South Korea: Permissible Business Visitor Activities Limited
The South Korean Immigration Service has issued formal guidelines that limit permissible business visitor activities under a C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa to business meetings and other not-for-profit activities for up to 90 days. Previously-allowed activities such as installation, repair, inspection and transfer of knowledge on operation of machinery are now considered work activities that require a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa.
The South Korean Immigration Service has issued formal guidelines effective immediately that limit permissible business visitor activities under a C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa to business meetings and other not-for-profit activities for up to 90 days. Previously-allowed activities such as installation, repair, inspection and transfer of knowledge on operation of machinery are now considered work activities that require a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa.
Prior to this change, foreign nationals typically used the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa to conduct short-term business activities, even when such activities generated profit or other benefits, directly or indirectly, for the sponsoring entity. With this change, the C-3-4 Visa can now only be used to perform simple business activities deemed as not-for-profit. Any activity generating profit now requires work authorization.
Permissible Business Activities
The new guidelines have created a clearer distinction between short-term activities that require a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa and those permissible under the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa and visa waiver status.
The following limited activities are now regarded as permissible under the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa and visa waiver status:
- Market research;
- Liaison work;
- Consultations and meetings;
- Contract negotiations and signing;
- Small-scale trade activities; and
- Other similar activities.
Foreign nationals assigned to work at a government agency or a private company to install, repair and maintain imported machinery or to engage in, produce or supervise shipbuilding and industrial facilities will be deemed to be engaging in for-profit activities. Such individuals will now be required to obtain a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa to conduct these activities for up to 90 days.
Impact on Visa-Waiver Nationals
The new guidelines now restrict all visa-waiver nationals from performing any for-profit activities under visa waiver status. Those seeking to conduct for-profit activities must obtain a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa or other work authorization category.
This restriction on visa waiver nationals also applies to U.S. and Japanese nationals who were previously considered exempt from the requirement to obtain the C-3-4 Short-Term Business Visa and could, therefore, conduct both for-profit and not-for-profit business activities under visa-waiver status. Similarly, U.S. and Japanese nationals seeking to conduct for-profit activities in South Korea must now obtain work authorization.
What This Means for Employers and Foreign Nationals
Employers should be prepared to undergo the more rigorous process of applying for a C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa for foreign nationals who plan to engage in for-profit activities on assignments of up to 90 days (whereas previously a C-3-4 Visa or visa waiver status would suffice). The new guidelines will particularly affect short-term business travelers carrying out work in industries such as shipbuilding, oil and gas, energy, engineering and construction, machinery and manufacturing, among others.
Foreign nationals intending to travel to South Korea to perform for-profit business activities should defer their travel, if possible, until they have consulted with their immigration professional.
The C-4 Short-Term Employment Visa (which was previously available, but not widely utilized and rarely granted) is expected to be less onerous to obtain, given the new guidelines. Since the new policy is in the early phase of implementation, it may be possible that some consulates are not fully aware of these changes. Affected foreign nationals should consult their immigration professional for specific advice.The content of this alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the global immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen or send an email to APCCInitiations@fragomen.com.