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Immigrant children in South Korea to be granted stay visas and education fee support

According to the justice ministry, the government would temporarily expand visa issuance for immigrant children unlawfully staying in the country in order to better ensure their access to school. immigrant children aged 3-5 in Seoul will also begin receiving education fee support comparable to that provided to South Korean children in March, according to the city’s education administration on January 17.

Justice Ministry grants stay visas to more illegal immigrant children

Until recently, undocumented immigrant children of middle and high school age, including children graduating from high school, who have lived in Korea for at least 15 years since they were born here, were eligible for visas.

However, from next month to March 2025, immigrant children who have lived in the country for at least six years after being born here or who entered South Korea when they were below the age of six will be granted visas that would allow them to stay if they are enrolled in elementary, middle, or high schools, or are high school graduates.

Those who entered the nation after the age of six will be granted visas if they have been in the country for at least seven years and are currently enrolled in elementary, middle, or high school, or have graduated from high school.

Immigrant children in South Korea to be granted stay visas and education fee support
Foreign students in a South Korean high school

Students will be issued a D-4 study visa, while high school graduates will be issued visas necessary for attending college or obtaining employment.

According to education ministry data, there are now roughly 3,000 immigrant children enrolled in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country who do not have alien registration cards.

With the next step, the justice ministry anticipates that the majority of these students will be able to get the necessary visas.

Those who are expelled from school or commit crimes may lose their visas or be denied a stay extension.

Education fee support extended to immigrant children

Immigrant children aged 3-5 in Seoul will begin receiving education fee support comparable to that provided to South Korean children in March, according to the city’s education administration on January 17.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will offer up to 150,000 won (US$126) per month to immigrant children enrolled in public kindergartens. Of the total support, 100,000 won will be for daytime programs and 50,000 won will be for after-school programs.

Immigrant children in South Korea to be granted stay visas and education fee support
Classroom in South Korea

Those enrolling in private kindergartens will get up to 350,000 won — 280,000 won will be for daytime programs and 70,000 won will be for after-school programs.

Only children aged 3 to 5 with foreigner registration would be eligible for the education fee support.

There are presently 318 immigrant children enrolled in public kindergartens, with 264 of them taking after-school programs as well. There are 366 immigrant children enrolled in private schools, with 313 of them enrolled in after-school activities.

The education ministry has set aside 1.87 billion won for the distributions.

Parents can apply for education fee support for their children at kindergartens with the necessary documentation, including the alien registration card.

South Korea should embrace immigrants

Adilbek, 16, is the son of a Kazakhstani immigrant family. In 2015, his family relocated to Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, with his mother who is a third-generation Korean diaspora. Adilbek, who is passionate about stock trading, aspires to work in the financial field like his father, who was employed as an analyst at a Kazakhstani securities firm.

South Korean Ministry of Education reported that the number of students from immigrant backgrounds, such as Adilbek, had reached 160,056 in 2021, accounting for 3 percent of all students in the country. It is now 16 times greater than it was 15 years ago.

There are more children with such a background since the percentage of foreigners residing in the nation is four percent, which is just below the OECD’s five percent threshold for a multi-cultural and multi-racial society.

However, according to several of the immigrant students, they are still struggling in school. Few schools have employed multilingual instructors or established educational courses designed uniquely for them, such as Korean language classes. 

As a result, students from immigrant backgrounds prefer schools with international courses, such as Wongok Elementary School in Ansan. Schools like those are avoided by South Korean students, creating a vicious cycle in which immigrant students are missing out on opportunities to integrate into Korean society.

Daycare is far more difficult for immigrant families. According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, both immigrants and locals are entitled to free public education beginning in elementary school. However, childcare is not covered by the convention, therefore immigrants who pay taxes are not eligible for daycare assistance.

Children aged three to five of foreign parents are entitled to free schooling in Japan, while Germany provides free childcare and vaccinations as long as the child’s birth is documented. The acceptability of multi-culture in South Korea is quite low.

It would be a disgrace to let immigrants who come to South Korea in search of a better life to pass on poverty to their children as a result of terrible childcare and education programs. Coexistence with them is critical not just for securing labor and maintaining society in a period of low birth rates, but also for discovering development drivers from diversity

Immigrants have started 40% of all firms in the United States, which is an immigrant country. Furthermore, 35 percent of this year’s Nobel laureates are of immigrant backgrounds.

If South Korea were a competitive multi-cultural country, Adilbek, a high-school student with a desire to work in the financial business, should be given the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of George Soros, who was born in Hungary but moved to the United States and became a successful investor there.

Well-qualified teachers and educational curriculum should serve as bridges of opportunities, allowing children of immigrants to have better lives than their parents. Native South Korean students will also get the opportunity to learn about different cultures by studying alongside immigrant pupils. South Korea, which is on the verge of a demographic cliff, should embrace immigration as part of its future.

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