Overview of Immigration to UK from Korea
South Korean immigration to the UK has been increasing rapidly since the 1980s.
The south London town of New Malden has been the epicentre of the South Korean community in the UK during this time, with some reports stating that the wider borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames is home to the most dense population of South Koreans in the western hemisphere.
The appeal of an already-established immigrant community is evident, as there are a range of community provisions and facilities already in place for Koreans in New Malden. These include restaurants, shops, churches, newspapers and Korean-language services.
This means that for many Koreans, moving to the UK is an attractive proposition that may feel less daunting than moving to some other countries.
In total, there are estimated over 40,000 South Koreans in the UK, with many of them having arrived through obtaining certain visas to allow for travel to the UK. These include work, family and student visas, with options also available for those who wish to come to the UK as dependents of visa applicants.
Many visas will also allow you to settle in the UK permanently through indefinite leave to remain.
UK Work Visas for Koreans
Many Koreans in the UK either work or run their own businesses. If you’re a Korean also looking to come and work in the UK, then you’ll first need to obtain a suitable work visa.
UK work visas cover a variety of different purposes and niches. For example, those aiming to work as a professional sportsperson or coach can apply for the International Sportsperson visa, while those aiming for a job in health or care can apply for a Health and Care Worker visa.
However, it’s most likely that many applicants will be applying for a Skilled Worker visa. This is the UK’s general work visa that covers a range of professions and industries.
The requirements for work visas will vary, but most will require you to have a job offer from an employer who can act as your sponsor while you’re in the UK. You may also have to speak and understand English to a minimum level, as well as meet salary or specific job requirements in order to be eligible for visas.
It’s important to note that not all work visas will be eligible paths to permanent settlement in the UK. However, ones such as the Skilled Worker visa and Health and Care Worker visa will allow you to apply after a certain period of time.
UK Business and Talent Visas for Koreans
The UK also has a specific visa category for foreign workers wishing to immigrate for business purposes, or for those who are leaders in their field.
For both of these visas, you must also receive endorsement from an eligible endorsing body, which will confirm that your business idea is viable.
You must also meet minimum English language requirements for both of these visas.
The UK also offers the Global Talent visa, which is aimed at global leaders in fields such as academia or research, arts and culture and digital technology. For this visa, you must provide proof that you’re a leader, such as through an award or endorsement.
However, you will be able to undertake any kind of work in the UK without restrictions. You also won’t have to satisfy any minimum or language requirements.
Both the Innovator visa and the Global talent visa will allow you to apply for permanent settlement in the UK.
UK Family Visas for Koreans
If you already have certain family members who are British citizens or are settled in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for a Family visa.
A Family visa will allow you to settle in the UK long-term with your family member. These may include the following:
- Spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner
- Fiancé, fiancée or proposed civil partner
- Relative who’ll provide long-term care for you
In order to be eligible for this visa, your family member must have British or Irish citizenship, or some form of settlement in the UK.
You must also prove that the relationship between you and your family member is genuine and also fulfil certain individual requirements, depending on which family member you’re applying to join.
For example, if you’re planning to join your fiancé in the UK, you must first get married within the first 6 months of you being in the UK, after which you may apply for a Spouse visa, if you’re eligible.
All types of Family visa may lead to permanent settlement in the UK.
UK Student Visas for Koreans
The UK Student visa is an enduringly popular visa for many foreign students to apply for, given the high regard that British schools and universities receive internationally.
The Student visa will allow you to come to the UK and study in an approved course from an education supplier who can sponsor international students. You must already have a place confirmed on a course in order to apply for a Student visa.
In addition to this, you must also have enough money to support yourself while on the course and also meet minimum English language requirements.
After your course in the UK finishes, you will then be able to apply for a Graduate visa, if eligible. This will allow you to stay and work in the UK for up to 2 years if you’d prefer not to return to your home country.
The Graduate visa doesn’t directly lead to permanent settlement, but you will be allowed to switch to another type of visa, such as a Skilled Worker visa, that will allow you to apply for settlement if you wish.
How Can IAS Help?
Immigrating to the UK from Korea is a significant undertaking that requires a great deal of planning and logistics.
If you’re a Korean looking to immigrate to the UK, an EU country or a non-EU country, whether for business, work, family or study purposes, IAS can help.
IAS are a team of expert immigration lawyers who work with clients all over the world to help them with their immigration needs. We offer a range of services, from our Fast Track Package if you need your visa application approved as a matter of urgency, or our concierge services if you need some extra help and reassurance when relocating to another country.
We also provide bespoke, personalised assistance for your personal situation to help you best navigate the UK visa and immigration system.
Last modified on July 17th, 2023 at 7:50 am
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You must normally apply for a UK visa online through the Gov.uk website outside of the UK, before you travel.
When you apply, you will have to fill in the online application form and provide a range of supporting documents for your chosen visa.
Note that you may also have to attend a local visa application centre to give your biometrics information as part of the application process.
There is one UK visa application centre for Korean applicants located in Seoul.
There are a number of organisations and groups that are dedicated to supporting and connecting Koreans in the UK.
These include (but are not limited to) the following:
- British Korean Society
- London Korean Links
- Korean Cultural Centre UK
In the year 2021, the number of people in the UK who spoke Korean as their main language was approximately 12,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Foreign nationals who have been in the UK with indefinite leave to remain can usually apply for citizenship after they’ve been in the UK with indefinite leave to remain status for 12 months.
However, it’s important to note that South Korea restricts dual citizenship for its citizens, which means that only certain individuals in certain situations can carry dual citizenship.
This means that you may have to renounce your South Korean citizenship if you decide that you wish to become a British citizen.