How I acquired the Korean Digital Nomad Visa

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Table of Contents

In December of 2023, the South Korean government announced a new F-1-D visa, called the Digital Nomad / Workcation visa (hereafter referred to as the Workcation visa).

I’ve lived in Korea before and I love Seoul, so I jumped at the chance to get a more long-term visa. This is my perspective of the application process as a non-Korean U.S. citizen. Please consult your consulate’s requirements for your particular situation, especially if you’re Korean, as the requirements can be different.

1. What exactly is the F-1-D Workcation Visa?

It’s a long-term (>90 days) visa for people (and accompanying family members) who want to work remotely while residing in South Korea. It grants up to 2 years - 1 year initially, and a 1 year extension, as well as the ability to apply for a Residence Card[1].

You can apply within Korea or at displomatic missions abroad, but gathering the documents might be hard if you’re already in Korea. The main requirements are:

  1. Be 18+ years old and have worked for at least 1 year in the same industry

  2. Make more than twice "The GNI per capita of the previous year as announced by the Bank of Korea". For 2022, the GNI per capita was 42.48 million KRW, so the required income was 84.96 million KRW or more (~$63.8k USD as of March 2024)

  3. Subscribe to individual medical insurance with coverage of at least 100,000,000 KRW (~$75k USD as of March 2024) for medical emergencies and repatriation to one’s home country

2. Is it even worth applying?

U.S. Citizens get 3 months entry for tourism, and Canadians get 6 months. The South Korean government doesn’t care if you work remotely. So what’s the point of going through the hassle of a visa?

The main feature for me is the residence card. Many Korean websites and services expect you to have a Korean phone plan (not a prepaid SIM), and either a resident registration number (주민등록번호) or a foreign resident number (외국인등록번호). Having a residence card lets you open a bank account, get a phone plan, and use naver services. The quality of life improvement is highly worth it…​ if you stay long enough to take advantage of it.

If you plan to stay less than 6 months, it’s probably not worth it. Korea gets extremely humid and hot in the summer, and frigid in the winter, so many people visit short-term in the spring or fall. This visa is only really useful if you like Korea enough to live there for 1-2 years. Which…​ I do!

In order to obtain the Residence Card, don’t forget to make an appointment with the local immigration office within 90 days of arrival.

3. Thanks to Digital Nomads Korea

I found most of the information around this visa thanks to Digital Nomads Korea's discord server, discussing it with other people who are applying. I highly recommend joining and asking questions.

4. What documents are required?

This is going to vary by embassy, especially as this is quite a new visa. These are listed on the Ministry of Justice’s website:

  1. Visa application form and fee

  2. Valid passport

  3. Standard size photo (35x45mm, not 2x2in)

  4. Documents proving income such as: certificate of employment (attached with Apostille), certificate of salary, and bank transaction certificate

  5. Criminal record certificate (attached with Apostille), certificate of medical insurance, and certificate of family relations (if accompanied by dependents)

Make sure your passport doesn’t expire within 6 months of your application, or your travel. Knowing that the South Korean government can be sticklers about things, consider expanding that to 12 months.

When I applied in February, I went by the requirements of the Consulate in Chicago, Illinois although I fell under the jurisdiction of the Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, since the latter didn’t have the requirements posted on their website at the time.

In addition, the Chicago / Georgia consulates require:

  1. Valid Driver’s License or other proof of residency in a state (like a utility bill), not a copy

  2. Prepaid USPS Express envelope (check each consulate’s requirements, don’t fill out the From portion as they’ll stamp it)

5. Preparing the documents

The documents that took the longest to figure out were the certificate of employment and the federal background check, mainly due to the apostilling process.

The application form is pretty straightforward, I just filled it out on my computer and signed the last page in black ink. If you need clarification, this step-by-step guide by by Travlists is very helpful.

5.1. Proof of Income

This has been a source of confusion…​ the requirements vary by consulate. The Georgia consulate told me they don’t advise on applications, but the Chicago consulate said they wanted "two years" of paystubs. Most consulates seem to interpret the income requirement as gross income, but a few have required net income. I assume this is from a lack of communication.

I submitted three types of documents:

  • My most recent bank account statement, to show I have enough in checking for a long stay (the application form asks you estimate how much you’ll need for your stay)

  • Gusto paystubs. I chose to include 2 paystubs per year going back to 2021, as well as my most recent paystub

  • My W2s for 2023 and 2022

Since the guidance was unclear I erred on the side of caution.

5.2. Travel Insurance

I went with Safety Wing’s Nomad Insurance since it met the requirements and you can generate a visa letter for applications.

Ordinarily it’s $45.08 per month, but I asked to pre-pay it until 2024/12/31 in order to look better on the application form.

5.3. Certificate of Employment

There wasn’t a clear template for this, but it sounded like a standard 재직증명서, so we followed that. Signed on company letterhead, it listed:

  • the company information (name, EIN, address, phone number),

  • my personal information (name, date of birth, address, phone number)

  • my start date of employment

  • my type of employment (Full-Time Non-Exempt Salaried)

  • my position

5.4. Federal Background Check

This one is pretty simple for U.S. citizens. Visit an approved FBI channeler like Identogo or Accurate Biometrics, or fill out the FD-258 FBI Fingerprint Form and get fingerprints done at a local police station.

I’ve done Identogo before so I went with that. It’s $50 USD and the process takes about 10 minutes once you make an appointment.

5.5. Notarizing & Apostilling

Getting documents notarized and then apostilled is a pain in the ass. This time I went with MonumentVisa to handle it for me, at $55 per document. The savings in time and headaches is worth it, trust me.

The certificate of employment was done in one day, but the background check depends on the workload of the Department of State. In my case, it was 10 days, but MonumentVisa stated it could be 2-4 weeks.

6. Application Timeline

  • 2023/12: Learn about the F-1-D Visa, start researching it, discussed the requirements with HR, and joined the Digital Nomads Korea discord

  • 2024/01/10: Make an appointment with Identogo, received my federal background check the same day

  • 2024/01/22: Submit my certificate of employment and federal background check as PDFs to MonumentVisa

  • 2024/02/02: Received my notarized and apostilled documents from Monument Visa

  • 2024/02/02: Booked an appointment with the consulate in Georgia for Monday 02/12.

  • 2024/02/11: Drove 3.5 hours to Atlanta, stayed at the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown with points

  • 2024/02/12: Dropped off my documents at the consulate, the appointment took about 30 minutes total

  • 2024/02/17: Received my passport in the mail with the F-1-D visa approval

So about a month and a half, most of which was figuring out the template for the certificate of employment, then a lot of waiting. Not bad at all!

7. Application Total Cost Breakdown

  • $18: CVS passport application-sized photo (2x2") - We took a picture of these and reprinted at staples(?) at a smaller size to cut for the 35x45mm required for the application form

  • $45: Consulate application fee

  • $50: Identogo fingerprinting & FBI background check application

  • $150: MonumentVisa, $55x2 documents + $40 express shipping

  • $531.30: SafetyWing Nomad Insurance paid out to 2024/12/31 (otherwise $45.08/mo)

~$794 in total, or $263 + $531, not including the travel to Georgia or the prepaid envelope. The bulk of it being the travel insurance…​ I erred on the side of caution and just paid out til the end of the year, since I wasn’t sure how a monthly printout would be perceived by the consulate.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

8.1. What if my income is above, but close to the threshold?

You should be fine, but we’re waiting on more data points to be sure.

We do know that people who far exceed the threshold have easily acquired the visa.

8.2. What types of insurance can I use?

What the South Korean government is looking for is insurance that covers medical emergencies and repatriation.

It’s possible your insurance already provides that, or offer it as an addon. SafetyWing covers that and is quite convenient to set up.

9. Other Resources

1. The Residence Card was formerly known as the Alien Registration Card or ARC.