South Korea no matter the purpose or intended duration of the stay.
In general, the standard processing time for a visa from a Korean embassy is between 5-7 days. Those who do need to apply for an embassy visa to travel to South Korea are advised to do so well in advance of the intended entry date, to guarantee sufficient time for the visa to be approved.