The Korean national Assembly is debating tougher penalties for

the employers of illegal residents. For those voluntarily reporting

illegal residence by February 28, 2020, penalties will be reduced

or exempted.

Penalty Increases

Illegal residents are currently subject to fines ranging from

KRW 1,000,000 for illegal stays of less than one month to KRW

20,000,000 for illegal stays of three years or more.

The current maximum penalty for employers of illegal residents

is KRW 20,000,000 OR three years of imprisonment. The proposed

amendment currently under discussion would increase this to KRW

50,000,000 AND five years of imprisonment.

Voluntary Reporting for Illegal Residents

For illegal residents who voluntarily report their residential

status by February 28, 2020 and are scheduled to leave the country

by June 30, 2020:

  • The penalty fee will be

    exempted.

  • A Certificate of Voluntary

    Departure” will be issued, allowing them to reapply for a

    Korean visa in the future. On reapplying, they will be issued a

    single-entry C3 visa allowing a maximum stay of 90 days. If they

    then leave the country within 90 days and without committing any

    illegal activities, they may qualify for multiple entries and a

    longer duration of stay the next time they apply for a visa.

  • They will be allowed to apply for

    TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean). If they obtain level 2 or

    above, they will be allowed to apply for an E9 visa (for workers

    from certain countries only).

For illegal residents who voluntarily report their residential

status by February 28, 2020 but are scheduled to leave the country

after June 30, 2020; OR

For illegal residents who do not voluntarily report their

illegal residential status by February 28, 2020 and are caught by

government investigation after March 2, 2020:

  • The penalty fee will be imposed and

    the violation period will be calculated from March 1, 2020.

  • Whether or not they voluntarily

    reported their residential status, any foreign national who paid a

    penalty fee for illegal residence will be banned from re-entry to

    South Korea for between six months and one year.

  • Those who do not pay the penalty fee

    in full will be permanently prohibited from entering South

    Korea.

Voluntary Reporting for Employers

Manufacturing industry

  • The voluntary reporting system will

    operate between December 11, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

  • For employers who report during this

    period, the penalty fee will be exempted and their illegally

    resident employees will be allowed to stay for three more months

    from the reporting date.

Agriculture and fishing industry

  • The voluntary reporting system will

    operate between December 11, 2019 and January 15, 2020.

  • For employers who report within this

    period, the penalty fee will be exempted and their illegally

    resident employees will have legal opportunities for seasonal work.

    A new visa type for seasonal workers (E8) is under discussion at

    the Ministry of Justice.

Small and medium-sized businesses under the Employment Permit

System (EPS)

  • The voluntary reporting system will

    operate between December 11, 2019 and March 31, 2020.

  • For employers who report within this

    period, 30% of the penalty fee will be imposed. However, if they

    are caught by government investigation without having reported,

    100% of the fee will be imposed and they will be banned from hiring

    foreign nationals for at least three years. The penalty fee will be

    calculated by immigration officers based on the length of the

    period of violation.

  • For illegal residents reported by

    their employers within this period, 30% of the penalty fee will be

    imposed, and they will be allowed to work at the sponsoring company

    until their E9 visa expires. If they prefer to work elsewhere, the

    Ministry of Employment and Labour will help them to find another

    job. However, if they are caught by government investigation

    without having reported, 100% of the penalty fee will be imposed

    along with a forced departure order.

Case Studies

Case 1

A D8 visa holder sponsored by company A, accidentally missed the

extension deadline for their Alien Registration Card (ARC)

  • A penalty fee will be imposed. The

    period of violation will be calculated from the day after the ARC

    expiry date.

  • If the immigration officer finds that

    the application deadline was missed by mistake, then the ARC holder

    will be exempted from the ban on re-entry.

  • All the required documents should be

    prepared and, more importantly, both ARC holder and employer should

    not have any legal violations and unpaid taxes.

  • There is no big change compared to

    the current policy.

Case 2

An D8 visa holder sponsored by company A has also been working

at company B, which is in the same group as company A. The visa

holder has been paid from both entities but his D8 visa was

sponsored by company A only, and the work at company B was not

reported to the immigration office.

  • A penalty fee will be imposed for

    both the ARC holder and company B.

  • The period of violation will be

    calculated from the date the visa holder received payments from

    company B, which can be found via their withholding tax

    certificates.

  • The re-entry ban (for six months to

    one year) will vary from case to case, at the discretion of

    immigration officers, but it is likely that to be applied in most

    cases. The possibility of a re-entry ban in these cases is a new

    policy.

  • The D8 visa holder and their second

    workplace need to prove that it was a simple mistake and not

    deliberate tax avoidance.

Case 3

An E9 visa holder has completed work at the visa sponsor company

(company A). The E9 visa has remaining validity, and the holder has

obtained a new job at a different company (Company B) to work until

the E9 expiry date.

  • Regardless of visa type, working at a

    non-sponsoring company is illegal and the Korean government will

    impose the stiffest regulations in these cases.

  • A penalty fee for both employer and

    employee will be calculated from the date the visa holder started

    work at company B.

  • The visa holder will also receive a

    departure order and will be banned from re-entry to South Korea for

    between six months and one year. If the penalty is not paid, the

    ban will be permanent.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general

guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought

about your specific circumstances.

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