SEOUL, Jul. 16 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea will restrict visa extensions for foreigners and Korean nationals residing overseas, starting next month, in case they default on state health insurance fees, government officials said Tuesday.
The measure comes as a new rule went into force the same day that requires all foreigners staying in the country for six months or longer to sign up for its health insurance program.
The rule is aimed at preventing them from receiving medical treatment and leaving without paying insurance fees.
According to the justice ministry, the government will give visa permits of up to six months to foreigners who default on health insurance fees up to three times and no visa extensions to those who fail to pay health insurance fees more than three times.
Prior to the implementation of the new rule, foreigners who work here had been required to pay for health insurance, and non-working foreign residents here can optionally subscribe to the scheme.
Foreign subscribers to South Korea’s state health insurance program numbered about 1 million in 2018, or 1.9 percent of the total 51.07 million subscribers, according to the National Health Insurance Service.
The number of foreigners staying in South Korea came to 2.37 million last year, up 8.6 percent from the previous year.