So you’ve been offered a place at a Korean summer school or an internship! Great! Well done! Now It’s time to deal with all the boring stuff… First the Visa!
(NB. These are some general tips written by a student from the UK regarding getting a visa to visit South Korea, some of the more specific tips near the end may only apply to UK citizens. The advice given are based on this students’ experience)
Finding the information you need on this can be somewhat tricky. The embassy website consists of document after document and you have to read them ALL to eventually gather the information you need. Even after reading all this it can still seem very confusing as a lot of the criteria for the Visa’s seem to overlap.
First thing’s first, contact your host in Korea. If they have experience with students from your country they may be able to tell you what type of visa previous students obtained. However, in my case I asked both my host and the Korean Embassy itself. My host informed me I did not need a visa as my program was ‘non-profit’. However, the embassy informed me I did need a visa as my program was a study/educational program. Confused? I certainly was.
To clarify my situation, I am attending a 5 week Physics Research Program at KAIST University. This means my situation fits into the C-3-1 Visa type. The exact criteria as written on the embassy website is:
Students who are going to Korea for study under 90 days: short term language course etc.
As my program is a research program and more like an internship but I earn no money, I fall into a grey area between needing a visa and not needing one.
Nevertheless, I am a cautious person and decided I would get the visa anyway as I did not want to come into any trouble at immigration. I also asked the embassy when I handed in my application form if I actually needed this visa for my specific case. I was informed that for my situation ‘it all depends on the immigration officer at the time’. So it seems nobody really knows for sure if the visa is needed or not! All in all, I would say it is safer to get the visa just in case, but it does really depend on your personal circumstances. Definitely give the embassy a call if you are unsure, they are friendly and helpful!
How to apply for the Visa
Getting the visa first requires you to fill out an application form, you will need to visit the Korean Embassy website and print it out. You will then need to send this in the post along with your passport or visit the embassy itself. You will also need the visa fee and supporting documents along with your application. These of course depend on the type of visa you are applying for, but for me it was an invitation letter from my host, my student status certificate, Ebola form (everyone needs to fill this out) and the business certificate of my host. I would recommend physically going to the embassy if you can. As I sat waiting to be seen in the embassy, nine out of ten people had some kind of problem with their application. Obviously, if you have made a postal application, the process of them informing you there is a problem and then you sending them more documents will take more time. Note that you can only visit the Embassy between the hours of 10-12 Monday to Friday, and be sure to arrive early to beat the long queues.
How long will my visa take?
You will have to queue in the embassy, this could take anything from 30 minutes to an hour depending on how early you get there. You enter the embassy take a ticket and sit and wait to be called. Remember not to make any phone calls inside the embassy as this is not allowed!
Once you have successfully submitted your application the Visa will take 5 working days to process. This excludes delivery time if you applied by post.
That’s it Visa done! Your passport will be returned to you with the visa stuck inside!
The process can be easy as long as you take the time to research specifically what documents you need. There is understandably no leeway with visa applications and if your documents are not precisely correct you will be turned away. Also keep in mind, check all the documents your host sends you, for example my host sent me a document that was not dated to within three months, and so was not accepted by the embassy. if I had only read the document my host sent me I would have avoided a wasted trip to London at 7am!
Take the time to go to your specific case on the embassy website and research the documents you need. If you are unsure contact the embassy. Then triple check all the documents are correct and the process will be easy for you.
Now, most importantly have an amazing time, you’re going to Korea!