With hundreds of companies looking to hire foreigners in South Korea, the number of migrant workers in the country is growing rapidly.
According to JoongAng Daily, the trend has emerged in response to major Korean enterprises showing a great interest in hiring non-Korean professionals in a wide array of sectors.
In the past, the jobs available for foreigners in South Korea were largely limited to labor-intensive roles in industries such as farming, fishing, and construction.
However, the landscape has expanded significantly. Now, it is encompassing both blue-collar and white-collar positions within the nation’s labor market.
While hiring foreigners in South Korea comes as a great solution to the country’s labor shortage, employers need to ensure they comply with all the necessary legal requirements.
In this article, we’ll go into more detail about hiring foreign employees in South Korea.
Requirements for Hiring Foreigners in South Korea
Every company seeking to hire foreign employees in South Korea is required to sponsor employees’ work visas and permits. This is a mandatory requirement in order to comply with South Korea’s labor laws and regulations.
However, the country is providing a wide array of visa types depending on the worker’s skills and qualifications.
This can make it challenging for companies to determine the appropriate visas required and navigate the application process.
Once you have successfully identified the right employees to hire in South Korea, you can then move forward with the subsequent procedures.
Step 1: Choose the Right Type of South Korea Work Visa
The work visa for South Korea is classified into the following categories:
- C4 – This type of visa allows holders to engage in short-term employment. It applies for sectors such as research, temporary entertainment, fashion modeling, etc.
- E1 – This visa type is for foreigners engaged in activities related to education and research guidance at an educational institution higher than the college level.
- E2 – The E2 visa is for foreign language instructors who work in educational institutions or broadcasting companies.
- E3 – For individuals who engage in research in the areas of advanced technology and Natural Sciences.
- E4 – This visa is for technical instructors and technicians with expertise in the areas of technology and Natural Sciences.
- E5 – This is a work visa for individuals who hold an international degree recognized by the Korean Government. Typically, the E5 work visa is for professionals such as lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc.
- E6 – The E6 visa is issued to artists and performers.
- E7 – For individuals who wish to engage in activities designated by South Korea’s Minister of Justice.
- E9 – This visa type is designated for non-professional employment. It allows foreigners to work in industries such as manufacturing, construction, agriculture, fishery, construction waste processing, etc.
- E10 – The E10 visa type is for crew members on a ship in South Korea.
- H1 – This visa type is for individuals from particular countries who want to engage in short-term work activities to cover their expenses while traveling around South Korea.
- H2 – This visa type is for overseas Koreans from China and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
While the large number of work visas provided by the South Korean government can make the application process confusing, it’s worth noting that the most common types of visas are the following:
- E9 visa for jobs often referred to as “Three D” jobs (Dirty, Dangerous, and Difficult). This can be anything from picking fruits to assembling products in a factory. Applicants who qualify for this visa type may also qualify for the Seasonal Worker Program (SWP).
- E1-E7 visas for individuals with specialized knowledge in a specific industry, such as teachers and researchers.
Step 2: Check If You Can Hire Foreigners in South Korea Under the Employment Permit System (EPS)
If you’re looking to hire foreign workers in South Korea for specific industries, it is important to have a good understanding of the Employment Permit System (EPS).
The EPS is a labor migration scheme for low-skilled workers. It allows small and medium-sized companies to solve their labor shortages.
Do note that the EPS encompasses only E9 and H2 visas. The system enables foreign nationals to work for up to 4 years and 10 months in the manufacturing, agriculture, fishery, construction, and a few services industries.
The EPS is valid for countries with which Korea has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). These countries include Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, China, and Timor-Leste.
Unlike the E9 visa, H2 visa holders can reside and work in Korea in the service industry without a prior employment agreement.
Below you will find the procedures for hiring foreigners in South Korea based on the EPS requirements.
Businesses with less than 300 full-time workers or less than KRW 8 billion in capital can hire foreign nationals. The quota of foreign workers that the company can hire typically ranges from 10 to 20% of the domestic workforce.
All construction companies can hire foreigners, with the exception of construction firms engaged in the development of power plants, steelworks, and petrochemical facilities. These companies can hire a maximum of 5 workers if their average annual gross income is below KRV 1.5 billion.
Agriculture and Livestock
Companies in this industry with 10 or fewer employees can hire a maximum of 5 foreign nationals. For larger companies, the quota of foreign workers is 20% of the domestic workforce.
For fishing boats, the quota of foreign workers is 40% of the ship’s crew.
Service companies with 5 or fewer employees can hire a maximum of 2 overseas Koreans. For service companies with 6 or more employees, the quota of overseas Koreans ranges from 30 to 40% of the domestic workforce.
Step 3: Request an Employment Permit
Before moving forward with the hiring process, you may need to submit an application for foreign workers’ employment permits. This requirement is compulsory not only for workers who fall under the E9 visa category but also for other types of work visas.
The work permit is issued by the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL).
The competent authorities will issue an official document stating that the company is unable to recruit sufficient Korean workers, despite advertising the position to local employees. Typically, the position must be advertised for at least 3-7 days.
Subsequently, from a list of recommended foreign nationals, you will select the workers that best fit your needs. Following this selection, the competent authorities will proceed to issue employment permits for the chosen foreign workers.
Step 4: Sign an Employment Contract
After obtaining a work permit, you must sign a local employment contract provided by the Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL).
The employment contract must outline various working terms, including salary, working period, job duties, working hours, and holidays.
The contract becomes effective once the foreign worker arrives in Korea.
Step 5: Apply for CCVI Issuance
After examining the applicant’s documents, you can apply for a Certificate for Confirmation of Visa Issuance (CCVI) at the Ministry of Justice of Korea.
This certificate has the purpose of simplifying the work visa application process.
The CCVI is valid for three months and can be used for a single visa application.
Some of the documents you must submit with the CCVI application include the work permit and employment contract signed by both parties.
The processing time for a CCVI application ranges between 1 and 4 weeks.
Please note that countries issuing electronic visas issue a visa issuance number instead of a certificate for visa issuance.
To access the list of countries issuing a visa issuance number, head over to https://www.hikorea.go.kr/Main.pt.
Once the Ministry of Justice has issued the CCVI, you must send it to the worker.
Step 6: Your Future Employee Applies for a South Korea Work Visa
After receiving the CCVI, your future employee must apply for a South Korea work visa.
South Korea allows both online applications via the Visa Portal and in-person applications at the Embassy or Consulate of Korea located in the applicant’s country of residence.
The process for applying for a work visa is described on the Visa Portal of the Republic of Korea.
The required documents for a work visa may vary based on the specific type of visa.
However, in most cases, your prospective employee will need to submit the following documents:
- Duly filled visa application form
- Original passport or scanned image files of passport pages
- Two photographs of 3.5 x 4.5 cm
- Cover letter written and signed by the employer
- Professional resume
- Academic qualification documents
- Professional certificates
- CCVI approved by the Ministry of Justice
- Company documents, such as Certificate of Incorporation and Certificate of Registration
- Flight reservation
- Proof of accommodation
- Proof of paid visa fee
- Criminal record
Do note that visa fees may vary according to the applicant’s country of origin.
Additionally, visa fees change every 6 months based on the exchange rate set by the government of Korea.
The processing time for a South Korea work visa application may vary from two weeks to two months, depending on the visa type and each individual case.
Hiring Foreigners in South Korea: After Entering the Country
Within 15 days of entering the Republic of Korea, every foreign worker must undergo employment training offered by either the Human Resources Development Service of Korea or the Korea International Labor Foundation.
Additionally, foreign workers must get medical check-ups and submit an alien registration application to the Immigration Service.
The alien registration application must be submitted within 90 days from the date of entry into Korea.
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