South Korea, first country to launch ETA during pandemic


The government of South Korea has announced that it will finally launch its long-term electronic travel authorization for foreign citizens, called K-ETA. This makes South Korea the first country in the world to launch an ETA during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

The groundwork for implementing an electronic travel authorization was first laid after South Korea’s National Assembly passed a revision of the country’s immigration law in January 2020. However, after months of preparation of the online system, it now appears that all foreign nationals with visa waivers will be able to apply online for the K-ETA from September 2021.

Why South Korea is implementing an ETA

The main objective of the introduction of K-ETA is to facilitate entry into South Korea for visa-exempt foreign citizens. This prevents citizens benefiting from a visa waiver from filling out a disembarkation card upon arrival.

However, it will also complement the current coronavirus restrictions in South Korea. K-ETA will allow the South Korean government to screen travelers for symptoms of COVID-19 and any potential contact with the virus before they are given permission to travel to the country.

K-ETA is not a visa. This is an online electronic travel authorization / visa waiver that is only available to foreign citizens currently authorized to enter South Korea without a visa.

The launch of the travel authorization is not only expected to bring tourism back to pre-pandemic levels, but also to foster further growth.

When will the electronic travel authorization for South Korea be launched

The K-ETA program is first launched on an experimental basis from May 2021. ETA will initially not be compulsory for the first few months. It will be optional for a few visa-exempt nationalities and priority travelers as part of a trial. During this period, it will not be necessary to pay any fees to obtain an ETA.

K-ETA for South Korea will come into full force from September 2021. Once the program is fully operational, it will become mandatory for all visa-exempt travelers to have an approved electronic travel authorization to board a flight to the country and pay a minimal online processing fee in order to check it out. ‘get.

The K-ETA application process has been designed to be as simple and straightforward as possible. The application form can be submitted on the online web portal within minutes.

Applicants simply need to fill in basic personal information such as their name, date of birth, nationality and passport details. They will also need to provide details of criminal history and contact / symptoms with infectious diseases such as COVID-19 before submitting the form.

The government of South Korea has also announced that it will be possible to request the K-ETA through an app on a mobile device once the system is fully operational.

Countries eligible to apply for South Korean ETA

South Korea has confirmed that all citizens of certain visa-free nationalities can apply for the K-ETA online during the trial period from May. These countries include Albania, Andorra, Barbados, Dominica, Guyana, Ireland, Malta, Mexico, Slovenia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, United Kingdom, and United States, among others.

In addition, the government said priority travelers from other visa-free countries for which entry is currently prohibited will also be able to obtain electronic travel authorization during the trial period. This includes trade visitors.

By September 2021, it will be mandatory for all travelers from the more than 100 South Korean Visa Waiver Program countries to apply online for the K-ETA. Until then, it is expected that the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in South Korea will be well advanced and foreign travel restrictions will be considerably relaxed.

Benefits of K-ETA for South Korea

In addition to allowing the government to pre-screen travelers for any sign of coronavirus in advance and to contain the spread of new variants of COVID-19 in the country, K-ETA is also expected to make it easier for tourists to enter the country and revive the declining tourist economy.

Before the coronavirus situation turns into a global pandemic, tourism South Korea’s economy has been one of the most dynamic in the world. In 2019, the country saw a sharp increase in the number of tourist arrivals compared to previous years from traditionally strong markets such as China, but also from a number of countries exempt from visa to South Korea. such as Japan and the United States.

The launch of the travel authorization is not only expected to bring tourism back to pre-pandemic levels, but also to foster further growth. The fact that travelers will be able to secure expedited entry into the country by presenting an approved K-ETA and avoiding waiting in long lines at immigration should be a big incentive for foreign tourists.

Additionally, a K-ETA request will be processed promptly, typically within 24 hours. Once approved, it is valid for 2 years from the date of approval and allows multiple entries for South Korea for tourist or commercial purposes during its validity. This means K-ETA holders will not have to re-apply before each trip to the country and hassle-free entry into South Korea at the border.

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