You may have heard of the Alien Registration Card* (ARC) (외국인등록증), famous for its peculiar name. But what exactly is an ARC? And do I need to get one when I go to Korea? If so, how do I get one? And what do I do if I lose my ARC? This article will answer all of these questions and more, ensuring you are not caught unprepared when the time comes for your move or trip to Korea!
*On 1 June 2020, Korea’s Ministry of Justice announced a revision to the Immigration Act that aims to remove the word ‘Alien’ from the name of the card, due to the negative connotations associated with the word. Expect to see a different name for the card in the near future.
What is an ARC?
An ARC is a type of national identification card, essential for foreigners residing in Korea for longer than a 90-day period. Those who have an ARC are legally obliged to carry it on their person at all times. There are numerous benefits to having an ARC. Once you have your card, you will be able to use it as your official identification in Korea. This means you will no longer have to carry your passport to travel domestically or prove your age. Having an ARC will make the process of getting a local phone number or bank account much easier, and you will have more options, such as signing up for a post-paid mobile phone plan or a credit card. You will also be able to leave and enter Korea as many times as you like as long as your ARC is valid, and ARC holders are exempt from filling out an arrival card when entering the country.
Do I need an ARC?
You will need to register for an ARC if you are intending to stay in Korea for more than 90 days from your date of arrival. The only exceptions are those carrying Diplomacy (A-1), Official Business (A-2) or Conventions/Agreements (A-3) visas and the family members of those visa holders. Thus, for the vast majority of students and workers coming to Korea for more than a 90-day period, an ARC is essential. You can click here if you would like to learn more about Korea’s visa regulations.
How do I get an ARC?
If you require an ARC, you will need to reserve your appointment for registration within 90 days of your arrival in Korea. Appointment slots fill up especially quickly in February and August, when new students and teachers are arriving, so make your booking as early as possible. One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with government websites in Korea is that many of them function correctly only in Internet Explorer, and registering for an ARC appointment is no exception. Firstly, make sure you have access to a Windows computer with Internet Explorer, then go to the online reservation page of the Hi Korea website and follow the instructions to reserve your appointment. Verify which immigration office covers your address before making your reservation, noting that jurisdiction is based on your place of residence, not the location of your workplace or university. You can do this by visiting the office directory page on the Hi Korea website and clicking on an office name to see its jurisdiction.
For your appointment, you will need your passport, completed application form, 2 colour passport-style photos (3.5cm x 4.5cm) with a white background*, ₩30,000 application fee (exact amount in cash)** and documents to prove place of residence. Some extra documents may be required based on nationality or visa type, so get in touch with the Immigration Contact Center if you need any clarification.
It is a good idea to arrive at the immigration office with some time to spare, as the office is rarely running behind schedule and you will need to pay your application fee before your number is called. You can pay your fee by using the ATM inside the immigration office. There will be an option to select English as your language and you then must follow the prompts and insert your application fee in cash into the machine***. Make sure to take your ATM receipt, as you will need this later. Once your number is called, head over the desk and hand over your passport, documents and ATM receipt. Once the process is complete, you will receive an application receipt telling you the date from which your ARC will be ready for pickup, usually about one month from the date you apply.
A reservation is not necessary to pick up your ARC. Simply return to the immigration office on or soon after the specified date with the application receipt. Hand the receipt over at the desk and wait for your number to be called. Once your number is called, you will finally have your ARC!
*Many subway stations in Korea have automated photo booths where you can purchase sets of passport-style photos in various formats, usually for ₩5,000 or ₩10,000 per set.
**Include an extra ₩3,000 (₩33,000 total) if you want your ARC mailed to you when it is ready.
***The ATMs inside immigration offices typically do not work with foreign cards, which is why bringing your exact application fee in cash is essential.
What if my details change?
If you need to change your name, sex, date of birth, nationality, address, passport details or, for some visa holders, details of the organisation to which you belong, it will be necessary to report the change(s) to the immigration office within 14 days. To do so, you should visit the relevant immigration office with your ARC, passport, new application form and any relevant documents detailing the appropriate changes.
What if my ARC is damaged or lost?
If your ARC is damaged or lost, you must report this to the immigration office within 14 days. To get a replacement card, you must bring your passport, application form, 2 colour passport-style photos (3.5cm x 4.5cm) with a white background (if your current ARC photo is more than 6 months old), ₩30,000 processing fee, document stating the reason for reissuance and your old ARC (if still in your possession).
Can I keep my ARC as a souvenir when I leave Korea?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is ‘no’. You are legally obliged to surrender your ARC to an immigration officer when you are departing Korea with no intention to return before the expiration date stated on your ARC. So enjoy it while you have it and take a few photos to remember your time in Korea!
Disclaimer: While Asia Options strives to be as accurate as possible in the information we provide on immigration issues, we cannot act as an official immigration consultant and regulations may be subject to frequent changes. We recommend you check the latest information available on the Hi Korea website and get in touch with the Immigration Contact Center to clarify any questions you may have.
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