While citizens of some countries do not need a visa to enter Japan for touristic purposes, it is necessary to have a valid working visa if one plans to be an employee of a Japanese company or a Japan-based company. A work visa allows you to live and work full-time in Japan in your chosen professional field. There are many types of working visas. Roughly we can separate them in the following groups:
- Visas for employees of one specific company:
- Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals
- Other working visa types
- Visas for self-sponsored entrepreneurs (business visas)
- Working holiday visas
In this article we will focus on the first category and its two subsections. The difference between them is based on how many advantages you can get along with your residential status. Let us examine those closely.
Getting a working visa for Japan
Highly Skilled Foreign Professional Visa
This type of visa gives its holder a wider range of possibilities:
- Its holder can engage simultaneously in several activities which usually require a separate visa each. For example, you can start your own company and be a CEO there while also being an employee of the company that invited you to Japan. If you do not have an HSFP visa, you can only choose one, investor visa or an area specific working visa.
- The length of this visa is 5 years.
- It grants you faster getaway to a permanent residence visa
- When renewing or changing your visa status at the immigration office, your applications get preferential treatment
- There is a number of benefits for your family too:
- Your spouse can work full-time if they meet certain criteria
- You can bring your parents to Japan if you meet certain criteria
- You can bring a personal helper (a nanny, a housekeeper, etc.) with you if you met certain criteria.
However, in order to be qualified as a highly skilled professional, you will have to go through the point system evaluation based on a complicated set of prerequisites and get the score of at least 70 points. You can familiarize yourself with the requirements and points awarded using this brochure.
This type of visa has a structure of its own. Depending on the number of points you have scored you can be granted:
- HSFP visa (i) type (a), (b), or (c) for applicants with 70 – 79 points
- HSFP visa (ii) type (a), (b), or (c) for applicants with 80 or more points
The letter after your visa type specifies the area of your knowledge and occupation. There is no hierarchy among these letter notations. This structure is horizontal:
- (a) type is for advanced academic research activities (combination of research or professor activities visas, etc.)
- (b) type is for advanced specialized/technical activities (combination of an engineer, a specialist in humanities or an intra-company transferee visa)
- (c) type is for advanced business management activities (includes activities permitted under business/investor visa)
Remember that points are only granted for those experiences and qualifications that can be proved with the appropriate documents. You will have to verify your track of records with employment verification letters, etc.
Other working visa types
If you do not qualify for the HSFP visa, you can still get a working visa based on your area of education and occupation. There is no single visa that would cover all other activities. You have to get a visa that is specific to the type of work you are intending to do. If you change your area of work or a company, you will have to notify the immigration office and change your residence status accordingly by obtaining a new visa.
Other visa types include following areas of occupation:
- Artist (composers, sculptors, photographers, etc.)
- Business manager (company director, etc.)
- Engineer/specialist in humanities/international services (IT engineers, foreign language teachers, copywriters, etc.)
- Entertainer (musicians, singers, dancers, models, etc.)
- Instructor (teacher at the elementary, middle or high school)
- Intra-company transferee (employees transferred to Japanese branches of a company)
- Journalist (journalists, editors, announcer, etc.)
- Legal/accounting services (attorneys, tax accountants, etc. who are certified in Japan)
- Medical services (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, etc. who are certified in Japan)
- Professor (university professor, assistant, etc. )
- Religious activities (monks, bishops, missionaries, etc.)
- Researchers (at research institutes, etc.)
- Skilled labor (chefs specializing in cuisines of foreign countries, pilots, sports trainers, etc.)
In order to apply for a working visa, you will first need to secure yourself a workplace. The visa type will be determined by the type of work you want to engage in. Remember, that working visa is meant for professionals with highly valuable skills. That is why a working visa cannot be granted to those, who want to engage in a simple manual labor, such as waiting tables, construction site works, massage therapy, working as a hairdresser, etc.
There is no general working visa that will allow you to enter the county and then start hunting for jobs. Your employer will act as your guarantor and will probably help or assist in acquiring your Certificate of Eligibility. When you will get your Certificate of Eligibility from an immigration office, you can apply for a visa (or status of residence).
Where to apply?
Application for the Certificate of Eligibility is done at the immigration office in Japan. If you reside outside of Japan at the moment of application, submission can be done by a certified immigration specialist from the immigration office. Once you obtain your Certificate of Eligibility you can apply for your visa at the embassy or a consulate general.
Sometimes you can apply straight at the Japanese embassy or a consulate general. In this case, your certificate of eligibility and a status of residence will be handled simultaneously. Ask for detailed instructions from your local immigration office or an embassy/consulate general.
- Gather all the necessary documents and apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (see below).
- Immigration office will assess the company that wants to hire you as a foreign employee.
- Immigration office will assess the activities proposed for work and identify what type of working visa is suitable for the applicant’s professional background. It will also count your points if you are aiming for an HSFP visa and put them on the Certificate of Eligibility along with you suggested visa type.
- When your Certificate of Eligibility is ready, apply for a Status of Residence at the Japanese embassy or a consulate general.
- Wait for response.
If you are granted a working visa, you will have 3 months to enter Japan with this visa.
What is a Certificate of Eligibility?
Certificate of Eligibility (hereinafter CoE) is a document issued by the immigration office and proving that you comply with the requirements set for immigration. Once immigration office approves of your suitability for entering the country you can apply for a visa, which is also known as Status of Residence or SoR for short. Subsequently, CoE is not a visa. It is a prerequisite for obtaining one.
You will not be able to enter Japan or engage in any activities there with CoE, because you have to have your SoR confirmed first on a base of CoE and other required documents. For this reason applicant for a highly skilled professional visa will need a CoE that contains their total points and specified type of activity before applying for a corresponding visa.
The list of required documents for CoE can be obtained from an immigration office. Different occupations require different documents, but generally, the immigration office will assess your professional background. You might need to submit papers proving your work experience. For example, letters from the previous employers, etc.
What documents do I need?
Below is the list of documents that are necessary for all types of work visa (not for the CoE). Additional documents will vary depending on your category of employment and your citizenship. Contact your local embassy or a consulate general for exact information on the set of required documents. You will have to show:
- A valid passport
- An application form (citizens of Russia, CIS countries, and Georgia are required to submit two)
- A passport type photo (citizens of Russia, CIS countries, and Georgia are required to submit two)
- A Certificate of Eligibility and a copy of it. If you are applying for a highly skilled professional visa, your points and type of occupational area will be shown on it.
How long does it take to obtain a permanent residence visa?
As it was mentioned above, the process of obtaining a visa consists of two parts: getting a Certificate of Eligibility and then applying for a visa with it and other necessary documents. Obtaining your CoE may take around three months or even longer. Once you have your CoE, you can apply for a work visa.
Usually, visa (or status of residence) can be issued within five days if there are no problems with your other documents. If there are questions regarding the application, your papers will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign affairs in Tokyo for further examination, and that will take about a month.
Thus, the whole process can take around 4-5 months. That is why it is important to start your paperwork and applications early enough to obtain your visa before your departure date.
How much does a working visa application cost?
It depends on your nationality and place of residence. In some cases, you might get it for free. In others, you might have to pay a requested sum in a certain currency before or somewhere in a process of application. You need to ask your local immigration office, embassy or a consulate general for exact instructions on payments.
Japan is a great place for the highly skilled professionals to put their knowledge and skills into practice as well acquire new ones while building a career. There are many types of working visas for a wide range of professional activities. However, be sure to apply for them in advance and keep in mind that in the majority of situations when your work type changes you need to change your visa type accordingly.
Japanese Working Visa FAQ
Can I travel outside Japan with the working visa?
You need to have a re-entry permit to be able to travel in and out of Japan. If you leave the country without such re-entry permit, you will not be able to enter Japan again and will have to get a new visa.
Application process seems to be difficult. Can someone help me with it?
You can ask for assistance from a certified immigration specialist from the immigration office. They might help you with the paperwork and submit your applications on your behalf as proxies. Your employer may also be able to help you with the Certificate of Eligibility since he acts as your guarantor.
Can I change my job or workplace?
Yes, you can. However, as soon as you do, you will have to obtain a new visa that will correspond to your new role. All the changes in your activities and/or life circumstances should be reported to the immigration office immediately in order to apply for a change of residence status.
Do I need to be proficient in Japanese language?
This requirement will be determined by your employer. Being able to communicate in Japanese at least at the basic level will widen your pool of possibilities in many regards: it is easier to establish interpersonal connections, communicate with coworkers, clients, and locals. In general, English language skills are not so widespread in Japan. If you speak neither Japanese nor English, finding your way in Japan may be extremely hard. Try to find out if you’re company may be willing and able to provide you a language training or assist in finding an appropriate language course.
Can I bring other people with me to Japan?
Depending on your visa type, you might be able to bring your spouse, children, parents or even a personal helper with you. These options vary depending on your occupation, visa type, income and life circumstances. Thus, consult the immigration office in case you are planning to sponsor somebody else’s residence in Japan.
Getting a working visa for Japan