Thursday, May 08, 2008

Becoming Korean Citizen

-EDIT 2/3/2010- Update on immigration law is available at this post. Please read both posts for complete information.

Dear Korean,

I am a white guy born a U.S. citizen. I know the mechanics of becoming a U.S. citizen. If I were to relocate to South Korea, what would I have to do to become a citizen? Is it even possible?

Flame away if you like, I enjoy your perspective.


Dear Doug,

The Korean can smell the stench of your intention behind the question all the way out in New York. But it’s a straight question, and the Korean will give a straight answer. Yes, it is possible for one to immigrate to Korea and obtain Korean citizenship, even though Korea is not known as a popular immigration destination.

There are largely three ways obtaining Korean citizenship: General naturalization, simplified naturalization, and special naturalization.

First, general naturalization. There are five requirements:

1. Maintain a legal address for five years in Korea
2. Must be an adult, according to Korean law (= 20 years old)
3. Must have clean and orderly behavior (= no criminals or those with communicable disease)
4. Must have the ability to support oneself, or must have other family members who can support the whole family (usually proven by a professional license, real estate deeds, or a bank account with at least $30,000)
5. Must have basic Korean language ability and knowledge about Korean culture (involves written test and an interview – the test is around fourth grade level.)

The only real difficulty in general naturalization is maintaining legal address in Korea for five years, because realistically, the only way to legally stay in Korea for five years is to have a job in Korea – one cannot maintain an address in Korea for five years with tourist visa. But compared to U.S. immigration law, the requirements are surprisingly lax. There is no quota for immigrants, or any requirements as to the type of jobs one may have. The person only has to legally live in Korea for five years.

Second, simplified naturalization. Since having legal address for five years is the most difficult part, certain people in the following can get around it. Namely:

1. If one of your parents was a Korean citizen. (Emphasis on “was”. It’s ok if your parent renounced Korean citizenship.)
2. If you were born in Korea, and one of your parents was born in Korea.
3. If you are an adult adoptee of a Korean citizen.

People under 1 through 3 only have to maintain legal address in Korea for three years. But there are more categories of people who can apply for simplified naturalization.

4. If your spouse is Korean, and maintained legal Korean address for two years while being married
5. If your spouse is Korean, and stayed married for three years, while maintaining legal Korean address for one year
6. If you could not meet the requirements of items 4 or 5 because the spouse died, went missing, or the marriage could not continue through no fault of the person, and you filled the years requirements without being married
7. If you could not meet the requirements of items 4 or 5, but is raising or will raise a minor child out of the marriage, and you filled the years requirement without being married.

Again, the Korean would say this is pretty generous compared to the U.S., especially items 2, 3, and 7.

Third, special naturalization. Every requirement under general naturalization, except “clean and orderly behavior”, is waived if:

1. One of your parents is Korean citizen. (Unless you are an adult adoptee.)
2. You contributed greatly to Korea, subject to the President’s approval.

So Doug, get your paperwork ready. Getting a job in Korea should be a breeze – the Korean hears there are a lot of teaching opportunities, even though you misspelled several words in your very short email.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at

-EDIT: 5/11/2008- Doug emailed the Korean after seeing the post, and assured that there was no ill intention behind the question. So fellas, go easy on him.

-EDIT: 12/9/2008- This post is strictly based on what is publicly available through Korea Immigration Agency website. If you have a specific question about your status, please consult the KIA, Korean embassy/consulate (if you are not in Korea), or an immigration attorney.


  1. What words did he misspell? Letters are more amusing if you don't spell- or grammar-check them.

  2. Heh, I wonder why he wants to be a Korean citizen. Don't need to be a citizen to marry a Korean woman. Guess he just likes living under North Korean artillery bombardment range. :P

    1. you don't seem to realise how great South korea can be, and you show an obvious lack of knowledge about South korea, so please keep your stupid comments for yourself.

    2. Ik it can be awesome, that is why im 14 and im going to be looking into korean culture and learning the language so by the time im 20 and can start to become a korean citizen i will know enough about the culture and language and hopefully speak fluent korean. Along with looking into jobs that are popular in korea so that i know what profession to get a degree in

  3. Maybe, he wants to become a korean citizen for the same reason that I do.That's because I am sick and tired of the goverment here in america. The democratic party in our government caused the financial crisis that you are feeling in Korea too. So I don't want to live in America anymore. Also I was previously in korea for 3 years. So I have many friends who I miss, and yes I want to marry a Korean.

    1. Hi Matthew.I have one question my boyfriend (he is american ) wants to live and work in Korea. How he can do it?

  4. Matthew,

    If you are leaving America because of government incompetence, Korea is the last place you would want to be.

    Also, if the Korean had a way to strike the "democrats caused XYZ" from your comment, he would. That point is irrelevant to the post. Any subsequent posts on that point will be immediately deleted.

    1. Hi, I am from Nepal I want to get marry with Korean citizen and also want to be a Korean citizen too so, what can i do? please give some suggestion.

  5. You are wrong. I have already started plans to go to korea. I will not change my mind. Also I think you are being a little pessimistic, by saying that I wouldn't want to be there. Remember I have friends in Korea, and I talk to them regularly. So, I do want to be there.

  6. Matthew, it's called "figure of speech". You should try it some time.

  7. You mention having to maintain a legal address for a minimum number of years if your spouse is Korean.
    Now does this mean that my partner and I will have to live in Korea with a property registered under our name for the stated time or own a property there under mine and / or my partner's name?
    (By the way I'm the Korean in this case)

  8. Then if I wanna change my citizen to Korean citizen..where should I go for sure? The immigration office?

  9. what happens if you are in the same situation as him...
    apart from i dont live in korea, can i give my best friends address if im going to be living with them?

  10. I'm pretty sure that a foreigner in Korea can obtain an F-5 visa (F-4 gyopos) following the steps you outlined for citizenship.

    However, I do not believe that a foreigner can gain Korean citizenship through your processes, unless that foreigner is a "gyopo" or of "mixed blood" (half Korean.

    There are tons of Chinese with Korean heritage who obtain citizenship in the ROK once they prove their "heritage" to the proper authorities.

    However, Mr. White from Kansas can not simply maintain a dwelling in Korea for 5 or even 50 years, and then easily become a K-citizen following your advice (not that any Mr. White from Kansas wants to be a K Citizen).

    Also, for those interested; Korea is the "hermit kingdom". Koreans' are taught very early on that their blood is pure and special. This leads to a great deal of racism in this country. This racism may not manifest in 'written' law, but it is definitely apparent in practice.

    So, when you try to obtain citizenship at the immigration office of your choice, your fate is at the whim of Mr. or Mrs. Kim, not the law.

    The law does, however, protect Koreans from foreigners. For example, my post could be construed as 'dishonoring' THE KOREAN aka, the guy who runs the site. Critical thinking, argument, and debate are not acceptable in Korea. So, in theory, THEKOREAN could take me to court and sue me because I have a different point of view than he does.

    And that, my friends, is KOREA SHINING!!!

  11. Michael,

    Point the Korean to the law that says Mr. White from Kansas cannot obtain Korean citizenship in a way described in the post. The Korean is always happy to be educated. The rest of your comment is drivel.

  12. Ok...
    I am an American citizen but am half Korean. (my mother is Korean) My father was stationed in Korea, so I was raised in Korea and lived there most of my life thus, I am more than familiar with the culture and speak the language fluently. Unfortunately, upon my parent's divorce, I moved out of the country to continue my high school education. I sincerely wish to return to my mother in Korea, and to work and live there permanently.
    according to this post and the following comments, Im guessing for my situation it would actually be fairly easy to obtain citizenship?

  13. Kim, You can stay on your F4 visa, but it won't be easy fo you to get korean citizenship.

    If you do, you will have to give up your US citizenship. Do you really want to do that?

    Just live in Korea on an F4 visa. It allows you to work and live as a citizen minus some voting rights. Also, you will have to renew your visa each year which takes about ten minutes.

  14. see thats what I thought. everywhere I researched, it said you cannot keep any form of dual citizenship after 21. oh, well. :(
    The f4 visa IS actually what I was going towards unless I could find another way. I guess It wont be too bad. Do you know exactly how I go about obtaining it?

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Hey, my mom & I were thinking about moving to Korea soon, but my mom gave up her ROK citizenship 30+ years ago. 1st question: How could she reobtain her citizenship if she wanted to? 2nd question: If we just obtained an F4 visa, lived & worked in Korea would we be able to recieve medical care? What type if we can receive it? My mom has leukemia, so that of course would be very important.
    Thank you!

  17. The medical care your mom would receive if she could regain her K citizenship is NHI or National Health Insurance.

    NHI, however, does not cover most of the costs of the treatment of cancer.

    So, most Koreans in Korea have supplemental health insurance that does cover cancer treatments.

    However, you can not get this spplemental private insurance if you have a pre-existing condition.

    Even if you do get the supplemental insurance, the insurance companies do not typically cover any major illness until you've been on their plan for at least on year.

    I hve a friend here with breast cancer and two out of three o hr supplemental policies refused payment because se had not had them one year. The one that did pay did so because she had the policy for more than three years.

    good luck

  18. I want to move to korea and live there. What should I bring to korea as proof? I don't mind giving up my american citizenship at all. I don't know if I have duel citizenship or not, but if i don't and if i worked as a waitress at a nightclub would i still be able to get the f4 visa? (im korean btw)

  19. he didn't misspell anything...

  20. Hey. Im currently in Korea working for a big corporation. I have a F4 visa and I'm what you would call a Gyopo. My parents are both Korean but immigrated to the US where I was born. They both renounced their Korean Citizenship and now are US citizens. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the F4 visa duration 2 years and not 1 year? Is it easy for me to renew my visa or do I have to fly out of country to renew? Also, a question about the army. If I stay in Korea while renewing my Visa, will I have to go to the Korean army even if I'm an american born citizen? Thanks
    - Rich

  21. dear matthew

    I also have known about that story you mentioned and I pretty agree to USA government's corruption.
    But as I've known, korean government is not that clean you expect that's why I am depressed.
    historically from later 19th to early 20th my forefathers had suffered two sad events; the japanese invasion is the one, which is first conerstone of current korean politics.
    then forefathers had been vindecated not by their own hands but by USA and UN(but we koreans thank to lots of nations to help us korean) so we had two parties of different ideas; pro-USA's capitalism and pro-soviet's communism.
    therefore we had the most sad event the korean war and have been seperated to now
    after this war, although north korea have killed many pro-japanese politicians of jo-sun:the very pre-korean nation, south so barely have done this job, so pro-japanese of jo-sun could be the top parties of south korean politics again
    that's because very after above processes, early south korean politicians turned from pro-japan to pro-USA to keep their lives and USA also wanted to use them to have power in korea by ease. this is second conerstone.
    as you know, the ideal matter is quite easy for politicians to use to keep their vested profits and advances and we still have north korea, the enemy of ideal matter to easily be used.
    moreover many of government's men and representitves are offsprings of pro-japanese. this is third conerstone.
    but we had experience of democrocy by our own hands in 80s and still have that spirit so we have peaceful demonstration with candle lights against bad pollicy and politicians. this is the last conerstone.
    sorry for korean politic circustance but we have hope and we won't let our own country corrupted
    as you came to korea, you might feel warm heart of korean and I explain our hope and will above.
    if you like that kinds of things we would welcome you.
    I want it to help you......

  22. This post could probably use some updating, considering the changes that have already occurred since it was made. Eg:

    Special naturalization now requires a domicile in South Korea (so you can't apply for it from overseas, I think) and a knowledge of Korean language and culture in addition to clean and orderly behavior. (I.e. two of the dropped requirements were later added back.)

    Koasians (or those who are half korean and half non-korean asian) can be drafted (see Korea Herald article at, and there are plans to allow this for all biracial koreans (, although as I write this the later bill does not seem to have been passed and enacted.

    Also, there's currently a bill to allow dual citizenship and if it passes then it seems it will require naturalized male citizens to serve in the military. But I tracked down an HTML copy of the actual draft (at and can't find a reference to it in the section where the exiting law is amended.

    (Speaking of which, I'm not sure if currently a person who undergoes special naturalization by virtue of having a parent who is a ROK national is eligible for military service or not. This looks complicated as there are cases where an ethnic Korean could apply for special naturalization, and cases where those without a drop of Korean blood could apply (such as the adult children of a naturalized Korean citizen), so the factor of ethnicity and looks wouldn't apply universally for everyone in this category. I haven't submitted this as a question because I'm sure the Korean has better things to do than to track down some rather obscure points of immigration law.)

  23. I know the Korean said he's updating this post, but here's a teaser on the new dual citizenship bill:

    The revised bill woud allow Waegooks married to Koreans
    and Korean adoptees to choose to become dual citizens. As a Korean orphan who was adopted by Americans as a baby, it is meaningful to me to be able to reclaim citizenship in my birth country since I never chose to give up my citizenship in the first place.

    The bill has been approved by the Cabinet and awaits final approval by the National Assembly.

  24. Before the spelling Nazis point it out, I meant “would allow Waegooks.” Unlike the Korean, I was not blessed with the perfect spelling of one subject to corporal punishment in Korean schools. ~..^

  25. My parents are korean. But if i get citizenship would I have to go to the army??

  26. hi my name is anthony mendoza im from philippines my wife is korean we married for 3 yrs but we dont have kids for question is?can i be a korean citizen???what should i do??my visa is F2-1 pls help...or email me at

  27. Or maybe he wants to become a Korean citizen for the same reason I do. To volunteer for military service.

    When I'm old enough I'm going to get my citizenship in Korea, join the military, and hopefully become a KATUSA soldier.

  28. Kyeong-hun, Which army would you like to join, huh?:)
    This is an interesting blog, enjoy to read posts and comments.

  29. I am a South African citizen & my boyfriend is a South Korean Citizen born and living in South Africa (his parents immigrated for business purposes but did not renounce their citizenship despite living in SA) If I marry him, I would like to know if Korean citizenship is even a possibility for me or our children if we dont plan on living in Korea? I would never renounce my SA citizenship, so if this law about allowing duel citizenship in Korean is passed, would I then qualify for it & would I really have to live in Korea for a year or two? Even if for example my husband & I simply own property in S.Korea under both our names?

  30. Dear Korean,
    I am Filipino 24 years old. I want to be a Korean citizen. I like to live here because the government is good and the environment and the form of living here. Since I am working already now in KOREA under EPS. Am I applicable to be a Korean Citizen. What are those things I need to do. If one of the requirements is must have a $30,000 then I will earn for that. Thank you and hopefully somebody will answer my concern. I LOVE YOU SOUTH KOREA..

  31. i am all for marrying a beautiful Korean girl and spending my life in such a great country.

    daehanmingug paiting !!!!

  32. The Korean can smell the stench of your intention behind the question <

    What do you mean? Do you mean you don't believe that someone would never move to Korea because they just LIKE IT?

    You think no one could ever feel this way about Korea or what?

    This is how the world view your comment. And this is why the world thinks Korea has low self-esteem. Is this why you wrote that?

    I can't just love Korea and want to move there? Or do Koreans think that everyone who moves there has some (evil) alternative motive? Do you think badly of ALL of us? This is what your comment communicates and that's not friendly.

  33. I guess it comes down to: If you're going to live in Korea permanently, having Korean citizenship would definitely be beneficial for you, even if that means you have to join the ROK armed forces. But, if you're going to live away from Korea...well there's no point. Stating the obvious, yes, but that's what, I think, it all boils down to.

    Oh, and limited dual citizenship is in effect in South Korea, so as an ethnic Korean and a U.S. citizen, I find myself thinking about serving the two years more and more.

  34. So if I start and successfully graduate university in Korea, I can get a citizenship?

  35. Can you clarify holding an address in Korea.

    I studied in Korea for 2 years (1 year on campus/1 year off campus) then this year I left. I plan to go back to Korea after I finish my masters to teach english for 2 years then do my MS/PHD in Korea which will be 2 years does that = 6 years or no? does it have to be consecutive?

    Any help would be great. I meet all the other requirements and I have reached level 6 at Yonsei Language Institute and have taken the KPLT.

    So if you could just steer me in the right direction towards getting citizenship it would be much appreciated

  36. Hello their,
    I will love if I was a citizen of South Korea but how? When sometime after my collage I will love to go to Korea with my best friend. When I in Korea I make myself I guess no harm of tring.
    I'm learning the language too (Korean)

  37. 1. I absolutely love reading these is certainly entertaining.
    2. I am also thinking of becoming a citizen. (I will give it A LOT of thought.)

    I know I am at the very young age of seventeen, but I really do love South Korea. and so this is something that has kind of been in the back of my mind. Of course I realize that renouncing my U.S. citizenship is big, but i could be very committed to becoming a Korean citizen. (disclaimer) I say "Could" because I haven't gone to South Korea yet...I'm going next summer for two months. I want to evaluate how much I love it there and how committed i would be to ROK. Also, I am learning the language and culture and I am going to a Korean church in my town. (so I do know a little bit of culture and what-not~) AND~ I'm planing on teaching English there, once i graduate from university.

  38. Yoboseyo!

    I am a Filipino citizen currently working in Malaysia. But my visa here in Malaysia will expire after 3 years. After that, I cannot stay or work here already so I have to go back to Philippines. Since I dont want to go back to my sunny country, I'm planning to cross-country. South Korea is one of my target countries because some of my friends say that life and money is better there. So how can I obtain a Working Visa from here in Malaysia, but I am a Filipino Citizen? Please help me. Thanks a lot :)

  39. Hi, my father is a south korean citizen, my mother is filipino citizen, they are not married, I am using my father's name but I am holding a Filipino citizenship. What should I do to get a korean citizenship?

    Thanks and best regards.

  40. Hi! I love you South Korea too. I want to go there but maybe not to be a Korean citizen. I really love the place. So relaxing. I watch Korean series and all the places were beautiful..
    But i think their government is not that good. I just read some info regarding their government.
    And their education is expensive. Half of your income will go there. But if you are rich why not. South Korea is very popular today. Their entertainment showbiz is well-known around the world. Their artists are so great! Wish i could meet all my idol stars their..

  41. Hey, I am an Indian. I too want to be a citizen of South Korea. Is the same law applicable to the indians? or it's different from the U.S?

  42. Is it possible for me to get dual citizenship from South Korea when I'm an American citizen? Both my parents came from Korea and because U.S.citizens and then I was born. What will I have to do to get dual citizenship? Also I'm a teenager, if that helps any. I'm not yet eighteen.

  43. "The Korean can smell the stench of your intention ... "

    I can smell the stench of racism behind this insulting and pointless intro to your answer to this straightforward question. Thank you for your comprehensive and informative answer but next time try to leave out the insults. Just because he is a white American guy doesn't mean he deserves to be treated with disrespect. Many white people are quite clean and smell quite pleasant. All you do with this sort of thing is reinforce the stereotype some have of Koreans as racists.

  44. I just like the Korean food too much and want to stay there long enough to enjoy better. I like Korean Sauna, clothes fashion style, the warm smiles of Korean people, cute Korean language, colorful culture and cheeky gossip talking among Korean about foreigners. What a interesting place for us to stay longer or settle, why not?

  45. As a british citizen, (great britain allows dual citizenship), would I be able to apply for South Korean dual citizenship? I know the requirements for normal citizenship, but do they apply to dual citizenship?

  46. hi there, i am indonesian that had a dream someday to become a south korean citizens, do i still have chance to do that? and what should i do in terms to have my citizenship accepted?

  47. did we need to go to military training if we already being a south korea citizens?

  48. Hi,
    I am 100% Filipino blood
    I am a Financial Management Student and after taking my Bachelors Degree here in Philippines I want to take a Masters Degree in according in my course. Beacause I heard and I saw the news about Korean Economic Concerns I and salute it.
    My concern is...Is there a possibilty to be a Korean Korean Student or I need to pursue a Korean Citizenship to be there???
    Hoping for a positive response from Korean.


  49. Hi I have a question about Korean citizenship I was born in Korea and I am half Korean I had dual citizenship when I was born so does that mean I still have dual citizenship I am 28 now. who do I call to find verify?

  50. Hi
    I was born in Seoul, South Korea but I am a 100% Filipino. My mother and I left Korea when I was about 1 year old and lived in the Philippines for my whole life and now I live in US. When I turn 20 this coming year im thinking of applying for Korean Citizenship but im not sure if that's even possible.

  51. I heard the Special Naturalization applies ONLY for sons of a Korean Father not for a Korean Mother´s and it has to be made prior becoming an adult ? In our case my wife is Korean Born and we have to sons of 20+ years leaving with us, can we apply for Korean Nationality for them ?

  52. Hey guys , if i'm going to be a trainee in a company in korea to become idol like sm , jyp , big hit ... and i'm not korean wich visa do i use ; this : D-1 Cultural/Artist (문화예술) or this D-4 General Trainee (일반연수) also how can i get the nationality i might travel without an adult and can i get the visa if the visa's folder include a tranning contrat with the company after that how can i live there and stuff ? I'm 15 , in korean i'll be concidered as 16 .

  53. Hey i m a 18 yr old guy ND trying for medicals .. I want to get a job as a doctor in Seoul after doing my MBBS from India ... I do know Korean alphabets ND word structure ND i knw some basic words ND phrases ND working on the particles NW so I hope I would be able to learn completely soon ....

    So then how can I get a job there

  54. I am half korean since my father is korean. I would like to acquire korean citizenship. And if i could keep my filipino citizenship then it would be better. With this case, does korea offer dual citizenship? Information with this regard will be very helpful. Thanks!


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