Do Korean Citizens Need Visa Visit US?

4 years


US tourism is a major industry attracting millions of foreign and domestic visitors every year. Travelers visit the US to view natural wonders, historical landmarks, cities, and recreation venues. In 2009, the US Electronic Travel Authorization Program (“ESTA”) was introduced for visa-exempt nationals traveling by air or sea to the USA. The document must be obtained online before departure. You can verify whether you qualify for US ESTA by filling out our online application. For travel to the United States, South Korean people may apply for an ESTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation System) visa waiver.

Traditional korean style architecture at bukchon hanok village in seoul, south korea

Do Korean Citizens Need Visa Visit US?

Nationals of South Korea can apply for an Electronic Travel Authorisation System (ESTA) visa waiver to visit the US. The ESTA allows South Korea citizens to enter the United States for tourism, business, medical, transit, and short study visits without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. South Korea was added to the US Visa Waiver Program in 2008. However, security measures intended to address terrorism threats have necessitated travelers’ pre-screening before their arrival in the United States.

What is ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA is an online application program developed by the Government of the United States to pre-screen visitors before they are allowed to board an airplane or ship to the United States. Starting on January 12, 2009, any person entering the United States under the visa waiver program must hold an approved ESTA. Foreign nationals who are not qualified to ESTA or refused an ESTA will require to apply for a United States visa.

Can a South Korean citizen stay in the US for more than 90 days with ESTA?

South Korean citizens have thus been expected to obtain an authorized ESTA application for entry into the United States since 2009. But, in the case of a South Korean national being denied or not qualifying for ESTA, or intending to visit the US for more than 90 days or other purposes than those approved under ESTA, the South Korean passport holder will have to apply for the appropriate US visa.  

Is there any timeline available to apply ESTA?

South Korean citizens must apply online for ESTA. An ESTA is required before leaving or boarding the air or sea vessel to the United States and should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure. For the ESTA application, a new, non-expired electronic passport must be used.

How ESTA differs from a US visa?

An authorized ESTA application does not give a South Korean citizen with the same level of powers as a US visa holder. A US visa applicant will need to file a more comprehensive application form, called the DS-160, and appoint an interview at a US consulate or embassy. Besides, depending on the type of visa, applicants will need to prepare additional documentation to prove the genuineness of their travel plans and intentions in the United States before they enter the country.

What are the benefits of ESTA?

The benefits are,

  1. It can be used for multiple entries.
  2. It can apply via an online desktop or mobile application.
  3. The validity of two years, or the passport expiry date, whichever is earlier.
  4. Decisions on ESTA applications are usually provided instantaneously.

What are the requirements needed for a South Korean citizen to apply ESTA?

To apply an ESTA, you need the below documents:

  1. Passport information.
  2. Contact details, like a home address and telephone number.
  3. Trip information such as point of contact in the US and US address of stay.
  4. Employment information (if employed).
  5. Debit or Credit card related details to pay the application fee.

How long will it take to process my ESTA?

Once you have listed the required information, your application to visit the United States using the VWP is processed by the system. It usually takes 72 hours for your application to process; however, most applications are accepted within minutes or a few hours. If your authorization is approved, you will be cleared to board the United States air or sea carrier.

How long is my ESTA valid?

Till revoked, travel authorizations are valid for the next two years from the authorization date or up to the expiry of the visitors passport, whichever comes first. An ESTA can, however, also be revoked or overwritten by the applicant when a new ESTA application is re-submitted. The travel authorisation would also stop immediately if the visa lapses within the two-year period where the travel authorisation has been issued.

Do South Korean citizens require an ESTA if they are only transiting through the US en route to another country?

Registered nationals or residents of countries participating in the Visa Waiver System need either an ESTA or a transit visa through the USA. Suppose a traveler is only planning to transit through the United States en-route to another country. In that case, when the visitor makes the travel authorization form, they must select the option that their visit is for Transit purposes for the Address While in the US field on the application.

Architecture in changdeokgung palace in seoul city at korea

When should a South Korean citizen opt for a visa to travel to the US instead of an ESTA? 

  1. If your visit in the United States exceeds 90 days but does not meet the Visa Waiver Program entry requirements, such as a trip for leisure or professional reasons, which is within the 90-day limit. 
  2. If your sea and air carrier is not affiliated with the Visa Waiver Program you are using to travel to the United States.
  3. If you feel strongly that you do not qualify to enter the US under the VWP due to the Immigration and Nationality Act 212(a).

How can a South Korean citizen apply for an ESTA?

It is quite simple to complete the request. Please follow the below steps carefully:

  1. Choose the departure and arrival country, select the required visa type, enter your name, and click ‘CLICK TO START.’
  2. Verify the visa fee and terms and conditions on the next page.
  3. On the third page, enter your basic details in the respective field and upload the necessary documents (you can upload the documents in a later stage also).
  4. After that, review the details, confirm the information on your application form, and then proceed with the payment. We support all types of cards for payment.
  5. You will receive the invoice and a confirmation mail with a link in your registered email id.
  6. Click the link and complete the remaining form (you can also upload the document in this stage) and submit it for processing.
  7. Once the evisa is approved, click2visas will send your visa to your email in PDF format.
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