Words by Matthew C. Crawford
Since it was launched in February of 2010, the F-2 Visa has taken on an almost mystical significance in the world of veteran expats. They talk about it in the hushed tones usually reserved for religious mysteries. When by chance someone sitting at the table happens to possess one, it is inevitably slipped out of the wallet and passed from person to person like a magical talisman.
Its powers are wonderful indeed. Imagine never again having to depend on a South Korean employer for visa sponsorship. And for those who – like the author of this article – are in the middle of a career transition, it means not having to leave the country and return as a tourist, and not having to worry about waking up one morning in the body of an illegal alien.
They call it the F-2 Residential Visa. After renewing it for three years on an annual basis, it turns into the F-5 Permanent Residency Visa, the gold standard of all South Korean visas. The only status that’s higher and harder to attain would be citizenship.
When I began gathering information on the F-2, I knew only that the visa was based on a points system. The Korean Immigration Service website appeared to be a trap: with Safari and Firefox the site is non-operational while with Microsoft Explorer one discovers that the visa section is “under construction.”
At this stage, having already committed to writing this article, I turned in desperation to the Immigration Contact Center by dialing 1345. (The helpline is open from 9 to 10 pm on weekdays). The English-speaking counselor made a sincere effort to help, but his instructions later turned out to contain errors and contradictions when compared with the official documents.
Later, in an effort to get my hands on an application form and possibly even a brochure or informational booklet, I made a trip to the main immigration office of Seoul (from Omokgyo Station on subway line 5, it’s a ten-minute walk from exit 7). When my number came up the immigration officer merely navigated to the immigration homepage on her smartphone and held it up for me to see. All the information about the F-2 was available on the site, she told me as I stared back in disbelief.
The trip to the immigration office wasn’t a complete bust, though, for taped to one of the tables for filling out forms I happened upon the following notice:
Application of F-2 visa status by point system
Applicant: A foreigner, who has lived in Korea as E1-E-7 holder • Journalism • Religious Affairs • Supervisory Intra-Company Transfer • Foreign Investor • Trade Management (D-5~D-9), A graduate holding master’s or doctor’s degree and established for domestic company employment (D-2, D-10).
The points calculated with age, scholarship, Korean language ability, income and etc. should be higher than 80 out of 120 total for the applicants for the (F-2) residency visa (including family members).
Continuing to seek out specific information about the point system, I eventually made a momentous discovery on the Hi Korea website ): click on “Announcement,” then on “Notice,” then on “#33” to download the points chart itself. As it turns out, the Ministry of Justice made some changes to the requirements that went into effect on December 2020.
Out of the 80 points, you’ll need to qualify, it’s possible to receive a maximum of
* 25 points for the age category (for those between the ages of 25 and 29)
* 25 points for level of education (for PhD holders in science and engineering)
* 20 points for Korean language ability (for those with a Grade 6 score on the Test of Proficiency in Korean, TOPIK)
* 60 points for annual income (for earners of at least 100 million won)
Points are also awarded for the amount of taxes you’ve paid annually, study abroad experience, domestic volunteer activities, and professional experiences abroad.
An actual holder of F-2 visa status, former 10 Magazine employee David Carruth, told me that he was able to push his score past the 80 mark by receiving bonus points through the Korea Immigration and Integration Program (KIIP). When asked for one last piece of advice, David remarked, “For those who do not have a very high salary or a very high level of education, the only option is mastering the Korean language. I don’t see how you can get the visa otherwise.”
For those who are stably employed and hope to remain in South Korea for a long time to come, perhaps the best way to proceed would be to make serious efforts at mastering Korean with the goal of taking the TOPIK.
Having reached the conclusion that I myself would only be able to muster up about 74 points, it’s become clear that the F-2 visa will remain nothing more than an elusive treasure, shining with an otherworldly luminance in my dreams. The scarcity, if not total absence, of the information offered by the immigration services, seems calculated to raise the glory and prestige of the F-2.
For the time being, I’ve turned my humble gaze toward the D-10 Visa, a six-month stopgap measure for those who are unemployed but looking for work.
By Age Points
Age 18-24 = 23
Age 25-29 = 25
Age 30-34 = 23
Age 35-39 = 20
Age 40-44 = 12
Age 45-50 = 8
Age 51 or older = 3
Level of Education Points
Doctorate Degree = 25 – 20
Master’s Degree = 20 – 17
Bachelor’s Degree = 17 – 15
Associate Degree = 15 – 10
Korean Language Ability
Social Communication (Advanced)
Over Level 5(20)
Conversation on a familiar
and everyday topic (Intermediate)
Grade 4/ Level 4(15), Grade 3/ Level 3 (10)
Basic Communication (Basic)
Grade 2/ Level 2 (5), Grade 1/ Level 1(3)
Annual Income Points
100 Mili won or more = 60
less than 90 -100 mil. won = 58
less than 80-90 mil.won = 56
less than 70-80 mil. won = 53
less than 60-70 mil. won = 50
less than 50-60 mil. won = 45
less than 40-50 mil. won = 40
less than 30-40 mil. won = 30
less than 30 mil. won = 10
KIIP = 10
Annual Income Tax Payment Record
- 500 mil. won or More = 5
- less than 400-500 mil. won = 4
- less than 300-400 mil. won = 3
- less than 200-300 mil. won = 2
- less than 100-200 mil. won = 1
Study Abroad Experience in Korea
- Global Korean Scholarship = 10
- Doctorate Degree = 5
- Master’s Degree = 4
- Bachelor’s Degree = 3
- Associate Degree = 2
- Korean Language Training = 1
Domestic Volunteer Activities
- 3 years or more = 5
- 2 to 3 years = 3
- 1 to 2 years = 1
Professional Experience Abroad
- 3 years or more = 5
- 2 to 3 years = 3
- 1 to 2 years = 1
Disposal of penalties / applicant
- 2 times or more than 3 mil. won in total = -3
- 1 time (less than 1-3 mil. won) = -2
- 1 time (less than 1 mil. won) = -1
Disposal of penalties / accompanying family or invitee
- 2 times or more than 3 mil. won in total = -1
- A family member or an invitee, or an illegal foreigner who has stayed illegally for more than 3 months within the last 2 years = -1
Point Total ?
For more information check out the website of VisasKorea.
If you are wondering how to use the immigration website HiKorea, check out our article about it!