The Korea Herald


Immigration to limit period of stay to passport validity period

Change takes effect July 1, with one-year grace period

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : June 30, 2021 - 13:20

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)
South Korea’s Ministry of Justice said Wednesday that when foreign nationals get permission to stay in Korea, starting July 1 the period of stay will not exceed the passport validity period.

Up to now, foreigners whose passports expired during their stay in Korea could get new passports and report the change to the immigration authorities later. But some faced difficulty when entering or leaving the country, and some were fined for failing to report their new passport information within 15 days.

The ministry said the change was intended to prevent such inconveniences for foreign residents in the country.

To minimize inconvenience for foreign residents who might not be able to have new passports issued in time, there will be a grace period after the change takes effect.

So, until June 30, 2022, applicants with a passport that is valid for less than a year can be granted permission to stay for one year. Even if the person’s passport is valid only for another six months, the holder can stay one year.

The ministry gave two examples to clarify its position: A foreigner whose passport is valid for five months will be granted a one-year period of stay even if they are otherwise eligible to stay two years or more. Someone with a passport that is valid for a year and two months will be given permission to stay for a year and two months, even if they are eligible to stay two years or more.

Starting July 1, 2022, one year from now, in cases where it is difficult to meet the requirements in time due to a lost passport, a passport that is valid for less than six months will be counted as valid for six months. However, this exception will only be allowed once per person.

Under the new rules a person whose passport is valid for five months can stay six months even if they are eligible to stay two years or more. If the passport is valid for eight months, an eight-month sojourn will be granted even if the person is eligible to stay two years or more.

This new rule does not apply to holders of A-1, A-2 or A-3 visas -- foreign diplomats, foreign government officials or people staying in Korea under international agreements. It also does not apply to recognized refugees or those allowed to stay for humanitarian reasons. Permanent residents, those with F-5 visas, are exempt as well.

The government said the new rule could be expected to reduce the number of fines imposed for failure to report changes of information to local immigration offices.

Foreign nationals are obligated to report changes to registration information within 15 days of the changes, and failure to do so can result in administrative fines. These include name changes, gender changes and new passport information.

In 2019, a total of 8,768 foreigners received administrative fines of up to 1 million won ($883) per person for failing to report a new passport number by the deadline.

The ministry has recommended that foreign residents whose passports are close to their expiration dates either have them renewed or have new ones issued before applying for permission to stay in Korea.