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[Ask a Lawyer] To marry a Korean, first prove your single status

By Choi Jae-hee

Published : Jan. 9, 2023 - 19:58

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For international couples, tying the knot requires some additional paperwork. (Getty Images) For international couples, tying the knot requires some additional paperwork. (Getty Images)

Last year, South Korean singer-producer DJ Koo Jun-yup’s story of rekindling an old love with Taiwanese star Barbie Hsu made many swoon. Announcing his marriage with the ex-girlfriend, Koo, 53, said he was “resuming the love he had but couldn’t realize 20 years ago.”

Through all the sweetness, the international star couple would have gone through some paperwork to become legal husband and wife both in Korea and Taiwan. Hsu, in particular, would have been asked to prove her single status to Korean authorities, with a formal document called an Affidavit of Eligibility for Marriage.

Here are some questions and answers shared by Kim Yae-jin, an attorney at law firm Woo & Partners, about the general administrative procedures required in Korea for an international couple to legally register as wife and husband and start a family.

Kim Yae-jin, an attorney at law firm Woo & Partners (Courtesy of Kim) Kim Yae-jin, an attorney at law firm Woo & Partners (Courtesy of Kim)

Q. Walk me through the marriage registration process for international couples.

If you are a foreigner and planning to register a marriage with a Korean partner, the first thing you need to do is go to the embassy of your country in Korea and have your single status affidavit issued.

When a translated copy of the document is ready, visit any district office with your partner for marriage registration. Both persons need to present their identification documents such as a valid passport or residence card.

At the office, you will be asked to fill out the “report of marriage” form in Korean, which requires some personal information like name, address and date of birth. You will also need to provide personal information of two witnesses who are not required to be present.

If you are a foreigner living outside of Korea, you can send all the necessary documents to your partner in Korea by airmail so that he or she could apply for marriage registration on your behalf. The whole process generally takes up to a week.

Q. If I am married to a Korean, can I stay in Korea?

A foreign national who is married to a Korean is entitled to the F-6 marriage immigrant visa. If a foreign spouse has been living in Korea with another type of visa, he or she can change their visa type to F-6.

The F-6 visa is initially valid for just one year and needs to be renewed every one or two years thereafter.

Foreign spouses who have been living for more than two years in Korea with an F-6 visa can apply for a permanent residency visa, the F-5.

From work contracts to marriage with a Korean citizen or accidental breaking of local laws, foreign residents can find themselves in complicated legal situations. Ask a Lawyer covers the most common legal issues faced by expats in South Korea through Q&As with lawyers practicing in the field.

Kim Yae-jin is an attorney at law firm Woo & Partners with extensive experience in handling immigration cases. As a member of the Korean Bar Association’s support committee for multicultural families and the Village Lawyers for Foreigners Program operated by the Ministry of Justice, Kim has offered counsel on various legal issues involving foreign residents. -- Ed.