Gov't exempts some foreign residents from re-entry rulesFollowing a backlash over requirements that foreign residents obtain re-entry permits and health certificates to return to Korea, the Ministry of Justice on Monday revised its guidelines to allow leeway for foreign journalists, businesspeople and scholars for work-related trips of less than three weeks.
The Justice Ministry on May 23 announced that registered foreign residents in Korea who wished to travel outside the country had to get re-entry permits before leaving and submit up-to-date medical reports detailing whether they have coronavirus symptoms on their return starting June 1.
The requirements are part of an effort to reduce the number of new coronavirus cases imported to Korea.
The measures, announced about one week before implementation, drew considerable backlash, including an online Blue House petition calling the move “unjust and discriminatory” against foreigners living in the country. The petition, posted one week ago, gained over 8,000 signatures as of Monday.
In turn, the Justice Ministry adjusted the measures to allow exemptions to the health certificate requirement for short-term travel under three weeks for the purposes of business, reporting and academic research.
A Justice Ministry official said Monday that everyone returning from overseas is already required to take a Covid-19 test within three days of arrival as a part of quarantine measures.
The initial measures required all registered foreign residents to submit a medical certificate issued within the past 48 hours, written either in English or Korean, detailing whether they have any coronavirus symptoms. A negative Covid-19 test result will also suffice.
The original announcement carved out exceptions for diplomats, government officials and overseas Koreans with F-4 visas.
Foreigners staying in Korea for more than 90 days are required to apply for alien registration status. Since 2010, such registered long-term visitors have been exempted from re-entry permits for up to one year after leaving the country.
There have been 78 cases of foreign residents in Korea who tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from overseas travels as of May 27.
The ministry is also allowing foreigners who are married to Koreans and registered as long-term stayers to receive an F-6 visa for marriage migrants. Thus far, foreigners who entered the country as long-term stayers have not been issued an F-6 visa, except under special circumstances.
The ministry said it will make an exception for married couples that may have difficulty when returning to the country if a spouse is a foreign resident.
The ministry will accept holders of the B-1, B-2 and C-3 visitor visas dated before April 12 who have been married to a Korean for over 90 days, or who married a Korean before entering the country.
Separately, the Justice Ministry announced Monday it is officially removing the term “alien” from Alien Registration Card for the first time in 54 years. The English name of the permits for registered foreigners in Korea will be renamed “Permanent Residence Card.”
The renaming followed a suggestion raised at a town hall meeting hosted on May 13 by the Justice Ministry to reflect the views of immigrants and foreigners living in Korea.
The Justice Ministry said in a statement, “We look forward to this change in the English terminology to serve as an opportunity to alleviate the sense of difference for foreigners living in Korea and to enable them to feel like a member of our community.”
The United States also issues Permanent Resident statuses, previously called Resident Aliens.
The ministry said it plans to expand efforts to communicate with foreign residents in future policy-making processes.
BY SARAH KIM, KANG KWANG-SOO [email@example.com]
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