Visas to Japan

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Work Visas

Already made the decision to move to Japan, but not sure what are your options for coming here are? Before you go and tell your parents or family and sell all your possessions, come check our guide on the many different ways for getting to Japan outside of a tourist visa. Getting to Japan is quite hard but there are more ways to get here than you might be aware of, so strap on your seat belt and join us on a journey into the Japanese visa system.

Do you know what visa you want to get already? You can skip the next section on what visa type you can get  and go directly to the section that relates to you by clicking the links below.

The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should always consult a visa expert or attorney for individual advice regarding your own circumstances. The information on this website is not a substitute for professional legal advice.

Japanese Visa Type

What Japanese Visa can I get to come to Japan

Depending on your nationality, marriage status, bank account, and level of education, your options for a visa can vary greatly. Knowing your situation will help you narrow your focus on the areas that have the most potential for helping you get a visa to Japan.

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.

For example, we have two mates from Australia, one is 32 with a university degree and the other is 25 without a university degree. Our mate who is 32 could get a work visa as an English teacher, while the 25 year old would be better off coming to Japan on a working holiday visa.

Enough talking and let’s check out what your options are.

▢ I have a university degree

Congratulations, you are eligible for getting a work visa to come to Japan.

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

  • 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.....

Click here to go to our special section on work visas or continue reading to see your other visa options and general visa information.

▢ I am under 30 + have more than $2500 + country has a working holiday agreement

Congratulations, you are eligible for getting a working holiday visa.

A working holiday is an awesome way to come to Japan because you can work 40 hours a week and stay for one whole year! Your next steps are to save enough money and do the visa process yourself or with an agency. Luckily for you, you do not need to find a sponsor to get a working holiday visa to Japan.

Please note that depending on your country, the age limit might be lower than 30 or you may need special permission to get a working holiday visa to Japan. The financial requirement above applies to Australians and will be slightly more or less depending on your country. You would have to check your national government’s website for more details on that.

Click here to go to our special section on working holiday visas or continue reading to see what additional visa options you have and general visa information.

How to make Japanese friends - 4

▢ I have a Japanese ancestory

▢ Is one of your parents a Japanese citizen?

You are eligible for getting a Child of a Japanese Citizen Visa.

See immigration site : http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/long/visa10.html

▢ Is one of your grandparents a Japanese citizen?

You are eligible for getting a Long-Term Resident Visa.

See immigration site : http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/long/visa12.html

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

Don’t give up hope yet buddy. Here are some other ways you can come to Japan on a long-term stay visa.

▢ Option 1 : You can come through your spouse

Do you have a Japanese spouse? If yes, click here to go to our special section on spouse of Japanese citizen or continue reading to see what additional visa options you have and general visa information.

Do you have a foreign spouse with a visa to Japan? If yes, check the Japanese immigration site here. This visa type limits you to working 28 hours a week, so we recommend seeing what additional visa options you have and general visa information below

▢ Option 2 : Specified Skills Visa for Japan

I have great news for you. Due to labor shortages in Japan,  the Japanese government has reduced visa requirements to increase the amount of foreign labors in areas of need.

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 Japan or higher (N3+) depending on industry.
  2. You do NOT need a university degree to attain a specified skills visa.
  3. 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.

You can find more information on the specified skills visa from gaijinpot and immigration lawyers.jp

▢ Option 3 : Do you have a country that will send you to Japan for diplomatic reasons?

If yes, here are your options.

  • Ambassador and Diplomacy Staff
  • Military and military civilian contractors

▢ Option 4 : Do you want to self-sponsor your visa?

You will need a lot of money or an interesting business to sponsor your own visa.

  • Entrepreneur - You need 5,000,000 yen in your company’s bank account
  • Investor
  • Start Up Visa - Alternative to entrepreneur visa

For 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. This article has more information on renewing your work visa through self-sponsorship.

If you have a student or tourist visa, I am not sure if there is a way to self-sponsor outside of an entrepreneur, investor, or start up visa. My guess is that your main option would be to find a company or extend your current visa.

▢ Option 5 : You have an organization or recognized master that will sponsor your visa for you.

  • Cultural Activities - Learn a Japanese cultural art like making swords, doing sumo or ikebana, etc, and have a Sensei who will sponsor you.
  • Religious Activities - Many Mormons come from the US to Japan.

▢ Option 6 : You are creative, entertaining, or beautiful.

You may be able to get an Artist or Entertainer visa and you do not need a University degree. Although out of range for me, there is also a Modeling visa as well available for the lucky few who has a Japanese agency who will sponsor their visa.

Important General Information on Obtaining a Japanese Visa

Disclaimer 1: Following all the procedures listed in this guide and on the Japanese immigration website does not 100% guarantee you will receive a visa to live in Japan.

Disclaimer 2: Procedures and processes change rapidly and the information here may be out of date.

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 visa application process take?

The first step would be to prepare the necessary documents. After this, It can take up to 5 months depending on your situation to receive your visa. It takes up to three months to process the main document you need which is a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from Japanese immigration. During the three months, the Japanese government will process and check all the documents (passport necessary) you submitted. If your documents are 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.

  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. You can complete the process more quickly in person than through mail.

To summarize things : Step one is to get a certificate of eligibility from Japanese immigration to get permission to come to Japan. Step two is to take that document and the other documents to the Japanese embassy in your country to process your visa. Step three receive your visa and then come to Japan.

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?

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 in 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.

Visa Process for Spouse of a Japanese Citizen

Congratulations on having a Japanese Spouse. 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 as students and working holiday visa holders.

The only downside is that the process is somewhat more complex than the other visas and is the only common visa 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: http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/01-format.html

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 law breakers)
  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.

Visa Process for Students

Thinking about boosting your Japanese skills? Attending a Japanese school will definitely boost up your Japanese skills, but you better be prepared to study buddy because learning Japanese is tough.

The 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.

Attending a Japanese schools can 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 up front..

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 those 24 months you would either have to find a work visa sponsor or you would need to go to a university or trade school, or get married. You would 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 do you need to apply to 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.

What is the process 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 Visa tips

  • Your visa can be cancelled if you do not pay tuition despite having 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 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.

Here is an article by GaijinPot on student visas.

Visa Process for Working Holiday

A working holiday is an awesome way to come to Japan if you meet the requirements. You can work 40 hours a week and get to stay for one whole year, which is enough time to see if Japan is the right place for you and find a full-time position. 

Japan and more countries are making working holiday agreements and more are added each year - our list will cover up until 2019, so if you are from a European country keep your eyes out, because more and more European countries are being added each year.

Here is a 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, 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 working holiday visa

Requirement 1 : Be a passport holder 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 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 working holiday visa

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

Point 2 : 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 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

http://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/w_holiday/

http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/01-format.html

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.

Visa Process for Work Visa

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

What is the general process for receiving a 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 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, 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 ultimate guide to full-time jobs in Tokyo here and check out the section on where to find jobs from overseas and job boards in Japan. We have created a separate article specifically on how to find a full-time English teaching position here (almost done).

Option 2 is to check out the major job fairs that are aimed at hiring foreigners overseas for Japanese companies. One example is the career forum which is held in multiple cities in the United States.

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