How to get South Korean residency and citizenship

Written by Andrew Henderson
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Dateline: Seoul, South Korea

South Korea is one of those countries that, while a bit of a mystery to Westerners, has been an amazing success story. I frequently talk about momentum as being an important factor in choosing a country in which to plant a flag. And South Korea has quite the story when it comes to momentum.

Not long ago, South Korea was a migrant country. Like the Philippines today, they sent workers such as farmers, miners, and domestic helpers overseas to do jobs where demand exceeded supply. Today, of course, South Korea is one of the wealthiest countries in Asia and exports, not workers, but well-respected goods such as Samsung electronics and Hyundai and Kia vehicles to the rest of the world.

Just fifteen years ago, there were only a few hundred thousand expats in all of South Korea. Today, that number is well north of one million. Most Western expats live here among the nearly twelve million people who populate Seoul.

And, while you may not have considered a North Asian country in your plans for your second residence or second passport, South Korea does offer the opportunity for you to get permanent residency if you’re willing to invest in a local Korean business.

South Korean residency through the D-8 investor visa

Getting an investor’s visa for South Korea used to be easy. Not that many years ago, it was possible to come in with as little as 25 million won (US$25,000 in today’s dollars), claim to set up a business, withdraw the money, and live in South Korea indefinitely.

Eventually, the authorities wised up and increased the minimum deposit to $50,000, and then $100,000. Last year, there were rumblings it would increase significantly due to government dissatisfaction with the way people were getting South Korean visas and not contributing to the economy.

Today, you can get an investor visa if you’re willing to bring capital with you, but you have to actually generate some profit or economic activity.

Here’s how it works: South Korea issues D-8 investor visas to those willing to invest 300 million won — roughly US$282,000 — in their own small business in South Korea. You have to show that the business is viable when you renew the visa, or you may be denied a renewal.

South Korea’s investor visa is really a hybrid of the typical entrepreneur visa that encourages innovators to bring their talents to a new country, and an investor visa that seeks to bring capital into the country.

If you have a great new idea for a biotech company that will change the world, the requirements in countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, or even Japan will be lower. Countries are competing for ideas that could give them added business clout.

If, however, you want to start a restaurant or some form of lifestyle business, South Korea might be an attractive place, especially if you enjoy the country’s lifestyle. Because South Korea puts an actual dollar amount (and few other restrictions) on getting a D-8 visa, you don’t have to have an earth-moving idea.

While I’ve been told by friends of mine in the business that the Singapore government likes high-end restaurant concepts as business plans, you’ll need more capital to immigrate to Singapore on such a business plan than someone who has the next hot software company.

A second passport in South Korea

It is possible to become a naturalized citizen of South Korea if you maintain actual residence here. There are three paths to citizenship through naturalization, but the most typical for a foreigner is “General naturalization”.

Under this process, you must have lived in South Korea for five consecutive years and have a general knowledge of the Korean culture. Plus, you must also be able to speak at least basic Korean.

While there are always cracks in the system in these cases, South Korea isn’t some corrupt banana republic where you can pay the immigration official five thousand won and get by with no knowledge of Korean.

It’s possible to get your citizenship here earlier, but you have to have been married to a South Korean national for at least two years.

Dual citizenship law in South Korea was recently amended to liberalize the process of holding dual citizenship. In light of this, most foreigners will not need to renounce their existing nationality if they become South Korean citizens.

The cost of a visa here is understandably expensive, especially considering that many Chinese and other nearby nationalities call Korea home. This is a developed, wealthy country and you can’t get permanent residence on the cheap.

Nor is South Korea a tax haven for corporations. There’s a ten percent minimum corporate tax, and a graduated system that peaks in the mid-twenties.

However, there are opportunities to be had if you are willing to live here and keep your ear to the ground. And there is certainly no shortage of money in many parts of Seoul, particularly the now-infamous Gangnam area.

Even in trendy, slightly downmarket Itaewon, Saturday’s one-course dinner with a couple cocktails set me back $60. South Koreans are so ga-ga for all things Western now that the waiter at this fine dining establishment couldn’t help but steer me away from the $32 halibut and down to the $22 hamburger.

And, in case you’re looking for fun in the sun, South Korea isn’t for you. You’ll need to spend the majority of each year here, and that will include what locals tell me is the ever-encroaching winter season. I’ve been bundled up quite well the last few days and it’s still cold.

If you’re looking for a “first world” Asian passport, however, that might just be a price you’re willing to pay.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Jan 30, 2020 at 1:45PM

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48 Comments

  1. Nomad Capitalist

    I will agree that developed Asia has its issues. There are plenty of quite livable places in emerging and frontier Asia that are a lot easier to get into, a lot easier to afford, and a lot easier to assimilate into (or at least associate with expats). And the upside in those places is much greater. That said, I know some people prefer living in a wealthier country like Korea with amenities like super-fast internet and great infrastructure. Thanks for the comments.

    Reply
  2. ali

    hi i am holding a D8 visa as im running a export company in busan ..so i would like to know if there was a way of getting a korean passport ??

    Reply
    • Guri

      Hello sir how are you
      If u have any work for me
      I’m in South Korea and g1 visa
      Email me

      Reply
      • Murtaza

        Hello Dear Guri,

        I hope you are doing good and motivated in this pandemic situation , I am writing to you that I am interested to get more information about how to get Korea’s Visas and what is the best way to live in South Korea. One of my dream to live in Korea. I would like to hear from you more and more information and can’t wait to hear more from you

        Thank you,

        Murtaza Muradi

        Reply
    • Hasib Ahmed

      what is the age limitation to attend any visa lottery? What is it, I actually want to migrate at my 44 years of age. wanna start a little business in south Korea.

      Reply
  3. Braddah Lee

    Hey andrew roughly how much would it cost, me and my mom lived there from 2007-2014 since she is military and I’ve been thinking about getting dual citizenship

    Reply
  4. yukiharu#15

    What are the most common jobs you can apply in Korea??

    Reply
    • Limet

      For native english speakers, it’s teaching english. For others, you need a degree in the field you want to work in.

      Reply
  5. Liah

    I am quite young, 14 in fact. I came to this website, to find out about this.

    See, I have a family friend living in Daegu, and I am learning Korean and Japanese. I am very interested in Korean culture, and have been for a few years now.

    She has offered to take me in to live with her.
    I would like to know if it’s possible for a minor to move to South Korea, and live with a guardian, and still gain citizenship?

    Reply
  6. saeed

    Any one can help me to know best legal office to establish a company in lower tax area in south Korea

    Reply
  7. Timothy

    Can anyone help me to get dual citizenship or see if I am eligible? The problem is my biological father is American and my mom was Korean they met when my dad was in the air force my sister was born in Korea. My mom left me when I was 6 about 22 years ago and I was adopted because my father and people we were living with abused my sister so I have no contact with my biological parents also it’s hard for me to prove I am half Korean except when my American friends make fun of my eyes?

    Reply
    • JUDE

      I was adopted from Korea and I want to get to live in my home country Korea to learn about my birth parents and my culture.

      Reply
    • Limet

      Go visit your local Korean embassy. If you have your family’s names, you might be able to search the family registry. Either way, they can give you more information.

      Reply
  8. Misa

    How much does it cost to pay for paperwork to become a citizen or South Korea?

    Reply
    • Misa

      For*d

      Reply
  9. MILA SEPTILIA

    Hello, any information to convert tourist visa to G1 in Daegu city? If there any, what is the requirements? Email me plz [email protected]

    Reply
  10. Megan Jennaway

    I have a question. If I were to become a student,which I hope to, while at South Korea, would I still need to get a Visa? If so, which one should I need to get?

    Reply
    • Limet

      The university is responsible for issuing the student visa, if you get accepted.

      Reply
  11. Sulaiman MUSA idris

    My niece makes me love south Korea, she speaks the language without living in the country.
    She want us to visit Korea I will be happy if we can get Korean visa.

    Reply
  12. Abdul

    Hey I would like to visit South Korea for bussines purpose any clue please where aresturant business or a toy shop can thrive well?

    Reply
    • Ibrahim Lohar

      worthless to move any other country stay where ever you are wold is changing so fast don’t waste your money.

      Reply
  13. priyanga

    hi , i want to know more korean tradition and their daily duties and i know more how they love their traditions

    Reply
    • M.ubaid ullah

      Differwnt methods to get citizenship in korea having e9 visa…

      Reply
  14. Hajara Adam

    Am dying to visit South Korea, any clue? I need a Muslim husband there

    Reply
    • MD.SAIFUR RAHMAN PRINCE

      Hi Assalamualaikom,
      First my best wishes for your near future. I am also staying in Jeju Island for a long time. so far my opinion in South Korea it is not that much easy to get Muslim husband unless that man forms Muslim country and unmarried. I really appreciated your thinking and that your wishes you express.

      Reply
  15. Jaehyeon Park(재현)

    Hi guys I am Korean.Korea is not good to come.we have sh** culture.So that’s why I use this site for escape.For example,lower person can’t say anything bad to higher person.When you say like that,you will be FIRED.If you do Islamic customs, be prepared to be treated as criminals.(I don’t like racism but almost Korean think like that)
    I do not recommend doing business, many businessman getting failure.And prepare to fight big companies.
    You must pay lots of tax.But Goverment give only few hundred dollor for month.(3000dollor need for 2people live in Seoul)
    But Passport is very good and foreginers can get dual citizenship.

    Reply
    • John Leonard

      Hi is there a wealth tax in korea?

      Reply
    • Benjamin lucy

      Are u married

      Reply
  16. MD.SAIFUR RAHMAN PRINCE

    Hi,
    I get my G-1 visa. so far have an opportunity to get part-time or full-time work in Jeju island. Please anyone can help me to get information about this.

    Reply
  17. Dikku

    I want to have korean citizenship so that I can live in Korea, get a job and marry a Korean guy… please tell me what to do?

    Reply
  18. Ha Eun M

    i want to get my MBA in Korea and get a job. but is it still easy to get citizenship in 15 years

    Reply
  19. ASHIBESHI LUCY Benjamin

    Please is there any opportunity for me to become a South Korea citizen as a university student permanently please help me and also to get a job please help me am a Nigerian by birth but I want to live in South Korea

    Reply
    • Park Jih Sheun

      no way.

      Reply
    • Limet

      You’d need to get accepted into a university, they’ll issue you a visa. When you graduate, you’d need to find a job in the same field as your degree. That means networking, interning, or filling out applications, etc. Good luck.

      Reply
  20. Anonymous

    South Korea is a shit hole ..racist as hell too… dont go there , the country is a total hooker land , Koreans are natural born hookers and their men are pimps,
    they only love united states or Turkey

    most Koreans are united states junkies because after the Korean war united states and Christian missionary founder harry holt a pedophile built an organization called HOLT international. they brain wash Korean into Christianism and buy their infants under the lies of adoption to sell to families in the usa. the family must pay between $40.000 to $ 50 000 dollars to get a fake adoption ,they had few dollars to Korean families and promise them that when the child is 21 years old he/she can sponsor them to usa

    there are also Korean doctors lying to Korean families as if their childs died during the birth but in fact they are alive and they sell these infants to families in the usa

    I know south korea better than a Korean
    its a total garbage

    Reply
  21. Tae

    In reply to Anonymous, making claims about Holt, I am one of those Holt adoptees and much of what he claimed is false. Grossly and slanderously false. My records showed no such lies that my parents had died. Molly Holt, who personally helped me find my family, right away told me my parents were likely alive after sharing my memories with her. There was no such culture of hiding the truth of what happened, rather, Molly dedicated her life to try and change the Confuscious culture of shame so adoptees could find out about our past. I have met many other adoptees and none of us were stolen. Parents gave us up and were not promised any money for us.

    It is true that the process of adopting was expensive and time consuming. I do know that some of that expense went towards social services visits to ensure family could care for kids, the cost of caring for the orphans, government paperwork on both ends, flight for us kids plus flight for our chaperones and I’m sure other expenses. Holt also runs an orphanage in Ilsan, just north of Seoul.

    Harry Holt spent a fortune out of his own pockets to bring many kids over on chartered planes he paid for. He worked hard to lobby for adoption laws to help the orphans from the Korean War. I have never heard of any claims of misconduct about this man.

    His daughter, Molly, who just recently passed away, spent her entire life helping take care of special needs orphans and helping shape laws and change culture to be more accepting of us orphans. She personally travelled many times with me in search of my birth family and help translate when I did find them. I have nothing but respect for this woman and her family.

    Reply
  22. KARAN

    WHAT IS THE MINIMUM CAPITAL AMOUNT FOR STARTING INVESTMENT VISA D8
    KINDLY DECLARE ME WHAT THE REQUIRED DOCUMENTS

    Reply
  23. Anonymous

    What’s up with ppl trying to all avoid taxes and just wanting to marry to get a citizenship. Stop trying to avoid the system at all costs and just face it, don’t go to a foreign country if you wanna live there as a parasite who just stays there to bring nothing good to the country.

    Reply
  24. Anaafi Priscilla

    Hello,am planning to live in South Korea and study .please can anyone help me with more information and how to go about visa process.
    Thank You

    Reply
  25. lyn

    how to be a korean citizen?I love korea very much and i want to live there.Im just a minor im turning 16 but i really want to be a korean citizen and i want to study there also..So can anyone help me or answer my question.And im studying korean language.

    Reply
  26. Farshad

    I’m on student visa in South Korea since September 2015. How can I get citizenship?

    Reply
  27. Qayyad

    I would love to live in Korea?

    Reply
  28. Ali

    Can I apply for korean simple naturalization as I was born in Korea but my parents are not born there if iam kindly reply

    Reply
  29. Lee kyuho

    Hello looking for a business partner to start a business in korea nothing less than a capital of 100M krw if any one interested don’t hesitate to contact me and let’s build a good successful business

    Reply
  30. Tâte

    After living in Korea for three years, now I wish I stay just two more. But I will be returning soon to launch a business there. Great tips.

    Reply
    • Stasa Momcilovic

      Thanks, Tate! Good luck with your business!

      Reply
  31. lizzy

    I wish to live in Korea but am poor to afford anything but I want to live in Korea nd get a job nd live peacefully thanks

    Reply

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