Working in Korea – The F6 Visa
Of all the various visa types available to work in Korea, the F6 is amongst those which provide the greatest level of freedom and flexibility. This visa is the one offered to foreign spouses of Koreans who wish to live and work in Korea. It is a little bit harder than many visas to obtain – the first step being to marry a Korean citizen – and the rules have tightened up quite significantly recently mostly as a result of a greater influx of women from South East Asia marrying Korean men and some issues resulting from these relationships. Having just gone through the process, I thought I would share some of what I have learned about getting the F6.
It’s worthwhile noting that, like any other visa, the requirements can change from time to time and this piece should only be used as a guide – always consult immigration if you have any questions. Their English helpline is available by simply dialling 1345.
Am I Eligible?
In order to get an F6 visa you must be married to a Korean national and be able to provide evidence of 1) Korean language capability 2) Financial Support 3) A place to stay, as well as the usual visa paperwork. As usual, there are some caveats and exceptions on all of these requirements.
- Language Capability – Most simply satisfied by presenting evidence that you have taken and passed the TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) test to at least Level 1. This can be waived if you demonstrate that your spouse communicates with you in your mother tongue (for example if you have lived together overseas)
- Financial Support – Since your spouse will be your sponsor they need to demonstrate that they have income or assets sufficient to look after you. This threshold currently sits at about 15m won annually for a couple, rising by 4.5m per additional dependent.
- Residence Requirement – You need to be able to show ownership documents or a rental contract on a residence in Korea sufficient for everyone included in your application.
NB: In the case where you have children prior to applying for the F6 Visa both the language capability and financial support requirements should be waived.
How Do I Apply?
The first important thing to note is that you cannot change from a visitor visa to a resident visa while remaining in country. This means that you can transfer from say an E-2 teaching visa to an F-6 without leaving but you cannot transfer from a tourist visa or short-term visa to an F6 in Korea. Immigration will tell you that you need to apply in your home country but most Korean consulates can process the visa for you – for mine, I went to Tokyo.
If you are applying at a foreign consulate then double-check the documentation with them before travelling as each consulate may have slightly different requirements and you certainly don’t want to find this out when you are in a foreign country without the one piece of paper that you need to get your visa!
The people at the Tokyo consulate were very helpful in this regard and went through with my wife before I traveled exactly what was needed, and what alternatives they would accept if anything was difficult for our specific circumstances.
The visa fee for me was 14,000 Yen ~140,000 won but this can vary depending on your own nationality.
How Long Does it Take?
This seems to vary from consulate to consulate. For mine, in Tokyo, it was processed in 3 days. Which meant I submitted my passport on Tuesday morning and received the visa Thursday afternoon. Other consulates quoted me figures from 4 days to 3 weeks. Again, make sure you double check this before booking travel – also be careful to factor in the odd opening hours of consulates. For example, many consulates only accept applications in the morning and only issue visas in the afternoons (Tokyo was like this) and this might mean you need to stay an extra day or two depending on flight availability.
My visa run involved a Mon-Fri trip to Tokyo. I booked a cheap flight from Eastarjet (www.eastarjet.com) and found a reasonably priced hotel on Expedia (www.expedia.com). Other budget airlines also run the Incheon – Narita route so find the one that works best for you. You will probably need to buy a return ticket as you won’t be admitted into Japan without one so make sure you allow enough time to complete your visa before coming back.
And That’s It?
Not quite. If you get an F6 overseas it will only be valid for 90 days. Which means you will need to visit immigration in Korea to extend your stay to 1 year and apply for your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Again you will need residence documentation here as well as proof of the marriage. You’ll also need another 60,000 won. You need to renew the visa annually (although I believe they may issue for longer periods after your first renewal)
And What’s the Benefit?
The great thing about the F6 vs a work visa is that your sponsor is your spouse and not your employer. This means you have basically the same rights to work and move freely as a Korean national. This opens up possibilities to work part-time positions and additional jobs more easily and legally, and it also means that you are not beholden to an employer for anything. You can change jobs, leave an employer, or take on an additional job without having to worry too much about the impacts on your immigration status.
Sounds Great? Any Downsides?
Other than a bit of hassle and paperwork to get the visa in the first place, none at all. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether having to get married is a downside – I couldn’t possibly comment!