Who can apply for asylum?
If you are outside your home country and are afraid to return because you fear for your life or are in danger of suffering serious harm or imprisonment for reasons related to your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or if you are the member of a particular social group, you can apply for asylum in the Republic of Korea. The full definition of the term ‘refugee’ can be found here.
How do I apply for asylum in Korea?
Applying for refugee status after you enter Korea
In Korea, the Korean Immigration Service of the Ministry of Justice has the full authority in receiving, considering and deciding all refugee applications. All refugee applications are made through the local immigration office, not UNHCR.
You need to go to a local immigration office in person to apply for refugee status in Korea. You can find contact information and address of the immigration offices here.
An Application form for Refugee Status Recognition is available at a local immigration office or here.
Applying for refugee status at airports
When you express your intention to apply for refugee status at the time of immigration inspection, you will receive a written Application for Refugee Status Recognition. If you apply for refugee status at the port of entry, you must go through a pre-screening assessment. This will decide if your application will be referred to the refugee status determination procedure within 7 days.
If your application is NOT referred to the refugee status determination procedure, you may be able to file an administrative lawsuit (appeal) to a Korean court. If you have questions about the appeal procedures, please contact UNHCR or one of the legal-aid organisations for help.
What happens after I apply?
Step 1: Receipt of Refugee Status Application
After you submit your refugee status application in Korea, you will receive a receipt of refugee status application at the immigration office. You become a ‘refugee status applicant’ at the time you get this receipt.
If you need a lawyer or legal advice during the refugee status determination procedures in Korea, please seek help through legal-aid NGOs, they provide free services (i.e. legal assistance).
Step 2: Interview
After claiming asylum in Korea, the Korean government will conduct interviews to decide on your refugee status. The government officers will ask questions to you and you should provide correct information to the officers in a detailed manner.
During the interview you:
- Can receive the assistance of an interpreter, if you do not speak Korean
- May be able to request for an interpreter/interviewer of your preferred gender
- Can submit materials such as documents relevant to your experience of persecution that you could not submit previously.
- Can request to be present with a trusted individual of your choice (family member, a relative, a friend, an attorney, NGO worker, etc) during the interview
The interview is confidential. The information you provide will not be shared with the authorities of your country. Such information will not be shared with any other person, unless you give them permission.
Step 3: Refugee Status Determination Results
If you are recognised as a refugee:
- you will receive a Certificate of Refugee Status Recognition from an immigration office.
- You may receive benefits as a refugee in accordance with the Refugee Act of the Republic of Korea.
If you are NOT recognised as a refugee:
- If your application is denied, you will receive a Notice on Non-Recognition of Refugee Status from a local immigration office.
- Once you receive this notice, you may appeal to the Ministry of Justice within 30 days. You can file an appeal at local immigration offices.
- For more information on how to appeal to the Ministry of Justice, please refer to this information provided by the Korean government.
People granted a humanitarian status
- A non-recognised individual may be given a humanitarian status that allows a lawful stay in Korea for a certain period until conditions in your home country allow you to return.
Administrative litigation to a court (Appeal to a court)
- You may file for administrative litigation (appeal) to a court within 90 days of the date you received a Disapproval Notice on Objections or Non-Recognition of Refugee Status.
- You can find the location of your competent court here.
For more information on refugee status determination procedures in Korea, please contact UNHCR for counselling.
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