The Korean government has just announced the long-awaited news that the first "Start-up Visa" in Korea has been issued to a Korean-American entrepreneur, Jason Lee CEO of J.J. Lee Company. It is unknown why he was not able to apply for an F-4 visa, which is available for non-Koreans with Korean heritage, but it marks another stride forward in Korea's massive push towards establishing its position as one of the world's most vibrant startup hubs, and a destination of choice for entrepreneurs the world over. It also demonstrates that Park Geun-Hye's government is dedicated to driving innovation in the Korean economy, by attracting overseas talent.
Prior to obtaining Korea's first Startup Visa Jason Lee was required to leave the country regularly to top up his tourist visa as he built his startup in Korea. Despite owning his own company, he didn't qualify for an investment visa, which also carries a stipulation of at least $100k in the bank, nor did he qualify for the standard business visa (as he wasn't employed). It is also worthy of note here that the application process for business investment visas previously took up to five years, but can now be completed in just a few months.
While the news of the first visa being handed out is great, many will be upset about the stringent stipulations. I have been contacted by many foreigners in the past months who would love to get involved in the vibrant Korean startup scene but struggle to get the paper-work arranged. Sadly, these hopefuls will not be served by the new visa, which requires a big investment into Korea, as outlined below:
2. The applicant must already own a Korean company, meaning that you are not able to establish a company based on the issuance of the startup visa. In other words, you must already be deeply invested in Korea in order to qualify
- Visa for Investors in Korea
- Korean Investor Visas for Foreigners
- Sean Hayes Quoted by Korean Times on D-8 Investment Visa
To explore the startup scene in Korea we recommend attending beLAUNCH 2014, which will be held this year May 14-15. Tickets for the Seoul event can be purchased through this link: http://belaunch.com/. To check out previous startup events hosted by beSUCCESS, please check out these short videos: beLAUNCH 2013 and beGLOBAL in Silicon Valley.
Sean Hayes is an IP lawyer and Managing Partner at IPG Legal in Korea. He is also the first overseas lawyer to serve on the Korean bar and has been practicing law in Korea for well over ten years. For his contact information please email firstname.lastname@example.org