The South Korean government has decided to extend its former Golden Visa program, while simultaneously doubling the minimum investment requirement. The program, which was initially set to expire last month, will now continue until April 30th, 2026. However, prospective investors seeking this visa will need to meet the higher investment threshold of one billion Korean won (approximately $788,000), up from the previous requirement of half a billion KRW.
The decision to extend the program came after careful consideration and consultation with the self-governing island's government, which proposed the continuation of the program with increased investment requirements and a new name. As a result, South Korea's Ministry of Justice approved the extension and rebranded the program as the "Tourism/Recreational Facility Investment Immigration System".
Originally introduced in 2010 in Jeju, the real estate investment option of the South Korean investor visa played a vital role in revitalizing the local hospitality sector. It facilitated the completion of numerous resort projects that had faced significant delays. However, as time passed, the program became embroiled in controversy due to unintended consequences such as skyrocketing real estate prices, encroachment on land by Chinese investors, oversupply of accommodation facilities, and unchecked environmental degradation.
To address these concerns, the government took steps in 2015 to limit eligible real estate investments solely to tourism and recreation facilities. While this move resulted in a decrease in demand for the program, it did not dampen overall interest.
In 2020, the investor visa program witnessed a surge in approval volume, surpassing 1,300 approvals for the first time since 2005. This increase in demand was driven by the availability of investment options beyond real estate, including investments in government funds and at-risk assets, with minimum thresholds starting at KRW 300 million (approximately $235,000).
Japanese investors have historically been the largest applicant group for South Korea's investor visa program. However, in recent years, Chinese applicants have closely followed, with the highest number of applications recorded last year. The program is also popular with investors from Pakistan, France and United States.
Since records became available in 2000, South Korea has approved 23,579 main applicants for its investor visa program, each investing between KRW 300 million and KRW 1.5 billion. Assuming an average investment of KRW 500 million, the program is estimated to have raised nearly $10 billion to date, making it one of the most financially successful Golden Visa programs worldwide.
The revised investor visa program aims to strike a balance between attracting foreign investment and ensuring responsible development in the real estate and hospitality sectors. By implementing stricter investment requirements, the South Korean government seeks to mitigate potential negative effects and maintain sustainable growth.