Citizenship In Korea

Citizenship In Korea: All You Need To Know

Ever fantasized about calling the ‘Land of the Morning Calm‘ your forever home?

From mouth-watering Korean BBQ to K-pop fame, the perks are endless.

But before you start belting ‘Arirang,’ let’s get serious about the nitty-gritty—securing your Korean citizenship. Buckle up; we’ve got a journey ahead.

What Does It Mean To Have Korean Citizenship?

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In recent years, many people have been attempting to try for a Korean passport, which is currently ranked 2nd globally on the Henley Passport Index.

Being a Korean citizen provides numerous benefits, making it even more attractive to foreign nationals. Unquestionably, it facilitates:

  1. Hassle-free travel to other countries
  2. Access to opportunities within Government
  3. Better job prospects
  4. Healthcare benefits
  5. Ability to participate in the democratic process
  6. Dual citizenship (under some circumstances)

Types Of Korean Citizenship

You can obtain South Korean citizenship through the following routes:

  1. Citizenship by naturalization or residency
  2. Citizenship by paternity
  3. Citizenship by marriage

Citizenship By Naturalization

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Citizenship by naturalization is an acquiring method, which forms an integral part of Korea’s modern migration policy.

This method highlights the merging dynamics of both migrant inflow and national identity, tracing its root back to the early era of the Korean peninsula when the process was completed primarily through marriage or adoption.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. Age of maturity per Korean Civil Law
  2. Have maintained domicile in Korea for five continuous years
  3. Demonstrate decent conduct and good moral character
  4. Possess an ability to support oneself, or be dependent on an immediate family member who can
  5. Have basic knowledge befitting a Korean citizen like understanding of the Korean language, customs, and culture

How To Apply?

The process involves a number of stages and requires various documents which can be bullet-pointed as below:

Submitting The Application Form

Obtain, fill out, and submit the Naturalization Application at the Immigration Office.


Required documents include copies of passports, Alien Registration Card, health certificate, financial and income statements, Korean language proficiency certificate, document proving residency in Korea, and others as deemed necessary.

Examination Of Qualifications

After the application and documents have been submitted, the application is reviewed by the Ministry of Justice.

Preliminary Notification Of Result

The applicant is advised of the outcome. If approved, the applicant is granted a date for the ‘Naturalization Oath Ceremony’.

Types Of Naturalization

In Korea, one might opt for a simple or special naturalization.

Simple Naturalization

It involves the process discussed above, requiring five years of residency, good conduct, economic stability, and an understanding of the Korean language, culture, and customs.

Special Naturalization

Special naturalization on the other hand, has more lenient conditions and often takes a shorter time. It’s subdivided into several types:

  • Naturalization For Adults: This applies to those married to a Korean citizen and have been resident in Korea for two years, or lived in Korea for three years continuously regardless of marital status.
  • Naturalization For Minors: Children under 20 years old without nationality can apply if their parents are Korean citizens.
  • Naturalization For Recognized Refugees: Refugees authenticated by the Korean government or United Nations can apply without having lived for a specified period in Korea.

Each naturalization process and type comes with its unique benefits and challenges. Therefore, a thorough understanding and assessment of the implications, as well as legal advice, are always a wise recourse.

Citizenship By Paternity

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The basis of Citizenship by Paternity in South Korea rests on a fundamental principle called “Jus Sanguinis” (right of blood) which has its roots in Roman law, meaning one’s nationality is determined by that of their parents.

 Korea, a Confucian society, places paramount importance on the lineage and the patriarchal lineage system known as “Hoju.”

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for Korean Citizenship by Paternity (“Jus Sanguinis”), one must fulfill one of the following points:

  1. Born to a parent who is a Korean citizen at the time of the child’s birth, regardless of the place of birth.
  2. Born in Korea but whose parents are unknown (stateless persons).

How To Apply?

Application Process Obtaining Citizenship by Paternity in Korea is a phased process that involves a set of stipulations and approvals.

Prepare Required Documents

This include the applicant’s birth certificate, parental proof of Korean citizenship (Korean family relations certificate or Korean passport), parent’s marriage certificate (if applicable), and the applicant’s certificate of foreign citizenship.

Submit Required Documents

Submit these documents to the Korean consulate in your country or the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Korea. Some documents may require translation into Korean.

Review By Legal Professional

The officials will review and authenticate your documents. They may ask for additional evidence or ask you to verify certain details.

Await Approval

Once your documents are verified and approved, you will be granted Korean Citizenship. You must then register your foreign seal or signature and must obtain a South Korean ID card.

Dual Citizenship Decision (if applicable)

For those who acquire dual citizenship by virtue of birth, they must make a decision at the age of 22, as per the Nationality Act.

The path to acquiring citizenship by paternity in Korea may appear daunting. However, a deeper understanding of eligibility requirements and detailed navigation of the application process can illuminate the journey.

 The reward is membership in a nation vibrant in culture, steeped in history, and equipped with one of the most dynamic economies globally.

Citizenship By Marriage

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The tradition of acquiring Korean citizenship by marriage traces back to 1998 when the Korean Nationality Act was revised.

The key goal was to foster multiculturalism and diversification by acknowledging foreign spouses’ contributions towards Korean society.

The act emphasizes building a balanced society by incorporating an amalgamation of cultures.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. The applicant must be legally married to a Korean national and should have lived in Korea for a minimum period of two years continually after marriage.
  2. An applicant who has resided abroad for more than three consecutive years after marriage to a Korean national, with a combined marital duration of at least five years, is also eligible.
  3. It is obligatory for the applicant to have a good conduct record with no history of involvement in crimes or serious misdemeanors.
  4. The applicant must possess basic knowledge about Korean culture, history, Korean language proficiency, and the rights and duties of being a Korean citizen.
  5. The applicant must be able to support himself/herself financially or have a spouse who can provide for them.

How To Apply?

The application process for gaining citizenship by marriage in Korea is systematic and comprehensive. Here is the step-by-step procedure:

Submission Of Application

The first step towards applying for Korean citizenship is to submit an application to the Ministry of Justice, along with necessary documents like marriage certificate, residence certificate etc.

Preliminary Interview

After the application submission, a preliminary interview is conducted to examine the authenticity of the marriage and the basic knowledge of the applicant about Korea.


Post the interview, the Ministry of Justice, conducts a detailed study to check the applicant’s suitability for citizenship.

Test Of Proficiency In The Korean Language (TOPIK)

Applicants are required to demonstrate a certain level of language proficiency, usually a minimum of level 1 on the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK).

Final Decision

The final decision is made based on eligibility criteria fulfillment, interview performance, and TOPIK score. Successful applicants then have to take the Naturalization Oath.

As South Korea continues to empower its international citizen community, gaining citizenship by marriage opens doors to new sociocultural paradigms.

It is a complex yet rewarding process that broadens the country’s perspectives and strengthens national equity.

The detailed elaboration provided above aims to guide potential applicants in their pursuit of Korean citizenship by marriage, ensuring they gain a realistic, practical understanding of what the process entails.

Dual Citizenship In ‘The Republic Of Korea’:

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Dual citizenship is generally not permitted in Korea. The law clearly states that a person who has acquired Korean citizenship must renounce the citizenship of another country within one year, whereas Korean nationals lose their Korean citizenship the moment they acquire a foreign citizenship.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Dual citizenship may be granted under the following circumstances:

  1. A person acquires Korean citizenship as a spouse of a Korean national.
  2. A person has contributed greatly to the Republic of Korea.
  3. A person has outstanding abilities in a specific field, such as science, economy culture and sport.
  4. A person finds it difficult to renounce his/her citizenship because of the laws and procedures of his/her country.

Dual citizenship is permitted only for the individuals listed above, and only if they vow not to use their foreign citizenship in Korea.

Common Reasons For Citizenship Denial In Korea

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Acquiring Korean citizenship is not always a straightforward process. There are several reasons why an application may be denied. Here, we offer a detailed exploration of the common reasons:

Inadequate Residency Period

South Korea requires specific residency durations before granting citizenship.

Immigrants must typically live in the country for five years or more before applying while a failure to meet this length-of-stay requirement commonly leads to citizenship denials.

Insufficient Language Proficiency

Language proficiency is a key criterion for Korea’s citizenship approval process. Applicants must exhibit sufficient understanding and use of the Korean language.

Those unable to pass the language proficiency test might face application rejection.

Lack Of Financial Stability

The Korean government scrutinizes applicants’ financial proficiency. The stability to financially provide for one-self and dependents is essential.

It’s critical to have a steady job and sufficient income to avoid denial.

Criminal Records

South Korea has a stringent stand on foreign applicants with a criminal history. Any substantial criminal records, particularly severe or violent crimes, could result in application denial.

Even minor offences, if repeated, may limit chances of acceptance.

Inconsistencies In Application

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Detailed and accurate completion of all paperwork is a must. Any discrepancies or inconsistencies may lead to denial.

It is essential to review application materials thoroughly and seek legal counsel if required.

Failure To Abide By Korean Norms And Customs

South Korea places strong emphasis on cultural assimilation. Familiarity with, respect for, and adherence to Korean norms and customs are expected.

Failure to demonstrate cultural understanding can lead to denial of citizenship.

Violations Of Immigration Law

South Korea enforces its immigration laws strictly. Any violations, like overstaying or working illegally, may lead to citizenship denial. Applicants must maintain a clean immigration record.

Failure To Renounce Original Citizenship

South Korea typically requires foreigners to renounce their original nationality to acquire Korean citizenship.

Occasionally, there are exceptions under dual citizenship policies, but these are limited. Refusal to renounce former nationality may result in application rejection.

Health Concerns

Applicants with serious health concerns, particularly those that may pose a public health risk, may find their application denied. The Korean government may conduct health-checks, particularly for infectious diseases

Attaining Korean citizenship can be a painstaking process with careful scrutiny at each step. Avoiding the common pitfalls discussed above could increase your chances of approval.

Giving Up Korean Citizenship

Korean citizenship, once obtained, is a lifelong bond that connects a person to the culture and heritage of the Korean Peninsula.

However, there are certain situations when a person might consider relinquishing this tie. Mentioned below, is the step-by-step method to give up your Korean Citizenship:

  1. The foremost and the most important step is to complete an application. This application, known as the renunciation application of Korean Nationality, is to be submitted to the head of the Ministry of Justice in South Korea. It is crucial to ensure all necessary details are provided in the document, including valid reasons to surrender the citizenship.
  2. Next is to gather the necessary documents. This ensemble includes a copy of the Family Relations Registry, translated copies IDs and passports, foreign naturalization certificate, a document detailing one’s intention to give up Korean nationality, and any other required documents depending upon the individual’s situation.
  3. Following the submission of the application, the Ministry of Justice starts a review process. The ministry has the jurisdiction to reject or accept the application based on the parameters detailed in the Nationality Act. Possible causes for rejection could be compulsory military service, evasion of criminal persecution, or lack of a secured foreign nationality.
  4. The next step, following a successful application review, is to take the Oath of Renunciation. This is a regular part of the process, undertaken at a prescribed location in front of an authorized officer. This officer is entrusted with the duty of administering the oath, corroborating the process’s gravity and sincerity.
  5. Once the oath is administered, a Certificate of Loss of Nationality is issued by the Ministry of Justice. This certificate, legally drafted, serves as the final proof of the person’s relinquishment of Korean citizenship.

It is worth noting that while one can renounce Korean citizenship, it may have significant ramifications like losing the rights that come with being a Korean national and possible consequence for children born after the renunciation.

Therefore, understanding these implementations thoroughly is imperative before making a decision.

Renaturalisation Of Korean Citizenship

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Renaturalization of Korean citizenship is not a simple, one-step process. It involves layers of administration, regulations, and bureaucracy, and eligibility depends on an array of factors.

For instance, individuals who had Korean citizenship and voluntarily renounced it in favor of another can apply for renaturalization if they can demonstrate their intention to permanently reside in Korea.

This can be shown through property ownership, immediate family living in Korea, or stable employment. They may also be required to take a test to prove their understanding and knowledge of the Korean language, history, and culture.

Under special provisions, specific categories of people are exempted from the aforementioned language and culture tests.

These include ethnic Koreans with exceptional talents contributing to South Korea’s national interests, and those who were Korean citizens at birth but lost their nationality due to parental decisions.

In both cases, the decision of the Minister of Justice plays a critical role. Children of South Korean citizens who obtained foreign passports at birth because of their parents are also eligible for renaturalization without additional requirements.

Once they have reached the age of majority, they can retain both nationalities if they declare intent to retain Korean nationality.

In conclusion, the renaturalization of Korean citizenship is a specific and intricate process, reflecting the country’s commitment to nurture distinct identities whilst simultaneously embracing the rich diversity of its population.

With more adherences to global inclinations, one can expect further transformations in this domain in the future.


Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of the citizenship maze! With this guide, you’re not just another expat; you’re an expat with a plan.

Now, all that’s left is to put these steps into action and inch closer to becoming a bonafide Korean citizen. Go ahead, let your inner K-pop star shine!

Korea Conquered!

But wait! There’s lot more that you might be interested in to follow:

  • Dual Citizenship In Korea
  • Permanent residence In Korea
  • Temporary Residence In Korea

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