Japan Expands Worker Visa

With the Visa Changes, Starting a Company in Japan is Easier than Ever

Visa changes
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Not Satisfied with How Things Were?

Japan is making big changes to open their doors and welcome in foreign innovators by getting ready to launch a new one-year startup visa program to be implemented nation-wide. As it stands now, foreign entrepreneurs in Japan have had to obtain a business management visa, maintain a Japanese office, and employ at least two full-time employees. The only exception to this has been the 6-month start-up visa offered solely in Tokyo and Fukuoka. However, only around 30 of these special visas have actually been issued and they have not quite lived up to anyone’s expectations.

This initial 6-month visa has simply not cut it for entrepreneurs new to Japan who are not familiar with the ins and outs of the Japanese startup world. For many the process of finding a Japanese guarantor to line up an office space, opening bank accounts, taking local surveys, and conducting initial rounds of funding has been too much of a learning curve to take on in that short 6-month period.

Realizing this, the Japanese government is poised to stretch the start-up visa period to a full year and stretch out their hand in welcoming new foreign entrepreneurs as early as the fourth fiscal quarter of 2018. This effort will be spearheaded by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as well as the Ministry of Justice.

“Japan is striving to become more competitive and recognized globally as a center for cutting edge start-up business, following after the models established in Singapore and California’s Silicon Valley.”

In addition to increasing the length of the start-up visa period, local and regional governments will also be certified and assisted by Japan’s Trade Ministry to provide support such as bilingual lawyers and accountants, as well as office space and even possible housing for these start-up visa holders.

Steps are Being Taken All Over Japan for Visa Changes

Japan is striving to become more competitive and recognized globally as a center for cutting edge start-up business, following after the models established in Singapore and California’s Silicon Valley. With venture capital investment in Japan reaching a record high of 2.5 billion USD in 2017 and a void of small businesses waiting to be filled, the stage is set in Japan for entrepreneurs to succeed.

Regional governments within Japan are doubling down on these new policy changes. A clear example of this can be seen in the steps currently being taken in Hiroshima. The governor of Hiroshima, Hidehiko Yuzaki, has pledged to invest 6 million USD annually to help promote small business development locally and nation-wide. Yuzaki hopes for Hiroshima to not only be in competition with Tokyo as a location for new start-ups but hopes to be able to compete with other booming Southeast Asian countries.

Apart from Hiroshima, in an attempt to bring in more start-up companies, Fukuoka has established incentives for small business owners to set up shop, offering tax breaks and business consultations. Osaka has also begun to focus on innovative small businesses within the medical technology field.

Competition breeds opportunity and all over Japan real effort is being made to create a competitive ecosystem for your future start-up business. For the adventurous entrepreneur looking out across the globe at the best location to break new ground with their start-up, I’d look no further than Japan.

If you ever wanted to start a business in Japan, now is the time.

What do you think?


Written by Joel Devidal

Joel Devidal is a serial entrepreneur and long time fan of Japan, it's unique lifestyle, culture and delicious food . He has grown several profitable businesses during his 20+ years in small business and IT.

He focuses primarily on Japanese online marketing and Internet retail industries, investing and advising startups wanting to enter the Japanese market.

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