E-6 Visa Community: Navigating Korea’s Modeling Industry

First, I would like to start this article by saying something I think needs to be addressed. Modeling is not a fun, luxurious job most of the time. Becoming a model in Korea is extremely difficult and a lot of hard work. The market is over-saturated. So, if there was one I would use to describe the E-6 visa community it would be: Competition.

E-6 Visa Scope

There are different kinds of E6 visas that are divided by area of expertise.

E-6-1: Artistic Performer

People engaged in activities that generate profit in fields such as Musicals, Arts, and Literature. This visa covers entertainment activities such as performance and visual arts (Painting, Photography, Music Composition, performing in Orchestras, Advertising, Modeling, etc.)

E-6-1: Hotel and Entertainment

This visa is for people engaged in activities that mainly are in a very “grey area” of expertise. These include (Nightlife dancers and singers, hotel performers, and more). Adult content and solicitation are technically illegal in Korea. However, in practice, the industry does exist.

E-6-1: Athlete

This visa is for people working in the sports industry, not just athletes (athletes, managers, coaches, equipment managers, trainers, etc.).

E6 Visa Eligibility

Artists, Entertainers, and Athletes who are qualified for employment and have been recognized by the Korea Media Rating Board or Motion Picture Grade Committee can apply for a visa.

E-6 Visa Application Step 1

Required Documents to apply for the visa (in your home country):

  • Application Form
  • Valid Passport (Original and Copy of Biopage)
  • Passport size Photo (3.5 x 4.5 cm taken within the last 6 months)
  • Confirmation of Visa Issuance Number *
  • Visa Fee (Varies per country)

The officer handling your application may ask for additional documents, some of the commonly requested documents are Proof of Educational Attainment or a Certificate of Employment.

E-6 Visa Application Step 2

Requirements for the Confirmation of Visa Issuance Number (Processing time: 2 weeks, the employer will apply for this in Korea):

  • Recommendation Letter of performance (from the Motion Picture Grade Committee)
  • Performance Plan for the applicant’s work
  • Reference Letter from the Employer
  • Certificate of Qualification / Employment Certificates
  • HIV-negative confirmation Certificates

The employer may ask for more documents, you should provide whatever they request.

Useful Information Related to the E-6 Visa

  1. You can invite family (companion visa).
  2. Most of the time, you have to pay for National Health Insurance (NHI) on your own. It is not optional. If you don’t pay your insurance you will not be able to renew your visa. It is extremely rare for modeling agencies to cover insurance or assist you with getting it.
  3. You have a 3.3% tax on any of your work (freelancer rate) which is not the final tax. With regional and foreigner taxes usually you will pay between 10% and 15%.
  4. The E-6 visa is valid for a maximum of 2 years (extendable) although most talents get one year. So, you will regularly need to extend your visa which will require you to keep organized documentation of all of your income.

Advice on Applying for a Korean E-6 Visa

E6 visa holders usually have to apply for a visa before coming to Korea. So they have to apply at the nearest Korean Embassy in their home country.

Step 1: Research

Do your research thoroughly about the company you want to sign under. Always ask about payment ratios, fees, and whatever comes to mind. Once you sign a contract, you are normally locked in for a year.

Step 2: Signing the Contract

If you signed the contract from abroad, send the signed contract along with the other requested documents to your employer. They can then apply for the Confirmation of Visa Issuance Number.

Step 3: Confirmation of Visa Issuance Number

The employer should apply for the Visa Issuance Number in Korea while the talent is OUTSIDE Korea. This process usually takes anywhere from a couple of days, to a couple of weeks.

Step 4: Apply For an E-6 Visa at a Korean Embassy

Once the Visa Issuance Number is released, Visit the nearest Korean Embassy and bring the necessary documents including your Visa Issuance Number. Then, officially apply for an E-6 visa.

Step 5: Wait for Acceptance

If your application is accepted, you just have to wait for your visa to be virtually attached to your passport (remember that from 2020 onwards visas are attached to your passport virtually). Then, welcome to the E-6 visa community! However, if the application is not accepted, the officer might return all of your documents or ask you to come back with more documents.

The processing time for this visa varies A LOT. But it usually lasts two weeks to a month.

My Take on the E-6 Visa Community

Well I have to be honest, I love being a model in Korea. It opens doors to experiences and meeting people I would have never imagined being possible in other lines of work. But, it hasn’t been easy.

From day one I had to do my best to prove I deserved my position and my company’s investment in me. I needed to book my own TFP collaborations to build a portfolio and later on a comp-card. I spent days on end working for free, just to land my first gig. But honestly, I wouldn’t take it back. It was a humbling experience and it made me realize that things in life are not given to you. Instead, you need to work hard to get everything you have.

After a couple of weeks, I got my ARC and soon after, my first gig. I will forever be thankful to the brand that decided to take me as their image because to this day, it feels surreal. But funnily enough, now the brand owner and I are very good friends. We still collaborate from time to time, which in my opinion is the most rewarding thing about my job. I am able to form meaningful connections that I can continue to rely on.

Dos and Don’ts of the E-6 Visa Community

Firstly, keep realistic, work hard, and don’t be afraid to be firm. Especially when it comes to your payment! You need to keep in mind your agency will take a percentage that ranges from 15% to a whopping 50% in some cases. So don’t be afraid to negotiate, worse case scenario is that they won’t pick you first. But trust me, if you are good at your job, they will be willing to negotiate.

When it comes to rates and schedules, your time is gold. Even as a newbie, if you accept jobs without a fight, clients will think they can hire you for less than you are worth, and that will backfire. I saw many people being paid 500,000 Won for a gig I got 800,000 Won for. The only difference was that they didn’t try to negotiate.

Next, always ask for a written contract. This is for your own security and can even be solid proof for immigration if you choose to renew your visa. If you don’t have any proof of getting offered a job, they can just not pay you.

Most importantly, always use common sense, and don’t let excitement lead to you letting your guard down. Your safety and well-being always come first. So, if something feels a bit out of the ordinary, or you just don’t feel safe – don’t hesitate to ask someone to accompany you or reject an offer. Trust your gut. 90% of the time you will be right.

On the other hand, it would be counterproductive to let opportunities escape you. If a job doesn’t seem dangerous but is just a bit boring – go for it! If the job isn’t too far off your normal rate, why not? It might boost your portfolio in unexpected ways.

I wish you guys good luck on your ventures and hope to see you in a shoot someday soon!

If you plan on working in the Korean entertainment industry, you are going to need a Korean-style portfolio. Click Here to read all about how you can make one yourself!