One Indian resident in Jeju talks about his long journey on how he got an F-5 visa.
Prem Kumar Tirumani (37) is from India and has lived on Jeju island since 2013. He is an English language instructor at the Jeju Interpretation & Language Institute. He is married to a Korean woman Lee Hyun-wha and has two children aged 4 and 2. Prem is also pursuing a PhD degree at the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy, Jeju National University.
Recently, he applied for and received an F5 visa, which made the long Chuseok holidays this year more joyful for him and his family.
Here is Prem’s full story about his long journey on how he got a F5 (Permanent Residence) visa from F6 along with his advice on future F-5 applicants.
Prem and his family. Photo courtesy Prem Kumar Tirumani
"I’ve been living in Korea on an F6 visa since 2013. " F6 visa is issued to foreign nationals married to Korean citizens. Generally, F6 has to be renewed every three years. Last time when I went to renew, the officer asked me why I was renewing two months in advance. The officer was unaware that, as an Indian, if I don’t have a minimum of six months validity on my Korean visa, I cannot obtain tourist visa to visit countries like America or Australia. If Indian passport holders are living in Korea and if their Korean visa validity is less than six months, they cannot apply for a visa to visit certain countries from foreign embassies in Korea. If they have to, then they have to return back to India and process it from the respective embassies in India. For Korean New Year and Thanksgiving, more and more number of Koreans are enjoying holiday abroad. I can do this with my family easily on F5 (Permanent Residency) since it does not have an expiry like F6.
"The universal advantage of F5 over F6 is that you become independent!" One doesn’t have to necessarily get Korean spouse’s consent for anything. In case of F6, when I went to the immigration office to renew, I had to submit certain documents to prove that I am still in a marriage relationship. And when I’m not accompanied by my Korean spouse, I had to convince the officer with proper explanation. They even called my wife and confirmed whether what I said was true, before renewing the visa.
In July last year, 2016, my wife called the immigration and asked for the list of documents required for F5 application. By reading the blogs and posts of various people online, I realized that depending on applicant’s nationality, the requirements could vary.
"The most important thing that almost every one mentioned is that immigration office would not accept the documents that are more than three months old." Some had difficulties like this… “you get your original documents ready, you go to the immigration office to submit your application thinking that everything is in place, then they tell you that you need certain document from your home country because of some recent policy change between South Korea and your country! And by the time you get that particular document, some of your existing documents could be more than 90 days old and hence they become invalid!!”
So, after my wife gave me the list of required documents, I quickly made photocopies of the required documents though they are more than 90 days old because I wanted to show my documents to the immigration officer and get confirmation before starting the procedure. When we went to the immigration office, the officer said that all the documents are fine and one of them needs to be apostilled in India. In addition to all these, I was told that I could either face an interview in Korean or take TOPIK test to prove my Korean language ability.
"It took me several months of consultation with the authorities in India, Indian embassy in Seoul and considerable amount of money. " Finally in April, this year I could go to the immigration office with all the required original documents. With a hope to see some light at the end of a seemingly long tunnel, I submitted my documents. The immigration officer left the counter and retuned back with a thick book. It has sample documents issued by all the countries with which South Korea has diplomatic relations. The officer pointed out that the letter head and the wording in one of my documents didn’t match with the sample in the book. I called the Indian Embassy in Seoul and the consulate officer said that India has recently computerized the citizens’ information and is maintaining a single database of all the people of individual states. The “Ministry of External Affairs”, who has access to this, is now responsible for issuing passports and also all the documents required by foreign immigration offices and apostillation of any document. The document that was issued to me was under this new system.
The immigration officer said that they need some time to investigate into this matter and when a decision is made, they would call me. After a couple of days, they called me and said they would accept my document. So, I went to submit my document and face the Korean interview. When I couldn’t answer them satisfactorily in Korean, they said I can either face another round of Korean interview or take TOPIK-I test and submit the scores. I bought test preparation books, memorized as much as I could and took TOPIK-I because it consists of only reading and listening sections. No writing or speaking. This whole thing took another couple of months.
And finally, just few days before Chuseok, I went to the immigration office to exchange my blue colored F6 with a green F5. And that made my holiday season happier.
"My advice to all the future F5 applicants?" Before you start your application procedure, visit the immigration office and request the officer to let you see the format and the wordings from the thick book that they have which contains the sample documents from all parts of the world. And also take latest samples of documents that your country is issuing now and confirm with the immigration officer whether they are acceptable or not. This would save you money, effort and definitely your valuable time.
Prem and his son . Photo courtesy Prem Kumar Tirumani
F5 Visa is Permanent Residence visa in Korea for foreigners. A person living in Korea for 3 years after receiving her/his F-2 visa status through the Point System, is eligible to apply for permanent (F-5) visa status.
According to data of the Ministry of Justice, from 2011 to 2015, an average of 18,893 foreigners applied for Korean citizenship annually. The data of the ministry shows that 12,023, on average, got approval from the government.
The number of applicants seeking Korean citizenship continues to rise, especially due to the inflow of Chinese people. According to government data, as of March, 2016, Chinese nationals accounted for 50.8 percent of 1.9 million foreigners who are living in Korea, far ahead of Americans (7.4%) and Vietnamese (7.1%).
According to the 2017 guidelines released by Korea Immigration Office, some of the more specific requirements for the F5 visa application are;
'"F-5 Permanent Resident Status Permission Criteria for Those Who Have Stayed in Korea for 3 years After Obtaining Resident Status Through the Points-Based System.
(Financial Ability to Maintain the Adequate Living Standard) You have financial assets
worth over 30 million KRW, and from the date of your application submitted, your
annual income amount is twice larger than the previous year's GNI per capita of Korea
announced by the Korean Bank."
However, every year laws in Korea on the immigration and visa policies are amended. So please be sure to keep up to date on the changes.
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