This article is the first in a 4-part series. Skip to the end of the article for links to the following 3 parts and more detailed processing information.
Applying For Korean Citizenship & Its Benefits
The South Korean passport consistently ranks as one of the most powerful passports to have, with it’s 2017 “Visa-Free Score” of 157 giving it a “Passport Power Rank” of 2(!), and making it one of the 4 best passports to have in the world. Korea also has some tremendous perks for its citizens, like one of the greatest value-for-dollar healthcare systems in the world, free or discounted daycare for children under 5, great public libraries, free public transportation for the elderly and much more.
If you meet the criteria, you too can hold one of the most accepted passports in the world. Read on to learn more.
Foreigners Can Become Korean: A Relatively Recent Development
It wasn’t that long ago when becoming a naturalized Korean citizen was almost unheard of. Up until 2000, the average number of people granted citizenship annually stood at 34. Until as recently as the late ‘90’s it was still impossible for a foreign man to even get a visa to stay in the country despite having a Korean wife. The wives of Korean men were granted a visa, but men married to Korean women had to get a work visa for Korea or risk being separated from their families.
In the last 20 years, however, there has been tremendous progress. Men married to Korean women can of course easily receive a visa to stay in the country, while the process for foreign nationals has been codified and become relatively commonplace, with over 150,000 foreigners having become naturalized citizens as of 2015.
The South Korean Legal System’s Attitude Toward Naturalization
With the steady increase of long-term foreign residents, the system for naturalization has become both codified and implemented regularly in practice by the immigration office. There are 3 basic guidelines the government looks at to establish whether Korea wants you to join its citizenry:
- Long-term, Consecutive Korean Residency
- An Understanding and Appreciation of the Korean Language and Culture
- Financial Stability
Under some of the “Specialized Naturalization” circumstances these conditions may be overlooked, but regardless it would be beneficial to meet or exceed them. If you meet these criteria, then it may be time to start researching whether or not you too can become a Korean citizen.
The 3 Categories of South Korean Naturalization
The Korean government has divided the ways for becoming a naturalized citizen into 3 different categories. They will each be explored in this series. Tune in the following weeks for more details.
- General Naturalization (일반귀화)
- Simplified Naturalization (간이귀화)
- Special Naturalization (특별귀화)
Unlike 20 years ago, it is now entirely possible – and even relatively common – for a foreign-born person to become a Korean citizen, even without a Korean spouse. Expect the process to take up to 2 years, but if you love Korea and want to spend the rest of your life here, then you can do it. Start your research and planning well ahead of time – and if you need professional assistance, you can always contact us here at the Pureum Law Offices.