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  • Writer's pictureCreimerman Product Team

Navigating the Path to South Korean Residency and Citizenship

South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea (ROK), stands as a beacon of economic success in East Asia. Boasting the 11th largest nominal GDP and the 14th largest GDP by purchasing power parity globally, South Korea is a developed nation with a high-income economy and holds a prominent position as the most industrialized member country of the OECD.

The country's thriving economy, driven by a highly skilled workforce and a robust educational system, has propelled it to the forefront of global economic players. However, challenges, particularly geopolitical tensions with North Korea, have occasionally impacted South Korea's financial markets.

For those considering a second residence or passport, South Korea emerges as an intriguing option with its Immigrant Investor Scheme for Public Business (IISPB) and Immigrant Investor Scheme for Real Estate (IISRE), offering a pathway to permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship.

Investing in South Korea: A Gateway to Residency

South Korea provides various avenues for obtaining residency, primarily through business-related investments. One can start a business, invest in an existing business, invest in real estate, or contribute to a government fund or development project.

Korean Permanent Residency Visa

To secure a South Korean investor visa, individuals need to invest 100 million Korean won (approximately US$80,375) in their own company. Alternatively, investing in someone else's company requires a higher investment of around 300 million Korean won (approximately US$241,000). The D-8 investor visa is granted to those investing in their small businesses, subject to demonstrating the business's viability during visa renewal.

Exploring Business Opportunities

South Korea does not have a direct citizenship-by-investment program, but investment activities can lead to permanent residency. Entrepreneurs can engage in a range of businesses, from high-tech innovations to lifestyle ventures, provided they meet financial criteria.

Investors can also obtain a South Korean visa by working for a foreign investment company, demonstrating indispensable skills and owning at least 10% of the company's capital stocks, voting rights, or shares.

Path to Citizenship: A Five-Year Journey

While South Korea does not have a citizenship-by-investment program, it offers a naturalization process. Individuals can become naturalized Korean citizens through "general naturalization" after residing in the country for five consecutive years, spending at least 183 days each year in South Korea, and passing a test on Korean culture, history, and language proficiency.

Marriage to a South Korean national for at least two years provides an accelerated path to citizenship.

Dual Citizenship Considerations

South Korean citizenship is highly valued globally, offering visa-free travel to 190 destinations, including Schengen countries and the US. However, South Korea typically does not allow dual citizenship. Foreigners are required to renounce their existing citizenship(s) to become South Korean citizens.

Exceptions are made for "talented" foreigners who have made significant contributions to South Korea's development, allowing them to retain their original citizenship.

Immigrant Investor Schemes for Public Business and Real Estate

South Korea's Investor Visa program encompasses two principal classes of investment:

  • Principal Guaranteed and Interest-Free Investment: Involves investing in a public fund administered by the Korea Development Bank. The principal is returned after five years, with no interest paid during the interim.

  • Risk-based Investment: Encompasses investments in designated development projects in less-developed regions of the country, carrying both risk and potential returns.

  • Real Estate Investment: Allows investors to acquire qualifying real estate for at least KRW 1 billion (US$788,000 in June 2023), leading to temporary residency.

Program Benefits and Considerations

The South Korean Investor Visa program provides a path to citizenship in 5 to 6 years, with a minimum investment of KRW 300 million (about US$250,000). Notably, the program offers a short processing time of 20 days and requires minimal physical presence, with a yearly visit to South Korea.

Investors are attracted to South Korea for its safety, security, and opportunities for a higher quality of life. While the cost of a South Korea visa and the tax structure may be considered, the potential benefits, including a South Korean passport with access to numerous destinations, make it an enticing option for those seeking a second residence or citizenship.

While South Korea presents a compelling option for those seeking international mobility through its Immigrant Investor Schemes, it's essential to acknowledge that other countries offer Golden Visa programs with distinct benefits. These alternative programs may cater to different preferences and objectives, like Portugal, Greece or Malta.

If you want more information about Investment Abroad and its opportunities to develop business, contact us today! Below this article, you will find a link to set up a free ten-minute consultation with us to discuss your options further.

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