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Legal Advice: Owning a Business in Korea

Question: “I have recently been offered the chance to buy part of a bar here in Korea. As an E-2 visa holder, what rights of ownership do I have? Do I need to get a new visa? Can the bar legally be in my name? What are my options? Do expats have the right to legally own a business in Korea or must a Korean citizen be on the title?”Thanks, beers on me! JC Answer: There are no restrictions or limitations for a non-citizen or an expat to own business or property in Korea. The only problem that I foresee for an expat who is currently working and residing in Korea with an E-2 visa or any other specific-purpose visa which limits the holder’s activities to a specific area of working or studying, is that he or she will have to apply for a change of visa status to other forms of visa such as a C2, D7 – D9, that will allow the person to engage in the business activities associated with owning a business. However, it should be noted, Korean Immigration usually requires the expat business person to invest a minimum of KRW50,000,000 in order to qualify for being granted the appropriate visa. More information on visa application can be found on www.immigration.go.kr. However, as you may already know, dealing with the immigration in any country isn’t always easy. Although you should be able to obtain the proper visa when first applying, when it’s time for renewal, they will require that you show financial documents and evidence of meaningful business activity. If you cannot provide this, then they will not renew the visa, and you will have difficulty staying and working in Korea legally. Good luck with your bar!

Kevin Kim is a Korean American attorney now practicing in Haeundae. He can be contacted at his law firm, Jin and Kim, by phone: 051-784-0022 or www.jinandkim.com Send your questions to: kkim@jinandkim.com

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