Entry requirements

This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in South Korea set and enforce entry rules. For further information contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to. You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Visas

South Korean diplomatic missions in the UK are now issuing most types of long-term visas, including working visas. Visa on arrival for British passport holders remains in place, though you should be aware of the quarantine requirements set out below. You should check visa requirements with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London. From 1 September 2021 travellers need to obtain a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) to enter South Korea visa-free, see ‘Regular Entry Requirements’.

Transiting in South Korea

All transit passengers receive a temperature check on arrival in Korea. Symptomatic individuals will be subject to a COVID-19 test and hospitalisation if found positive. Passengers who do not show symptoms and/or test negative may continue their journey. Transit passengers at Seoul Incheon Airport require a ticket/boarding pass for their onward flight to their final destination. They should confirm with the airline(s) before departure that their bags have been checked through to their final destination (as transit passengers are not able to collect and re-check in baggage on arrival in Incheon Airport).

Transit hotels are available in both Terminals 1 and 2 at Incheon Airport.

Testing / screening on arrival

All foreign nationals arriving in South Korea are required to provide a negative PCR test declaration, issued within 72 hours prior to departure. More details can be found on the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London website.

All arrivals – regardless of nationality and length of stay – are also required to be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19) after entering South Korea. If you are not resident in South Korea, you will be taken for testing and must remain at the testing facility until a negative result has been secured.

If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you can apply for a ‘quarantine exemption’ which allows you to bypass quarantine when entering South Korea. The process of applying for a quarantine exemption varies depending on where you were vaccinated and the purpose of your travel.

If you have a Korean government-approved official vaccination certificate showing that you had received two vaccine doses in South Korea more than 14 days before you departed from South Korea, you may be exempted from compulsory quarantine on your return. If you were only partially vaccinated in South Korea – for example, if you received one dose in South Korea and a second in the UK – you will not be eligible for this exemption. Arrivals from certain countries are not eligible for this exemption – if you are resident in South Korea, you should check with the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency by calling 1339 (support is available in English) before you travel.

If you were vaccinated outside of South Korea and are travelling for “humanitarian” purposes (to attend a funeral or to visit family), you can apply for a quarantine exemption via the Korean Embassy in the country where you were vaccinated. Guidance is available from the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London. Any UK family relationship certificates (i.e. marriage or birth certificates) that you submit as part of your application need to be legalised (or “apostilled”) by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office before you submit them. Find out how to get a document legalised. If you are travelling for business or academic purposes, you need to obtain special approval from the relevant Korean ministries; if you are travelling for business, your employer can apply through the Business Support Centre (in Korean).

Even if you have a quarantine exemption, on arrival in Korea you will need to submit a negative PCR test issued within 72 hours prior to departure. You will also need to take PCR tests on arrival and on day 6 or 7, and comply with active health monitoring through the Korean government app.

Quarantine is mandatory if you do not have a quarantine exemption. Korean nationals and long-term foreign visitors with an Alien Registration Card and Korean residence may self-quarantine at home for 14 days. All other foreign short-term travellers must quarantine at a government-designated facility for 14 days. Individuals are required to pay a daily charge of around 120,000KRW (approximately £75) while in government quarantine facilities.

If you test positive for COVID-19 on arrival, you must comply with self-quarantine and treatment instructions issued by the Korean authorities. See Testing positive for COVID-19.

For more information contact the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on 1339 from inside South Korea (support is available in English).

Demonstrating your COVID-19 status

For the purposes of applying for an exemption from quarantine, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London will accept accept the UK’s proof of COVID-19 recovery and vaccination record. Your NHS appointment card from vaccination centres is not designed to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate your vaccine status.

Data collection

Individuals from the UK will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival, and will need to participate with an active monitoring system via regular calls with a health expert and a specialised mobile app.

Make sure you have with you a mobile telephone with the roaming function enabled, and/or the telephone number of a friend, relative or contact who can update the authorities daily on your state of health. A hotel telephone number will not be accepted. Immigration authorities will undertake a test call before travellers leave the airport, and any individual unable to verify their contact details may be denied entry to South Korea.

Regular entry requirements

Visas and K-ETA

If you have a British Citizen passport you can enter South Korea as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa, though you should remain aware of the quarantine requirements. You must also have an onward or return ticket. It’s illegal to work on a tourist visa, whether as a teacher or in any other capacity.

From 1 September 2021, you must be in possession of a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) to enter Korea visa-free. You can complete your K-ETA application up to 24 hours before boarding your flight and it will be valid for two years from the date of approval. There is a small, non-refundable charge. Visit the official K-ETA website for more information and to apply.

If you have a different type of British nationality, or are travelling for any purpose other than tourism, you should check visa requirements with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in London.

Long-term visa holders

Foreign nationals residing in South Korea on most types of long-term visa need to apply for a re-entry permit at a local immigration office or at the airport before undertaking any travel out of South Korea. You should engage early with the Immigration Authorities and apply for a re-entry permit in good time ahead of any planned travel.

Long-term visa holders leaving South Korea without a re-entry permit will have their visa and Alien Registration Card cancelled and will need to obtain a new long-term visa before they can re-enter South Korea. There is no longer a requirement for re-entry permit holders to obtain a medical certificate before returning to South Korea, but all travellers require a negative COVID test certificate as detailed above.

Exceptions to the re-entry permit requirement include holders of A-1, A-2, A-3 and F-4 visas.

For further information, call the Korean Immigration Contact Centre (Tel: 1345) or see the official announcement here.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 3 months from the date of entry into South Korea.

All foreigners living in South Korea are required to report any changes in their passport information (such as when receiving a new passport) either online using the Korean Immigration Office website or by visiting a local immigration office in South Korea. For further information, call the Korean Immigration Contact Centre (Tel: +82 1345).

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from South Korea.

Customs declarations

Check the website of the Korea Customs Service for information on restricted or prohibited items that may not be brought into the country. If you are in any doubt about the legality of any items - including medications - you should declare them on entry.

South Korean customs authorities allow you to bring small amounts of medication for your personal use, provided that it is kept in carry-on baggage. It is advised to take an English language prescription from your doctor at home for both your prescription drugs and non-prescription medicines. It is also a good idea to consult the website of the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety before you travel to South Korea.

British males of Korean origin

If you are a British male of Korean origin whose name appears on the Korean family register, you may be liable for military service even if you are travelling on your British passport.

Employment

To get a visa to teach English in South Korea, you must have a 3-year university degree. A TEFL qualification alone is not sufficient. If you are found to have obtained a teaching visa by deception, you will be detained and deported.

British nationals teaching English in South Korea have sometimes found living and working conditions to be below expectations, and have encountered difficulties getting the correct visas and residence permits. There have also been complaints of breach of contract, confiscation of passports, payment being withheld and inadequate or no medical insurance. Check all terms and conditions of your employment carefully and if possible speak to other teachers from the place where you plan to work before accepting any offer.

For those in possession of a work visa, all employment changes must be authorised by Korean Immigration.