South Korea launches digital nomad visa to boost remote work options in 2024 | Techsauce

South Korea launches digital nomad visa to boost remote work options in 2024

This article is authored by Katie Konyn

As of 1st January 2024, South Korea officially joined the rising number of countries that offer a visa option tailored to support the digital nomad and startup lifestyle. 

While remote work has been around for years, it remained something of a fringe activity for both employers and employees. However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a seismic shift in attitude towards remote work culture and hybrid teams. In turn, this caused the number of people classing themselves as “digital nomads” to spike by 113% post-pandemic, according to a 2023 report from MBO partners

Up until recent years most digital nomads would only be able to enter their country of choice with a tourist visa, which typically runs for 90-180 days per calendar year. Yet governments worldwide have slowly caught on to the benefits of welcoming digital nomads into their countries for extended periods and providing them with additional benefits normally associated with more permanent types of visas. According to Visa Guide, there are now over 50 countries running such initiatives, and this number is likely to grow further in the years ahead.

Commonly referred to as “workation”, this new form of visa is making it easier than ever for digital nomads to travel the world and work legally wherever they go. And while the location is already a popular remote work location, the launch of South Korea’s digital nomad visa will act as another draw for travelers in the Asian region.

Let’s take a closer look at South Korea’s new digital nomad visa. 

Requirements for South Korea’s digital nomad visa

South Korea will start issuing new “digital nomad” visas starting this month, which will allow some foreign residents to stay for up to two years while maintaining a job back home.

The South Korean digital nomad visa seeks to draw in international talent by enabling people to live temporarily in the nation while working remotely. This is likely to be a draw for both independent digital nomads and employees of multinationals seeking to increase ties with South Korea’s attractive economic opportunities.

To qualify, those seeking to apply must submit documents to the Korean embassy in their respective country proving that they earn an annual income of over 84.96 million won ($65,860). In addition, applicants must submit additional documents including verification of employment, details of their criminal record, and proof of private health insurance. They are required to hold private health insurance with coverage of at least 100 million won to ensure the ability to travel back home in an emergency situation.

A look to the future

The new visa will allow holders to initially stay in Korea for one year, with an opportunity to extend for another year, allowing a maximum term of up to two years. The new visa system will remain in a test-run status and the government will later assess whether to adopt it permanently.

“To make remote work and vacation of foreigners in Korea smoother, we have decided to launch a new digital nomad visa,” the Justice Ministry said. “The new system will allow employees and employers in overseas firms to tour and work remotely in Korea for a longer period of time,” it added.

While it’s important to note that South Korea’s digital nomad visa may not be a permanent fixture, governments worldwide are exploring the benefits of supporting digital nomads for a number of important reasons. 

For one, many countries saw a sharp drop in tourism revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was closely followed by a period of high inflation and stagnant economies which further affected the number of people taking trips far and wide. As a result, many governments have realized that by allowing remote workers to reside in the country for extended periods means they unlock more long-term contributions to the local economy.

In addition, digital nomads need to earn above a set income threshold which is typically above the national wage average in the country. This means that governments ensure they offer digital nomad visas to travelers who are likely to have disposable income to spend on rentals, shopping and leisure activities when not at work. This provides an overall boost to government budgets without adding to their overheads significantly.

Finally, digital nomad visas are also being explored as a way to counter the long-term brain drain in which highly educated individuals have already moved abroad to find other opportunities. While digital nomad visas don’t aim to target these individuals for permanent residency, having top talent in the country for even a couple of years can have countless knock-on benefits for the local economy. 

For these reasons, it seems likely that South Korea will be joined by many more countries offering initiatives for entrepreneurs in the near future. 

Said Michael Puscar, a founder who’s built companies across Asia and Latin America, “At the end of the day, international entrepreneurs want to work in countries they enjoy being in. That might sound trivial, but when you’re talking about doing business, it really matters.”

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