Want to get a business registration number (사업자등록증)? A business license is required for many things. You need it to pay tax (e.g. VAT: value-added tax), advertise on a lot of websites like Naver and post on shopping websites like Gmarket or Coupang. You can register your business in Korea, you need one of the following visas: F visa, D-8–4 Startup visa or D-8 Corporate investor visa. Only for a D-8 corporate investor visa you need a capital investment of $100,000.
This post is about:
- F visas
- Startup / OASIS visa D-8-4
- Company types
- Sole proprietorship
- Korean companies directory
- Business registration number search
If you have a F-2, 4, 5, 6 visa, you can register a business very easily. You just take your ID and lease agreement to the local tax office (in Korean: 세무서). Follow the link to find a list of tax offices in Naver Maps. Depending on the type of business, you may have to bring additional documents, you may want to call the Seoul Global Center or tax office first. Below is a list of F visas. There are also many sub types of the F visas.
- F-2 Resident (거주)
- F-2-1: Awarded to the spouse of a Korean
- F-2-2: A single-entry visa valid for 90 days or less issued to an underage foreign child of Korean national
- F-2-3: Single-entry resident visa valid for one year or less issued to the spouse of a resident visa holder (F-5)
- F-2-7: Awarded on a points-based system
- F-2-99: May be awarded upon fulfilment of additional requirements after 5 years on an E-2 visa
- F-4 Overseas Korean (재외동포)
- F-4-11: Overseas Korean
- F-4-12: Descendent of Overseas Korean
- F-4-13: Former D or E visa holder
- F-4-14: University Graduates
- F-4-15: Permanent resident of OECD country
- F-4-16: Corporate Executive
- F-4-17: Entrepreneur of $100,000
- F-4-18: Multinational Company
- F-4-19: Representative of overseas Koreans organization
- F-4-20: Government Employee; Overseas Korean with a foreign nationality of a country, who is currently a member of National Assembly, or has worked for 5 years or more at government office/enterprise
- F-4-21: Teacher; Overseas Korean with a foreign nationality of a country notified by the Minister of Justice of ROK, who is a university professor (including associate professor and lecturer), or a teacher at an elementary/middle/high school
- F-5 Permanent resident (영주)
- F-5-11: Special Talent; recognized by the Minister of Justice for his/her excellence in a specific field including science, management, education, cultural arts, and athletics
- F-6 Marriage to Korean Citizen (결혼이민)
- F-6-1: Spouse of a Korean National
- F-6-2: Child Raising; father or mother of minor child born after a marriage with Korean (including de facto marriage), but not qualified for F-6-1 (spouse of Korean citizen), who is raising or is planning to raise the child in ROK
Another way is through the OASIS visa, otherwise know as startup visa or D-8-4. You get the OASIS visa when you have enough points. If not, you need to make a minimum investment of 100,000 USD to get the proper visa (D-8, corporate investor) and get the certificate. Below are the requirements for the startup visa.
1. Required Items and Points (225 Points): At least one item is required.
- Intellectual property ownership (registration)
- Intellectual property application
- Co-inventor of owned (registered) intellectual property rights
- 3-year stay on E-3 (Researcher) visa
- OASIS-6, OASIS-9
2. Elective Items and Points (135 Points)
- OASIS-2, OASIS-4
- OASIS-1, OASIS-5, OASIS-7
- Capital of KRW 100 million
- Educational background: Doctoral degree (from a Korean or foreign university), Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (from a Korean university)
- TOPIK level 3 or higher / Completion of KIIP
- Completion of Basic Intellectual Property Course (OASIS-1; Korea Invention Promotion Association) (Elective, 15 points)
- Completion of the Advanced Intellectual Property Course (OASIS-2; Korea Invention Promotion Association) (Elective, 25 points)
- Completion of the Start-up Class (OASIS-4; Korea Immigration Service Foundation and Seoul Global Center) (Elective, 25 points)
- Completion of the Start-up Coaching and Mentoring Service (OASIS-5; Korea Immigration Service Foundation and Seoul Global Center) (Elective, 15 points)
- Achievement of the 3rd or higher prize at invention, start-up exhibitions (OASIS-6; co-hosting) (Required, 25 points)
- Completion of the Start-up Incubator (OASIS-7; Korea Immigration Service Foundation and Seoul Global Center) (Elective, 15 points)
- Foreigner’s business start-up item recognized by the Minister of Justice and selected as a central or local government-supported project (OASIS-9) (Required, 25 points)
These are the different Korean company types:
- Sole proprietorship or Private Business (사업자 or “sa-eob-ja”)
- Partnership Companies (합명회사 or “hab-myeong hwe-sa”)
- Limited Partnership Companies (합자회사 or “hab-ja hwe-sa”)
- Corporation or Stock Companies (주식회사 or “joo-shik hwe-sa”)
- LLC or Limited Companies (유한회사 or “yu-han hwe-sa”)
If you are thinking of a sole proprietorship, you only need to drop by a district tax office (지방세무) with the lease contract of your office and your Korean ID card (alien registration card: 외국국적등표, or 외국인 체재증) to get a business license. If your landlord agrees you can register your company at your house. Also, it is possible to register more than one person at a sole proprietorship. If you have revenue of around 50,000 USD or more, the tax rate can be quite high for a private business.
As for a corporation, you set a foundation capital and incorporate the company first to apply for a business license. For incorporation, you should go to the Seoul Global Center (서울글로벌센터) office after making an appointment or contact a local lawyer.
Seoul Global Center 38 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, 110-792, Korea, 110-792 서울특별시 종로구 종로 38 (서린동) 서울글로벌센터, TEL +82 2 2075 4139 l FAX +82 2 723 3206
Joint stock companies are the best choice for startups, because it is relatively easy to add shareholders and issue loans like convertible bonds. Minimum starting capital for a corporation is 1 million won, roughly 1,000 US dollar. Another thing is that if you have partners you may want to sign a founders’ agreement so when things don’t go as planned you have security.
Finally, it is very important which categories (e.g. service, with sub category advertising agency) you choose to put your company under. It is quite a hassle and expensive to add categories (업태) and sub categories (종목) later. For example, you need minutes of the shareholder meeting. And, you need to go the central tax office in Gangnam.
What is the cost and duration to setup a corporation in Korea? According to the World Bank report “Doing Business 2020“, it costs an average of 4.9 million won ($4,125) to setup a business in Korea and it takes 8 days. The OECD averages are 1.1 million won and 9 days.
It is not legally necessary to have an accountant as a (stock) company, but it is highly recommended. Because when you are incorporated you have to submit income tax every year, VAT returns every quarter, payroll and electronic invoices every month or you get a penalty. A Korean speaking accountant usually costs 100,000 KRW (100 USD) per month. An English speaking one often costs around 150K won.
Korean companies directory
If you are looking for a Korean companies directory, there are several:
Business registration number search
If you want to look up more info about a Korean company, most websites are in Korean. Example: Dart. Also the ones that offer data in English often do not have a database of all companies in Korea. Example: BizInKorea.
To find out if any company in Korea is active, you can check the Hometax website, officially run by the governmental National Tax Service (NTS). Hometax is where people and businesses in Korea pay / receive their tax (returns) and send electronic invoices. Unfortunately the website is only in Korean. Below are screenshots to find the status of the company in Korea. You need to input the business registration number.
Example of a business registration certificate: