China and Korea are cracking down on a popular loophole that allows Chinese citizens to evade their country’s notoriously difficult driving tests and easily get driver's licenses in South Korea. A new regulation will make it more difficult for the Chinese to transfer their South Korean driver’s licenses back to the local equivalent.
Local police have begun rejecting applications to transfer South Korean licenses to local licenses, disrupting a trend in Shanghai and other big cities where people fly to Seoul specifically to get their driver’s licenses, skipping the long, expensive and arduous process of getting it at home, the China Daily reported. The number of Chinese citizens getting licenses in South Korea grew exponentially in recent years, from just 7,000 in 2010 to an estimated 25,000 by 2013, China’s Global Times reported.
That number is expected to soon decline, after a new effort by South Korean officials requiring foreigners who want to apply for licenses to show a landing certificate -- which proves a duration of stay in South Korea for at least 90 days. The move has left most tourists with short-term visas unable to apply.
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“Only foreigners holding visas for 90 days or longer are eligible to apply for the certificate,” an officer from the Shanghai Minhang vehicle administration with the last name Lu told the China Daily. “In other words, travelers with tourist visas, which usually grant a 15- or 30-day stay, cannot register for driving tests in Korea.”
For their part, Shanghai’s transportation authorities have also suspended applications that don’t have the appropriate type of visa.
Chinese drivers started turning to the neighboring Asian country after travel agencies began marketing the driver’s license tour as part of a travel package. One agency in Shanghai reportedly offered a five-day trip to South Korea that included instruction, driver’s training and the fee to take the test (7,000 yuan, about $1,130). By comparison, taking the test in Shanghai, including all preparation courses and fees, costs about 10,000 yuan, or $1,610, and takes three months on average.