Korea to overhaul visa system to attract more highly-skilled foreigners

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Korea to overhaul visa system to attract more highly-skilled foreigner…

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E-7 visa issuance to be expanded to high-tech industry workers

By Anna J. Park

The government has decided to fix its visa policy for foreign nationals in a bid to attract more highly-skilled professionals from abroad ― a move aimed at tackling the population decline and reinvigorating the nation's growth potential.

This move is part of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration's economic policy directions unveiled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Thursday.

According to the finance ministry, specifically, the E-7 visa, which is issued to foreign professionals of special ability, will be expanded to include more high-skilled foreign workers from cutting-edge technology and science sectors.

"Currently, the E-7 visa is subject to only 86 occupations. While this classification will continue to be maintained by the government, the E-7 visa will further be allowed for various professionals of high-tech industries, regardless of their occupations, except simple manual and administrative workers," an official from the finance ministry told The Korea Times.

The government also plans to lower the income-level qualification of visas exclusively issued for employees of foreign nationality working at local small- and medium-sized companies, so that small-sized companies can hire competent foreign workers more effectively. The current visa system has often received criticism that its required income level is too high for small-sized companies, and that only large corporations can afford to meet the required level.

In addition, the government plans to introduce a new visa with the special purposes of promoting regional development and encouraging foreign employees to settle in such regions. The visa will be issued to foreign students studying at regional universities and colleges, in collaboration with each region's businesses.

The government also aims to expand the visa quota for the non-professional foreign workforce in the long-term.

The series of changes in the visa system are to spur the country's growth potential by attracting competent workers of foreign nationality into the country's economically active population.

"The economically active population in Korea is steadily on the decline, since it peaked in 2019. The government plans to address the issue by attracting competent employees from three categories of workers ― senior, female and foreign workers ― so that the country's growth potential is not harmed from the long-term perspective," the official explained.

The specific details of the new visa policy, along with the government's set of comprehensive policies for residents of foreign nationality, is slated to be announced by the finance ministry's population task force team during the second half of this year.

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