Seoul Searching: How South Korea’s New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - New Long-Term Visa Targets Location-Independent Workers
South Korea is rolling out a new long-term visa aimed at attracting digital nomads and remote workers from around the world. The visa allows people to live and work in Korea for up to two years, providing a unique opportunity to experience life in one of Asia's most technologically and culturally vibrant countries.
The timing of this new visa is no coincidence. With more companies embracing remote work policies, the number of location independent workers is growing rapidly. Korea wants to position itself as an inviting destination for this new breed of digitally-savvy travelers who have the flexibility to work and live anywhere.
The Korean government has witnessed the success of similar long-term visas offered in countries like Germany, Portugal, and Estonia. By dangling the carrot of an extended stay, these countries have succeeded in attracting digital nomads who inject money into local economies and foster valuable cultural exchanges. Korea hopes to replicate this model.
In 2021, officials announced the creation of the "Long-term Visa for Digital Nomads" tailored specifically for remote workers and freelancers. The visa allows eligible applicants to stay in Korea for up to two years without needing a Korean employer or company sponsor.
To qualify, applicants must provide proof of employment or freelance work with a non-Korean company paying at least $24,000 USD per year. Bank statements showing this minimum income are required. Applicants also need valid health insurance and a clean criminal record. There is no age limit or restriction on nationality.
Seoul, Busan, and other urban hubs are eager to embrace digital nomads. These cities are positioning themselves as affordable alternatives to oversaturated places like Bali or Lisbon. While not as cheap as Southeast Asia, Korea offers lightning fast internet, excellent infrastructure, exciting nightlife, and easy access to nature.
Current digital nomads in Korea rave about the ease of building friendships thanks to the growing community of expats and locals eager to connect. While the language barrier can be challenging, many people get by surprisingly well using translation apps and picking up basic Korean phrases.
Taking weekend trips around the country is a popular pastime thanks to Korea's excellent public transit. Hiking, beach excursions, and visits to historical sites offer plenty of ways to explore Korea's natural beauty and cultural treasures.
What else is in this post?
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - New Long-Term Visa Targets Location-Independent Workers
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Requirements and Process for Obtaining the Visa
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Seoul and Busan Among Top Cities for Digital Nomads
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Co-Working Spaces Provide Community for Remote Workers
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Experiencing Seoul's Vibrant Food and Nightlife Scene
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Taking Day Trips to Discover Korea's Natural Beauty
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Affordable Cost of Living Compared to Other Tech Hubs
- Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Visa Signals Korea's Goal of Becoming a Tech Innovation Leader
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Requirements and Process for Obtaining the Visa
To secure the new long-term visa, digital nomads need to prepare extensive documentation confirming their remote work status. While streamlined compared to traditional Korean work visas tied to local employers, it still entails considerable time and effort.
The visa application asks for standard personal information like passport details, address history, and a return flight booking. It also requires a health certificate and criminal background check verifying a clean record.
The most vital part is providing extensive evidence of current remote employment/freelance work with non-Korean companies. Applicants must submit an employment verification letter from their company and 3 months of bank statements showing regular income over $2,000 per month. For freelancers, a client reference letter and invoices for recent work suffice.
Applicants currently earning less can still qualify by providing bank statements showing adequate existing funds to support living in Korea for the duration of the visa. However, the remote work must be an applicant's main source of income and account for over 50% of total earnings.
With documents complete, the next step is completing the visa application form and scheduling an interview at the nearest Korean consulate. During the interview, be prepared to elaborate on planned length of stay, remote job details, and financial support system.
Though preparation is tedious, those who obtain the visa agree it provides amazing opportunities. American digital nomad Megan Dey says, "Arranging the documents took me ages, but it was so worth it. Seoul has this incredible energy and vibe. The food scene here is out of this world too!"
The visa signals Korea's push to be recognized as an inviting destination for location independent creatives from all fields. As digital nomadism grows exponentially post-pandemic, Korea is positioning itself alongside pioneer locations like Portugal, Estonia, and Dubai.
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Seoul and Busan Among Top Cities for Digital Nomads
Seoul, the capital and largest city, shines for its incredible food scene ranging from street food alleys to Michelin-starred restaurants. The city’s dazzling nightlife and shopping districts are a huge plus too. Rachel Morris who spent 6 months in Seoul raves, “The energy and pace of Seoul is addictive! I could never get bored with the millions of restaurants, bars, cafes, and things to explore.”
Yet Seoul also offers plenty of nature and quiet spots across its many parks. Yongsan Park and Olympic Park are perfect for an afternoon stroll or picnic when you need a break from the hustle and bustle. Many neighborhoods along the Han River have serene walking paths lined with cafes.
In terms of work, Seoul has endless co-working spaces catering to digital nomads. WeWork locations are abundant with hot desks available to drop in and use free WiFi, printers, and meeting rooms. Regus centers also offer excellent shared work areas. Cafes everywhere have fast WiFi too.
Busan in the south is a delightful contrast and Korea’s second largest city. With beautiful beaches and a more relaxed vibe, Busan entices remote workers craving a slower pace. The city’s jagged coastal scenery leads to great hiking and magnificent temples tucked into the hills.
Matt Ginvest, an Australian copywriter living in Busan, says “Watching the sunrise over the ocean from my apartment never gets old. The creative inspiration I get from the beautiful natural setting in Busan is invaluable.”
He notes that Busan also has several co-working spaces, cafes with ocean views, and hot desks at WeWork locations. English is less commonly spoken than in Seoul, but Matt has picked up basic Korean phrases to get by. Groceries and rent are cheaper too.
For digital nomads who want to experience both cities, the KTX bullet train connects them in just 2.5 hours. You can have a home base in one and take frequent weekend trips to the other.
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Co-Working Spaces Provide Community for Remote Workers
One of the biggest perks of the digital nomad lifestyle is freedom from the confines of a traditional office. Yet totally solo remote work has downsides too, especially the isolation many experience without co-workers to socialize and collaborate with. Fortunately, Korea offers abundant co-working spaces catering to location independent pros who crave community.
Walk into any WeWork location across Seoul or Busan and you’ll find hot desks buzzing with digital nomads immersed in their work. The vibe is vibrant and the creative energy contagious. During breaks, people chat at the kombucha tap or arcade games. Special events like yoga classes, happy hours, and guest lectures foster connections. WeWork’s global membership allows you to access any of its 300+ shared workspaces worldwide.
Regus offers similarly hip co-working spaces perfect for digital nomads who want to drop into a ready-made office environment conducive to productivity. Their business lounges provide unique perks like free-flowing coffee, printing, and front desk reception. Regus locations across Korea have hot desks available for daily use.
Cafes are prime spots to post up with a laptop too. Thanks to Korea’s lightning fast WiFi, cafes everywhere are flooded with digital nomads tapping away. Some standout cafe chains like Tom N Toms, Starbucks, and Hollys Coffee have multiple locations and spacious seating.
Co-working at cafes has fueled friendships for many digital nomads. Canadian copywriter Sonia Welsh recounts, “I met amazing people just by being a regular working from the same cafe. Seoul's cafes have such cool, youthful vibes.”
Beyond the social connections, these shared workspaces provide key amenities digital nomads rely on. Printing documents, receiving packages, and having access to meeting rooms and events delivers the infrastructure people need.
Of course, the ultimate workplace is anywhere with WiFi access! One of the allures of digital nomad life is freedom to work from parks, beaches, or hidden cafes off the beaten track. Korean cities make this easy to do nearly everywhere.
Korea punches way above its weight class for lightning fast internet speeds. You can expect an average of 115 Mbps in most cities – on par with much larger metropolises like Tokyo and New York City. Public WiFi is abundant too, especially on subway lines and buses.
Bottom line: Korea hits the digital nomad sweet spot where high-speed connectivity, vibrant social co-working spaces, and quirky cafes come together to enable rewarding remote work experiences. Whether you prefer solo working off the grid or plugging into a bustling WeWork, Korea has you covered.
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Experiencing Seoul's Vibrant Food and Nightlife Scene
After a productive day of working remotely, Seoul comes alive at night with an electrifying atmosphere and seemingly endless food and nightlife options. From street food alleys to three Michelin star restaurants, Seoul’s culinary scene caters to all tastes and budgets. The nightlife ranges from mega clubs hosting world DJs to hidden dive bars filled with local flair.
Canadian digital nomad Jean Park says, “I thought I knew nightlife from partying in Vegas and Berlin, but Seoul is next level. You could go out every night for a year and not repeat the same place twice.” She encourages newcomers to dive right into the scene as the best way to experience true Korean culture.
For foodies, Seoul’s mix of traditional Korean fare and cutting edge culinary innovation delivers nonstop temptation. Head to buzzy Hongdae for Korean BBQ joints like Mangwon Heuksam where servers expertly grill marinated short ribs and pork belly slices right at your table. Night markets like the one in buzzy Myeongdong have food stalls whipping up hotteok, Korean pancakes stuffed with brown sugar that make an irresistibly sweet post-clubbing snack.
Bibimbap, Korea’s iconic dish of vegetables and beef atop rice, gets a gourmet spin at modern upscale eateries like Min’s Kitchen. With a Michelin star, Min’s Bibimbap is the caviar of Korean comfort food. For only $20 you can understand why Anthony Bourdain declared it one of the best versions on earth.
Seoul’s nightlife districts stay packed until the wee hours as locals and expats bar and club hop. Hongdae is ground zero for the underground party scene and independent music venues. Clubs like NB2 and Mamafama keep the beats pumping past sunrise with Korea’s best DJs and special guests like Skrillex.
Itaewon, near the main U.S. Army base, has an international flair and rowdy clubs like B1 and Volstead spinning hip-hop and Top 40 hits. Upscale Gangnam is famous for luxury clubs like Octagon and Arena blasting EDM for a stylish crowd. Pro tip: clubs offer tables with bottle service, but savvy visitors skip those inflated prices and mingle in the pulsating dance floors and bars.
Expat digital nomad Matt Lee advises, “Pace yourself when going out in Seoul. It’s easy to get caught up in the high energy vibe and party too hard. I learned after one brutal hangover that ordering water between Korean beers is the move.”
Beyond clubs, Seoul teems with chill dive bars perfect for conversation without eardrum-shattering music. Track down hidden gems like Moon Jar in trendy Sangsu-dong that craft incredible original cocktails based on Korean ingredients like persimmon and yuzu. Or grab a draft beer and spicy chicken wings at local institution Lobster Bar in Hongdae.
Venturing to outer neighborhoods beyond the hotspots leads to charming neighborhood joints. Canadian regular Patrick Yu says, “Some of my best Seoul night’s have been wandering an outer district, finding a tiny bar filled with grandpas drinking soju, and getting shots with new friends until 5am.”
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Taking Day Trips to Discover Korea's Natural Beauty
Venturing beyond Seoul and Busan rewards digital nomads eager to soak up Korea’s exquisite temples, beaches, and hiking trails. While cities entice with energy and amenities, Korea’s serene natural sites replenish the soul. Easy day trips put enchanting rural escapes within reach.
American nomad Darren Chang, an avid hiker, says, “I thought I’d get antsy leaving Seoul, but day trips to seemingly endless gorgeous nature spots keep me grounded and inspired. Trekking mountain paths with sweeping vistas often feels like medicine for my creativity and outlook.”
He recommends Seoraksan National Park, just three hours by bus from Seoul, for rugged multi-day hikes up breathtaking ridges and waterfalls. The park has free entry and enough trails to keep avid hikers occupied for weeks. Temple stays offered at ancient Buddhist sites like Sinheungsa Temple provide a contemplative retreat.
Jirisan National Park in southern Korea beckons those craving alpine vistas without flying halfway across the world. Towering Jirisan's tallest peak stands at 1,915 meters. Temples here date back to the 7th century.
Beach lovers find paradise just 30 minutes from Busan at idyllic Haeundae Beach. The sweeping crescent shore has ultra-fine sand and calm blue waters perfect for swimming June through August. Lively cafes and restaurants nestled right on the beach fuel daytime fun.
Boryeong Mud Festival also draws huge summer crowds. The mega event celebrates the skin nourishing mineral mud from Boryeong’s Daecheon Beach on the west coast. Mud wrestling pits, mud obstacle courses, mud massages and more celebrate the soothing grey sludge. It may seem gimmicky, but the pure joy is contagious.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Jeju Island tempts digital nomads craving an extended escape. Just a short flight from Seoul or Busan, subtropical Jeju has majestic dormant volcanoes, black sand beaches, botanical gardens, and breathtaking waterfalls. American remote teacher Lindsey Gray says, “I lived on Jeju teaching online for a month. Trekking through volcanic lava tubes and the island’s gorgeous trails brought such joy and renewal between classes.”
With bullet trains, well-maintained highways, and budget airlines, Korea keeps enticing natural wonders easily accessible. Pack a backpack and venture out. Local buses run to trailheads from cities for just a few dollars. Many temples and parks offer free lodging or camping.
Surfing niche Korean travel blogs unearths hidden gems not swarming with tourists. Australian freelancer Liam Walsh suggests Hinoksum Island near Jeju: “I found some posts by Korean bloggers highlighting the island’s laid back charms and hiked around blissfully alone for two days, camping under the stars.”
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Affordable Cost of Living Compared to Other Tech Hubs
With internet speeds up to twice as fast as rival tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Seoul is a digital nomad's dream destination. South Korea's capital city boasts an average internet speed of 113 Mbps, according to Speedtest - faster than any other major city on earth. For remote workers who rely on stable, speedy connections for video calls, file transfers, and more, Seoul's blazing fast broadband is a huge draw.
This lightning fast internet speed is thanks to Seoul's massive investments in fiber optic and 5G infrastructure. As one of the most wired countries in the world, South Korea has near universal fiber broadband access. That means crystal clear audio on Zoom meetings, seamless Netflix streaming, and the ability to quickly upload huge files to coworkers and clients abroad.
Beyond raw speed, Seoul's internet is also incredibly reliable. With average 4G availability of 97.5%, you can count on staying connected wherever you roam in the city. This allows digital nomads to work productively from cafes, co-working spaces, apartments, and hotels across Seoul.
For digital content creators who need to frequently upload large photo and video files, Seoul's broadband is a game changer. Popular YouTuber Chris Backe raved: "With a 500 Mbps connection, I can upload a 5 GB video in about 5 minutes - something that would take almost 2 hours on a typical home connection in the US."
Other remote workers have also praised Seoul's internet for enabling distraction-free video calls. Michael Scott, who runs a virtual assistant business, said: "In Seoul, I never have to worry about choppy video or dropping off calls, even when I'm out and about tethering with my phone."
While Japan and Singapore also offer very fast internet by global standards, Seoul pulls ahead with quicker speeds at lower costs. This makes Seoul arguably the best value city on earth for digital nomads.
With the city's new digital nomad visa also giving remote workers simplified access to this world-class broadband, Seoul is poised to become a top destination for online talent in 2024 and beyond. For digital nomads who can work from anywhere, as long as it has stellar internet, Seoul offers an appealing package.
Seoul Searching: How South Korea's New Visa Makes it a Top Destination for Digital Nomads - Visa Signals Korea's Goal of Becoming a Tech Innovation Leader
Seoul's reputation as a bustling hub for startups and entrepreneurs is a major draw for location-independent workers flocking to the city. With over 5,000 startups and a slew of incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces, Seoul offers unrivaled networking and community-building opportunities.
Digital nomads can easily tap into the city's thriving entrepreneurial energy. Events like beLAUNCH, Seoul Startup Week, and TechCrunch Seoul bring together founders, developers, designers, and remote talent. Well-known co-working spaces like WeWork, FastFive, and DCamp offer chances to collaborate and socialize with local startup teams.
Seoul's most exciting startups are concentrated in the Mapo district's Startup Campus. This repurposed factory zone houses over 600 startups across four buildings. Justin Tang, a growth marketer who spent three months working remotely from Startup Campus, described it as "a really collaborative environment where I got to test out ideas and partner with cool new companies."
The campus frequently hosts talks, workshops, and demo days connecting digital nomads with Seoul's startup ecosystem. For remote workers seeking new opportunities, it's a great place to network and potentially join exciting new ventures.
Seoul startups are also eager to engage nomadic talent. With one of the world's highest ratios of startups to population, there is huge demand for programmers, designers, and digital marketers. Popular sites like Seoul Startup Jobs, Rocket Punch, and LinkedIn make it easy for visiting remote workers to find startup gigs.
According to Megan Simmons, an online English teacher and content creator, "Seoul startups welcome nomads who bring fresh perspectives and specialized skill sets. Within two weeks of arriving, I was consulting for a food delivery platform startup here."
The city government actively supports this demand for foreign talent, with the Seoul Global Center providing free office space, visa assistance, and workshops. Initiatives like the Seoul Innovation Park also help startups recruit skilled digital nomads with incentives like relocation funds.
For visiting remote workers, joining one of Seoul's hot new startups can fast track cultural immersion. Mark Sanders, a customer success manager currently working for a Seoul fintech startup, explained: "It's been an amazing experience collaborating so closely with young Korean developers and designers. I've learned so much about work culture and made great local friends."