If you plan on staying in Korea for more than 90 days, for work or studying, you’ll need to take a trip to the local Korean immigration office. I have lots of experience in dealing with this so I thought I would pass on the knowledge.
Before you start anything you need to get all of your documents in order. There is nothing worse than sitting in the immigration office for 4 hours only to find a required document is missing. Know what kind of visa you are applying for and what you need to bring. Use this link to see what the Korean immigration office requires for each visa. http://goo.gl/3uUdpC. . Make copies of all your documents, save the originals for yourself and apply with the copied documents. If the immigration officer needs to see the original you’ll have it, but you want to keep ownership of it for your next trip to extend/change your visa.
Also don’t forget your cash, the cost of visa application went up considerably this past year, and some of the offices may not have an ATM. Use this link to check the amount you need for each visa related procedure. http://goo.gl/GbCXyW. Cash is not accepted by the immigration officers so it must be exchanged for “tax stamps” at a separate office located in the immigration building, usually with the photocopier.
This site lists where all of the Korean immigration offices are located along with their addresses and contact numbers in English http://goo.gl/7PcS7j. Make sure you plan out how long it will take to travel to the location. I suggest planning your route with Google or Naver maps. Some of the offices are located quite far from public transportation.
Arrive early. Depending on what time of year it is, the visa office can be swamped. It’s not uncommon to wait as long as 4 to 5 hours during these peak periods. They tend to be around March and July. It’s better to go in the morning if possible. The visa offices tend to get busy later in the day. They open around 9 am, but will often allow people to queue up before that. So plan accordingly, unless you need a nice long break from work.
A new feature the ministry of immigration started using in the last few years is an online appointment scheduler. http://goo.gl/1LAV4O. In order to use this feature an account must be created at the home page. It’s pretty straight forward and requires a few minutes to set up a profile, but is worth all the time you will save waiting. With this feature you can pick a 15 min time window to meet with an immigration officer. Show up about 15 min before your meeting time, and you will usually be in and out in as little as 30 min (depending on the specific visa issue).
The last, but most important rule is to remain polite and calm during your meeting. No matter what they tell you, smile. With many issues it’s up to the discretion of the immigration officer. They have the power to make your visit simple and short, or a long drawn out process with multiple visits. These people deal with 100’s of visa issues everyday so be polite and understanding with them, and hopefully they will return the favor. With some more advanced visa issues, like acquiring the F2-7 visa (see the past articles), it may take multiple visits. Be prepared to test your patience.
When people talk about the immigration office, horror stories are usually the first to be shared. Use these tips and make sure your visit is a positive and productive one.