What are the Administrative Hurdles for Foreign Entrepreneurs to Start a Business in Korea?

Starting a business is rarely simple, and doing so as an expat in Korea involves not just financial challenges, but also the complex and constantly-changing Korean Immigration regulations that foreigners must follow in order to remain and legally launch a business in Korea. This law blog post is intended as a basic guide to Immigration challenges for entrepreneurs.

Foreign Entrepreneurs in Korea
Foreign Entrepreneurs in Korea

Although the Korean government has launched a number of initiatives, recently, to draw in international expertise. The K-Startup Grand Challenge and the Overall Assistance for Start-up Immigration System (Oasis) program for tech startups are a couple of the most noteworthy of these Korean initiatives. The former offers generous funding and project space, while the latter offers seminars on Korean business laws and once the program is completed, a 2-year D-8-4 visa to successful entrepreneurs. If you are interested in an investment visa, please: Foreign Investment Visa for Foreigners.

However, many, foreign business owners, feel that more assistance is urgently needed despite the Korean government’s efforts to promote a supportive atmosphere for prospective business owners in Korea.

Common challenges that are faced by foreign entrepreneurs in Korea

  • Finding investors in Korea: Foreign entrepreneurs often find themselves in difficulties to convince Korean investors to invest in their projects. Mainly because Korean investors have a stigma that a foreigner would leave Korea at some point. That does not mean that it is impossible to find Korean investors. For most foreigners, it depends on luck, persuasion skills, business idea, business experience and the size of their network.
  • Social networking: All foreigners who are looking into opening a business in Korea should study the Korean language. Networking doesn’t come so easily due to language and cultural barriers here. Although the Korean government and Korean investors understand that it is not about the countries the startups are from, but rather about technology and competency, yet they still prefer Korean startups to foreign ones-in most cases. The Korea International Trade Association (KITA), a major local business lobbying group, and Seoul Global Center, a multilingual governmental organization providing foreigners with various services including business consulting, are also helpful to reach out to.
  • Obtaining the right visa: Even with the right connections and funding, the complicated and difficult legal system in Korea continues to be a major obstacle for all foreign business owners in Korea. For instance, there are numerous different visas with various restrictions and durations of stay that permit foreign nationals to start or work for a firm. These include the E-series for various employment types, the F-series for families and long-term residents, and the D-series investment visas.

Korean Visas for Business Founders in Korea

The process of obtaining a visa, rather than the overwhelming quantity of alternatives, is what makes the experience painful. 

Choosing the most appropriate visa for your situation is up to each individual situation. The D-8-4 visa is designed exclusively for startups; it comes with some restrictions and demands for a bachelor’s degree. It also awards points based on the supporting documentation you submit, such as proof of your ownership of various intellectual property rights. This, visa, in some cases is the most appropriate for entrepreneurs in Korea.

If you have a query about visa issues or immigration matters in South Korea, you may schedule a No-Charge Initial Consultation with an Immigration Attorney

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