Republic of Korea – Short-Term Business Travelers – Permissible Scope of Activities Limited

What has changed

On March 20, 2017, Korean immigration authorities announced an update limiting the scope of permissible activities for short-term business travelers under the Visa Waiver status and C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa. The Visa Waiver and C-3-4 Visa are now only intended for non-profit Simple Business Activities (see ‘What to expect’ for a list of permissible activities). Previously, the Visa Waiver and C-3-4 Visa were widely used by foreigners to conduct short-term business activities, even if they were for-profit. These changes are applicable to all foreign nationals regardless whether they are Visa Waiver nationals or otherwise.

Who is affected?

  • Employees traveling to Korea for profit generating short-term business including previously exempt Japanese and US nationals

What to expect

Simple Business Activities that are regarded as permissible under the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa and the Visa Waiver are as follows:

  • Market research
  • Liaison work
  • Consultations and meetings
  • Contract negotiations and signing
  • Small-scale trade activities
  • Other similar activities

If the visit to the Korean office involves for-profit work that exceeds the scope of Simple Business Activities (for example, working full time in the Korean office for several weeks), then the C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa would need to be obtained. The C-4 allows individuals to conduct for-profit activities for up to ninety (90) days.

Foreign nationals assigned to work at a government agency or a private company to install, repair, and maintain imported machinery or to engage in, produce, or supervise shipbuilding and industrial facilities will be deemed to be engaging in for-profit activities, and as such must secure the appropriate work authorization.

The clarified policy also applies to US and Japanese nationals who were previously considered exempt from the requirement to obtain the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa and could, therefore, conduct both not-for-profit and for-profit business activities under visa-waiver status as long as they were paid their personal income from outside of Korea. Thus, work authorization must now be obtained for US and Japanese nationals seeking to conduct for-profit activities.

Given the recent changes it remains to be seen how the new policy will be implemented by the officials at overseas Korean Embassies and Consulates. In the past, the C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa was not widely used and rarely granted in comparison to the C-3-4 Business Visa. Employee’s eligibility will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

What you need to do                                                                                                                                              Planning ahead

  • Employers will need to take into account additional lead time to apply for the appropriate C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa for foreign nationals who plan to engage in profit generating activities on assignments up to ninety (90) days.
  • Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client.