Starting May 3, South Korea implemented the Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) pilot program, an optional system for foreign nationals from 21 visa-exempt countries, including the United States. In April, the South Korean Ministry of Justice confirmed the pilot program would continue until August, after which the program would become mandatory for visa-exempt foreign nationals in September 2021.

In order to participate, U.S. citizens must apply for an ETA through the K-ETA website or mobile app at least 24 hours before boarding a flight to South Korea. Application results are sent via email and made available on the website and app. There is an ETA application fee of 10,000KRW, but the fee has been waived during the pilot program.

Beginning in September, eligible foreign nationals must have an ETA to be issued a boarding pass with a destination in South Korea. Foreign nationals with an ETA will be exempt from submitting arrival cards, streamlining entry immigration processes. ETAs will be valid for up to two years.

Though ETAs will expedite travel for eligible foreign nationals, they are still subject to existing COVID-19 travel restrictions issued by the South Korean government. President Biden and President Moon discussed COVID-19 travel policy at their summit last week, but no new guidelines have been announced for U.S. nationals traveling to South Korea. Currently, all travelers to South Korea must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result issued within 72 hours of their departure and submit to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entry, regardless of vaccination status.  There are limited quarantine exemptions available on important business or humanitarian grounds.