Passports, SOFA Stamp & A-3 Visa
Military family members with their names on PCS orders can enter South Korea using a regular tourist passport. Active duty military will use their common access card and orders to enter Korea. Department of Defense civilian personnel can also use their tourist passport to enter. See “Tourist Passport” below for more information.
Per DoDM O-1000.21, DoD civilian eligible family members on official travel are required to apply for the appropriate Special Issuance Passport prior to departure from the point of origin. However, if family members have just a tourist passport they will be allowed to enter South Korea.
Non-U.S. citizens must apply for a country of origin passport. Documents must be original or certified copies.
SOFA STAMP & A-3 VISA
All family members, civilians, and even newborns must obtain an A-3 visa (which allows for multiple entries into Korea) and SOFA (Standard of Forces Agreement) stamp within 30 days upon arrival. The SOFA stamp registers the person and identifies them as having protections and rights under our SOFA agreement. Having a SOFA stamp does not exempt any person from abiding by our host nation's laws.
The U.S. government has a stationing agreement with every country that hosts U.S. military forces. The SOFA defines the legal rights and obligations of SOFA-status personnel and exempts personnel from the Korean Immigration laws relating to alien registration.
This does not mean that all U.S. Family members in Korea will have an A3 Visa and SOFA stamp. Some Family Members are Korean citizens and require no Visa or stamp. Other Family Members work outside the garrison gates and are required to have any variety of work Visa deemed by the Korean Immigration Office.
If a Soldier’s spouse plans to work off-post it is recommended you contact your installation Client Legal Services to review your A-3 Visa/SOFA Stamp application or answer additional questions regarding various Republic of Korea visa options before employment to ensure compliance with immigration laws.
Tourist Passports are required for leisure travel outside of your host nation, the Republic of South Korea. It can take up to 8+ weeks to process a tourist passport in South Korea. All tourist passports are processed, in person, through the US Embassy in Seoul. It is recommended to apply for a Tourist Passport prior to leaving the U.S. if you plan to do tourist travel while stationed abroad. Apply for tourist passports at any US Post Office or visit: www.travel.state.gov
Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA)
Notice: K-ETA will be temporarily exempted for 22 countries from April 1, 2023, to Dec. 31, 2024. The United States is included in this exemption. Travelers can still apply for a K-ETA and pay the 10,000 Korean Won fee (about $9) per person if they wish; those who have a K-ETA will not have to submit an arrival card at the port of entry. Those who got their K-ETA approval already can use it until it expires. No refund will be made for people who have already submitted a K-ETA application.
The Korean government requires non-Korean citizens entering Korea to apply for the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA), which is a document granting permission to non-Korean citizens to travel to the Republic of Korea. The K-ETA applies to non-Korean citizens of countries eligible for visa-free entry to the Republic of Korea.
U.S. service members traveling to Korea on PCS or TDY orders, those who already have a visa issued by the Korean government, and those who apply via the website and receive an exception to policy letter from the Korean government do not have to comply with this requirement. However, all others traveling to the Republic of Korea must comply, including family members visiting the Republic of Korea. New GS (general schedule) civilian hires and dependents listed on a service member’s PCS orders who do not have an approved K-ETA exemption memorandum issued by the Korean government must also comply with the requirement.
Obtaining a K-ETA must be done online via the K-ETA website prior to starting travel. Registration costs 10,000 Korean won (about $10 USD) per person. Successful registration will result in generation of a printable certificate for each person that will be received via an email provided by the requestor. Each certificate comes with a unique number and is good for two years. The website does not differentiate between adult, adolescent, or infant travelers. Those who fail to obtain a K-ETA prior to landing in Korea may be denied entry and may be subsequently told to re-board a plane back to their point of origin.
Personnel may claim the registration fee as a travel-related cost. PCS travel is claimed via forms submitted to the servicing finance office and TDY claims are processed through the Defense Travel System online. For questions about claiming expenses incurred during travel, visit your servicing directorate of human resources or finance office.
When filling out the information online, the following may be helpful:
- Nationality is organized by continent. For U.S. citizens, select “Americas,” then “United States of America.”
- Digital photos are needed to complete the online application. Photos must be 700x700 pixels or less, file size less than 100kb, in .jpeg format, with one’s face clearly visible.
- Korea zip codes can be used:
- Camp Humphreys: 17977
- Camp Walker (Daegu): 42505
- Osan Air Base: 17760
- Camp Carroll (Waegwan): 39890
- Camp Casey: 11311
- Be sure to note the application number for your records at the end of the application process.
For more information or to register, visit https://www.k-eta.go.kr/.