Bringing Prescription Drugs and Narcotics into Korea

Drugs brought into the Republic of Korea are subject to the regulations established by the Korean Food and Drug Administration and the Korean Customs Service, for more information please visit the KFDA website.  The procedures outlined below for importing/shipping medications or hand-carrying medications into the Republic of Korea are subject to change without notice.  We recommend that travelers plan in advance and confirm the procedures with the relevant Korean authorities before bringing any drugs into the Republic of Korea.

To carry narcotics into the Republic of Korea:

Before traveling, travelers must fax a written application to the Narcotics Control Division, Korean Food and Drug Administration per the instructions in “KFDA med permit procedures.”  The application must include:

  • a copy of the biographical page of your passport, showing your name, country, and passport number
  • a medical report and doctor’s prescription, indicating the name of the disease and narcotics prescribed
  • an application letter, stating your name, passport number, name and quantity of narcotics (in mg units) that you plan to bring in, your reasons for carrying it, and contact information including fax number or email address where you will receive the permit letter

A traveler’s application will be reviewed by the relevant Korean authorities, and if permission is granted, a permit letter will be sent to the fax number or email address provided in the application.  This permit letter will allow a traveler to bring those medications with them into the Republic of Korea.  If applicants do not receive a bring-in permit, they may wish to consult with their U.S. doctor for substitute medicines, or sources of local equivalent medicines in Korea. Amphetamine-based medications and other narcotics are routinely confiscated at the Korean port of entry, unless accompanied by a bring-in permit as described above.

For medicines that do not contain narcotics or amphetamines, in general (but with no guarantee due to ever changing policies) a three-month supply of medicines valued at less than $2,000 will be allowed to be brought into the Republic of Korea if they are for personal use and accompanied by a proper prescription from your doctor, a doctor’s letter stating the medical diagnosis, and a general statement from your doctor. The Korean Customs Service at Incheon Airport has authority over which medications will be allowed to be carried into the country.  Travelers may wish to consult with their U.S. doctor regarding substitute medicines, or sources of local equivalent medicines in Korea.

Please direct specific inquiries to:

Narcotics Policy Division

Pharmaceutical Safety Bureau

MFDS [Ministry of Food and Drug Safety]

Tel. +82 43 719 2801~16

Fax. +82 43 719 2800

E-Mail. Narcotics@korea.kr

What qualifies as “Physical Presence” for Parents Transmitting Citizenship to their Children?

The Child Citizenship Act stipulates that for your child to be eligible for a Consular Record of Birth Abroad or CRBA (a document demonstrating that he or she was born a United States Citizen overseas) that the parent who transmits citizenship must prove residency in the U.S. for a set time period.  CRBA FAQs and general information on registration of a birth abroad and transmission of citizenship can be found on our website.  Below is a further explanation of how much physical presence is required for parents to transmit U.S. citizenship and some of the ways physical presence can be demonstrated.

A child born under at least one US parent is eligible to apply for a Consular Report of Birth/US passport until she/he reaches the age 18. Regarding registration, if the child is not a Korean citizen (born under two US parents), you have up to 90 days to report the birth to the Korean Immigration Office for visa purposes.   If at least one parent is a Korean national, the child is automatically a Korean citizen; therefore you have up to 30 days to report the child’s birth to your local district ward office.

For a time period to qualify as part of the five years (2 of which must be after age 18) of physical residence within United States required for mothers who give birth in wedlock to a Non-United States citizen or for USC fathers when the child’s mother is a Non-United States citizen the time period must meet one of the following scenarios.

  • The USC parent was performing active duty military service or was the dependent of someone doing active duty military service.
  • The USC parent was serving as or was the dependent of a U.S. Government Civilian Employees serving on U.S. Government Orders.  Please note that not all civilians and their dependents qualify for this.  To qualify as a civilian you must be named within official government orders which are not the same thing as a contract with USFK, the Department of Defense, or other government affiliated positions.
  • The USC parent was living in the United States

Please note that if a child is born out of wedlock to a United States Citizen mother she can transmit citizenship if she meets any of the above qualifications for 365 days straight at any point during her lifetime.  There must be no interruptions in this 365 day period, either while living  in country or serving on military active duty or as a qualifying civilian or dependent.

HOT TIPS for Proving Physical Presence

  • A DD-214 or Leave and Earning Statement is a great way to demonstrate a parent’s active duty service record.  If you have one provide us with a copy during your interview!
  • Tax documents alone do not prove physical presence, these are only valid as proof when tax documents (both a W-2 and a form 1040) are accompanied by a letter from an employer.  Even then, tax documents are one of the weakest types of evidence.
  • Transcripts are one of the best types of evidence.  Don’t worry, the officer does not care what grades you earned as long as you can prove you attended classes J.  We don’t need to see originals, a copy is fine.
  • We can’t access old CRBAs for other children due to privacy laws.  Parents need to bring fresh copies of their documents for each child.

The burden of proof in these cases is with the individual or family applying for the CRBA.  Unfortunately, if you cannot provide proof that the above mentioned situation applies to you, your family member will not be considered qualified to receive a CRBA but may file a petition to immigrate to the US.  You may contact the Citizenship and Immigration Services section for more information. CIS.Seoul@uscis.dhs.gov

Marriage Certificates

Our office may assist with paper work necessary for U.S. citizens to marry in Korea, and, in the past, our office at the Embassy may have authenticated marriage certificates issued by various Korean ward offices and/or Seoul City Hall.  Because of this, many people have the misconception that they were married at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.  At present and in recent history, U.S. Embassies do not perform marriages and do not maintain marriage records.  If at least one spouse is a Korean citizen your marriage should be documented on the standard Korean marriage certificate (혼인관계증명서, pronounced hone-in-gwan-gae jeung-myung-suh).  Marriage records are kept as part of Korean family registry information and may be obtained through local ward offices or city hall.

  • If your marriage was registered in Korea before January 31, 1995 a copy of a Korean marriage certificate may be obtained by writing to the Citizens Section, Seoul City Hall.  Please check with Seoul City Hall for the most up-to-date information before you send your request.  (Note:  You may be asked to send a copy of your ID, a return addressed envelope, and 30 dollars cash per document.)

International Marriage/ Citizen Affairs Section, Seoul City Hall

110 Sejongdae-ro, Jung-gu

Seoul Korea 04524

Tel: 011-82-2-2133-7903 (from U.S.)

  • If your marriage was registered between February of 1995 and before 2011 you should have received a Report and Certificate of Marriage Starting in 2011, the local district offices would have provided a Certificate of Marriage Registration (수리증명서, pronounced soo-ree jeung-myung-suh) A certified copy of either form may be obtained by writing to the specific ward office in which your marriage registration took place.  The ward office nearest to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is the Jongro-gu Ward Office.  The majority of U.S. citizens in Korea registered their marriages there.  Please check with the appropriate ward office for the most up-to-date information before you send your request.  (Note:  You may be asked to send a copy of your ID, 5,000 Korean won per document, and additional money for return postage.)

Citizen Affairs Section, Jongro-gu Ward office
43 Sambong-ro, Jongro-gu

Seoul Korea 03153

Tel:  011-82-2-2148-1934 (from U.S.)

If you have difficulty reaching an English speaker at the appropriate ward office and/or Seoul City Hall, you may wish to contact the Seoul Global Center (SGC) for assistance: by phone at (02) 2075-4130, or by email at hotline@seoul.go.kr.  SGC is a comprehensive support center for foreigners operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, and offers assistance in English and other foreign languages.

Divorce in Korea: Resources and an Overview of the Process

You do not need to report your divorce to our office.  However, if you have filed an immigrant visa petition for your spouse to immigrate to the U.S., you should report your divorce to the U.S. DHS – Citizen and Immigration Services Office (CIS-Seoul.Inquiries@dhs.gov) or the U.S. Embassy’s Immigration Visa Unit (support-korea@ustraveldocs.com).

Obtaining a divorce in Korea is a complicated process for foreigners.  The information we provide here is only a general outline. You should obtain qualified legal counsel for questions regarding divorce.   The U.S. Embassy is prohibited from advising citizens on particular legal matters, however, we maintain a list attorneys to assist American citizens in locating an attorney. The list is not meant to be an exhaustive one, or to be construed as the U.S. Embassy’s endorsement or recommendation for any particular attorney. Please consult an attorney for specific guidance on this matter.

Jurisdiction: The first step in pursuing a divorce in Korea is establishing jurisdiction.  Usually Korean courts will accept the case if at least one of the parties involved in the divorce has habitual residence in Korea or if there are other substantial grounds for the divorce to be handled in Korea.  If both parties have habitual residence outside of Korea and the marriage was performed outside of Korea, ROK courts may not accept jurisdiction.  A legal professional can help you determine if it is appropriate to file for divorce in Korea.  If a Korean court accepts jurisdiction and one or both parties in the divorce have non-Korean nationality then the court may consider the laws of the other country during divorce proceedings.

Types and timing: Korean divorce proceedings are categorized into two types- consensual and judicial. Consensual divorce occurs when the parties are able to work out arrangements between themselves and only require a judge to witness their signature.  Judicial divorce occurs when the parties need the assistance of the court to come to an arrangement. The normal processing time for consensual divorce is one month, when no minor children are involved, and three months for cases involving a minor child.  For judicial divorce, the time required by the court to reach a decision varies depending on the complexity of the case, ranging from three months to two years for final processing.

Child Custody: In Korean divorce cases where a minor child is involved, the child’s best interests are always at the forefront of a custody decision and habitual residence of the parents and child play a significant role in the decision making.

When a divorce is consensual, the parties typically work out a mutually agreeable custody arrangement.  However, if an agreement is not made the case becomes a judicial divorce and the court makes a decision based on the best interest of the child.  In Korea, the police do not have authority to enforce visitation orders, whether domestic or international.  However, Korean law allows local courts to recognize foreign court orders in some cases.  A parent wishing to file a complaint about non-compliance of domestic visitation agreements should contact the family court in their district. If a parent violates visitation orders, the family court may impose a fine and/or temporary imprisonment.

Please note that Korean divorce decrees filed at the Seoul Family Court in Korea are kept for only one year.  Therefore, since foreigners do not have family census registries, we urge you to make duplicate copies as soon as you obtain the original document.  If the divorce decree is to be submitted to the U.S. Government, you must also provide an English translation which the Family Court will not do.  You may make arrangements through the office of your attorney to have a translation done for you.

Legal Services: In addition to the attorneys who have informed the U.S. Embassy of their interest in serving Americans, we are aware of the following pro-bono or discounted legal services which are available for those in need.

  • Seoul Global Center for Foreigners: Free legal services are available every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2-5 pm. E-mail: hotline@seoul.go.kr  or call 02-2075-4130 ext 1 with inquiries or to schedule an appointment prior to your visit by calling 02-2075-4180.
  • KBA Legal Aid Foundation which was founded by the Korean Bar Association.  To apply for pro-bono services, you need to submit a statement regarding your situation along with an ID. The application is available on their website. It should take about two weeks for them to review the documents. If they determine that you are eligible for the free service, an English speaking lawyer will be appointed.
  • If you are in need of a translation service, we suggest that you contact Before Babel Brigade (BBB), a Korean networking organization that offers a free translation service. 24 hours/7 days.  Tel: 1588-5644

Meet ACS at USFK Installaions

We offer U.S. passport, birth registration (Consular Report of Birth Abroad), Social Security Card and Notarial services at USFK installations throughout Korea. Please note that off-site services are reserved for applicants who have or can secure base access. For the most up-to-date information, visit our U.S. Embassy Website.
https://kr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources-of-u-s-citizens/off-site-services/

No Eyeglasses Policy for Passport Photos

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Effective November 1, 2016, we will no longer accept passport photos in which the applicant is wearing glasses. This applies to minors and adults. You do not need to replace your current passport if your photo includes eyeglasses. New passport applications submitted with photos that do not meet requirements could delay applications and interfere with travel plans.

Social Security Numbers Required on Passport Applications

As of October 1, 2016, all U.S. citizens applying for a passport will be required to include their Social Security number on their application form. U.S. citizens who were never issued a Social Security number can apply for one along with the passport application or sign a sworn statement declaring that they have never applied for a number. To submit a first-time Social Security application, you will need to have one form of valid U.S. government-issued identification. You can find the SS-5 application and instructions at this link. If you have a number but do not remember it, contact the Social Security Administration (FBU.Manila@ssa.gov) BEFORE submitting your passport application. This new policy applies to routine passport services and will not prevent emergency travel to the United States.

NOTE: Applicants without an SSN will no longer be able to mail or courier their DS-82 (adult renewals) and DS-5504 (e.g. limited passport replacement) forms to the Embassy. Please make an appointment to be interviewed in person.

Can I get married to a same-sex spouse in Korea?

The Republic of Korea (ROK) government does not recognize same-sex marriages, even if those marriages are legally-recognized and performed in other countries, such as the United States.

DO NOT BRING YOUR ELECTRONIC DEVICES TO THE EMBASSY

no electronic

Electronic devices such as cameras, cell phones, laptops, and MP3 players may not be brought inside the Embassy.  Please leave these items at home or make arrangements for their storage before arriving at the Embassy.  Doing so will result in speedier processing into the Embassy.  The Embassy has no capacity to store your devices.

 

Am I ready to travel?

Tickets to an exotic, fun destination?
Swimsuit, iPad, sunscreen?
Necessary vaccinations? Not sure …
Passport valid for another 6 months and sufficient empty visa pages? Huh?

All too often, Embassy Seoul receives calls from anxious American citizens who are stuck at Incheon International Airport. The stories are similar and often go something like this:

 “John” is traveling from Seoul to Thailand with non-refundable tickets for a dream vacation, but the airline denied him boarding. “Mary” is traveling from Los Angeles to Manila with a layover in Seoul, but was prevented from boarding her continuing flight to the Philippines.

Both passengers are carrying valid U.S. passports. So what’s the problem? Their passports are expiring too soon (in less than 6 months). Or, their passport visa pages are too full and have no space for entry stamps for their destinations.

These visitors learned the hard way that many countries in Asia and around the world will not permit travelers to enter unless their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their intended departure. These countries include — but are not limited to — Thailand, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia. These same countries also require visitors to have at least one blank visa page in their passport. A handful of countries go a step further: China, Singapore and Indonesia (specifically Bali) require visitors to have at least two remaining blank visa pages in their passport.

Step-by-step guide to a fun summer vacation

Before packing your sunscreen and swimsuit, it’s important to carefully check your passport, especially the expiration date. Don’t let your travel plans get delayed by poor planning. If you discover your passport is expiring soon, visit the Embassy Seoul website ( https://kr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports) for information on renewing your passport. We recommend U.S. citizens renew their passport no later than 7 months before the expiration date. We can normally renew your passport in 2-3 weeks, so your valid passport won’t become invalid.

The next step is to check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting. Begin by visiting Travel.State.Gov (http://travel.state.gov). Next, type in the name of the country you are visiting in the “Learn about your destination” box. The first item you’ll see are any Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings pertaining to that country. Below under “Quick Facts” is a summary of entry and exit requirements. In addition to passport validity and visa page requirements, you’ll also learn whether your destination country requires a visa or vaccinations.

Below the “Quick Facts” box, take a few minutes to read through the Country Specific Information (CSI), which includes important information about your destination country such as U.S. Embassy and Consulates contact information, security & safety concerns, local laws, LGBT travel and more.

If you follow these steps, you can plan ahead and have a fun summer!

Did you submit a Social Security number application for your child at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea? Please see below for the answers to some of the questions we receive most frequently to better understand the Social Security number (SSN) application process.

SSA
Q: Will my child’s SSN application be processed at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Korea?

No, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is not a Social Security claims-processing post. Once we have received a Social Security application, we will then forward it to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in Manila for processing.

Q: How long will it take to process a Social Security card and where will it be mailed?

A: It may take 3-6 months or longer for applicants to receive an actual Social Security card from the SSA office. When a Social Security number (SSN) is assigned to the applicant, a SSN card will be mailed directly to the address provided on the SSN application.

Q: Can the U.S. Embassy check the status of my child’s application?

A: No, once we have forwarded SSN applications to the SSA office in Manila, we have no access to SSN application records. If you wish to check the status of your child’s application, we suggest you wait about 3 months from the date you submitted the application and then directly contact the SSA office in Manila to inquire about the SSN application status. Their contact information is below:

Social Security Administration
1201 Roxas Boulevard
Ermita, 0930 Manila
Philippines

Email: FBU.Manila@ssa.gov
Phone Number: (63)(2)301-2000

Q: I know I must wait about 3-6 months to receive a SSN card. However, is there any way for me to know the SSN before the card is mailed to us? If so, how long does it take for us to be allocated a SSN and whom should we contact to find out the assigned number?

A: In general, it will take about 2-3 months for the Social Security Administration (SSA) office to allocate an SSN to an individual. If it has been more than 3 months, you may directly contact the SSA office to find out the assigned SSN number.

Q: I’ve already contacted the Social Security office to inquire about the Social Security number (SSN) assigned to my child and was told that they sent my child’s SSN information to the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. Where should I contact to find out my child’s SSN?

A: Please send an email to SeoulinfoACS@state.gov with your child’s full name and date of birth. We will check our records and reply to you with further instructions. If your child’s SSN has been forwarded to our office, you will have to make a personal appearance here to retrieve the number as it is not possible to send it via telephone, fax or email due to security and privacy considerations.

How or where do I report a missing payment check?

Please note that the U.S. Embassy in Seoul is not a Social Security claims-processing post. The Social Security Administration’s regional office is located in Manila, Philippines. If you have not received a check by the date on which it usually comes, please wait until the end of that month. If you have not received it by the end of the month, you should notify the Social Security Administration in Manila of the non-receipt of the check by email. Their email address is FBU.manila@ssa.gov. When sending an email, include the following information.

• Name of beneficiary and claim number or Social Security Number
• The month of benefit payment you did not receive
• Current address
• Contact information such as telephone number or email

What are developmental photos?

Develpment photo sample

Pop Quiz: Are the children in the 2 photos the same person?

As a child grows older, he or she changes significantly to the point where their face no longer resembles their previous passport photo.  This is especially true if the last passport was issued when the child was an infant.  As a result, it is often very difficult to recognize that the applicant and the person in the previous passport photo are one and the same person.

For that reason, we request the parents bring photos that show the physical development of their child since their last passport was issued. We suggest that you submit at least one photo from every year since the last passport was issued. Failure to do so may result in delay of issuing your child’s passport until you can provide such photos.

Development photos may also apply to first time adult passport applicants.  Adults can change too!  If you’ve had a dramatic change in appearance since your last passport photo – such as a significant weight loss or plastic surgery – the consular officer may request that you present developmental photos or other documentation.

All development photos will be returned to the parents/applicants.  Please do not bring photos on your phone or other mobile device; electronic devices are not permitted in the consular waiting room.

Answer: The 2 photos are the same person! Surprised?  This is why we need development photos.

 

When a Valid Passport Isn’t Really Valid

state.travel websiteAll too often, Embassy Seoul receives calls from anxious American citizens who are stuck at Incheon International Airport.  The stories are similar and often go something like this: “John” is traveling from Seoul to Thailand with non-refundable tickets for a dream vacation, but the airline denied him boarding. “Mary” is traveling from Los Angeles to Manila with a layover in Seoul, but was prevented from boarding her continuing flight to the Philippines. Both passengers are carrying valid U.S. passports. So what’s the problem?  Their passports are expiring too soon. Or, their passport visa pages are too full.

These visitors learned the hard way that many countries in Asia and around the world will not permit travelers to enter unless their passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of their intended departure.  These countries include — but are not limited to — Thailand, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia.  These same countries also require visitors to have at least one blank visa page in their passport.  A handful of countries go a step further:  China, Singapore and Indonesia (specifically Bali) require visitors to have at least two remaining blank visa pages in their passport.

Before packing your sunscreen and swimsuit, it’s important to carefully check your passport, especially the expiration date.  The next step is to check the entry requirements for the country you are visiting.  Begin by visiting Travel.State.Gov (http://travel.state.gov).  Next, type in the name of the country you are visiting in the “Learn about your destination” box. The first item you’ll see are any Travel Alerts or Travel Warnings pertaining to that country. Below under “Quick Facts” is a summary of entry and exit requirements. In addition to passport validity and visa page requirements, you’ll also learn whether your destination country requires a visa or vaccinations.

Below the “Quick Facts” box, take a few minutes to read through the Country Specific Information (CSI), which includes important information about your destination country such as U.S. Embassy and Consulates contact information, security & safety concerns, local laws, LGBT travel and more.

Don’t let your travel plans get delayed by poor planning. If you discover your passport is expiring soon, visit the Embassy Seoul website (http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_us_passports.html) for information on renewing your passport.  We recommend U.S. citizens renew their passport no later than 7 months before the expiration date. We can normally renew your passport in 2-3 weeks, so your valid passport won’t become invalid.

Do I need to file taxes if I live abroad?

IRS 1040 Tax Form Being Filled Out www.seniorliving.orgMany Americans living abroad are aware that they will have little or no income tax liability, but a large number are unaware that they are still legally required to file their annual tax returns even if no money is owed.

According to the IRS, “the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad.” (see U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.)   This means that all Americans and resident aliens are required to file income tax returns each year, regardless of the income source.  Whether any taxes are actually owed, however, depends on the source(s) of income, amount of income, and length of time living or residing abroad during the tax year.

If you meet certain requirements, you may qualify to exclude foreign earnings up to $97,600 in TY 2013 and/or claim the foreign housing deduction.  Excludable earnings are adjusted annually for inflation, so you will have to remember to check the IRS website or consult with your tax attorney as you prepare to file each year.

The bad news: if you live abroad, but earn income from a U.S. source, you will not qualify for the foreign earnings exclusion.  If you fall into this category, however, you probably are already aware of this and have been filing your returns regularly.

The good news: “If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien residing overseas, or are in the military on duty outside the U.S., on the regular due date of your return, you are allowed an automatic 2-month extension to file your return and pay any amount due without requesting an extension. For a calendar year return, the automatic 2-month extension is to June 15.”  (see U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.)

Depending on your personal situation, filing from abroad could be relatively straightforward or very complex, and you may wish to consult with a tax professional.

Below are more resources that the IRS has made available to Americans living and working abroad:

New US Citizenship Rules Help Birth Mothers

baby's name

Mothers who gave birth to a child overseas with help from an egg donor can transmit citizenship under a new policy from the U.S. State Department.

The change took effect on Jan. 31.  For the first time, birth mothers who are not genetically related to their child can pass on U.S. citizenship.  Birth mothers will be treated the same as genetic mothers for purposes of acquiring citizenship.

The good news for such mothers is that the policy is retroactive.  That means that birth mothers can apply for U.S. citizenship for their children even if their application would have been turned down in the past.

The new policy officially means that both the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security will interpret the definition of “child” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to mean the child of a genetic or a gestational parent.  The baby will be treated as born in wedlock as long as both genetic or gestational parents are married at the time of the child’s birth.

Of course, a few caveats apply. The mother must be the legal parent of the child. And a U.S. consular officer must approve the request for an official birth certificate, known as a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, making sure that all requirements for citizenship are fulfilled.