National

S. Korea to invalidate short-term visas, halt visa waivers for 90 countries starting Monday

S. Korea to invalidate short-term visas, halt visa waivers for 90 countries starting Monday

SEOUL — South Korea on Thursday said it will invalidate short-term visas for all foreign nationals starting Monday. It will also temporarily halt visa waiver programs for countries that bar entry to Koreans, amid concerns over growing cases of coronavirus infections coming from overseas.

The new restrictions are due to come into effect at midnight on April 13 at the port of departure.

The latest measure invalidates short-term visas of up to 90 days issued to foreigners prior to April 5, except for those related to diplomatic use or for air crew members and approved officials. Those who have already entered Korea will be able to stay here until the date issued upon arrival.

The officials said the number of foreigners entering the country hovers around 1,000 daily, and once the measure takes effect that could drop to around 300.

A total of 151 countries have imposed entry bans on Koreans over the COVID-19 outbreak. 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, among others.

This leaves only a few countries, such as the US, the UK and Mexico, with valid visa waiver programs.

Imported cases have become Korea’s chief concern for containing the epidemic, despite the overall downward trend in new infections here.

Korea on Thursday reported 39 new cases of COVID-19, the fewest since late February, putting the total at 10,423. Of the new cases, more than half — 23 — came from overseas, bringing the total number of imported cases to 861.