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How to Acquire South Korean Citizenship


South Korea, renowned for its advanced economy and rich culture, attracts a global audience. Obtaining South Korean citizenship signifies not only access to a high-quality lifestyle but also a deeper immersion into Korean culture and society.


This article delves into various pathways to acquire South Korean citizenship.



The Distinction Between Residency and Citizenship in South Korea


The primary distinction between residency and citizenship in South Korea lies in their respective rights and obligations.


Residency permits non-Korean citizens to live and work in South Korea, albeit with certain limitations, such as being unable to vote or engage in political activities, and often requires regular renewal.


Conversely, South Korean citizenship affords more comprehensive rights, including indefinite residence, full political participation, and social welfare benefits, while also imposing more obligations like adherence to all laws, potential military service, and tax liabilities.


Citizenship is permanent, offering enhanced stability and a sense of belonging.




Pathways to South Korean Citizenship




Naturalization is the process through which non-Korean citizens legally acquire South Korean nationality.


  • Basic requirements include continuous residence in South Korea for a minimum of five years, adult capacity, a good conduct record, the ability to sustain oneself, and a basic understanding of Korean culture and language.


  • Application process: Submission of an application form and relevant documents to the immigration office, participation in an interview, and the Korean language and culture test (TOPIK).


  • Required documents: Application form, proof of identity, proof of residence, financial status proof, language proficiency proof, and a criminal record clearance.


  • Review process: The immigration office evaluates the application materials, conducts an interview and language test, and ultimately decides on approval.


Citizenship Through Marriage


Marrying a South Korean citizen can be a route to nationality.


  • Conditions: Marriage to a South Korean citizen and continuous residence in South Korea for at least two years.


  • Application process: Submission of marriage certificate, proof of residence, and other documents to the immigration office.


  • Review process: The immigration office reviews the materials, may conduct an interview, and ultimately decides on approval.


Citizenship Through Investment


Investment immigration involves acquiring nationality by making a specified amount of investment in South Korea.


The investment threshold is typically over 300 million Korean won, encompassing but not limited to business and real estate investments.


  • Application process: Submission of investment proof, financial status proof, and other documents to the immigration office.


  • Review process: The immigration office evaluates the investment situation, conducts an interview, and ultimately decides on approval.


Citizenship Under Special Circumstances


For individuals with special skills or who have made significant contributions to South Korea, the government offers a more expedited nationality application route.


Application conditions vary based on individual circumstances, generally requiring a recommendation or certification from relevant departments.


  • Application process: Submission of personal qualification proof and recommendation letters to the immigration office.


  • Review process: The immigration office assesses the application based on the applicant's special circumstances and ultimately decides on approval.


Dual Citizenship in South Korea


South Korea imposes strict restrictions on dual citizenship, with its laws generally not permitting adults to hold both South Korean and other countries' nationalities simultaneously.


South Korean citizens who acquire another country's nationality after adulthood typically need to renounce their South Korean nationality.


South Korean law allows dual citizenship only under certain specific circumstances, which usually include:


  • Automatic dual citizenship at birth: Individuals who automatically acquire both South Korean and another country's nationality at birth based on their parents' nationalities may opt to retain dual citizenship after reaching adulthood.


  • Special contributors: Foreign nationals who have made significant contributions to South Korea may be permitted to retain their original nationality while acquiring South Korean nationality.


  • Specific professions or circumstances: Individuals in certain professions or specific situations, such as some scientists, entrepreneurs, or special skill holders, may be allowed to maintain dual citizenship.


South Korea's Foreigner Identity Card Policy


With South Korea's increasing trend towards internationalization, more and more foreigners are settling, working, and studying in the country.


In this context, the South Korean government has implemented a series of measures to manage the identity and life of foreigners in South Korea, leading to the introduction of the latest foreigner identity card policy.


This policy aims to assist foreigners in all aspects of life in South Korea, including housing, employment, and education. Additionally, it enables the South Korean government to better monitor the living and working conditions of foreigners in the country, ensuring their safety and rights are protected.


Conditions for Foreigners to Obtain an Identity Card in South Korea


  • Holding a long-term visa in South Korea (D-2, D-4, D-5)


  • Foreign nationals with marital or kinship relations and foreign-born children in South Korea are eligible to apply for a South Korean identity card.


  • Foreigners must pass tests such as the Korean language and culture exam (TOPIK).


Post-Processing Considerations


  1. Foreigners holding a South Korean identity card must adhere to South Korean laws and regulations. Violating South Korean laws may result in the revocation of their identity card and the risk of deportation.


  1. The validity period and expiration handling of the identity card. The validity period of a foreigner's identity card is five years, after which renewal is required within a specified period, or else the identity card will be canceled.


  1. In cases where the identity card is lost or damaged and unusable, foreigners must promptly register and replace a new identity card. Failure to replace in time may lead to a series of fines and penalties.


The latest South Korean foreigner identity card policy creates a more comfortable and secure environment for foreigners living and working in South Korea. However, for foreigners, adhering to regulations is crucial for obtaining a South Korean identity card and adapting to life in South Korea. Therefore, foreigners are advised to familiarize themselves with more information about the South Korean identity card policy to smoothly adapt to their life in South Korea.


There are various pathways to obtain South Korean citizenship, each with its specific conditions and processes. Applicants need to prepare adequate materials, patiently await the review process, and be ready for potential interviews and tests.


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