The scope of employment opportunities open to foreign nationals in Korea is relatively broad, but the type of activity and period of stay may be limited depending on the type of visa issued.
There are two types of permission for sojourn: one allows you to have a job while the other does not.
Work visas include: Temporary Employment (C-4), Specialized Professions (E-1~7), Training Employment (E-8), Non-professional Employment (E-9), Labor Abroad (E-10), Working Holiday (H-1), Residency (F-2), Overseas Koreans (F-4), Permanent Residency (F-5).
※ Reference institutions
Sojourn period of not longer than 90 days.Temporary activities relating to entertainment, ad, fashion model, lecture, research, technology coaching.
Specialized professions, as stipulated by the Immigration Office, are as follows:
Foreign nationals can apply for an E-8 visa after successfully completing a year of training and proper education. Once the training is complete, the trainee (D-3 holder) may apply to have his/her visa changed to an E-8 visa and become eligible for 2 years of employment in Korea.
The spouse of a person who has obtained the status of sojourn or refugee may work freely in Korea.
This status is granted to one who used to have Korean nationality, but now has a foreign nationality, or to one whose parent or grandparent used to have Korean nationality, but who now has a foreign nationality. The holder is allowed to work, except for simple labor or speculation, for up to 2 years in Korea.
Those with permanent residency status will not be restricted in their scope of employment activity in South Korea.
Holders of this visa should sign an employment contract, undergo employment education prior to commencement of employment, and subscribe to an insurance covering airfare for return home and work-related injury. Holders of this visa may work in Korea for up to 3 years. As for re-employment, holders may be re-employed once (up to 2 years) under the new reemployment system. If the current employer applies for the re-employment of such a person during a relevant period (i.e. 30 days through 90 days before the expiry of the approved period of stay), the person may continue to work without leaving the country.
Foreign nationals looking for employment opportunities in Korea with an H-2 visa must complete an education/training course at institution designated by the Ministry of Labor. After notifying the Immigration Office of their status as an employment seeker, they can then contact the employment support center. H-2 visa holders can only work at places with a special employment possibility certified designation given by the Minister of the Ministry of Labor. Furthermore, upon finding employment, an H-2 holder must notify the Immigration Office of this change within 14 days of commencing said employment.
Holders of this visa are allowed to engage in part-time work that does not go beyond the primary purpose of the visa (study).
Holders of this visa may work by obtaining approval for an activity that goes beyond the status of sojourn if working is recognized as necessary to raise a child born between Korean parents or to support Korean parents or family or to earn a living for oneself or family.
Since August 2005, the Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD) has administered the Employment Permit System-Test of Proficiency in Korean (EPS-TOPIK) to recruit migrant workers more fairly and transparently and to help them adapt to life in the country as quickly as possible.
The HRD makes and manages the list of migrant workers who have passed EPS-TOPIK and applied for jobs after review to confirm that each of them meets the basic requirements.
A Korean business selects a migrant worker introduced by the employment support center. The business selects an agent in a foreign country that will sign an employment contract on behalf of the worker. The relevant agency sends a standard employment contract to the worker-dispatching institution, which then checks whether the worker consents to the contents of the contract and sends the standard employment contract to Korea.
※ The Korean business (the employer) receives the standard employment contract taking over the worker. The migrant worker receives his/her portion of the standard employment contract from the worker-dispatching institution.
The HRD carries out pre-employment education for migrant workers who have signed an employment contract to help them adapt to the local situation in Korea as early as possible. The pre-employment education period lasts from one to 2.5 weeks, depending on the worker’s EPS-TOPIK score.
igrant workers should obtain an E-9/Non-professional employment visa from the ROK Embassy in their country and leave for Korea under the guidance of the worker-dispatching institution. Upon arrival in Korea, they are obliged to attend a 16-hour (3-day) education session.
Each migrant worker is taken by the future employer from the education facility, whereupon the term of employment commences.
Justifiable reasons for transfer to another workplace
Upon termination of the employment relationship at the existing workplace, the migrant worker should submit the application for transfer to another workplace to the employment support center within one month of the end of the employment relationship and try to find another workplace with the help of the Center within 3 months. If he/she cannot find a new workplace within 3 months, he/she should leave the country.
※ No persons other than the personnel of the employment support center should be involved in the selection, introduction or recruitment of a migrant worker. A person who violates this regulation is punishable with imprisonment (with/without hard labor) for not longer than one year or a fine not exceeding 10 million won. (The Act on the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers, Article 29)
A Korean national residing in a foreign country may visit the home country by obtaining an H-2 visa/Working visit at the ROK Embassy in that country. A Korean national (aged 25 or above) with foreign nationality visiting a relative in Korea on an F1~F4 visa (Visiting or joining family/Resident/Accompanying spouse/Overseas Korean) may change his/her visa status to the H-2 visa at the Immigration Control Office.
※ Those falling under the category of “special cases of employment” (The Act on the Employment, etc. of Foreign Workers, the Enforcement Decree, Article 10) are persons eligible for an H-2 visa.
When migrant workers of special cases intend to work in a sector permitted to them, such as the service sector, they should undergo the pertinent employment education provided at the relevant institution (i.e. the HRD) prior to submittal of the application.
They may attend such employment education session prior to alien registration at the Ministry of Justice.
Migrant workers of special cases who intend to work in a sector permitted to them, such as the service sector, should apply for a job through the Employment Support Center. They may also apply for a job through a migrant worker employment education institution at the time of employment education. Such an application is valid for one year.
Migrant workers of special cases may find a workplace either through the Employment Support Center or for themselves.
The use of a standard employment contract form helps prevent disputes between employee and employer, protect migrant workers’ rights, and ensure they comply with labor-related laws. Upon reaching things like an agreement contract period, location of workplace, work contents, work hours, recess hours, holidays, wage, etc., the two sides sign a standard employment contract (form: Schedule 6).
※ An employer who wishes to sign a standard employment contract with a migrant worker of a special case should obtain a letter of confirmation of recruitment of such a worker.
Upon signing a standard employment contract with a migrant worker of a special case, the employer should report it to the Employment Support Center within 10 days. The migrant worker should report it to the Immigration Control Office within 14 days.
Foreign nationals residing in Korea are protected under the same labor laws as Korean workers. For more information on labor laws and regulations visit the below website.
What is maternity leave?
All pregnant women are entitled to a leave of absence to prepare for, and recuperate from, the birth of their child. A minimum of 45 days must be granted both before and after birth, totaling 90 days’ paid leave. This leave of absence should start approximately 45 days prior to the expected date of birth. If the birth is delayed the employer must still provide at least 45 days worth of payment after the birth of the child, in order to allow the employee to recuperate.
Furthermore, if an employee is pregnant for 16 weeks or more, has an abortion, or gives birth to a stillborn child, then, depending on the length of the pregnancy, the employer must provide 30 to 90 days’ leave of absence.
Eligibility for maternity leave
Since 2008, companies are legally obligated to permit not only pregnant employees but also their husbands to take maternity leave. The term of maternity leave is three days. An employee must apply for maternity leave within 30 days of his wife giving birth. Payment for the duration of leave are not mandatory for male employees. If a company refuses to grant leave, it may be fined up to 10,000,000 won, or the person responsible may be sentenced to 2 years in prison.
A worker at an enterprise who is eligible for preferential support upon giving birth to a child should be paid 90 days’ of wages from the employment insurance. The first 60 days are to be calculated based on the regular wage by the employer. The remaining 30 days are covered by the unemployment insurance coverage.
The amount of maternity leave pay is paid based on the worker’s ordinary wage on the first day of the said leave, but it should not exceed 4.05 million won for the 90 days.
If the amount of ordinary wage for a worker exceeds 1.35 million won per month, the employer should pay the difference.
Employees have up to 12 months after the end of their maternity leave to obtain a maternity leave confirmation document from their employer. The confirmation document and application form should be submitted to an employment support center. However, it is important to note that an application for a maternity leave grant after the specified 12-month period will invalidate the employee’s eligibility to receive the grant.
What is child rearing leave?
Employees with a child aged 3 years or younger can take at least 30 days leave for child rearing purposes.
Eligibility for maternity leave