Ask a COVID-19 Question
- The U.S. Department of State currently has a level 3 travel advisory (Reconsider Travel) for South Korea. Please see the full language of the travel advisory here.
- Authorities have confirmed that community-based transmission of COVID-19 is still occurring in Korea. All travelers to Korea should be aware that COVID-19 screening measures are subject to change with little advance notice. General information is detailed below, but please consult the ROK COVID-19 Portal for the most up-to-date information on special COVID regulations and immigration procedures before your travels.
- “Distancing in daily life” is the Korean approach to handling COVID. Most stores, schools, and public buildings are open, but national and local governments occasionally exercise authority to regulate businesses, schools, large gatherings, and religious gatherings to respond to outbreaks.
Entry and Exit Requirements:
- Are U.S. citizens permitted to enter? Yes, although there is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all inbound travelers. See “Quarantine Requirements” below for more information.
– ROK COVID-19 Portal
– Korean Immigration Service
– U.S. military retirees living in Korea can visit the U.S. Forces Korea’s website to register for more information regarding COVID-19.
– The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA has information about quarantine requirements for short-term visitors to Korea.
- Is a negative COVID-19 test (PCR and/or serology) required for entry? Yes, depending on point of departure, visa status, nationality, and other factors. Generally speaking, U.S. citizens traveling to Korea from the United States as tourists on the 90-day visa-waiver program do not need a COVID-19 test prior to travel but will be tested upon arrival in Korea and may be subject to quarantine in government facilities at their own expense.
- Are health screening procedures in place at airports and other ports of entry? Arriving passengers will experience some combination of temperature screening, health questionnaires, and/or COVID-tests, depending on points of departure, visa status, and nationality. All visitors to Korea are subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine as described in the “Quarantine Information” section below. All arriving passengers are required to download and respond to daily questions via a Self-Diagnosis Mobile App for 14 days. See: http://ncov.mohw.go.kr/selfcheck/. Passengers who are unable to download the mobile app must provide a valid phone number and address in Korea to facilitate daily health monitoring by local government officials.
- Exit requirements for long-term residents. As of June 1, 2020, foreigners who are long-term residents of the Republic of Korea (ROK) are required to obtain a re-entry permit prior to departing for international travel. The permits are available at Korean immigration offices, airports, and port offices. The cost is approximately 30,000 won, and the re-entry permit is valid for one year. Failure to apply for a re-entry permit prior to departure will result in the cancellation of the traveler’s ROK Alien Registration. Foreign long-term residents of the ROK will also be required to provide a medical certificate or negative COVID-19 test before boarding flights to Korea. The certificate must be in English or Korean and signed by a medical professional within 48 hours of departure. The certificate should include information about fever, cough, and other potential symptoms. While a negative COVID-19 test result is accepted for immigration, it is not a requirement for the medical certificate. Diplomats (A-1), Government Officials (A-2, A-3), or Overseas Korean (F-4) status do not need to apply for re-entry permits or provide medical certificates when returning to Korea. See website for more information: https://www.hikorea.go.kr/Main.pt.
- Visa extensions. From September 9 onward, travelers wishing to lengthen their stay in Korea must submit an online e-application, documenting the circumstances that compel them to extend their stay. Please refer to these websites for more information:
- Is a curfew in place? No
- Are there restrictions on intercity or interstate travel? There are no restrictions on domestic travel in Korea. However, those entering Korea from abroad will not be permitted to board domestic connecting flights (i.e., to Jeju or Busan) until completing government-mandated quarantine.
- QR code-based access to facilities. Korea has a QR code-based registration system for patrons at bars, clubs, and other entertainment facilities across the country that are considered high risk for COVID-19. This system enables the government to conduct contact tracing as COVID cases are identified. Information on this system and Korea’s “distancing in daily life” philosophy are available on the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s COVID-19 Portal.
- Are U.S. citizens required to quarantine? Yes, most arriving passengers must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Short-term visitors. Most foreign travelers on short-term travel will be required to quarantine at a government-designated facility at their own expense for 14 days. This includes U.S. citizens traveling on 90-day visa-free travel and short-term visa holders. The nightly cost at these facilities could range from $100 to $150 USD per night (approximately $1,400-$2,100 USD total) depending on various factors, and prices are set by the Korean authorities. Passengers that fall into this category will be required to sign a release form agreeing to these conditions prior to boarding a plane. Passengers who refuse to sign the form will be denied boarding. Details about the quarantine process and a copy of the release form are available on the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA’s website: http://overseas.mofa.go.kr/us-en/brd/m_4500/list.do. In some cases, Korean authorities have permitted immediate blood relatives or spouses of long-term residents to self-quarantine at their family’s home. Please bring proof of relationship (e.g., marriage or birth certificate) with you, but understand that Korean immigration officials have the final authority to approve quarantine arrangements.
Long-term visitors or residential visa holders. Travelers who are long-term or residential visa holders are required to self-quarantine at their own residences and must undergo a COVID test within three days. All passengers who exhibit symptoms will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival at the airport and may be subject to additional procedures.
Transit passengers. Most passengers transiting through Korean airports (who do not pass through immigration) have no quarantine requirement for stays less than 24 hours. However, transit passengers may need to undergo temperature checks or fill out health questionnaires. Transit passengers should confirm entry requirements at their onward destination.
Isolation exemption certificates for short-term travelers. Some U.S. citizens traveling to South Korea for business, academic reasons, or emergencies such as a family member’s death may be exempt from self-quarantine requirements. Isolation exemption certificates must be approved prior to travel at a Korean Embassy or Consulate in the United States. See website for locations and procedures: http://overseas.mofa.go.kr/us-en/index.do
- U.S. citizens experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact Korean health authorities at 1345 for English service or 1339 for Korean service to be directed to the appropriate facility. If you need a COVID test for travel or other purposes, many local hospitals and clinics offer them for a fee, usually between $100 to $300.
- Treatment costs. Effective August 17, U.S. citizens who are infected with COVID-19 at any time due to violation of Republic of Korea (ROK) preventive measures, such as quarantine measures and limits on group activities, or who submit false COVID-19 examination results must pay for their COVID treatment. Effective August 24, U.S. citizens diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days of entry to Korea must also pay for their COVID treatment. The Korean government will continue to pay COVID treatments costs for U.S. citizens who are following all ROK guidelines and are infected with COVID while in Korea. Long-term residents who enroll in Korea’s national health insurance service may also have some of their treatment costs covered. More information about this policy is available on the Embassy of the ROK in the USA website. As treatment can be expensive, the Korean government recommends U.S. citizens purchase international health insurance before traveling to Korea. The U.S. government does not provide medical insurance for U.S. citizens overseas and does not pay medical bills. See State.Gov for more information on travelers insurance.
- Are commercial flights operating? Despite reductions in flight services by several carriers, South Korea remains well-served by commercial aviation. Please see https://www.airport.kr/ap/en/index.do to check departure schedules and flight availability.
- Is public transportation operating? Masks are compulsory on all modes of public transportation, including taxis and domestic/international flights. Drivers and pilots are authorized to deny passengers who refuse to wear a mask.
Fines for Non-Compliance:
- People suspected of having COVID-19 who refuse to get tested can be fined up to 10 million won (approximately $10,000) or one year of prison.
- Users and operators of high-risk businesses who violate disinfection and quarantine guidelines can be fined up to 3 million won (approximately $3,000).
- Those who violate a self-quarantine order may be subject to a fine, arrest, or deportation. This includes failing to respond to daily checks conducted by MOHW.
- American Citizen Services offers limited in-person appointments for passport and Consular Reports of Birth Abroad. Passport renewal applications (those using form DS-82) must be submitted by courier service.
- U.S. Embassy Seoul has resumed certain nonimmigrant services, including: F, M, certain J categories (alien physician, government visitor, international visitor professor, research scholar, short-term research scholar, specialist, secondary school student and college/university student), C1/D, E, I, O, and P visas, and certain immigrant visas including IR1, IR2, CR1, CR2, and certain adoption cases. Applicants for H1B, H2B, L1, and certain J categories and their dependents covered by Presidential Proclamation 10052 may request an appointment only if you have reason to believe you may qualify for one of the exceptions listed in the Proclamation.