Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, South Korea will start invalidating short-term visas for foreign nationals and temporarily halt visa waiver programs for citizens of 90 countries that ban the entry of Koreans.

According to a release from both South Korea's foreign and justice ministries, the new restrictions will take into effect at midnight April 13 at the point of departure.

The latest measure invalidates short-term visas of up to 90 days issued to foreigners prior to April 5, except for C-4 visa holders, who are sponsored by local firms for their highly specialized skills. It does not affect long-term stay visas. Foreigners with short-term visas have to reapply, which they can do free of charge. Those who have already entered Korea will be able to stay here until their visas expire.

The South Korean government will require foreign travelers medical exam reports to show they are clear of COVID-19.

Of the 2.35 million short-term visas, the top countries affected are China (1.95 million) followed by Vietnam (90,000).

A total of 151 countries have imposed entry bans on Koreans over the COVID-19 outbreak, and citizens of those countries will be required to apply for visas to enter South Korea. Among those, the government’s new measure applies to 90 countries, including 34 countries that had visa-free entry programs with Korea, such as Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Argentina, and 56 countries with visa waiver programs, including most EU countries, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

South Korea is granting an exemption from the visa requirements for travelers with diplomatic passports, crew members of aircraft and ships, and holders of APEC Business Travel Cards.

A few countries such as the US, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland will still have valid visa waiver programs.

Along with the new visa restrictions, the South Korean government has imposed a 14- day quarantine period for travelers upon arriving at the country.

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