This information has been updated to reflect the travel guidelines for South Korea as of December 15th. All passengers arriving in South Korea must fill in a health declaration and must undergo a COVID-19 test. However, those traveling to South Korea from the United States can take their COVID test at the airport. This is because a vast majority of US Airports have COVID test centers at the terminal. Make sure you check out the airport website to see if these tests are offered. Every testing site is different. For example, some take your sample and test it right there at the airport. Other places send the sample to a third-party/off-site facility, so you will get your results back much later. If the tests are on-site it takes between 1-2 hours to get your results back depending on how busy they are.
All airline passengers aged 2 and older will need to have a negative COVID-19 PCR test issued within 72 hours of their departure and submit to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entry, regardless of vaccination status. Below is a step-by-step guide for those looking to travel to Korea from the United States during COVID.
The first thing you need to do before traveling to South Korea is to apply for the electronic travel authorization (K-ETA) online or through the mobile app. The K-ETA is a travel authorization that travelers are required to receive by submitting their travel information online before visiting Korea.
Through the website or app, click on apply and select your nationality. You will be asked to submit your passport number and email address. Then take a picture of your passport and add that and your personal information to the application. This will include the address you will stay in Korea. Then take a picture of your face and upload that as well. There will be a 10,000 won payment to complete the application.
The Ministry of Justice of Korea will review your K-ETA application and notify the results within 24 hours. Your application results will be sent via email. K-ETA will be valid for 2 years and you will be able to visit Korea as many times as you want. You will need to get approval before you can board a plane to South Korea. In addition, visitors with an approved K-ETA will not have to write or submit an arrival card.
Get a PCR COVID test and make sure you get your results back ahead of your flight but not more than 3 days before your flight. Therefore make sure you avoid weekends or a Monday flight as some testing facilities are closed on the weekends. Make sure the documentation includes your name exactly as it is written on your passport. Also, make sure the type of test is clearly stated on the document. For example, PCR needs to be clearly specified on the results page as well as the date of issuance. Airlines will not board passengers without a negative PCR test result.
Make sure you are familiar with the quarantine requirements for Korea. Check the Korean Embassy and MOFA sites as the requirements are constantly updated. Most will quarantine in government facilities at their own expense. The nightly cost at these facilities could range from $100 to $150 per night. All passengers will be required to sign a release form agreeing to these conditions prior to boarding the plane from the United States.
Those that have completed their 2nd vaccination will be exempt from self-isolation. However, vaccinations with products that are not licensed in Korea are not eligible for self-isolation exemption. Therefore, this means that only domestically-provided vaccines are eligible for exemption at this time.
In some cases, those that have immediate blood relatives or spouses of long-term residents can self-quarantine at their family’s home. They will need to show proof of relationship (ex. marriage or birth certificate) with you. Travelers into Korea that are long-term or residential visa holders are required to self-quarantine at their own residences and must undergo a COVID test within three days of arriving and again before their release from quarantine.
Below are the procedures for both Symptomatic and Asymptomatic travelers coming into Korea.
These entre restrictions are only for travelers entering South Korea and do not apply to those that are transiting. Those looking to transit through South Korea need to make sure that their luggage is checked in to their final destination.
Registering your Vaccination Details in South Korea
If you have been vaccinated outside of the South Korean vaccination system, you can register your vaccination details with the South Korean authorities by bringing your ID and proof of vaccination to a local Community Health Centre. This will enable you to demonstrate your vaccination status via the COOV app and to receive booster shots. You can only register your vaccination details in this way if you have received a vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). For further details, you should contact the KDCA by phone from South Korea on 1339 (English language support is available) for advice.