Feeling lost? Here’s a guide to the Foreign Registration Card!
Last week, we went over the process of getting a H-1 visa to go to Korea for a long-term stay. But one thing that’s important to note is that you can’t live in South Korea for over 3 months without issuing a Foreign Registration Card (formerly called Alien Registration Card or ARC). If you don’t, you will get into big trouble at the airport when leaving the country because yes, they can tell when you entered! You could get a huge fine!
This card looks like an identity card and is used to officially make you a foreign resident. On it, there’s a registration number that every resident, even Koreans, have. Then, your name and nationality are written. At the bottom, there’s a mention of your status, meaning your type of visa. It also mentions your date of birth. On the back, the validity period of your visa is written with your Korean address.
Even outside of the legal standpoint, having a Foreign Registration Card is convenient. It allows you to go out without always carrying your passport. It can also be used to create Korean bank accounts, signing a lease, working legally (for H-1 visa, the visa itself is not sufficient), buy and order certain stuff.
How to apply
First, you will need to make an appointment to one of the immigration offices. You cannot make an appointment before entering the South Korean territory and there can be quite a long wait, so make sure to book it as soon as possible after your arrival. To make an appointment, you first need to know which immigration office you belong to. This depends on the jurisdiction you belong to. Here’s a list of Seoul’s immigration offices. If you live in another city, make sure to check the address of your immigration office by following this link: https://www.hikorea.go.kr/gvrnsrch/GvrnSrchPageR.pt
Seoul Immigration Office
319-2, Sinjeong 6 dong, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul
Seongdong-gu, Gwangjin-gu, Gangdong-gu, Yongsan-gu, Dongjak-gu, Gwanak-gu, Seocho-gu, Gangnam-gu, Songpa-gu, Gwacheon-si, Hanam-si, Seongnam-si
Seoul Immigration Office Sejongno Branch Office
2,3F Seoul Global Senter,38 Jongro Jongno-gu, Seoul
Jongno-gu, jung-gu, Eunpyeong-gu,Dongdaemun-gu, Jungnang-gu, Dobong-gu, Seongbuk-gu, Gangbuk-gu, Nowon-gu of Seoul
Seoul Southern Immigration Office
48 Magokseo 1-ro, Gangseo-gu, Seoul
Gangseo-gu, Guro-gu, Geumcheon-gu, Mapo-gu, Seodaemun-gu, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Yangcheon-gu
To book an appointment, follow this link https://www.hikorea.go.kr/resv/ResvIntroR.pt Note that the website is only accessible during office hours.
Once your appointment is booked, you need to prepare the following documents:
- The Foreign Registration Card application Form (you can fill it in directly at the immigration office)
- Your passport
- Your visa
- 1 identity picture (color, 3.5cm X 4.5cm)
- A proof of Residence
- The receipt from the payment of the application fee (KRW 30,000)
Some additional documents can be needed according to your visa type. Make sure to read the instructions on the website.
You will pay the application fee on the day of your visit, on a machine at the office. Make sure to bring the amount you will need in cash! Also note that an additional 3,000 won will be needed if you want the card to be sent back to your address.
Once you paid your fee, you can go to the main office and get assigned a number. Then, you just have to wait for your number to be called to hand out your documents and the receipt from the payment of the application fee.
About a month later, you will get your card, whether it’s in your postal box or at the office if you chose to pick it up.
I made my appointment a week after arriving to South Korea. I had printed my documents beforehand while still in France, so I didn’t have to prepare much except for the application fee. The main issue I faced was a communication issue. It was also my bad for not speaking Korean, but none of the office workers could speak English. That surprised me as the immigration office exists mainly to take care of foreigners’ issues, but oh well… I still managed to get my card, but it wasn’t after a long misunderstanding! First, when I got there, no one told me I needed to get a number assigned: a number was written on the receipt from the fee payment, so I thought that was it, but absolutely not! This resulted in me waiting for an hour before understanding my mistake and getting a number assigned…
Once this was done, I faced another issue. My identity picture from France wasn’t right for the application. A photobooth is available at the office, so it wouldn’t have been an issue… if I had brought extra cash! These pictures cost 10,000 won, can’t be paid for with a credit card and there is no ATM that works with foreign credit cards. This surprised me as well because a registration card is needed to get a Korean bank account, so why wouldn’t the ATM work for the people who are in the process of making one? I was ready to head home and make another appointment, but a very nice lady offered a 10,000 won bill to me… I couldn’t be more thankful!
Afterwards, another issue was again found when the office worker wanted another proof of residence when I already had one, signed by the owner of the Airbnb I’m renting… I ended up sorting it out by printing some other documents with one of the computers of the office. It was very hard! In the end, it took about two hours to get my confirmation.
A month after, I went to the immigration office to pick my card up. This time, it was super quick!
So as a lesson, make sure to bring extra cash in case your picture isn’t sufficient, and print out the most document for your proof of residence!