How to get a work visa in Japan
For international tech engineers and programmers looking to work in Japan, getting a Japanese work visa can be a challenging part of the process. The required documentation is complex, particularly as it is mostly written in Japanese. Not to mention, there are numerous pathways available, making it difficult to tell which one is suitable for you.
If your head is already spinning, don't worry!
In this article, Mixess will explore exactly what you need to do, and what you need to know, to get a visa for work in Japan, so you can find that job you've always dreamed of!
1. What do I need to know before applying for a work visa in Japan?
Japan does not have an all-encompassing work visa, but many different types of visa with criteria related to the qualifications of each profession. The different types of work visa will be explained in more detail in a later section.
2. Residence card (在留カード)
Once you have obtained your visa, you will be issued with a 'Residence Card'. This will have details of the type and expiration date of your visa.
It is mandatory for all foreign nationals in Japan to carry their residence card. If you cannot present it when requested by immigration or the police, you can be sentenced to up to one year in prison or fined up to 200,000 yen. Japanese companies will always check residence cards when hiring foreign talent.
3. One type of visa per person
Only one type of work visa can be obtained per person. Even if your qualifications and experiences apply to multiple visas, you can only apply for one. Choosing which visa to apply for is a decision you should make carefully, as you can only take jobs that fall under the type of visa you have obtained.
For example, if you entered Japan with the Humanities/International Services visa as an interpreter, you would not be allowed to start a business in the country without switching the type of visa.
4. What are the types of visas required for work in Japan?
There are 27 types of visa that enable foreigners to stay in Japan. 21 of these types are work visas, which allow labor in Japan.
4.1 'Highly Skilled Professional' visa
The 'Highly Skilled Professional' visa is a special visa, designed for the most advanced international workers with specialized skills.
Highly skilled professionals are here defined as professionals who offer invaluable, 'unsubstitutable' skills to support the Japanese workforce, and who will bring innovation to the Japanese labour market.
In other words, they are personnel who will create a major impact on Japanese industry, and offer skills not widely found amongst the Japanese workforce.
4.1.1 What are the criteria for a Highly Skilled Professional visa in Japan?
Highly Skilled Professional visas are not classified by industry like Japan's usual working visa.
They use a point system, which takes into consideration factors including work experience, educational background, and prospective income from the sponsoring organization. For example, 30 points are allotted for a Doctorate degree, and up to 50 points for prospective income.
In order to apply for this visa, you will need a specific job or job offer from a sponsoring Japanese organization.
4.1.2 What are the advantages of a Highly Skilled Professional visa?
There are many advantages with the Highly Skilled Professional visa.
One advantage is that with this visa you can engage in work activities across multiple visa types. For example, by teaching as a Professor at a university whilst also engaging in business management.
Other benefits include a 5-year status of residence, as well as faster access to a Permanent Resident visa, the ability for the visa holder's spouse to work full-time in Japan under certain conditions, and the possibility of bringing parents to Japan.
4.1.3 What are the subcategories of the Highly Skilled Professional visa?
There are 3 subcategories based on the type of position, and points are allotted differently for each subcategory.
- (A) Advanced academic research activities - for applicants with specialist skills in research, research guidance or education
- (B) Advanced specialized / technical activities - for applicants with specialist knowledge of natural sciences and humanities
- (C) Advanced business management activities - for applicants with specialist skills in the operation or management of private or public organizations
To be eligible for these subcategories, you will need to have a job in Japan or be sponsored by a Japanese company.
After you have worked in Japan for three years on the Highly Skilled Professional visa, you will be eligible to apply for the Highly Skilled Professional visa (ii), which allows you to remain in Japan indefinitely.
4.2 Working visas
Working visas are one of the most popular types for international workers in Japan. These are the types of working visa:
・ Professor: university professors, assistant professors, assistants, etc.
・ Researcher: researchers, investigators, etc.
・ Artist: composers, lyricists, painters, sculptors, craftsmans, photographers, etc.
・ Religion: religious figures, such as monks, bishops, missionaries
・ Journalist: newspaper reporters, magazine reporters, editors, news photographers, announcers, etc.
・ Investor / business manager: company presidents, executives, etc.
・ Legal / accounting services: Japanese qualified lawyers, judicial scriveners, certified public accountants, tax accountants, etc.
・ Medical care: Doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, etc. with Japanese qualifications
・ Education: Teachers of elementary, junior high and high schools
・ Intra-company transfer: Employees transferring to the Japanese branch of a company
・ Engineer / Humanities / International services: science and technology engineer, IT engineer, copywriter, designer, foreign language teachers, interpreters, etc.
・ Entertainment: performers, actors, singers, dancers, athletes, models, etc.
・ Skilled labourer: foreign cooks, trainers, pilots, sports trainers, sommeliers, etc.
・ Care: caregiver who has qualification of care worker
・ Skills training: skills training student who establishes employment relationship with company and works to learn skills for a certain period
If you are applying for a working visa in Japan, you will need to be sponsored by a Japanese company, who will confirm your eligibility.
4.3 Start-up visa
A start-up visa is issued to support international workers who want to start a company in Japan, providing status of residence for up to one year.
Generally, foreign workers in Japan need a business management visa to run a company, but some may not meet that qualification. In these cases, a start-up visa is issued, with the holder expected to meet the business management visa qualification within six months.
This visa is only valid in limited areas, however. Currently, the visa is being implemented in Tokyo, Fukuoka City and Sendai City.
4.4 Diplomatic visa / Official visa
A diplomatic visa covers foreigners visiting Japan on a diplomatic mission. It allows his/her family members to stay in Japan, and the validity period extends for the duration of the mission.
Official visas are for foreigners working on national government affairs and international organization affairs, such as embassy expatriates. This visa also covers their family members.
4.5 Visas where work is not permitted
There are visa types where holders are not allowed to work, or are only allowed to work under a certain amount of hours. This is because they are not intended for market labor in Japan, but for volunteer activities, study or cultural activities that do not involve compensation.
Work is restricted on these visas:
・ Cultural activities
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