How Korean Passport Law Affects Korean LPRs Temporarily Residing In Korea
by Young H. Noh
There are many LPRs of Korean nationality temporarily living and working in Korea. As U.S. immigration practitioners are aware, many of them apply and obtain reentry permits and stay in Korea for prolonged periods of time. However, in certain situations, various aspects of Korean laws do have significant effect on the LPRs and complicate things.
One such Korean law governs the validity of Korean passports, which state that immigrant passports of U.S. permanent residents automatically expire IF the Korean national passport holder physically stays in Korea continuously for more than two years. The relevant statute appears below:
Article 6 -Period of Validity of Korean Passport
Under Korean law, because they stayed in Korea continuously for over two-year periods, their Korean passports are deemed to have become voided, even though their reentry permits are still valid. Because their Korean passports are deemed to be voided, they will not be able to board the airplane at a Korean airport and must first obtain a one-time Travel Permit (which looks like a Korean passport) from the Korean Passport Office and then use the Travel Permit to first enter the United States and then obtain another Korean passport from the Korean Consulate in the United States. They are able to at least obtain Travel Permits because their reentry permits are still valid.
However, if they were to stay in Korea beyond April 10, 2004 - the valid date of their reentry permits - then they could not even obtain Travel Permits and as a result, they will not be able to board the flight. In this situation, their only option is to apply for Returning Visas from the American Embassy in Korea, and use the Returning Visas issued by the American Embassy to obtain Travel Permits from the Korean Passport Agency and then enter the U.S.
Prudent U.S. immigration practitioners should advise Korean LPRs considering coming to Korea to temporarily work and live in Korea that they should try to avoid staying in Korea continuously for over two years, and inform them to check with someone knowledgeable about Korean law and U.S. immigration law regarding their situations.
Young H. Noh is an expat U.S. attorney working and residing in Korea. He is co-author of the Chapter on American Embassy in Seoul in Visa Processing Guide published annually by AILA. Young Noh represents Korean clients with their immigration and visa cases and also works with Korean-licensed attorneys to represent non-Korean clients with business and litigation cases involving Korean law. Mr. Noh can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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