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South Korea is a country that is both simultaneously historically filled with ancient temples while also living in a technological future. They have a unique culture and some amazing food – not to mention K-pop is a phenomenon there.
Got itchy feet and you want to try some Bibimbap and watch BTS on the same day? Keep reading to learn how to apply for your own working holiday visa for South Korea. Then you can stay for a year and work along the way!
I will be talking about how to apply as a UK/British citizen and passport holder. If you are from a different country, you might have a slightly different application process than us Brits.
Please check on the South Korean embassy website for the exact information relating to your nationality below. Make sure to select your relevant Korean embassy site: http://overseas.mofa.go.kr/returnInfoPage.do
|Country:||South Korea (Republic of Korea)|
|Currency:||South Korean Won / KRW|
|Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?||Check here|
What is a working holiday?
What is a working holiday you ask? Well, working holidays are one of the best ways to earn some money and travel. It’s generally a visa that allows you to stay for a longer-than-normal time in a country. You’ll also be able to work to supplement your travels without going broke in the process.
British citizens with a UK passport have 8 countries they can live and work in between the ages of 18 and 30. Check these out here!
Once you have successfully got your visa and you arrive in Korea, check out this post on how to get set up as an expat!
As with any visa type around the world, there are certain eligibility requirements to relate to in order to qualify. The working holiday visa for South Korea is no exception. To make sure you stand a chance to apply, please check that you meet the following points below:
- Be from an eligible country with a bilateral agreement with Korea. (Our example is a British passport holder)
- Be between the ages of 18 and 30 at the time of application approval
- Be a legal resident currently residing in the UK (or the country you‘re applying as a citizen of) at the time of application
Once you’ve established that you’re eligible by the top three standards above, you can start looking at the visa itself. Some visa terms are as follows:
- You must enter South Korea within 3 months of your working holiday visa approval
- Have a maximum of 1 year (12 months) to remain in the country from your entry date
South Korea working holiday visa restrictions
So you’ve learned the basics of what makes a person eligible in order to apply for the whv, but you should be aware of the restrictions put in place for this visa type.
If like me you’ve experienced a working holiday visa in another country, you won’t be surprised to know there are some limits on working. If you are completely new to working holiday visas I’ll explain why there are restrictions and why they matter.
25 hours per week
When working on a South Korea working holiday visa you are only allowed to work a part-time job. This is because the primary reason for allowing the visa in the first place is to travel and experience cultural exchange.
The need for working is simply to help you supplement and afford to continue your travels. If you stay in the country for a year you are allowed to work 25 hours per week for up to 1300 per year. This gives you more than enough time to travel!
Top Tip: Work hours are flexible. You could work 1 month full time then have one month off etc. Just make sure not to work more than 1300 all year!
No dependants allowed
This is a youth-style visa allowing young adults an opportunity for cultural exchange and is a temporary work visa. So if you wish to travel with a spouse or partner, you will each need to apply for your own visas independently and cannot piggyback a person on another’s visa.
If you are a parent or guardian you will also not be able to bring your child with you on this visa type. You would need to consider a different visa altogether if you wanted to bring dependents
You are restricted by your job type
Although the working holiday visa is a flexible work permit in South Korea, it doesn’t mean you can work any job. On this visa, you are unable to work in adult-related entertainment businesses such as nightclubs and bars. Plus, even if you are licenced and qualified you cannot work in highly skilled fields such as:
- Medical DRs and nurses, teachers, lawyers and law enforcement
If you want to be an English foreign language teacher then you’ll need a different visa known as the E-2 visa. You can find out more about that here.
What you need to apply:
- Valid passport to cover the duration of your intended stay up to 1 year
- Completed application form
- ACRO criminal background check for British citizens (this can be ordered here)
- Two passport-style headshot photograph
- Return flight itinerary plan (without actually booking the flights until after your visa is approved)
- Bank statements showing the last 3 months showing a balance of at least £1,500. Please be aware it will need to be dated within 2 weeks of visa application)
- Photocopy of the same bank statement
- Completed activity form (which can be downloaded here)
- Medical or health certificate from your DR dated within 3 months. This is to show you are in good health.
- Negative TB test result (either from an x-ray, blood test or skin test)
- Travel insurance for 1 year
- Visa fee by bank transfer/international payment
Then, depending on whether you collect your passport and visa in person or have it sent back to your by courier you may need to fill out a courier and consent form as well.
Step-by-Step: How to apply
In previous years, this application process required applicants to take their documents in person to the South Korean embassy in their home country. Since the covid-19 pandemic, you can currently only apply for the visa by post. There is not yet a date on when this will be changed.
Step #1 – Passport validity
If you do not have a passport, get a passport before you do anything else (you can do so here).
Already own a passport? Make sure it has enough remaining months to cover the duration of your intended trip to South Korea, plus 6 months after leaving. If you do not have enough time on your existing passport, it is recommended to apply for a new passport before applying for your visa.
If you happen to already have a visa when your passport is expiring then you will need to contact the South Korean embassy asap after receiving your new passport so they can attach your visa to your new passport.
Step #2 – Complete the application form
The application form is written in both Korean and English. It can also be filled in, in only Korean or English.
This 5-page application form requires you to fill in accurate information and you should do your best to avoid too many mistakes.
On page 1 you will need to input your legal name as listed in your passport and any other passports you might have from other countries. Then you will need to input the visa type and length that you are applying for. This is generally split into short-term (under 90 days) and long-term (over 90 days).
Page 2 requires you to put in your passport details, contact information, marital and family information followed by your educational background.
Page 3 is split into two sections, one regarding your employment history, and one detailing your reason for visiting. It will also ask you to write in any other countries you have visited in the 5 years prior to this application.
Page 4 asks about family members you might be travelling with – you can input who you are travelling with, but remember they must get their own visa if you are applying for the working holiday visa. You’ll also need to fill in invitation and funding details (likely irrelevant for the whv).
Top tip: If planning to travel with another person, add a piece of paper here stating that they are getting their own visa. Otherwise, you may be refused a visa if they think you are trying to take dependents on your visa
Page 5 is the final page in which you need to read the terms and conditions and sign the document. Make sure everything is correct and accurate before you finish up!
Step #3 – ACRO police certificate
It’s not uncommon for visa applications to ask for these as most places would prefer to have “good” people visit their country. The police certificate simply shows whether you have a criminal record or not, and these can include records from other countries. So if you are innocent, then you will have nothing to worry about.
It is relatively straightforward to apply for a police certificate from the UK. As with most verification processes you will need to input accurate information into your police form application so that they can verify you correctly.
It is advised to get the police certificate sorted before many of the other steps since this part has the longest waiting time. There are generally two options for getting your certificate which you can read below:
|Time to Process||Cost (GBP)|
|12 working days||£55|
|4 working days||£95|
Step #4 – Passport style photo
You will need to get two passport-sized photographs (headshot), one of which attaches to your South Korea working holiday visa application form.
These are very easy to get and you can normally find small photobooths in large supermarkets or shopping malls around the country. They normally cost between £4-£6 for a group of 6 photos. If all else fails, many pharmacies have the ability to take appropriate photos for you, however, these may be slightly more expensive.
Step #5 – Return flight itinerary plan
Without booking any flights, you will need to at least find a flight itinerary that you would like to take if/when your visa is approved. Since there is no guarantee your visa will be approved it is not advised to book your flights until you have your visa approval. This is because if you book your flight and then your application gets rejected, you will not be refunded your flight tickets.
All you need to do is show the dates you would like to travel to and from South Korea and have the itinerary printed out to show as part of your application. You can either do this using a comparison site like Skyscanner or go directly to a travel agent for an itinerary quote.
Step #6 & #7 – Bank statements
Since there is a minimum requirement of funds needed to qualify for the working holiday visa, you’ll need to prove you meet the criteria. You will need to get a bank statement that shows the most recent 3 months and it will need to be a paper statement instead of one printed online. In some cases, you may need a stamp from the bank too.
Make sure that the statement shows you have at least £1,500 available and that the statement is dated no earlier than 2 weeks before your application date or you risk being rejected for your visa.
Do not forget to get a photocopy of your statement to add to your application along with the original!
Step #8 – Completed Activity form
Since the whole purpose of the South Korea working holiday visa is to primarily holiday in the country, they want to see your rough itinerary plans. These do not need to be set in stone and do not need to be booked before the application. This is where you could talk about the cities or destinations in Korea that you’d like to visit including any seasonal activities or events.
The more detail the better as it shows that you have done your research which will increase your chances of approval!
Step #9 – Medical health certificate or Doctor’s note
Since South Korea doesn’t want to risk their residents with any kind of sickness, they ask that all applicants get a doctor’s note. This is very easy to get from your general or family Dr. This document will need to show that you are in “good health” which is Korea’s way of making sure you’re not a burden on their healthcare system.
Some GPs might require you to have a physical examination followed by a payment for the certificate, and others might just give you a printout of your summarised health record for no fee. As long as it is clear you are in a good bill of health that’s all they want to see.
That’s not to say if you have a pre-existing condition that you can’t apply, but certain conditions – if contagious – are unlikely to be accepted such as TB. If in doubt, call the Korean embassy in the UK for their opinion before you spend time applying.
Step #10 – Negative result from a Tuberculosis (TB) test
In order to get a TB test you will need to go to a private clinic. A TB test relating to a visa is not a service you can access through the NHS.
Luckily for us, the Korean embassy is happy to accept any type of TB test as long as it shows a negative test result. This means if you can only find a clinic that offers an X-ray, that is OK. The same goes if you can only find a clinic to provide a TB blood test, it will also be accepted. These clinics are located in various parts of the country and likely have different costs.
I chose to go to a clinic (located here) in London near the “medical highstreet” Harley Street. The one I went to offered visa medical health tests that are suitable for many different countries and their respective visas.
Note: You will need to take your passport to your appointment as a form of ID.
For a chest x-ray, formal paper report and a disc, it costs £154 (at the time of writing). This paper report will show your results and can be submitted along with the rest of your application. In order to receive your visa you will need to have a negative result.
My results only took 2 working days to be input into my disc and paper report.
Step #11 – Pay for 1 year of travel insurance
As part of the Korean work visa application, you will be required to pay for 1 year’s travel insurance to submit your application. Something to consider before you dive into purchasing a plan is you need to check whether the repatriation costs qualify under what the embassy requires.
Since you will be working in Korea, you will need to get a plan that covers you for working abroad since regular tourist travel insurance is invalidated if you try to work – if you don’t have the correct plan which includes it.
I normally choose between three of my favourite brands depending on my needs during each specific trip.
- Alpha Travel
- True Traveller
- World Nomads
I am booked with True Traveller for this trip, simply because I will need to make a trip back to my home in the UK will be for 5 weeks. this meant that Alpha Travel was not suitable for me personally as they have a 21-day limit on each trip home.
If you are not planning on heading home for more than 21 days at a time then they are still a fantastic contender for long-stay travel insurance.
Step #12 – Visa fee payment for the South Korea working holiday visa
There is a slightly different visa fee depending on how long you intend on spending within the country up to the one allowed year. The fee also depends on whether you would like to apply for a single-entry visa or a multiple-entry visa.
The difference between the two is that a single-entry visa allows you to enter the country one time, and if you leave you cannot reenter on the same visa. A multiple entry visa allows you to come and go from the country as you please on the same visa – up until the 1-year visa expires.
Different countries can use the link at the top of the page to determine their own nations’ visa fees.
|Visa Type||UK Citizens|
|Single entry under 90 days||£100 / 114 EUR|
|Single entry over 90 days||£154 / 180 EUR|
|Multiple entries||£193 / 225 EUR|
You will need to send your visa fee to the embassy via bank transfer/payment to one of their two bank accounts. After speaking with the agents at KVAC, they advised the best one to send the payment to was their bank account in Germany.
To give you an example of what it will cost in total, my application consisted of the following:
- 225 EURO – visa fee
- 60 EURO – service fee
- 15 EURO – courier fee to return your passport & visa (optional)
The details you will need for your international payment are as follows:
|What is it?||Bank information|
|Bank account holder:||INTERNATIONAL ORG. FOR MIGRATION|
|Name of the bank:||CITIBANK EUROPE PLC, GERMANY BRANCH|
|Address:||Reuterweg 16, 60323 Frankfurt Am Main, Germany|
Note: Make sure you put the reference number from your payment on a note in your application envelope and also email the KVAC with proof of payment as well.
Final thoughts on the South Korea visa application
This might seem like a complicated application but I can assure you, if you take it step by step, you’ll get through it. The paperwork is relatively straightforward to understand and I have tried to explain each step as simple as possible so you can get through the process without stress.
Prepare for your move to South Korea
Book your flights
You’ll need to look for some flights to travel to South Korea. One of the main sites I recommend is WayAway to find your itineraries. You can check them out below:
Need to book activities?
Need accommodation for once you arrive?
If you’re travelling solo and want to meet some other expats and travellers, head to a hostel and experience the social atmosphere. Heading to South Korea’s capital city Seoul? Check out Hostelworld below:
If a hostel is not your style, check out the property selection at Booking.
Check out this detailed guide on how to find English speaking jobs in South Korea so you can find a job as quickly as possible.
Have you applied for a South Korean work visa? What did you think of the process?