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South Korea Visa for Indians

South Korea Visa for Indians

Indian passport holders ordinarily need a visa to visit South Korea (except Jeju island). You can apply for a visa at the nearest South Korean consulate and receive a 90 day visa fairly quickly. Most nationalities, even those that need a visa to visit South Korea, do not need one if they visit only Jeju island.

However…

… there’s also a little known way of visiting the rest of South Korea without a visa for up to 30 days! This doesn’t just apply to Indians but most nationalities that require a visa to visit South Korea.

The only nationalities that this does not apply to are: Macedonia, Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran.

 

The rule is like this:

  • If you are transiting South Korea on your way to Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, then you can spend up to 30 days “in transit” without requiring a South Korean visa.
  • You must have confirmed onward tickets within 30 days. The flights do not need to be direct and do not need to be on the same airline. However, you should get to your final destination within 3 days of eventually leaving South Korea. So a flight like India->South Korea->Doha->Madrid is fine. As long as you reach Madrid within 72 hours of leaving South Korea.
  • You must ALSO have a valid entry visa for your final destination. So a US, Canadian, Australian, Kiwi, or European visa should be in your passport. Alternately, if you have a residence permit for one of the above territories, that should also work.
  • You can also transit South Korea for up to 30 days on the way back from any of the above territories, however an additional constraint in this situation is that you must have a direct flight to South Korea from one of the above territories. So if you are flying USA->Japan->South Korea->India – that’s not alright. You need to fly USA->South Korea->Anywhere.

 

For the above purposes, Europe is defined as the following countries: Greece, Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Romania, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Malta, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Iceland, Ireland, Estonia, United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Portugal, Poland, France, Finland, Hungary

 

How do I know this works? I just used the exemption to visit South Korea!

My experience when I arrived in South Korea was great, but if you’re visiting from India, be prepared to answer lots of questions before you get to leave India.

The skyline of Seoul by the Han River

The skyline of Seoul by the Han River

 

So to recap, as per the law all you need are:

  • A VALID visa to your final destination (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Europe)
  • Confirmed tickets onward from South Korea to your final destination within 30 days
  • A passport that is valid for at least the next 6 months

 

However, depending on where you are departing from, you may have to answer some questions for the airline check-in staff and immigration. As this is a little known feature of South Korean immigration law most airline check in agents and immigration officers at your departure airport will not know about it. Of course, in India, airline check-in agents are typically much more stubborn and so are immigration officers. The good news is that the airline information systems (TIMATIC) that carry visa and travel info do have information about this Korean law. So if you meet a stubborn check in agent (I did) all you need to insist on is that they check their airline information system.

 

At New Delhi Airport

When I got to the airport in New Delhi, I already knew that nobody in India would know about this rule. I also fully expected that they will stop me and ask me one thousand questions about this. My expectations were met, and exceeded.

Flying to Seoul without a visa, with Asiana Airlines

Flying to Seoul without a visa, with Asiana Airlines

 

At check in, the Asiana agent was absolutely firm that I needed a visa. I had printed out a copy of Asiana’s OWN information system saying that I could travel (you can see this in the picture below). I showed him my onward flights and my Schengen visa. Yet, he kept insisting “It says here you need a visa”. So I showed him the printout. Inspite of putting this in front of his face, he insisted “It says here you need a visa”. I replied, “Have you looked at the paper I’m showing you?”. “But it says you need a visa”. So I repeated as calmly as possible again “Can you please check further? Click on the thing that says more information”. At this point, he realised that I knew what I was talking about so he went and called his supervisor. The supervisor was a really nice guy. I explained the situation to him, said that this is a little known feature of the immigration rules but the airline information system reflects it and the supervisor said “Please check them in”.

Airline rules for Korea visa exemption

Airline rules for Korea visa exemption

 

Then we went off towards immigration. After a short wait one of the immigration officers called us over. This guy didn’t even know how to work the computer in front of him. He asked me about the Korean visa, I explained the whole thing to him again. He entered my passport info wrong in the computer, scanned Zara’s boarding pass with my passport and then when I asked him about that he said “Oh, it’s fine, you guys are traveling together”. To which, the guy next to him said “No, you need to reset it and scan it again”. He looked back at his system “Oh.. how do I redo this?”. “Press Control R”. “Oh … ok”. Then he asked me about my surname and asked me if I was from Bengal. I told him no, I’m from Assam. He kept insisting that my surname was from Bengal. After that, he refused to believe my Schengen visa was real and put it into the UV scanner. Ten minutes went by and he was still struggling with his system. Finally he gave up and told me to go over to the other immigration guy sitting next to him.

The next guy asks me again about the Korean visa. I tell him the whole story once more. He then asks me “Do you have any letter or something?” Now, I knew that this might come up so I came prepared. I had the printout from the airline information system. In addition to this, I had also printed out the web pages from the Korean immigration service regarding the rules. I had also taken a printout in Korean just in case the immigration officer in Seoul didn’t know about these rules (they did know). I showed them to this guy.

He spent about 5 minutes reading them really carefully. Then he says “Okay, I’m letting you go but if you face any problems it’s all on you. We’ve never heard anything about this type of rule”. So I said “That’s fine”. He stamped me out, and we were finally on our way!

After this, we were lucky to have a super empty flight. Just 90 people in an A330-300 aircraft. Wonderfully comfortable and we soon arrived in Korea.

 

At Seoul Incheon Airport

Korean immigration was a breeze. I walked up to the officer, said Hello and explained that I am transiting through Korea for 12 days on my way to Europe and showed her the printouts of my confirmed tickets onwards. I also showed her my Schengen visa. She asked me “Your final destination is Portugal?” and I said “Yes”.

That was it, she stamped me in for 30 days and wrote under the stamp (in Korean): India-Korea-Portugal.

South Korea visa exemption stamp on my Indian passport

South Korea visa exemption stamp on my Indian passport

 

The Korean Embassy in India

The Korean embassy in India told me that I would need a visa if my final destination was Europe. This transit visa exemption has existed for a long time for travellers going to the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The Korean embassy in New Delhi knows about this and will confirm that you can visit Korea without a visa for up to 30 days if you’re going onwards to these 4 countries. However, the Europe rule has only been added recently (March 2017). So, the Korean embassy in New Delhi told me I needed a visa to come to South Korea if I was flying onwards to Europe.

Unfortunately, there’s sometimes a lack of communication between various agencies. I knew the rules that Korean immigration had directly put up. I also knew that the airline information systems reflected the rules from Korean immigration. Unfortunately, the Korean embassy in New Delhi hasn’t updated themselves. Also, the Korean embassy in Australia has published the updated rules on their website (click on the notice that’s titled: Transit tourists bound for another country). I still wasn’t convinced, especially after I had received a negative response from the Korean embassy in New Delhi. My experience had taught me though that consulates can often give out wrong info since government agencies don’t always work in sync with each other.

So I decided to email the Korean consulate in Australia. They sent me the direct number of the Korean immigration service and asked me to double check with them. I called the Korean immigration service over the phone and they confirmed that this type of transit visa exemption does indeed exist for Europe bound passengers of most nationalities. That was enough for me.

Korea Immigration Service Telephone

Korea Immigration Service Telephone

 

We packed our bags and finally arrived in South Korea! Overall, it was worth it since we spent about 30 minutes extra at the airport in India repeating the same information at check-in and then immigration and we had to take some extra printouts with us. It also fit in neatly with our plans of traveling onwards to Europe. Definitely beats applying for a visa any day.

Enjoying a picnic of Chimaek at the Ttukseom Han River Park... even though the South Korean Embassy in Delhi didn't think this was possible!

Enjoying a picnic of Chimaek at the Ttukseom Han River Park… even though the South Korean Embassy in Delhi didn't think this was possible!

 

How to travel to South Korea without a visa

Overall, it’s pretty straightforward. You should of course be planning to fly onwards to Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. You should also have the right visas to enter these countries. If you’re planning to use this visa exemption in South Korea I recommend you go to the airport with time to spare (3 hours before your flight). Carry with yourself printed copies of the following:

 

If you aren’t leaving from an Indian airport, you shouldn’t face most of the issues I had to face. However, it’s always good to be prepared and still way better than spending time and money to apply for a visa beforehand!


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45 Comments

  • Ankit Saini Says

    Amazing information …thanks for sharing ..

  • Anita Says

    You’re doing an amazing job! I always love your Visas for Indians posts. They’re so thorough…

  • YUVA Says

    Indian Immigration Sucks…They stopped and harrased me when I was flying to Manila from Kolkata for a similar reason. Glad that you are let through…

    • Rohit Says

      What happened Yuva? Did they let you through? One need to really ask if they actually have the authority to stop you for any arbitrary reason possible?

  • Rohit Says

    I can’t describe the utter and complete incompetence of the Indian immigration agents at Indian airports. What’s worse is that they use their power to threaten genuine travelers from travelling abroad. If you happen to have an Indian passport, these guys fully abuse their power and tell you that they won’t “let you go”. I’m an avid traveler and love to travel often and dealing with these guys is always the worst part.

  • Kamal Says

    I taught a lot of information from this
    about transit visa …

    Thanks

  • GARUAV Says

    THANKS FOR VALUBALE INFORMATION, BUT I WANT TO KNOW ONE THE THINK MORE, I HAVE BEEN TRAVELED SOUTH KROEA 6 MONTHS AGO, NOW I HAVE PLANING FOR VISIT JEJU ISLAND, BUT I WANT TO TRANSIT SEOUL TO MEET MY FRINEDS , IS THIS POSIBLE

    • Sajan Says

      I’m sajan frome India Haryana
      I want to go South Korea . But I don’t know what documents I show Nd how much money . But I’m still Malaysia work . Nd work visa also have Malaysia only but I’m want to Malaysia to South Korea going only tourist visa

  • Shaikh Abdul mutallib Says

    Jordan visa help

  • Devarajan Says

    Hi Guys,

    U r really an inspirations to many Indians and you are so informative. I always get excited to visit the countries you travelled after reading your blog.You guys are spending too much of your time/money and help us saving the same!!

    Appreciate your good work!!
    Devaraj, New Delhi

  • anonymous Says

    I tried this from Oita airport, Japan.
    They didn’t allow me to board even though my next flight is to USA (through Beijing)
    I think some aircraft carriers despite not following the immigration rules.
    This time it happens to be that the transfer service between air carriers is not there so they didnt allow me to board the flight and said only transit of less than 9hrs could be taken for travel through Seoul. Defying all odds.

    • Ashray Says

      What airline was it and did you ask for an official reason for denied boarding? They can usually look up visa info like this in the TIMATIC system and almost every major airline uses it.

  • anonymous Says

    its a korean aircraft, they asked me to directly to take the next flight to USA with out entering seoul – however they upgraded me to a better fare and rebooked me for free today…so its a risk to take, if it hasnt worked as planned.

  • anonymous Says

    They did look up TIMATAC, some times ithis 3hr window of checkin is too insufficient to decide and move several countries immigrations opinion – exp whn i am taking a route through north east asia. – japan-southkorea-china-usa.
    that way i think you got a better treatment from Indian counterparts. They do have no communication issues. however have you known the local langauges fluently here, may be they will allow here in north eastern asia too.

    • Ashray Says

      It may be better to get a confirmation from the airline beforehand over email and then carry a print out with you. At least then they can somehow re-confirm internally. Yes, communication can be quite an issue in North Eastern Asia. We had some communication issues on our outbound flight from Korea but it all worked out in the end.

  • Z Says

    Does anyone have any experience applying for a South Korean visa from India?

    I can’t get any info about the ITR forms they require. I got my Form 16s, are they enough? please reply I’m visiting South Korea and even the visa agents are not at all clear about what docs they need, is it the actual iTR V ( i dont have it) or just Form 16. I’m freaking out as there is less than 25 days for my journey and not yet sorted this one out.

  • You have provided very important information. And people get benefit from such useful information.
    Thank you so much for this

  • Trying this today in a few hours. Hope it works out!

    Also found this on the Korean embassy to India’s web site for anyone who comes to this page in the future
    http://overseas.mofa.go.kr/in-en/brd/m_2653/view.do?seq=739059
    (if the link is invalid at some point just search for transit in the search box)

    • Ashray Says

      Good luck with the trip!

      The document you shared is not the latest version of visa exemptions because it does not include the transit visa provisions for Europe bound tourists. The one from the Korean embassy in Australia (linked in the article) is more recent.

      • Hi Ashray,
        You’re the best. Got an awesome trip from south korea out of it. Had zero problems at the asiana counter and immigration (luckily).
        I would not have looked into to if not for your blog.

        You’re right about the article.

        Thanks a ton,

  • Durga Says

    Hi, Valuable information. i just have one thought. If you are not able to continue your trip for some emergency, are you allowed to take a flight back to India, or should you take the long route

  • son Says

    Hi, My travel route is Bangalore->singapore->Seoul->Los angeles. I have valid visas for USA and Singapore. Will i be eligible for the visa free entry to south korea, as it is not a direct flight from India to south korea? Any information will be appreciated. Thanks

    • Ashray Says

      Yeah you’ll get visa free entry. The flight only needs to be direct on the way back. So if you were doing Los Angeles->Seoul->Singapore->Bangalore that would not have worked.

      • sarath xavier Says

        may i ask y lax-seoul-singapore-banglore wudnt work.. according to the webisite direct flight from us to seoul and then to anywer(including singapore or banglore) is eligible..
        kindly advise
        m planing to do lax-seol-cochin(via kulalumpur, inn air asia flight) very soon
        thnx for u valuable info :)

  • SAhil Says

    i am a indian passport holder..i am working in japan and have a workvisa of japan of 5 years..
    I am flying from Tokyo to delhi with a layover at seoul for 20 hours.
    Do i need to apply for visa before flying ?
    Or i can get a on arrival visa .(just for 1 day )

    • Ashray Says

      Unfortunately Japan visa holders are not on the list of exemptions. They used to be there about 2 years ago but the rules have changed since. So you should apply for a visa before flying or stay in the airside transit area at Seoul airport.

      • Rajiv Verma Says

        Hi Ashray,
        I have a similar question, flying Delhi to Tokyo with layover at Seoul . I have japan’s tourist visa.
        I want to go out side from airport ,
        will i get visa on arrival ?

        • Ashray Says

          I don’t think the Japanese visa exemption applies any more for South Korea. So you may not be able to exit the airport.

  • Meg Says

    Hi Ashray,
    Your website is absolutely amazing! I love everything I read here and am already planning my next travel, I am on my way back home but not really! lol Thank you for what you guys are doing!
    If only I could find a better way to book flights which are not round trips, that would be just perfect!
    Hopefully I get to say Aloha

  • Tatoba Says

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

  • Blazing Bernard Says

    i have valid UK and USA visas stamped on my Indian passport. Can I get visa on arrival, although my next destination from Seoul will be some where in China and onward to Hongkong and to London. Is it necessary that we have to leave for our final destination in USA OR UK directly from Seoul? or stop overs allowed? Should they care about where we go next from Seoul? Please help me with this info

    • Ashray Says

      Technically they allow you a single stopover of up to 3 days on your journey to the US/UK/Europe. I don’t know if an itinerary with multiple stopovers will work. You should call the Korean immigration service (number is in the article above) to make sure.

  • I HAVE PLANING FOR VISIT JEJU ISLAND, I am a Indian TRANSIT to Delhi, MEET MY FRINEDS JEJU ISLAND, What is POSIBLE..

  • Nile Says

    Thanks! This definitely helped! Now, time to plan my trip there.

  • Damanpreet singh Says

    Hi Ashray,
    Very useful and amazing information you shared. Very helpful to my travel to many destinations. I appreciate. Thanks for sharing you experience.
    Regards
    Damanpreet Singh

  • Shruti Rai Says

    I’m planning to visit Seoul and Busan..for 1 week travel(just to explore my favorite country) from India.. So do I need anything special if i only visit from New delhi(India)>SouthKorea>New delhi..back..

  • Devnil Says

    I am planning to fly DEL-ICN-SFO and stay in transit in Seoul for 3 days. I have a US tourist visa,am I eligible.
    The notice in the website of Korean Embassy in Australia says that we must live in those 4 countries, but I live in India .
    Am I eligible for this ?

    • Ashray Says

      Yes, it says in point 1 that if you are in transit, it’s alright. You can stay in Seoul for 3 days.

  • walter Says

    Do I require a visa for a connecting flight (5hrs stop at ICN) If I hold an onward ticket to Japan?

  • Mehul Says

    Thanks for Sharing

  • San Says

    Actually I want to stay in South Korea and then I want to find a job… can get a permanent visa to stay in South korea

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