Whether you’re a fan of Korean films, music, and dramas — or just looking for a safe, beautiful, and relatively affordable place to live in Asia — it’s worth looking into the South Korea digital nomad visa.
As of January 1st, 2024, the South Korean digital nomad visa (also known as the “Workation” or F-1-D visa) is open for applications. This makes South Korea one of the latest countries to offer a dedicated visa for remote workers.
But what exactly are the terms of this visa? How can you apply for it, and what does life in South Korea look like? We’ll answer all of these questions and more below.
Snapshot of Expat Life in South Korea
Population: 51.74 million
Capital city: Seoul
Currency: South Korean won (KRW)
Official language(s): Korean
Approximate number of American expats: ~157,000
Background of the South Korea Digital Nomad Visa
Historically, South Korea’s immigration laws have limited the number of different visa types (including employment visas) being issued by the Korean government. Previously, digital nomads who visited and worked in Korea typically did so outside the confines of the law under tourist visas that lasted up to 90 days.
With over 50 countries already offering digital nomad visas, it’s no surprise that South Korea decided to follow suit with the launch of a dedicated digital nomad visa. Countries view digital nomad visas as a great way to boost their economies, as they bring in spending — and sometimes tax revenue — without taking away jobs from locals.
Given the increasing influence Korean culture has had in the US and around the world — from K-pop music, K-drama series, and award-winning films and TV shows like Parasite and Squid Game — along with other advantages of living in the country, South Korea is primed to be one of the hottest digital nomad destinations in 2024.
Why You Should Consider the South Korea Digital Nomad Visa
Here are some of the top perks of holding South Korea’s digital nomad visa and living in the country:
- Quality of life: South Korea boasts a low crime rate, world-renowned healthcare, robust public transportation, and walkable cities.
- Global hub for innovation: South Korea is on the cutting edge of technical and business innovation. This makes it easy to find and network with like-minded entrepreneurs and professionals.
- Affordability: The average cost of living in South Korea tends to be significantly lower than in the US — about 22%, by some estimates.
- Rich culture: South Korea’s long and storied history has resulted in a rich culture with incredible food, beautiful art, breathtaking architecture, stunning monuments, and more.
- Advanced digital infrastructure: South Korea offers lightning-fast internet across almost the entire country, making it an excellent home base for remote workers.
- Nature: With a diverse geography that includes everything from snowy mountains to verdant forests, pristine beaches, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and densely flowered fields, South Korea abounds in natural beauty.
- Gateway to Asia: It’s relatively cheap and easy to travel from South Korea to other Asian countries (and digital nomad hubs) like Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, and more.
Understanding the South Korea Digital Nomad Visa Requirements
Eligibility & Requirements
To be eligible for South Korea’s digital nomad visa, you must be a foreign national of 18 years or older who can work remotely for or with a company/client based outside of Korea. Specifically, you must have:
- Worked in the same industry for at least a year
- Earned more than double Korea’s gross national income per capita for the previous year — 2024 applicants must make at least ₩85,000,000 (about $63,820) annually
- A clean criminal record
- Private health insurance
Application Process & Documentation
To apply for South Korea’s digital nomad visa, you must:
- Gather the required documents
- Passport-size photo
- Completed visa application
- Proof of income (e.g., offer letter, contract, bank statements, pay stubs, etc.)
- Federal criminal background check
- Proof of private health insurance
- Application fee (varies based on specific consulate — generally, $45 for US citizens)
- Marriage certificate for spouse (if applicable)
- Birth certificates for children (if applicable)
- Submit your application at your nearest South Korean consulate in the US (appointment may be required)
- Receive approval and collect your visa
Duration & Renewal Options
South Korea’s initial digital nomad visa lasts for one year, after which it can be renewed for one additional year.
Life as a Digital Nomad in South Korea
Cost of Living in South Korea
The cost of living in South Korea varies widely according to location and lifestyle but tends to be lower than in the United States. According to Numbeo, the average monthly costs (without rent) in South Korea are about $1,044 for one person and $3,780 for a family of four. Some other average prices for common expenses include:
- Apartment in city center
- 1 BR: ~$495
- 3 BR: ~$1,555
- Apartment outside of city center:
- 1 BR: ~$365
- 3 BR: ~$928
- Meal for 2 at mid-range restaurant: ~$37.53
- Utilities: ~$63.69
- Gym membership: $46.50
Best Places in South Korea for Digital Nomads
While there are many great places to live in South Korea, some of the most popular places for digital nomads to live include:
The innovative, entrepreneurial spirit is palpable in Seoul, the financial, business, and technology — not to mention the national — capital of South Korea. But it’s not all work and no play — there are plenty of options for leisure, from museums to trendy restaurants, shopping districts, and a thriving nightlife. Some of the most popular expat neighborhoods include Hongdae, Itaewon, and Myeongdong.
This Southern port city offers an ideal balance between urban life and nature. Busan’s nearly 3.5 million residents enjoy big-city amenities like an extensive metro system, art galleries, street food markets, and public parks. Nearby beaches and mountains, meanwhile, offer opportunities to relax, recharge, and reconnect with nature. Top expat neighborhoods include Haeundae, Nampo, and Seomyeon.
If a relaxed, tropical vibe is more your speed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to live in South Korea than Jeju Island. White sand beaches with turquoise waters can be found all around the island, as can great hiking spots, including national parks, volcanoes, and waterfalls. Get your adrenaline pumping by exploring caves or climbing Korea’s tallest mountain, or take it easy at the Botanical Garden, Tea Museum, or one of the many spas. Popular areas for expats include Jeju City, Seogwipo, and Aewol.
Healthcare System & Insurance Requirements
While South Korea does have a public healthcare system, applicants for the South Korea digital nomad visa must have private health insurance.
Specifically, expats should purchase private health insurance with coverage of up to ₩100 million in medical treatment and transportation to their home country for the entire duration of their visa. Fortunately, private insurance policies are much more affordable in South Korea than in the US, with an average price of about ₩114,000 (~$100) per month.
If you happen to have an accident or get sick in South Korea, you should be in good hands. According to the Legatum Institute’s healthcare index, South Korea has the third-best healthcare system in the world. Medical professionals are highly trained, facilities are modern and well-equipped, and the latest treatments are widely available.
Connectivity & digital infrastructure
The internet and connectivity in South Korea are among the best in the world, with an average broadband speed of 107.50k kbit/s, access to 4G networks throughout 99.94% of the country, and the seventh-fastest mobile broadband speed globally.,
It’s reasonably priced, too, with internet plans costing an average of $21.54 per month and mobile plans costing an average of $47.63 per month.3 Between speed, availability, and price, expats should have no problem working, making video calls, and streaming in the vast majority of South Korea.
5 Things to Put on Your South Korea Bucket List
There are plenty of incredible places to visit and things to do in South Korea. These five should take top billing:
- Tour palaces like Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, and Deoksugung for an up-close look at how long-ago royals lived
- Sample classic Korean dishes like tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cakes in a spicy sauce), bibimbap (rice bowls topped with fresh veggies, tender beef, a fried egg, and sauce), and kimchi-jjigae (fermented cabbage stew) at an authentic hole-in-the-wall restaurant
- Expand your knowledge at museums like the National Museum of Korea, Gyeongju Historic Area, and War Memorial of Korea
- Explore beautiful and serene temples like Tongdosa, Beomeosa, and Jogyesa
- Take in breathtaking natural vistas like Changwon’s cherry blossoms, Boseong’s green tea fields, and Bukhansan National Park
Tax Implications for Digital Nomads in South Korea
South Korean Taxes for US Expats
South Korea hasn’t clarified whether or not holders of the South Korea digital nomad visa are subject to taxes.
Generally, anyone who lives in South Korea for over 183 days out of the year is considered a tax resident. If that’s your case, you’re taxed both on Korea-sourced and worldwide income. You’re also entitled to different tax deductions, credits, and benefits. If deemed a non-resident, you’re only taxed on Korea-sourced income. Of course, it’s always best to double-check with a tax professional in South Korea for additional clarification.
Even if you’re not subject to South Korean income taxes, you could still encounter other taxes such as:
- Value-added taxes (VAT): South Korea’s VAT — aka the tax placed on the sale of most goods and services — is 10% but is typically already included in prices.
- Acquisition taxes: US expats who purchase big-ticket items in South Korea, such as real estate, vehicles, and certain memberships (e.g., golf courses, country clubs) may face a tax of 1% to 2%
- Property taxes: US expats who purchase property in Korea would have to pay an annual tax ranging from .07% to 5% on its value
US Taxes for Expats
Unfortunately, the US’s citizenship-based taxation system means that all citizens and permanent residents meeting the minimum income reporting requirements must file a federal tax return, even if living in another country. Living abroad may also affect your reporting requirements and which tax credits are available to you.
A few things Americans moving abroad should look into include the:
- Foreign Tax Credit (FTC): A credit that essentially allows US expats to subtract what they have paid in foreign income taxes from what they owe the US government in income taxes
- Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE): A provision that allows US expats to exclude a certain amount of foreign-earned income from taxation. For tax year 2023 — the taxes you file in 2024 — you can exclude up to $120,000 of your foreign-earned income, provided that you pass either the Physical Presence Test or Bona Fide Residence Test.
- Foreign Housing Exclusion (FHE): A provision that allows US expats who have qualified for the FEIE to write off certain qualifying housing expenses (rent, utilities, property insurance, etc.)
- Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR): A report that anyone with $10,000 or more across foreign financial accounts must file
- Form 8938: A form that anyone with over $200,000 or more in foreign assets by the end of the year — or over $300,000 in foreign assets at any point during the year — must file (Note that thresholds vary by your country of residence & filing status).
US expat taxes can get complex, so again, it’s best to talk to a qualified tax professional for additional information and guidance.
- Cost of Living in United States compared to South Korea
- F-1-D For Workation (Digital Nomad)
- Cost of Living in South Korea
- Health Insurance and Healthcare in South Korea Explained
- Health and health systems ranking of countries worldwide in 2023
- Digital Infrastructure – South Korea
- Internet Speeds by Country 2024
- Taxation of international executives: South Korea
- Korea, Republic of – Individual – Taxes on personal income
- Korea, Republic of – Individual – Other taxes
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