Updated: on 22 February 2024

If you want to experience South Asia, but don’t have much time to do it, then South Korea may be the destination for you as this fascinating peninsula is jam-packed with all manner of things to see and do and the entry requirements to South Korea are not nearly as complicated as one might expect. Ancient temples rest side by side with leading-edge architecture, traditional festivals rub shoulders with K-Pop concerts, and ancestral Kimchi recipes are served up in Michelin-starred restaurants. From the contrasts between the ancient and modern in South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, to the timeless peace of a Hanok village, South Korea offers a world of experiences to the visitor.

The basic entry requirement for South Korea, as with most countries, is an undamaged passport valid for a minimum of six months from your planned date of departure, and two blank pages for official stamps. Currently, some 110 nationalities are eligible for Korea visa-free entry via South Korea’s K-ETA or Electronic Travel Authorization. A comprehensive list of these countries along with information about other Korea entry requirements can be found on the South Korea government’s official K-ETA website:

Korea requirements for tourists from most European nations, the UK, the US, Australia, and New Zealand stipulate a stay of up to 90 days without the requirement for a visa, but you must have a completed application for K-ETA. South Africans are allowed 30 days, and citizens of Canada can enter the country for as long as six months. Although you may not require a visa, Korea visa-free entry necessitates the application for Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA). This can be done at the above website or by downloading the K-ETA app to your phone. Your application for ETA must be submitted at least 72 hours before your flight leaves. Confirmations for K-ETA applications are usually processed and sent to your provided email address within 24-hours. Your K-ETA remains valid for two years after it has been issued, which means you don’t need to reapply during that period even if you travel to South Korea on multiple occasions. If you are a citizen of a country that does not have a visa-waiver agreement or allow Korea visa-free entry, you will need to apply for a Korea tourist visa.

South Korea requirements for tourist visas

Those travellers from nations not yet eligible for Korea visa-free entry can still apply for a visa and the Korea requirements for tourist visas are also straightforward. Applications can be made at the following official website: https://www.visa.go.kr/. After entering all the relevant information, you will be asked to select the type of visa you require, this will most likely be an Ordinary Tourist visa or a C-3-9, and the reason you are travelling to South Korea, which is “travel for holidays or leisure”. Once you have completed the online application (or filled in the downloadable PDF by hand), you will need to visit your nearest Korean Embassy or Consulate. As well as your passport (valid for at least six months with two blank pages) you will need two recent passport photos (3.5cm x 4.5cm) as well as any additional documentation for your Korea tourist visa. At this point, you will also be asked to pay the application fee which for most countries is around USD40.

NB: Up until 31 December 2024, K-ETA entry requirements to South Korea have been temporarily suspended for 22 nations as part of the “Visit Korea” celebrations, making travel to South Korea even easier for these travellers. These countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macao, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, UK, US (including Guam). Although the exemption is in place for the above nations, citizens may still apply for K-ETA, and those who do will not be required to hand over a completed arrival card when they land in South Korea. The application fee for K-ETA currently stands at 10,000 KRW per person, around USD10, although other fees may apply. However, it is important to note that all applications for tourist visas to South Korea must be done through the government-approved portal as no third-party agencies have been approved to issue official permits to enter the country.

Additional South Korea Entry Requirements and Exemptions

For those short on time and who are not eligible for a South Korea visa on arrival, a visit to Jeju-do Island is an option because the usual Korea Entry Requirements have been relaxed as the island has been designated a Special Tourist Zone. Visitors without a Korea tourist visa are permitted a stay for up to 30 days although Korea entry requirements do stipulate that arrival on Jeju-do is from a direct flight or ship from abroad NOT from a South Korean airport. Visitors travelling in South Korea on a normal tourist visa are unlikely to be granted an extension and those who find they need to extend their stay because of an emergency should contact the Korea Immigration Service as soon as possible. More information can be found here: https://www.hikorea.go.kr/Main.pt.

Those looking for a more immersive South Korean experience might consider applying for a Working Holiday Visa. These are usually valid for one year and allow the holder to work for up to 25 hours per week as well as enroll in a Korean language learning program at a university or private academy. South Korea entry requirements for a Working Holiday Visa mean that citizens of 25 countries are eligible to apply including many European nations, the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. For those who wish to stay for as long as two years, the option of becoming a teacher or university student may be attractive.

The rise of K-pop, a thriving economy, and an incredible culture have catapulted South Korea to the top of the list of must-visit countries in Asia. As the Asia experts, Secret Retreats specializes in curating the perfect travel itinerary for travelers keen to experience this remarkable country from Hanok stays to full tailor-made travel itineraries. Whether you are looking for a solo adventure, a romantic getaway, or a well-earned break with your family, the team at Secret Retreats is ready and waiting to work with you to create your perfect itinerary to explore all that Asia has to offer. Start your dream holiday plans by exploring our ready-made South Korea itineraries. Ask us about our extensive catalogue of boutique hotels, luxury resorts, and homestays and let us take you away for an experience we guarantee you will never forget. dream@secret-retreats.com.

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