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Migrant workers allowed to extend stay in Korea for one year

Ministry of Justice (Yonhap)
Ministry of Justice (Yonhap)
South Korea on Tuesday announced a decision to extend the period of stay for about 115,000 foreign migrant workers by one year in a bid to relieve labor shortages at small businesses and in farming and fishing communities.

The labor and justice ministries said that the temporary extension of stay will apply to the E-9 non-professional employment and H-2 visiting employment visa holders, whose period of staying and working in South Korea is set to expire between Tuesday and Dec. 31.

The extraordinary measure will be implemented in consideration of COVID-19-related travel restrictions faced by migrant workers and labor shortages at domestic industrial, farming and fishing businesses, the ministries said. 

They said 62,239 E-9 visa holders eligible for the special measure will all be allowed to extend their period of stay and work activities by one year.

In the case of 52,357 eligible H-2 visa holders, confirmation on whether they are legally employed or not is needed prior to the extension of stay, they said, noting a maximum of 114,596 foreigners may benefit from the measure.

According to government data, the number of foreign workers arriving here with E-9 visas fell sharply from 51,365 in 2019 to 6,688 last year, due mainly to massive cancellations of international flights caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Arrivals of H-2 visa holders also dived from 63,339 to 6,044 in the same period.

Thus, the number of E-9 visa holders staying here stood at 237,000 as of the end of last year, marking a fall of 14.4 percent from 277,000 a year earlier, while H-2 visa workers also shrank 31.4 percent from 226,000 to 155,000.

The steep reductions in E-9 and H-2 visa holders have worsened labor shortages at small and medium-sized companies and in farming and fishing villages.

The latest measure came as the revised Foreign Employment Act took effect on the day, paving the ground for extending the employment period of foreign workers by up to one year if their entry or departure becomes difficult due to the spread of infectious diseases. (Yonhap)