South Korea has always been a country that intrigues travelers. With thousands of years of civilization and a huge range of tourism opportunities, it’s no wonder that the number of people who visit is high.
The bustling and vibrant mega-city of Seoul will open your eyes, whether you’re visiting famed monuments such as the N Seoul Tower, Changdeokgung Palace, or taking a walking tour. Meanwhile, another often popular choice is the tourist-focused Jeju Island, which is popular for its excellent beaches and for surfing. In addition, there are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Korea, a large range of museums and theme parks, as well as natural wonders like the lava tube caves.
If you’re planning to visit South Korea, it’s worthwhile reading up on the visa requirements in advance. In particular, in May 2021 the government here introduced its new ‘K-ETA’ electronic visa waiver system, for citizens of countries who were previously visa-exempt. Read on to learn all about this new entry pass, how long it allows you to stay, and how to apply for one.
What Is the K-ETA Electronic Visa Waiver?
The K-ETA is South Korea’s new digital entry permit, and it stands for ‘Korea Electronic Travel Authorization’. If you could previously enter Korea visa-free, then you’ll now have to apply for this travel authorization to visit. This includes citizens of 112 countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Singapore, The K-ETA is intended to better monitor who’s entering and exiting South Korea, much like the United States’ ESTA or Canada’s eTA.
Fortunately, the application process is entirely online and takes just a few minutes. You can apply from any internet-connected device, and you’ll just need some basic personal details and information about your trip. Then, once your application is approved, this visa waiver allows you to visit for up to 90 days, and it’s valid for two years from the date of issue. What’s more, the K-ETA can be used multiple times, so you don’t have to renew it every time you visit South Korea.
You must apply for the K-ETA at least 24 hours before you arrive here. In addition, it’s important to note that this visa waiver is just for tourist travel, to visit friends and family, or to participate in events or meetings. As such, if you intend to visit South Korea for a different reason, such as to study or to stay longer term, then you’ll require a different travel authorization.
What Information and Documents Are Needed to Apply for the K-ETA?
To apply for Korea’s new electronic visa waiver, you’ll require just the following information and supporting documents. You enter these details, as well as upload the documents, on the website form.
- Some personal information about yourself, like your name and address.
- The details of your trip here, such as your planned arrival and exit dates.
- A passport with at least six months validity remaining and two blank pages.
- A valid email address, where your K-ETA will be sent once your application is approved.
- A scanned copy of your passport’s personal bio page to upload.
- A scanned recent profile photo.
- A credit or debit card to pay the Korean government’s 10,000 KRW (8-9 USD) fee.
After your application is approved, your K-ETA will be sent to your email inbox. Then, you print a copy of your entry permit to take with you, to show to South Korea’s border agents when you arrive. At this point, you’re free to enjoy the country’s highlights such as Seoul’s Gyeongbokgung Palace or the 600-year old Bukchon Hanok Village for up to 90 days!
What Else Should You Know About the K-ETA?
1. As you obtain South Korea’s new online visa waiver in advance, there’s no need to visit either a Korean embassy or to apply for a Visa on Arrival after you disembark your plane. Instead, the K-ETA system allows the Korean Immigration and Border Patrol to pre-screen international visitors before you arrive so that when you get here, you can speed through customs and start your trip sooner.
2. The K-ETA system allows you to apply for up to 30 visitors at once. So if you’re traveling here with a lot of family and friends, this facilitates the application process. Notably, though, if you apply on behalf of your whole travel party, then be sure to obtain everyone’s application details and supporting documents in advance. This includes, for example, the scans of their passports’ bio pages.
3. If you have more than one nationality, then the simplest way to visit South Korea is to apply with your passport that’s eligible for the K-ETA. In this case, be sure to take this passport with you and use it throughout your visit. This will ensure that your travel information is consistent.
How Do You Visit South Korea if You’re Ineligible for the K-ETA?
As we mention above, you’re eligible for South Korea’s digital visa waiver only if you’re from any of the 112 countries that were previously visa-exempt for this exciting East Asian destination. On the other hand, if you’re from another nation, then you must apply for a traditional visa using South Korea’s existing system. Typically, you will apply for what’s called a C-3 Short-Term General Visa, which allows entries for tourism, transit, visiting friends or family, or attending meetings and events.
To apply for the C-3 Short-Term General Visa, you first fill in an application form online. As part of this process, you make an appointment at your nearest Korean embassy or consulate. Then, attend the appointment with evidence including your printed application form and your passport. Once your application is approved, you’ll be issued a paper visa to take with you on your trip.
By now, then, you know everything you need to about South Korea’s new electronic visa waiver. This frees up your time to investigate other parts of your trip, such as Seoul’s best guest houses or which delicious Korean dishes you’ll try, like “bulgogi” (fire meat) or “bibimbap” (mixed rice). Whatever you see and do here, “haengboghan yeohaeng!” (happy journey!)