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SOUTH KOREA – Clarification: For-Profit Activities Not Allowed on Business Visa or Visa Waiver

In its latest Visa Issuance Guidance Manual issued on 20 March 2017 (the “Guidelines”), Korean immigration clarified, and, in effect, narrowed the scope of permissible activities under the visa waiver status and C-3-4 short-term business visa, by classifying “for-profit activities” as permissible only under the C-4 short-term employment visa.

This clarified policy will particularly affect short-term business travellers handling installation, repair, maintenance, quality control and similar work in the shipbuilding, oil and gas, energy, engineering and construction, machinery, manufacturing and other sectors.

Who is affected?

The clarified policy applies to foreign business travellers going to Korea for a period of stay not exceeding 90 consecutive days.

What has changed?

Before

Previously, there was confusion about whether for-profit activities were allowed on a C-3-4 business visa for up to 90 days, as the list of permissible activities included “market research; liaison work; consultations and meetings; contract negotiations and signing; installation, repair, inspection and acquisition of know-how of operation of machinery; and other similar activities”.

US and Japanese nationals were generally viewed as being exempt from the requirement to obtain the C-3-4 visa and able to conduct such short-term business activities (even for profit) under visa waiver status.

With respect to for-profit short-term business travel, different Korean consulates often interpreted the rules differently, and frequently issued different types of consular visas to non-US and non-Japanese visa waiver nationals (or advised them to use the visa waiver).

After

In the Guidelines, Korean immigration has clarified and narrowed the scope of short-term business activities permissible under visa waiver status and the C-3-4 visa for up to 90 days, to the following non-profit “Simple Business Activities”: market research; liaison work; consultations and meetings; contract negotiations and signing; small-scale trade activities; and other similar activities.

The Guidelines have clarified that “installation, repair, inspection and acquisition of know-how of operation of machinery” are to be considered for-profit activities.

Now, all business travellers, including US and Japanese nationals, going to Korea for up to 90 days to perform for-profit activities, even if paid outside of Korea, require a C-4 short-term employment visa.

Further, all business travellers can travel to Korea for up to 90 days to perform non-profit Simple Business Activities with either a C-3-4 business visa or a visa waiver, depending on their nationality.

How to obtain a C-4 short-term employment visa

The C-4 short-term employment visa is obtained at a Korean consulate. Specific documentary requirements should be checked at the applicable consulate with jurisdiction over the applicant. However, the required documents listed in the Guidelines are:

  • Visa application;
  • Passport;
  • Passport photo;
  • Application fee;
  • Copy of the contract that serves as a basis for the assignment of the business traveller to Korea (including a clause specifying the need for performance of a service in Korea);
  • Assignment letter ordering the assignee to go on the business trip to Korea.

It is likely that some corporate documents from the visa sponsoring entity in Korea would also be required in support of the application.

Action items

  • Companies sending their employees on business trips to Korea for up to 90 days should ensure the assignee obtains the correct visa: C-4 for for-profit activities; C-3-4 for non-profit activities, as per the Guidelines;
  • Expect some confusion during the initial stages of the implementation of the clarified policy, as Korean consulates adapt to the changes;
  • Consult your global immigration provider for the latest updates on business travel and immigration to Korea.

This news alert was prepared using information provided by Kim, Chang & Lee.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this immigration alert has been abridged from laws, court decisions, and administrative rulings and should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding the applicability of this information, please contact Peregrine © 2017 Peregrine Immigration Management Ltd.