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Korea limits permissible business visitor activities

Executive summary

The Korean Immigration Office has announced changes limiting permissible business visitor activities under the C-3-4 Short Term Business Visa or under the Visa Waiver Program. The change has been made in order to minimize the unintended use of the 90 day Short Term Travellers’ visa for people who travel frequently to Korea for work purposes. This change will particularly affect short-term business travellers carrying out daily business and for-profit activities for the Korean sponsoring company.

The changes are effective 8 March 2017 and were announced without any prior consultation.

Key issues

In the past, foreign nationals holding C-3-4 Short Term Business Visa or Visa Waiver Program were allowed to perform short-term business activities for up to 90 days per visit under the condition the visitors were not directly paid by the sponsoring entity in Korea. This was permitted regardless of the activities of the traveller or agreements between the home company and the sponsoring entity in Korea.

With this change, the activities permitted under the C-3-4 Short Term Business Visa have been revised. The changes define the following limited activities as permissible under the C-3-4 Short Term Business Visa or Visa Waiver status:

  • Conducting and analysing market research
  • Attending business meetings
  • Attending seminars, training, workshops and induction programs
  • Discussing, negotiating or finalising a business contract

Furthermore, the following activities have been specifically precluded for people travelling on a C-3-4 Short Term Business Visa or Visa Waiver Program.

  • Installation, repair or operation of imported machinery
  • Production or supervision of ship building, industrial facilities and industrial equipment
  • Engineering services for industrial facilities

Individuals who are required to travel to Korea to conduct the activities above are now required to obtain a C-4 Short Term Employment Visa which may be valid for up to 90 days.

The C-4 Short Term Employment Visa is provided for foreigners who are dispatched to Korea for up to 90 days to work for the sponsoring entity in Korea on the basis of a short term employment contract or assignment letter. A service agreement between the home company and the sponsoring entity in Korea will now also be required along with the C-4 application. It is recommended to consult with the respective Korean consulate to confirm whether the purpose of business trip requires the submission of a service agreement.

The C-4 visa process

A single entry C-4 visa is granted at the Korean consulate in the employee’s country of residence and is typically processed within one to two weeks of final submission.

The C-4 allows the employee entry into Korea for a maximum period of 90 days. Where an employee enters on a C-4 visa and is required to continue working in Korea beyond 90 days, they are required to leave and re-enter only after applying for a new C-4 visa.

Multiple entry is not commonly permitted on a C-4 visa and will be subject to assessment and approval on a case-by-case basis by the relevant consulate.

Next steps

As the new regulation is in the early stages of implementation, some consulates may not be fully aware of this change. As a result, it is recommend that employers and business travellers consult with their immigration advisors prior to travelling to Korea.

Employers who intend to send employees, or currently have employees in Korea engaging in profit-making activities should review how the new regulation affects current and future immigration procedures and consult with their advisors to ensure the correct visa type is obtained for travellers before travelling to Korea.

Where foreigners entered Korea before 8 March 2017 and are engaged in activities that are no longer permitted under their current visa should consult with an immigration professional as soon as possible.

EYG no. 01686-175GBL

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