South Korea is embracing the digital nomad culture, particularly “workation” or the culture of remote work and extended vacations.
Starting 1 January 2024, the government of South Korea introduced its new Workation visa or a Digital Nomad visa.
Over 60 countries have adopted digital nomad visas in response to increasing workcations and remote work trends.
“We hope the workcation visa will allow high-earning foreigners to stay in Korea’s various regions and vitalize the local economy. We hope the visa will be an opportunity for us to showcase our country and our culture,” said the South Korean Justice Ministry, as quoted by Korea JoongAng Daily.
The government is treating this rollout as a trial to assess its effectiveness. However, the Justice Ministry aims to improve remote work and tourism for foreigners in Korea.
What is South Korea’s Workation visa
South Korea’s new Workation visa allows foreigners to stay for up to one year from their entry date, with the option to extend for another year.
They are also entitled to bring a partner and children under age 18.
It’s crucial to note that the Workation visa does not allow digital nomads to seek employment or conduct profitable work within South Korea.
Before the Workation visa, foreigners who plan to work while traveling in the country must have a tourist visa. This is valid only for stays of fewer than 90 days.
For stays of more than 90 days in South Korea, foreigners must apply for foreigner registration with the immigration branch office that has jurisdiction over their residence. This must be done within 90 days from the date of entry into the country.
When changing residences in South Korea, foreigners must also report their new address to either the immigration branch office or the local city, county, or district office with jurisdiction over the new place of residence. Their address must be updated within 14 days of moving in.
Requirements and eligibility
The South Korean Workation visa is equivalent to other digital nomad visas for foreign nationals who want to work while staying and vacationing in the country.
Qualified applicants should be 18 years or older. They must also own a foreign company or have been employed by a foreign company for at least one year.
They must also earn more than twice the previous year’s Korean Gross National Income (GNI) per capita after tax deduction.
The Bank of Korea announces the South Korean GNI yearly. As of 2022, this is approximately £51,000 ($65,000 or €59,000) annually after tax.
Applicants will also be subject to a criminal record check.
They are also required to have private health insurance with coverage of at least £60,378 (₩100 million) to ensure their ability to return home in case of emergencies.
Foreigners already in South Korea may switch from the visa exemption, tourist visa, or short-term stay visa to the Workation visa.
What is “workation”? Who is considered a digital nomad?
Workation is a contemporary trend where people maintain a regular work routine while traveling for an extended period.
A digital nomad is someone who uses technology to work remotely and live a nomadic lifestyle, free from the constraints of a physical office.
However, it’s important to note that a digital nomad should not be confused with a remote worker.
A remote worker is someone who can work from any location without being physically present at a specific workplace.
Remote work involves being employed by a single company but working outside the office. This could be at home, in public areas such as coffee shops, or shared workspace with internet access.
On the other hand, digital nomads are remote workers who incorporate regular travel into their lifestyle. They often work from different countries or cities over time.
Many countries in Europe, Central and South America, and Southeast Asia have recently introduced workation visas for digital nomads to adapt to the changing nature of work.
The UK digital nomad visa
Currently, the United Kingdom (UK) does not operate a Digital Nomad visa scheme. Digital nomads are viewed as freelancers and self-employed and must obtain another form of visa that covers these areas.
For digital nomads, working in the UK is still possible with the following UK visas. These include high-potential individual visas, global talent visas, start-up visas, innovator visas, and skilled worker visas.
The UK Temporary Worker visa also offers a more straightforward option.
It permits working for a limited time and covers various employment areas. These are charity work, creative work, seasonal work, government exchange, international agreements, and religious work.
However, each requires a UK sponsor and adherence to specific financial criteria. This may be the simplest and quickest route if primarily employed by a British company.