The government is rolling out new policies that will tighten rules on student visas in response to an increasing number of overstays by international students in recent years.
The Ministry of Justice said Sunday that the government will implement the new policies as of Monday.
“The ministry had empowered universities to select foreign students (to study in Korea), but the number of students who illegally overstay in Korea kept increasing as some universities didn’t closely check the students’ financial status and academic ability,” the ministry said.
According to the ministry, the number of foreign students who overstayed after their visas expired was just 5,879 in 2015, but increased to 13,945 in 2018. Among the 13,945, about 66 percent were from Vietnam and 13 percent were from China.
The new policy requires Vietnamese students to deposit at least $10,000 in a Korean commercial bank with a branch in Vietnam and submit proof to the ministry. The students will have a withdrawal limit of 5 million won ($4,433) every six months.
In the past, students were required to submit documentation certifying they held at least $9,000 in a bank account either in their names or their parents’ names. But many students were found to have taken out loans just to be eligible for student visas and to have withdrawn all the funds right away.
For now, the new pilot policy will apply only to Vietnamese students with D-4 visas, and only if they are attending universities the Ministry of Education considers poorly equipped to handle foreign students.
The ministry evaluates universities based on criteria set forth under the International Education Quality Assurance System, which takes into account the percentage of students who overstay their visas and the percentage of students who fail to graduate.
Under these new policies, the Ministry of Justice will regulate schools as well.
Korean language instructors will be required to hold level 3 certificates issued by the National Institute of Korean Language and will be able to teach up to 30 international students.
Students from 26 countries -- China, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Iran, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Peru, Guinea, Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda and Cameroon -- will have to submit language test scores indicating at least 530 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language and level 3 on the Test of Proficiency in Korean if they are entering universities that do not meet the ministry’s criteria.
In addition, to prevent foreign students from working illegally, the ministry will permit them to work for manufacturing businesses if they pass the TOPIK with a score of level 4 or higher.
By Park Ju-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)