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Visas for foreign workers in Korea to be reformed

Posted December. 30, 2022 07:41,   

Updated December. 30, 2022 07:41


A special system is to be adopted in South Korea to allow foreign laborers to work in the country continuously for a maximum of 10 years. A pilot project will also be introduced, legalizing the employment of foreigners as home caretakers. The Ministry of Employment and Labor announced Thursday that such a reform on the country’s Employment Permit System (EPS) was voted for at the 36th Foreign Workers Policy Committee.

The newly introduced “Special System for Long-term Retention for Non-professional Workers (E-9 visa)” is to be applied to foreign workers with the necessary qualifications, including a sufficient period of continuous service at the same business and a higher level of TOPIC scores. Once qualified for the visa, foreign workers can stay in South Korea for 10 years without leaving the country. Under the current system, foreign workers must leave the country in four years and 10 months and be allowed to get back into the country only once.

The new system will allow hiring foreigners for courier loading and unloading in parts of the service industry, including food and beverage, tobacco brokerage, and the wholesale of other fresh and minimally processed food. While the employment of foreigners was limited in the service industry, it will be partially expanded for the types of positions suffering lack of workforce and not requiring face-to-face businesses.

The government also plans to grant a temporary permit to hire foreign workers for the processing of agricultural and marine products to make up for the seasonal fluctuations of the workforce. The recruitment of visiting compatriots for job searching, including ethnic Koreans living in China and the former Soviet region (H-2 visa), will be shifted into a negative system allowing for all types of employment except a specified few. Another newly introduced system will allow foreign students to land a job in the country with an E-9 visa after graduation. And a pilot project will be kicked off, partially allowing the employment of foreigners in caretaking businesses.

But most of the reforms should undergo revision, and the labor ministry will propose a relevant revision within the first half of next year.

Ae-Jin Ju jaj@donga.com