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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

South Korea relaxes visa requirements, new visa categories to attract foreign talent

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The Korean government announced a set of plans to relax visa requirements in a bid to attract more foreign talent into various sectors of the economy.

The government will also categorize visa applications by industry rather than visa type, aiming to enhance the management of foreign labor across different sectors under new measures unveiled during a state affairs meeting chaired by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Thursday.

Currently, foreign students studying in Korea face limited job prospects after graduation, typically confined to fields such as office work and professional roles under visa types E-1 through E-7, despite having proficiency in Korean language and culture.

To address this, the government intends to update laws to broaden employment opportunities for these students in nonprofessional sectors under the E-9 visa category. This move seeks to alleviate shortages in fields like manufacturing and foundational industries. Parents of foreign students will be permitted seasonal employment under the E-8 visa, supporting their settlement in Korea.
Foreigners stroll down a street in Seoul on June 11. [YONHAP]

Moreover, the duration of job-seeking visas for foreign students will be extended from two years to three, facilitating the exploration of diverse career paths. Domestic companies will also have the option to hire foreign students as substitute workers during parental leave. Specialized job programs tailored for foreign students will be established in universities located in provincial areas.

Additionally, the government aims to streamline visa processes for professionals, such as overseas researchers and experts in advanced industries. This includes granting residency visas, known as F-2, without employment conditions to science and engineering institution graduates recommended by their university presidents. Exceptional individuals meeting a research achievement criteria may qualify for permanent residency, or F-5, and naturalization.

The government plans to further explore and develop new fields that require foreign professionals under specialized employment visas, particularly in strategic sectors like semiconductors. This year, new visa categories have been introduced for caregivers, aircraft manufacturing technicians and power transmission electricians, and additional sectors are slated for potential introduction next year.

Forecasting foreign labor demand will transition from visa-based to industry-specific models, with each relevant ministry taking responsibility. For instance, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs will handle forecasts for the agriculture and livestock industries, while the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries will oversee forecasts for fisheries. The Ministry of Employment and Labor, alongside related departments, will manage forecasts for the manufacturing, construction and service sectors.

BY NA SANG-HYEON, SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun1@joongang.co.kr]