3/06/2007

Visa rules to be eased for ethnic Koreans

Korea Herald March 6, 2007


Ethnic Koreans who have overstayed their visa by up to one year will be saved from deportation as the government is planning to issue a newly introduced visa that would extend their legal stay.
The government yesterday began receiving applications for the new H-2 visa, which will allow ethnic Koreans from China, Russia and the former Soviet Union states to stay and work in Korea for up to three years on a single-entry basis or five years on a multiple-entry basis.

The Justice Ministry said the new visa rule will apply to an estimated 4,500 illegal ethnic Koreans.

Those who have overstayed their visa by less than a year and hold an F-1-4 visa or an E-9 visa, will be allowed to switch to the new H-2 visa.

For most ethnic Koreans from the regions, two visas have been issued; one-year F-1-4 visa, which requires an invitation by Korean relatives, or the E-9 visa, a special work permit for nonprofessional jobs.

"But the overstayed applicants will be fined for their illegal stay to get a new visa, and those who have illegally stayed in Korea over a year will be asked to leave the country," said Kang Myung-duk, chief of the Immigration Bureau at the Ministry of Justice.

The government has attempted to help relieve labor shortages in low-wage jobs across the country, and help address the mounting problems of ethnic Koreans illegally entering and staying here.

"This will rescue some of the ethnic Korans who became illegal in the country because of the government's changed immigration policy, and will also maximize the use of the new H-2 visa system," Kang said.

The government's proposal also came a day after the government starts issuing the new visa H-2 visas, which is expected to benefit about 275,000 ethnic Koreans from China, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Hundreds of people crowded the main immigration office in Yangcheon-gu, southwestern of Seoul, yesterday to apply for the H-2 visa.

As of 10:30 a.m., over 1,600 people were waiting in line to apply for the new visa that any ethnic Korean, who is over the age of 25, is eligible for.

But the immigration office said there were many ineligible people lined up to apply for the visa, forcing the office to hold a presentation and turn some people away.

"There were many crowds who came, thinking they should come here first anyway," Nam Ki-oh, an official, said.

Under the new rules of the revised Foreign Workers' Employment Act, the offspring of Koreans forced to move to China and the former Soviet Union during Japanese colonial rule, are also eligible for the special visa.

The ministry said there were about 2.5 million people of Korean descent in China and another 532,697 in Russia and other former Soviet republics as of 2005.

Many fled Korea because of poverty and political oppression in the 19th century and Japan's colonial rule until 1945.

The new visa will apply to adults 25 years or older who were born in Korea but removed from the Korean family register; who are invited by a third cousin or closer paternal relative, or a cousin or closer maternal relative in Korea; or are family members of those who have received national orders of merit.

Those who do not have any relatives in Korea have to pass a special state-run Korean-language test and be chosen by ballot.

The ministry said the new regulations will help ethnic Koreans obtain advanced technology training and get better salaries after returning to their countries, and 13 more business fields, including fishing and wholesale industries, were expanded in which they can be hired.

(aibang@heraldm.com)

By Annie I. Bang

2007.03.06

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com