VisaKorea Guide

Avoid These Costly Mistakes! Immigration Laws and Fines in Korea

Korea Guide
DALL·E 2024-04-13 12.17.40 - A webtoon-style illustration depicting a scene in a Korean immigration office. A distressed and confused man wearing a baby yellow hoodie and a baby b.webp
Jun 14, 2024
This article provides an essential guide on common mistakes regarding immigration law in Korea. It covers key topics like visa mistakes, reporting requirements, and healthcare regulations, aiming to help foreigners navigate legal intricacies and avoid unnecessary fines or legal complications in Korea.
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Navigating cultural nuances in a new country such as Korea can be a fascinating, but at times a challenging experience. We've all likely encountered those moments of cultural mishaps like not removing our shoes when entering someone’s home, or addressing someone incorrectly. While these slip-ups are often met with understanding and gentle corrections, they usually don't have serious implications beyond a moment's embarrassment.
However, there's a different class of mishaps and mistakes with consequences, such as legal fines. These mistakes are due to a lack of knowledge about immigration law, and they can be much more expensive than a mere social mistake.
I've learned this through personal experience and stories shared by others. I believe many foreigners in Korea have contributed to Korean Government Fund simply through paying fines!
The most common answer by the immigration office is, “You should’ve asked X or called Y.” Well, that does not really helpful as you “Don’t know what you don’t know” until you experience the mistake or heard other friends warn or talk about it.
In light of this, I want to guide you through some common pitfalls that foreigners often encounter in Korea. This is not just to help you avoid unnecessary fines, but more importantly, to assist you in navigating your journey in Korea smoothly and legally.

Personal Experience with Visa Mistakes

I want to share a personal experience that cost me a hefty fine of 1 million KRW. I was on a D-10-2 Startup Preparation Visa and set up my business while waiting for my patent to get issued. Under the D-10-2 Visa, you're not allowed to work, and by setting up my business, I was in a position where I technically could earn money - despite not having made any yet. I thought I could stay on that visa until it expired and then switch to a D-8-4. But to my surprise, the Immigration Officer told me I had to pay a fine of 1 million KRW.
This was a hard lesson I will never forget. I want to tell others: don't set up your business until you have everything ready, such as your necessary patent application and other requirements. Make sure to switch immediately to the D-8-4 Visa to avoid the fine I had to pay!
One aspect that wasn't mentioned in the OASIS class and where the guidelines remain unclear, is that ultimately, the decision is often left to the discretion of the officer handling your case. I communicated to them that nobody had informed me about this, to which their response was, "You should know your Visa better than anyone else!" Unfortunately, there are no easily accessible resources where one can find detailed information on what they should or shouldn't do while on a particular visa. All that is left is stories like mine to avoid mistakes.

Not Applying for a Residence Card in Korea within 90 Days of Arrival

If you are a foreigner planning to stay in Korea for more than 90 days, you are required to apply for an Alien Registration Card (ARC) within 90 days of your arrival. Failure to do so can result in a fine. To apply for an ARC, you need to visit the Immigration Office with your passport, visa, and other necessary documents such as a passport-sized photo and an application form. It's critical to apply for the ARC in a timely manner to avoid potential legal complications.

Not Updating Your Address

If you move, it's essential to update your address at the community center within 14 days. Not doing so can result in a fine of up to 1 million KRW. I know you are already stressed out with all the moving and signing the new lease and the last thing you think about is going to the community center to update your address.
This is how you update your address!
You will need to visit the local community center or 'gu-cheong' in your new area. It is important to bring your Alien Registration Card (ARC) and proof of your new address. This can be a housing contract or a utility bill under your name. The process is quite straightforward. You fill out a form, hand it in along with your ARC and proof of address, and they update your details on the spot.
Note: You don’t need to go to the Immigration Office to update your address

Not Updating Visa Status

If you have a change in your visa status such as starting a new job or a business, it is crucial to report this to the Immigration Office to avoid any legal complications. Here's how you can do it:
First, you need to prepare all the required documents. If you're starting a new job, these documents could include a contract of employment, a certificate of business registration of your employer, a letter of release from your previous employer, etc. If you're starting a business, the documents can include a business registration certificate, tax payment certificate, and office lease agreement.
Once you have gathered all the necessary documents, you need to complete the visa status change application form. This form can be downloaded from the Immigration Office's website.
The Immigration Office will then review your application and documents. If everything is in order, your visa status will be updated accordingly. Remember, failure to update your visa status can result in a hefty fine, so it's crucial to handle this process promptly and correctly.

Overstaying Visa

Overstaying your visa in Korea is considered a serious offense. It can lead to a fine ranging from 100,000 KRW to 1 million KRW, or even deportation. Additionally, if you fail to apply for a residence card within 90 days of arrival in Korea, you are technically overstaying your visa, which can also lead to penalties.

Working Without a Valid Permit

Working without the proper visa or permit could lead to a fine of up to 5 million KRW.
Beware of offers on community forums for modeling gigs or roles as extras in films. If you aren't on an Entertainment Visa with a valid work permit, accepting these jobs technically constitutes illegal work. Often, people will offer to pay you in cash to sidestep taxes and regulation. This also applies to language teaching and tutoring. Always be mindful of such offers and aware of your legal situation.

Not Carrying Alien Registration Card

As a foreigner, you must carry your Alien Registration Card at all times. Failure to do so can result in a fine up to 100,000 KRW.
It's important to always carry identification, such as your Alien Registration Card if you're a foreigner in Korea. While it may seem inconvenient, the law requires it and you may be fined if you fail to comply. In many instances, a simple warning may be issued, but don't count on this – some officers may choose to enforce the law strictly. So, to avoid any unnecessary trouble, keep your ID on hand at all times, even if you're just stepping out briefly.

Not Reporting Passport Renewal

If you renew your passport, you must report this to the Immigration Office within 14 days. Failure to do so can result in a fine up to 1 million KRW.
Just as mentioned above, it's crucial to update your personal information within 14 days to let the immigration or local community center know that you have updated your passport. This also makes it easier to bypass the immigration line when entering back into Korea. You can simply scan your passport and go straight through the smart automatic immigration!

Not Paying for Health Care

All residents in Korea, including foreigners, are required to join the National Health Insurance program. Failure to pay for health care can lead to fines and penalties.
After living in Korea for 6 months, foreigners are required to pay into the national health care system. However, if you can prove that you already have sufficient health care coverage, such as travel insurance, you may be exempt from this requirement. It's important to note that the exemption must be applied for before you're entered into the health care system.


In conclusion, understanding the intricacies of immigration law in Korea is of utmost importance to avoid costly mistakes. While some aspects may seem straightforward, there are numerous details that often go unnoticed by foreigners. For example, many are unaware of the need to update one's address within 14 days of moving or the requirement to carry the Alien Registration Card at all times. Furthermore, it is crucial to understand the implications of working without a valid permit or overstaying your visa. By being aware of these details, you can better navigate your stay in Korea and avoid unnecessary legal complications. Remember: knowledge is power, and being informed can save you from costly fines and legal inconvenience.
List of common Mistakes
  • Personal experience with visa mistakes
  • Not applying for a residence card in Korea within 90 days of arrival
  • Not updating your address
  • Not updating visa status
  • Overstaying visa
  • Working without a valid permit
  • Not carrying Alien registration card
  • Not reporting passport renewal
  • Not paying for health care

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Kim Ninja (Huy-Kim Nguyen)
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