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COVID-19 restrictions, financial problems lead students to overstay visas

Foreign students visit at an employment exhibition held at COEX, southern Seoul, in October. (Yonhap)
Foreign students visit at an employment exhibition held at COEX, southern Seoul, in October. (Yonhap)

A significant number of foreign students who come to Korea to study stay in the country after their visa expires, a report showed. The Education Ministry deemed the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason why.

According to a monthly report released by the Korea Immigration Service, the number of foreign students staying in Korea with a D-2 student visa, which guarantees a three-year stay, was 137,779 as of October. This is 19,881 students more than the year before. Those staying in Korea with a D-4 Korean language training visa, which allows a six-month stay, was 62,262. That is 10,887 students more than the year before.

The figures show that roughly 30,000 new students came to Korea to study this year.

Among the 27,490 newly recorded illegal immigrants this year, 6,256 came to Korea with either a D-2 or D-4 visa.

The rate in which students are overstaying their visas is proving to be higher than that of foreigners in the country on working visas.

Around 80,000 foreigners come to Korea with a E-9 non-professional employment visa every year. Of that number, 8,153 were on the list of those who are overstaying their visa this year.

The Education Ministry suspects some foreign students drop out of schools for financial reasons, including gaining employment.

“Some universities that invite foreign students fail to properly manage the students. With the COVID-19 pandemic, some students at those universities have dropped out of schools,” an official from the Education Ministry said. “Of course, there are also those who come to Korea with a student visa for other purposes.”

An earlier report by the Korea Immigration Service in September showed about two-thirds of foreign students who dropped out of school have been staying in Korea without a valid visa.

The numbers showed 6,974 students -- 67.2 percent of the 10,335 foreign students who dropped out of school -- were staying without a valid visa as of 2021.

Independent lawmaker Rep. Min Hyung-bae who requested the information, pointed out the increase could be in relation to the limited numbers of flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Korea's strict penalty system which imposes fines on those who have overstayed their visa when they leave the country.

In response, the Justice Ministry said it will make an exemption on the fines and ease reentry measures for illegal immigrants who choose to voluntarily leave the country until February.

A significant number of foreign students who come to Korea to study stay in the country after their visa expires, a report showed. The Education Ministry deemed the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason why.

According to a monthly report released by the Korea Immigration Service, the number of foreign students staying in Korea with a D-2 student visa, which guarantees a three-year stay, was 137,779 as of October. This is 19,881 students more than the year before. Those staying in Korea with a D-4 Korean language training visa, which allows a six-month stay, was 62,262. That is 10,887 students more than the year before.

The figures show that roughly 30,000 new students came to Korea to study this year.

Among the 27,490 newly recorded illegal immigrants this year, 6,256 came to Korea with either a D-2 or D-4 visa.

The rate in which students are overstaying their visas is proving to be higher than that of foreigners in the country on working visas.

Around 80,000 foreigners come to Korea with a E-9 non-professional employment visa every year. Of that number, 8,153 were on the list of those who are overstaying their visa this year.

The Education Ministry suspects some foreign students drop out of schools for financial reasons, including gaining employment.

“Some universities that invite foreign students fail to properly manage the students. With the COVID-19 pandemic, some students at those universities have dropped out of schools,” an official from the Education Ministry said. “Of course, there are also those who come to Korea with a student visa for other purposes.”

An earlier report by the Korea Immigration Service in September showed about two-thirds of foreign students who dropped out of school have been staying in Korea without a valid visa.

The numbers showed 6,974 students -- 67.2 percent of the 10,335 foreign students who dropped out of school -- were staying without a valid visa as of 2021.

Independent lawmaker Rep. Min Hyung-bae who requested the information, pointed out the increase could be in relation to the limited numbers of flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic and Korea's strict penalty system which imposes fines on those who have overstayed their visa when they leave the country.

In response, the Justice Ministry said it will make an exemption on the fines and ease reentry measures for illegal immigrants who choose to voluntarily leave the country until February.



By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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