In the fall of 2021 (when it was still nearly impossible for most people to visit) South Korea has introduced an electronic travel authorization that most travelers are now required to request.

With Korea reopening in a few weeks, we would like to remind our readers planning to visit that it is now a mandatory step even though no visa is required to visit when the Visa Waiver Program will apply again.

The Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) has been established with a number of countries over the past decade. First it was just Australia, then the United States introduced ESTA (for non-visa holders), followed by Canada and now South Korea as well.

It’s really hard to tell what exactly it does, other than answer a few questions regarding travel and health history.

Korea ETA also requires a photo to be uploaded. There is a charge for processing which is 10,300 KRW (~$9) The website says 10,000 KRW but I was charged an additional 300 Won.

You can access the official website of the Republic of Korea ETA here.

ETA is required for travelers who:

  • You do not have a visa for the Republic of Korea
  • A person who intends to enter the country at short notice for business or tourism purposes

There are also certain exemptions, such as airline crews as well as transiting passengers who do not need this ETA. Anyone who has one will no longer be required to present arrival forms at the immigration counter. However, you must update your contact information regarding the stay in Korea (first address) with each entry.

This is the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website that explains the logic and political process behind K-ETA.

Here is an instruction:

And the same for the mobile app:

Since the ETA will be valid for two years, I decided I might as well apply now and see how the process works when I assume there are very few applicants at the moment.

I did this via the mobile app which I first downloaded from the app store which made it easy to take a photo of the passport data page and a selfie for the app as well.

The process was very easy and I paid the fee with my Amex card.

A confirmation was sent instantly:

According to the confirmation email, the procession can take up to 24 hours, but I received my approval about 20 minutes later:

I was surprised at the speed even though I didn’t expect any issues in this regard. I have entered Korea over 80 times now and never had a problem.

John wrote about Korea opening up to fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine in the coming weeks and allowing public transportation from the airport from April 1, 2022:

South Korea welcomes fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine from March 21, 2022

As Japan is still closed this is great news as it means I will be able to enjoy the cherry blossoms again and although I would rather be in Tokyo and Osaka I can’t wait to be back in Korea in some time of the week.

Keep in mind that Korea previously (as of March 2020) suspended the visa waiver program for most eligible countries. I understand that the visa waiver option is now back for most affected countries as suggested by this notice on the Korean Embassy France website.

I recommend that you make 100% sure by checking the consulate/embassy website or hotline for your country of citizenship to avoid any issues.

Conclusion

There is now a mandatory Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) form for entry into South Korea and travelers must apply for it, pending approval, before flying to Korea in order to be eligible for the Entrance.

It is recommended that you have this form printed (once approved) or at least available digitally to present to airline staff and immigration officials when prompted. It is unclear where (if) this will be physically verified and validated or if it will be through electronic channels only.