When getting ready to come to Korea, applying for a visa isn’t always necessary. Most citizens of countries from around the world are able to stay in Korea for up to 90 days without applying for a formal visa. For trips longer than that you’ll need to plan ahead and prepare a few documents in order to get a long term visa. There are many different kinds of visas available to foreigners in Korea and each has their own qualifications and stipulations prior to being issued. This article focuses on the F4 Visa.
The F4 Visa is limited to people of Korean decent. Adoptees are eligible for this visa because we were all at one point Korean citizens. Foreign born Koreans are also eligible for this visa type as long as at least one parent or one grandparent was or is currently a Korean citizen. Here is a link to the Korean Consulate’s page on the F4 visa for a list of all requirements and exceptions (http://www.koreanconsulate.on.ca/en/?b_id=77&c_id=340&mnu=a02b03).
The F4 Visa is one of the best visas a foreigner living in Korea can receive. Unlike other visas such as student visas (D2) or employment visas (Any of the E-type visas), the F4 visa, provided that you reach all of the initial requirements – namely that you are of Korean ancestry; there are no other stipulations to the visa. An F4 visa holder is free to enter and leave Korea as many times as they want, they can go to school here, or they can seek employment as they see fit. I have known many F4 visa holders who go to school to learn Korean and work part-time to make money on the side for travel in and around Korea. The visa does have to be renewed every two years but doing so does not require the holder to leave Korea during the application period. The F4 visa is noncompetitive in that there are not a limited number issued. If you qualify for the F4 visa you can receive one.
Essentially an F4 visa holder can stay in Korea for the rest of their life if they choose to without ever needing to apply for a permanent resident visa (F2). With an F4 visa you are eligible for Korean insurance and pension plans as well provided your employer here provides these benefits. In short, the F4 Visa basically grants you most of the rights of a Korean citizen without ever becoming a Korean citizen.
In order to apply for and receive your F4 visa you will need to have the following documents and requirements fulfilled:
- Complete the Visa Application Form
- This can be found at the Korean consulate or immigration office in many of the major cities in Korea.
- A valid passport from the country in which you are currently a citizen
- The passport must have at least 6 months of validity
- A recent copy of your family registry
- This is important in that it establishes your ancestral ties to Korea and can show that you are not currently a Korean citizen. Be sure to check that your Korean citizenship was renounced prior to applying for the F4 visa. It seems like common sense to assume that your citizenship was renounced following your adoption to your home country, however there have been cases in which the citizenship was, unbeknownst to the applicant, still active. Your adoption agency should be able to help you with this.
- Roughly 80 USD for the application and processing fee (Cash or Money order are acceptable)
- One recent passport-type color photo
For non-adoptee foreigners with Korean ancestry, other documents are required.
- The original birth certificate issued by the foreign country in which the birth took place.
- A recent copy of the family registry proving that the parent or grandparent was a Korean citizen at one point and has since then renounced their Korean citizenship.
- Any official documents showing the reason and date at which the parent or grandparent gained foreign citizenship (i.e. naturalization papers, citizenship card).
F4 Visa Vs. Dual Citizenship (Or in Some cases, regaining your Korean Citizenship)
Many Koreans may be asked during their time in Korea if they would ever consider dual citizenship or try regaining their Korean Citizenship. Of course the choice is completely up to the individual but I do have a few things that might be useful to consider when contemplating this important decision.
First, the F4 visa grants the individual almost all of the benefits of being a Korean citizen without any strings attached or any of its disadvantages. In saying this I do not mean to imply that there is anything inherently wrong with being a Korean citizen. As a country Korea has come a long way in maintaining and protecting its citizen’s rights and freedoms. However, as a foreigner the system itself can be confusing and once you regain your Korean citizenship you will no longer be considered a foreigner in the eyes of the Korean government.
Why is this important? It is important in that being a dual citizen or in regaining your Korean citizenship you are no longer protected by the embassy or government of the country in which you grew up in. While this might not seem like a big deal, consider how complex the law can be and how quickly one can become a second class citizen when they are not a native Korean speaker. Another thing to consider is that you lose out on all of your benefits as an adoptee. For example you are for the most part, no longer eligible for educational grants or scholarships as a foreigner or an adoptee because you are no longer a foreign citizen. In many cases this also includes wide access to translation services offered to adoptees.
Before becoming a citizen of Korean, ask yourself why you are considering doing so in the first place? For many the reasons are symbolic and for others the reasons are much deeper than that. I myself very much identify with the Korean culture; I have Korean friends, I have Korean family, and in many ways I feel Korean. However at this time I do not speak enough Korean and have not spent enough time in Korea for me to say “yes, I am ready to be a Korean citizen with all of its responsibilities.” This is not to say that I do not love this country because I very much do. However, I believe that I can show my love for Korea on an F4 visa just as well as I can while being a dual citizen. There may come a time when I am ready to become a dual citizen, but I contend that being patient about this rather precarious situation is a better decision than acting rashly or too quickly.
Finally, in becoming a Korean citizen you should check to see if you are even eligible for dual citizenship. Some countries do not allow dual citizenship, Denmark being one of them. Becoming a dual citizenship is a large decision, but renouncing the citizenship of the country in which you are a native speaker and where you grew up is an even larger decision.
No matter what your decision is now, or in the future, know that for adoptees and for foreign born Koreans there are many options to look at and consider when trying to stay in Korea. Do your research, prepare the proper documents, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time, a lot of energy, and sometimes even some money as well. Best of luck and safe travels.