The Ultimate Guide on Japanese Visas

By  Tyson Batino  | Updated on September 09, 2020

This guide will tell you what Japanese visas you can get to Japan based on your current situation.

You might have already put your foot down and decided that the next chapter of your life will be in Japan but wait… What are my options? Knowing your options is very important to know and make an informed decision about what route you’ll go down. Each route you’ll take has its own challenges and merits so ensuring you chose the right one is definitely something you want to do before you come to Japan.

So, before you go ahead and tell family, friends, cousins and aunties be sure to check out this guide. That’s probably before you sell all your possessions too, by the way. So buckle up and put that tourist visa idea away for just now as we have information you probably haven’t heard about before. Including some bonus information so be on the lookout for that!

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. If in doubt or faced with confusion you should always consult a visa expert or attorney for individual advice regarding your own circumstances.

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    What Japan Visa can I get to come to Japan

    Depending on where you are from, what level of education you have attained as well as your martial and of course, your economic situation, the answer will be different. Just because you don’t quite fit one visa doesn’t mean you have to give up, there’s almost a visa for everyone.  Having a better knowledge of your situation and requirements will help your decision making and narrow down your options to help you get to Japan on a valid visa.

    Let’s start with a simple questionnaire. Grab a pen and paper, you might need to remember these in the future too! Use the questions below to help you find your easiest way to Japan. Please note that your country might have different requirements based on their relationship and agreements with Japan.

    ▢ I have a university degree

    Congratulations, you meet the first requirement for getting a valid Japanese work visa. It opens your option to the most pursued pathway to Japan. So what now?

    Your next step would be to find a job in Japan and a company to sponsor your work visa. Here are some examples of positions you would need a standard work visa in Japan.

    We will dive deeper into work visas in Japan further below or continue reading to see your other visa options.

    ▢ My country has a working holiday agreement

    If your country has a working holiday agreement with Japan and you are under 30 with at least  $2500 in your bank account, you are eligible to apply for a working holiday visa. 

    A working holiday in Japan is an awesome way to fly over and enjoy a year in Japan without the pressures that may come with the other visa’s on this list. While technically not a work visa, it does allow for some full-time work during the year. If your country does have an agreement with the Japanese government, your next steps are to save enough money.

    Enough is relative, while the requirement is around $2500 it should go without saying that you should actually save around $4000 to keep your mind at ease. Due to not knowing the climate in Japan, the currency and the know-how to actually save money, you usually spend way more than you need to just to make the process easier. Many who take the working holiday visa.

    If you are in Tokyo and have a working holiday visa, consider working at our sister company One Coin English who offers teaching jobs in Tokyo at one of their multiple locations.

    ▢ I have a considerable amount saved up (more than roughly $10,000)

    One of the easiest ways, and one that coincides with what a vast majority of people do is become a student. Specifically becoming a language student. You can read more here Japanese language school.

    School to school requirements might differ however generally the minimum requirement is that you pay for 6 months worth of lessons before you start to guarantee your position. This cost is around the 350,000 - 450,000 yen ballpark for the course as well as your living expenses there.

    Learn more about the Japanese student visa.

    ▢ I have a Japanese ancestory

    Are one of your parents a Japanese citizen?

    If one of your parents is a Japanese citizen and holds a Japanese passport, you are eligible for a Child of a Japanese Citizen Visa. This visa allows a lot of freedom and there are no restrictions on this when compared to a few others.

    Are one of your grandparents a Japanese citizen?

    If one of your grandparents is a Japanese citizen and holds a Japanese passport, you are eligible for a Long-Term Resident Visa in Japan. Like a spouse/child visa it is also a visa that allows a lot of freedom. However be aware, you are technically only a resident, not a citizen of the country.

    ▢ I don't meet any of the options above.

    That’s also not an issue, in fact many people do not meet any of the options outlined above. So here are some things that you can do that might help you regardless of your situation.

    ▢ Option 1: Obtaining a visa through a Japanese spouse

    Some of you reading this might already be married to a Japanese National. If you are, then that’s great. You have an easy path to gaining a visa to live and work in Japan. We are working on an in depth article for those with a Japanese spouse visa. Please read on to see if you might be interested in other visas!

    If you have a spouse that actually already has a working visa, you still have a chance! You can apply for the Dependents visa. Here’s some in depth information on the Dependents visa in Japan. Be aware though, this visa type limits you to working 28 hours a week, which means that you would be unable to work full-time. We recommend exploring below to see what additional visa options you have.

    ▢ Option 2: Specified Skills Work Visa for Japan

    Sometime in recent years, Japan realised they had some labor shortages across the nation. They introduced the Specified Skills Work Visa. This visa was designed intentionally to attract foreign workers to work in some of the areas that have shortage.  The official name for this Japanese visa is the Specified Skills work visa or tokutei ginou 特定技能 visa in Japanese.

    Here are the 14 industries that are in need of foreign laborers.

    1. Agriculture industry
    2. Aviation industry
    3. Cleaning buildings
    4. Construction industry
    5. Electronics and equipment industry
    6. Fishing industry
    7. Food and banquets (restaurants)
    8. Food and drink manufacturing
    9. Hospitality (hotels, etc)
    10. Industrial machinery
    11. Materials industry
    12. Nursing field
    13. Shipbuilding
    14. Vehicular maintenance

    Here are some differences between the Specified Skills Visa and the specialist in humanities and international services mentioned above.

    1. You need a minimum of an N4 level of Japanese language proficiency or even higher (N3+) depending on industry.
    2. One really good thing about this visa is that you do NOT need a university degree to attain a specified skills visa.

    The years of work experience required of the specialist in international services has been reduced for those who qualify for a specified skills visa in Japan.

    ▢ Option 3: Does your job offer you a chance to make diplomatic ties?

    If yes, that is great. Japan among other countries can offer you a diplomat visa for diplomatic missions to the country. This obviously isn’t the easiest route to take for most people.

    • Ambassador and Diplomacy Staff
    • Military and military-civilian contractors

    ▢ Option 4: Does self sponsoring your own visa sound feasible?

    This option is very hard but it is something that a select few can do! Please read on and do further reading just in case you are applicable!

    You will need a lot of money or an interesting business idea to attract investors to sponsor your Japanese work visa.

    • Entrepreneur - You need 5,000,000 yen in your company’s bank account
    • An Investor
    • Start Up Visa - Similar but an alternative to entrepreneur visa

    For normal work visa holders in Japan, you can renew your visa if you make more than 190,000 yen monthly doing freelance and part-time work in Japan with a self-sponsorship visa. This will need to be proved so talking to a lawyer is always advised. 

    There hasn’t been any cases that have been heard by me of tourists or students self-sponsoring their own visa. If you are in this case, your best option would be to invest your time pursuing the Entrepreneur visa, investor visa, start-up visa or quite simply finding a company to extend or change your visa.

    ▢ Option 5: You are a part of or are learning under an organisation that has a recognised “master” of a subject.

    • For this one, I’d like to introduce the Cultural Activities Visa. Let’s start with what a recognised master means.

      A recognised master is someone who is renowned in their field to be a master of that field. For example, master blacksmith, master painter or a master in martial arts. This visa aims for you to be a part of the few students that a master takes on and you aim to learn about the language and culture through the field. 

      Many spend their time on this visa doing martial arts or art-like activities.

      You may also be interested in:

      • Religious Activities - Many Mormons come from the US to Japan.

    ▢ Option 6: Those of you with beautiful cheekbones or are talented may want to apply!

    This visa is reserved for artists and entertainers. You can see more here Entertainer visa. You do not need a University degree. Not many have chiseled jaws, beautiful smiles and picture perfect physique but a lot of people do!

    Actually, the standards in Japan are slightly different and you might find that you get type casted a lot. A few foreigners that live and work in Japan on their respective visas will often moonlight in a modeling agency. This is very different to actually being on this visa but it's still worth noting. You might even get sponsored by the company too!

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    Important Information on Obtaining a Japan Visa

    Reminder of our disclaimers

    Disclaimer 1: Even if you follow all the procedures listed in this guide and on the Japanese immigration website, it cannot 100% guarantee that you will receive a visa that will grant you a chance to live and work in Japan. Please talk to an immigration lawyer if you are in doubt.

    Disclaimer 2: Procedures and processes can change rapidly, especially with coronavirus threat still at large. This means this information can be out of date and contacting immigration is likely to give you up to date answers.

    The general procedure for the visa process created by the Japanese national immigration can be found here. We will cover the specific visas processes and things to be aware of for the student, spousal, work, and working holiday visas below.

    How long does the Japan visa application process take?

    Firstly, you will need to gather and prepare all the necessary documents required for the visa you are applying for. Each necessary document can be found on the listed earlier in this article. 

    After this, depending on the type of visa, it can take up to 5 months. Be aware that because of coronavirus this might be even longer. 

    When you apply for the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), it can take up to 3 months to process once all the essential documents are with the Japanese immigration. During the three months, the Japanese government will process and check all the documents including your passport so make sure it doesn’t expire any time soon. If all your documents were okay and everything is approved, you will receive a certificate of eligibility and you may apply for a visa to Japan. The visa processing time for this ranges between 3-5 days but can take up to 2 months.

    In total, you should expect to wait a few months for everything. 

    1. The visa processing time can take up to two months if there are any complications
    2. The Certificate of Eligibility can be processed in a month if you do everything right.
    3. The process can be simplified and made faster by doing it in person, compared to mail.

    To summarize things: Firstly is to get a certificate of eligibility from Japanese immigration to get permission to come to Japan. Secondly is to take that document and the other documents to the Japanese embassy in your country to process your visa. Thirdly, simply receive your visa and then come to Japan.

    Double check your country's Japanese embassy website. Here are two that we found

    Official Link: http://www.melbourne.au.emb-japan.go.jp/consular/visa/working.html

    Official Link: http://www.sg.emb-japan.go.jp/visa_longterm.htm

    How long will my visa last?

    Good question, many people often wonder and need to plan how long they can stay. Typically, residence permission is granted for periods of 6 months or 1, 3, or 5 years

    Your initial visa is usually for only one-year

    • You may receive a longer visa based on the amount of tuition you paid in advance for school, the capital or income of the company that sponsored your work visa, or other factors that reduce the risk for the immigration department is sponsoring your visa.

    Your second and subsequent visa can range from 1, 3, or 5 years

    • If you change companies or visa type, your next visa will most likely be for 1 year.
    • If you renew with the same company or keep the same visa type, your chances of getting a 3 year or longer visa increases.
    Spouse of Japanese Citizen

    Japanese Spouse Visa

    Let me say this visa makes coming to Japan much easier, so congratulations! This makes getting to Japan much easier as you are not dependent on finding a company to sponsor you and you do not have the limits on working hours that students and working holiday visa holders do.

    The only downside is that the process is somewhat more complex than the other visas and is the only visa on this list that I recommend going through an administrative scrivener (a person who specializes in understanding and creating legal documents) in Japan to make the process much smoother and several months faster.

    Many people who do it on their own have to redo or submit extra forms over and over again and this may cost you an additional 2-3 months. You can find the list of items you need here, but we go into more detail below on this article.

    Spousal Visa Application Step 1A

    Certificate of Eligibility 在留資格認定証明書交付申請

    Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for Spouse of a Japanese National by submitting an Application Form for Certificate of Eligibility and a Letter of Guarantee.

    Application Form Download

    Obtaining a COE while in Japan

    1. Submit an application together to a Regional Immigration Office in Japan
    2. Attorney or administrative scrivener can also submit an application on your behalf

    Important note: the regional Immigration Office refers to the headquarters for the region. For example, people in Yokohama would go to the regional office in Shinagawa, Tokyo and not the district office in Yokohama to submit the application.

    Certificate of Eligibility details in English and Japanese

    Obtaining a COE if you are not in Japan

    • Family of Japanese Spouse or your spouse applies on your behalf in Japan
    • Attorney or administrative scrivener in Japan submits an application on your behalf

    Important note: It may be possible to have the family of your Japanese Spouse apply but the process gets much more complicated as they must confirm your relationship with the family.

    Spousal Visa Application Step 1B

    Letter of Guarantee 身元保証書

    Your guarantor takes legal responsibility for the following three areas:

    1. To provide you with logistical support while in Japan (a vague way of saying someone to cover your expenses in Japan to ensure you are not a financial burden to Japan)
    2. To pay your transportation fee to send you back to your home country (for lawbreakers)
    3. Guarantees you will abide by Japanese laws.

    You need to submit both the application form and the letter of guarantee to receive a certificate of eligibility. You can download the Letter of Guarantee Form in English or Japanese.

    Spousal Visa Application Step 2

    File for a Spouse of a Japanese National Visa at the Japanese embassy with the following applications and items.

    1. Passport
    2. Visa Application Form to Enter Japan
    3. Photograph – sizes may vary from country to country
    4. Original Certificate of Eligibility for Spouse of a Japanese National

    Note : Some countries require additional documents. Check below or your national government’s website for more details.

    New Zealand | Canada | United States  | UK

    Important information

    1. Your Japanese spouse may need to submit the following questionnaire in Japanese
    2. Transenz Japan wrote an expansive article on the topic of the spousal visa process here in English.
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    Japanese Student Visa

    If you aren’t already, you should be thinking about touching up on your Japanese skills. One of the best ways to do so is a Japanese school in Japan. Attending one will definitely boost up your Japanese skills, but you better be prepared to study. Japanese isn’t one of the languages that you can coast through and pick up.

    Being based on completely different language characters, it’s a different game to the languages spoken in Europe, N.America, S. America and Africa. Honestly, it is tough so prepare yourself and prepare a schedule to learn it!

    Not just for language students

    The Japanese student visa is not only for Japanese language students but for people who are studying at a recognized educational institute. These include official Japanese language schools, trade schools, and universities.

    Maybe a little expensive

    Attending most Japanese schools will cost you around $4000 dollars (400,000 yen) for six months and around $7000 dollars (700,000 yen) for one year on the cheap end. This does not include your plane ticket to Japan and the 1000 dollars a month you will need for living expenses in Tokyo.

    You can have a family member or spouse in your home country who is currently employed to serve as a guarantor, but you have to make the school tuition payments upfront.

    Visa sound right for you?

    If you decide to come on a Japanese language student visa, you can enroll for a minimum of six months and up to a maximum of 24 months. After the 24 months, there are a few paths you can take to remain in Japan or to further your career.

    One option is to find work and switch to one of the work visas (again, you need a minimum of a bachelor's degree for this). Another option you might be interested in that doesn’t require a degree is going to a technical or a trade school. If that doesn’t sound interesting how about attending university?

    A limit to your renewal

    After 24 months, you will not be allowed to renew your student visa for attending a Japanese language school. For more information on choosing the right Japanese language school, please check out our article on our sister site here.

    What documents are needed for a Japanese language school?

    You would need the following documents to apply to a language school

    • High school diploma and transcripts
    • Photocopy of your passport
    • Health Check certificate
    • Photocopy of your bank account balance
    • Photographs of yourself (30mm x 40mm)

    Note: Some schools may require you to send your birth certificate or a letter of recommendation.

    Pprocess and requirements for receiving a student visa

    Student Visa Application Step 1: Apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for Students

    • Apply to a registered education institution and pay the application fee
    • School applies for a Certificate of Eligibility on your behalf to immigration
    • School notifies you of the result of the application. If approved, you must pay the lesson fee and school entrance fee (most schools charge an entrance fee)
    • School will mail you the Certificate of Eligibility and a School Entry Permission Form.

    Student Visa Application Step 2: Apply for a student visa at the nearest Japanese embassy in your home country

    • You must submit your passport, visa application form, one photograph, and a certificate of eligibility – the original and one copy.

    Important Japan Visa knowledge

    • Your visa can be canceled if you do not pay tuition.  Even if you have time left on your visa.
    • You will need to get permission to work in Japan even though you have a student visa. You will need to get this stamp at the immigration office. The limit for working is 28 hours weekly.
    • Schools recommend you study for 6 months or more because it is easier to renew a student visa than changing from a tourist visa to a student visa.
      • You are unable to legally work for a company in Japan while on a tourist visa unless you are a freelancer or are working for a company overseas while you are here.
      • Check-in advance whether your school will handle the procedures for your visa or if you will have to do them on your own.

    Here is the official immigration link for the student visa requirements.

    Coming to Japan for working holiday

    Japanese Working Holiday Visa

    A Japanese working holiday visa is one of, if not the best, ways to come to Japan. If you meet the requirements you should definitely take a chance at it! You get the best of both worlds with the flexibility of a tourist visa but also the flexibility of the work-visa. You are able to work up to 40 hours per week and you get to stay up to a year. 

    A year is a very long time to be in a foreign country and it is definitely an interesting experience. We recommend that if you enjoy your time within the first 3 months, apply for a job that can give you a prospect of full time. No matter the company most will ask you to have as much as time left on your visa. 

    Cons

    The only drawback of this venture is the work culture in Japan. Unlike other countries, they expect a lot from you. What this means is that if you try to find work with only 2 months left of your visa, you’ll have a very hard time. Companies like One Coin English have requirements for their teachers to have at least 9 months left.

    Back to the pros

    The bright side of this arrangement is that you have enough time to evaluate a company to decide whether or not you see a future in it. A lot of places might not give you this feeling and that is completely fine. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, you have enough time on your visa to decide! Have a read of what this teacher experienced on his working holiday visa 

    More and more countries are being added to the already extensive list of countries that have a working holiday agreement. Especially those that have agreements with Japan. This list is up to date with the 2019 list. If more get added we will eventually add them here but if you don’t see your name on the list it might be good to double check your countries website.

    List of countries with an agreement with Japan

    Asian Countries

    Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan

    European Countries

    Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

    South America

    Argentina and Chile

    Western Countries

    Australia, New Zealand, Canada

    Here is the official list of countries on the immigration website.

    Main requirements for a Japanese working holiday visa

    Requirement 1: Own a passport and be a citizen from one of the above countries

    Requirement 2: Be between 18 and 30 years of age at the time of application for the visa.

    The age restriction is between 18-25 for Australia, Canada, and Korea, but I have heard of people receiving an exemption to this rule.

    Requirement 3: Not being accompanied by dependents or children while in Japan

    Requirement 4: Have enough funds to cover the initial period of stay – must provide a bank statement

      1. The average minimum is around 2500 Canadian or Australian dollars with a return ticket
      2. The minimum amount required increases by around 1000 dollars without a return ticket

    Requirement 5: Not having previously obtained a Japanese working holiday visa in the past.

    You can find the general details for the application process here at the Japanese immigration website. The visa type is called designated activities, which FYI is actually a general name that applies to other situations as well. You will also need to check out your national government site for specific requirements for your country and the fastest way to do that is a google search and not manually, trust me.

    Key points for the Japanese working holiday visa

    Point 1: The Japanese working holiday visa process is much quicker than the other visas. I know Australians and people from the UK can usually receive the visa within 1 or 2 weeks from application.

    Point 2: These work visa holders are prohibited from working at bars, clubs, and adult shops.

    • On the plus side, there are no restrictions for maximum working hours like students

    Point 3: Eligible countries have different rules and requirements for a Japanese working holiday visa applications

    • Some countries require you to have a medical check and others do not.
    • Some countries require you to submit a 6-month travel plan
    • Some countries do not charge you for the visa

    Check the following government websites in English for more information

    The Working Holiday Programmes in Japan

    Application for Certificate of Eligibility

    This article by James Ramsden goes into more detail about what happens after you receive the visa from someone who has done a working holiday. I totally recommend checking it out.

    Looking for a job in Tokyo? Check out our articles on full-time jobs in Tokyo and part-time jobs in Tokyo to learn more about what jobs are in the market for you.

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    Japanese Work Visa

    A Japanese work visa is a more difficult way to get into Japan but allows you to be hired for full-time positions, involves fewer restrictions on the types of employment, and removes the weekly maximum hours that student visa holders face.

    General process for receiving a Japanese Work Visa

    Work Visa Application Step 1: Find an employer willing to sponsor a work visa for you

    • Search online for a company that provides visa sponsorship to overseas candidates
    • Receive a contract from the company and return it to them by postal mail

    Work Visa Application Step 2: Apply for your Certificate of Eligibility

    • Your employer will apply for a Certificate of Eligibility on your behalf in Japan with Japanese immigration authorities.

    Work Visa Application Step 3: Apply for a Japanese work visa at the nearest Japanese embassy

    1. Receive the Certificate of Eligibility from your company in Japan.
    2. Go to a Japanese embassy in your home country.
    3. Make sure to take your passport, Japanese work visa application form, one photograph, and the original copy of the certificate of eligibility and one photocopy.

    Work positions available for University Degree Holders

    You may also qualify for some of these positions even if you do not have a University degree if you have more than 3 years of full-time experience.

    • Instructor - teaching English
    • Journalist
    • Legal and Accounting Services
    • Manager - Senior Level
    • Medical Services
    • Professor / Researcher
    • Specialist in Humanities or International Services - generic visa type for white-collar jobs
      1. Advertising
      2. Executive Recruitment
      3. Executive Assistant / Secretary
      4. HR
      5. Marketing
      6. Sales
      7. Programming
      8. Teaching English for a conversation school.
      9. And many more...

    Work positions available for non-University Degree Holders

    Here are the 14 industries that are in need of foreign laborers and qualify for the Specified Skills Visa

    1. Agriculture industry
    2. Aviation industry
    3. Cleaning buildings
    4. Construction industry
    5. Electronics and equipment industry
    6. Fishing industry
    7. Food and banquets (restaurants)
    8. Food and drink manufacturing
    9. Hospitality (hotels, etc)
    10. Industrial machinery
    11. Materials industry
    12. Nursing field
    13. Shipbuilding
    14. Vehicular maintenance

    Models, artists, and entertainers are also included in the non-University degree holder category.

    Where can I find these positions?

    Option 1: is to come check out our guide to jobs in Japan and check out the section on where to find jobs from overseas and job boards in Japan.

    Option 2: is to check out the major job fairs in Japan that are aimed at hiring foreigners overseas for Japanese companies.

    picture of a passport

    Japanese Tourist Visa

    A tourist visa is the easiest way for most people to get into Japan. Depending on your country, your maximum duration of stay will be different and will range between 1 and 3 months.

    For some people, you may be able to leave the country and come back and get another tourist visa to stay longer. 

    It also has the most restrictions!

    Man-who-is-excited-because-of-job

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