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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

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

  1. Korean Passport shall be issued for the maximum of 5 years (revised 05/06/1998)
  2. The period of validity of Korean passport granted under the 1st clause can be extended unlimited times unless otherwise provided by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; except, the same passport cannot be extended after having been in existence for over 10 years. (revised 03/25/1983, 05/06/1998)
  3. In case where the individual is in possession of Korean passport designated as "PR", if his/her stay in Korea exceeds 2 years, unless provided by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Passport shall be deemed to have expired on the day his/her stay reaches 2 years or on the expiration date showing on the passport, whichever comes first; except in case of the individual who has the duty of military service under Military Service Act but has been exempted from military service or has been permitted to travel overseas, if such individual stays in Korea over 1 year with his PR passport, the passport will be deemed to have expired on the day his/her stay reaches 1 year (new 08/01/1981, 09/18/1995, 05/06/1998)."
Let's take one example to demonstrate the complexities that can arise. Let's say a Korean family (Husband, Wife, Daughter and Son) who obtained green cards need to return to Korea because the Husband has been offered a good job with Samsung Electronics in Korea as a marketing manager. They applied for reentry permits before they left the U.S. on January 10, 2002 and all of them obtained reentry permits for two-year periods. Their reentry permits are due to expire in April 10, 2004. They stayed in Korea continuously from January 10, 2002 up to the present, which is over two years.

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.


About The Author

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: webattorney@yahoo.com.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.


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