Korea mulls expanding work visa issuance to tackle labor shortage

2023.11.20 16:20:02 | 2023.11.20 18:14:24

Foreign students are attending job counseling at ISF FALL 2023 held last month. [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]이미지 확대

Foreign students are attending job counseling at ISF FALL 2023 held last month. [Photo by Lee Chung-woo]



The South Korean government is expected to expand the issuance of F-2-R visa, a special visa that allows foreigners to work in areas of decreasing population, after a year of temporary implementation.

The government’s move is also supported by regional governments and politicians as they understand that businesses are grappling with labor shortages amid a population decline.

The National Assembly, led by its Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, proposes two key measures ? issuing regional specialized visas to foreign students at vocational high schools and delegating the authority to issue visas for foreigners employed by local businesses to provincial governors.

The proposals include expanding the eligibility criteria for the issuance of F-2-R visas to include foreign students who have graduated from local vocational high schools.

Until now, regional specialized visas, issued for a period of five years to those working in population decline regions, were temporarily granted only to foreigners who have a bachelor’s degree from four-year course universities or an associate degree or higher obtained in Korea with their employment confirmed in such regions.

These special visas have been the first consideration as they have some merits.

These visas come with the condition of working for five years in a region with decreasing population and requiring actual residence.

Visa holders can invite their family members, including spouses and children, to reside together. Local businesses facing labor shortages can employ skilled foreign workers for an extended period, and foreigners find it easier to obtain the F-2 residence visa, which is otherwise granted only for employment in domestic listed companies.

In particular, local authorities in population-declining regions demand the expansion of these visas to foreign students graduating from local vocational high schools. There are 89 population-decline regions nationwide, and a total of 1,399 foreigners received regional specialized visas as of the end of August, according to the Ministry of Justice.

The introduction of a provincial-basis visa has also been proposed.

The provincial-basis visa would delegate the authority to issue visas for foreigners residing and working in population-declining areas to provincial governors, with the current amendment bill pending in the National Assembly.

Given the lack of significant disagreement between political parties, the proposals are expected to be passed at the National Assembly.

More details of the proposals will be presented during a seminar on Wednesday, which will take place under the theme “Overcoming Regional Crisis: Practical Directions and Alternatives.”

Attendees at the seminar will include National Assembly Speaker Kim, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Lee Ju-ho, Minister of Justice Han Dong-hoon, Governor Lee Cheol-woo of North Gyeongsang Province, and Governor Kim Yung-rok of South Jeolla Province.

By Moon Ji-woong and Chang Iou-chung

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