According to the Korea Times, Korea’s foreigner population has increased by an average of 10,000 per year since 2001 and the percentage of foreigners in Korea is up 13% from 2010. Increasingly, foreigners are being drawn to the strength of Korea’s economy, the opportunity for jobs, and the recent changes in Korean immigration laws, which are making it easier than ever to get a legal work visa. In addition, Korea is improving diplomatic relations with other countries, especially China. Today 53.1% of the foreign population is Chinese and migrant workers represent a whopping 42.5% of foreign nationals in the country. It’s evident that Korea is opening its doors wider and wider year after year, but the big question still remains: is it possible to set up house permanently in Korea?
The answer is: yes, you can become a Korean citizen. The process is called naturalizing. You give up your former citizenship in exchange for Korean citizenship. In some cases you might be eligible to become a Korean citizen without even knowing it.
Check out the following conditions for citizenship:
If you want to meet the requirements for nationalization, there are three ways to apply to naturalize through general, simple or special naturalization.
Eligibility for General Nationalization (Nationality Act Article 5)
General naturalization applies to only those who have never attained Korean nationality in the past, have no familial relationship with a Korean national and have been living with a recorded address in Korea for five consecutive years.
These are the detailed requirements:
Process of General Naturalization
The following original documents must be submitted to a Korean immigration office in your jurisdiction to prove you qualify to become a Korean citizen.
à Note: All documents not in English. Chinese or Korean must be translated into Korean and notarized.
àEach letter should be written by someone from the following professional titles:
A member of the National Assembly, the head of municipal government, a member of regional parliament, a member of the board of education, the superintendent of education, a judge, a public prosecutor, a lawyer, a professor, a principal, a vice principal, a government official, a local public employee, an executive in the banking business, a manager, the head of an agency, the chief of a department, a position in a public enterprise, an executive or manager of a quasi-government agency, an executive of a publication, an executive of a broadcasting company, an executive or a manager of an insurance company, an executive of a listed company.
After you submit the documents listed above to the immigration office you will:
à Notes on the Process
Eligibility for Simple Naturalization (Nationality Act Article 6)
If you haven’t lived in Korea for five consecutive years, you may still be eligible for simple naturalization.
If you meet one of the following criteria you can naturalize in this way:
àNote: In addition to one of these requirements you also must possess numbers 2 through 5 of general naturalization requirements (see above for details).
Process of Simple Naturalization
The same documents are required for simple nationalization and general nationalization (refer above).
Eligibility for Special Naturalization (Nationality Act Article 7)
Special naturalization is determined on a case by case basis.
Some of the main reasons special naturalization is granted are:
àNote: You also must possess numbers 2 through 5 of the general naturalization requirements (see above for details).
Process of Special Naturalization
The process is the same for special naturalization as for general naturalization. In fact, depending on the reason for your special naturalization, you may not need all the documents or prove Korean language proficiency.
Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.