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Visa categories and requirements in Japan

If you would like to live in Japan, it is necessary to get a visa that is most appropriate for your intended activities in Japan.

There are 27 types of visa in Japan and the requirements as well as the authorized activities are different for each of them.

It is therefore necessary to first determine one type of visa that will allow you to do what you would like to pursue in Japan, and for which you can satisfy the requirements of that particular visa.

It is not possible to get a visa to do the activities that are not listed in the following table. For example, you can't get a working visa for a simple labour work such as construction worker or a waiter/waitress.

Inn most cases, it is required to have a hosting organization (company, entity, or some kind of business related organization), or inviting person (commonly known as a "visa sponsor") to be able to get a visa in Japan, such as a school in case of a student visa or an employer in case of a working visa.

There are also requirements to meet as to successfully obtain a Japanesevisa. So even if you find a Japanese employer, you will not be able to come to work in Japan if you don't meet these requirements. These 27 Japanese visas can be divided into 3 main groups:

  1. Working visa: Those which allow you to work
  2. Non-working visa: Those which don't allow you to work
  3. Family related visa: Those granted according to the family status

One person can get only one type of visa at a time, so if you are eligible for more than one (engineer visa and spouse visa for example), you will need to choose one visa type among your options, we can advise on the best type of visa for you. Now, let's examine the definition of each type of visa and its requirements that will allow you to determine the type of visa that you qualify for.

Working visa

Working visas only cover the kind of work that requires high level of professional knowledge or skills. It is therefore not possible for foreigners to engage in manual / simple labour under a working visa, unless they have the visa granted according to the family status (spouse/child of Japanese national, long term resident, etc.), a trainee visa, or are part-time workers on student or dependent visas.

For example, there are no work visas for; hair-dressing, massage therapists, waiter/waitress, salesclerk, construction workers, etc.

The most typical working visas to work in private companies are the following 5 types.

Visa type Authorized activities Requirements
*Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services Engineer: Working in the fields of physical science, engineering or other natural science.

Specialist in humanities: Working in legal, economic, social fields or in the human science.

International services: Working in translation, interpretation, language instruction, public relations, international trade, fashion design, interior design, product development.
Engineer:University degree in the corresponding field or 10 years of professional experience

Specialist in humanities: University degree or 10 years' professional experience in the field

International services: 3 years' professional experience in the field except for interpretation / translation or language instruction that only require a university degree.
*Intra-company Transferee Expats of foreign companies or the subsidiary companies of Japanese firms located overseas Must have worked more than one year in the said office in overseas
*Skilled Labor Foreign cooking, architecture or civil engineering characteristic to foreign countries, processing precious stones, metals or fur, training animals, piloting aircrafts, instructing sports, sommeliers... 3-10 years' professional experience (number of years depending on the type of work) in the corresponding fields (including the period of training)
*Business Manager Starting or investing into a business in Japan, or managing business on behalf of other investors Physical, dedicated office space in Japan and 5 million yen investment into the business for new application. 10 million yen sales and 5 million yen expenses for renewal.

Introduced in May 2012, the Highly Skilled Professional visa is intended to attract workers who are likely to contribute to Japanese economy.

*Highly Skilled Professional Points are given according to the applicant's educational level and professional background, income and academic achievement. If you accumulate 70 points or more in the point evaluation, a special visa status is given which includes the following preferential treatment:
  • Possibility of engaging in multiple activities that cover different visa categories
  • 5 year visa granted
  • Faster access to Permanent Resident visa
  • Preferential processing of Immigration procedure
  • Possibility to work on full-time basis for the spouse under certains conditions
  • Possibility of bringing your parents to Japan under certains conditions
  • Possibility of hiring a domestic helper under certains conditions
For more detail, please refer to this page and the Immigration's website.

The following are the types of working visas granted to those who have certain status, knowledge, or skills.

Diplomat / Official Personnel of the Embassies and Consular Offices, Diplomatic Missions, Government personnel and their families. The application goes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and not the Immigration bureau.
Professor Research and education at University or equivalent educational institutions.
*Instructor Instruction of foreign languages or other education at elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, etc.

*Instructors in the private language schools must apply for the "Specialist in Humanities / International Services" visa.
Artist Artistic activities that generate sufficient income to support the artists life in Japan (painter, sculptor, photographer, writer, composer, songwriter, etc...)
Religious Activities Missionaries sent from foreign religious organizations.
Journalist Journalists who signed the contracts with foreign media organizations, including freelance journalists.
*Legal / Accounting Services Attorneys, certified public accountants or other specialists with legal qualifications.
*Medical Services Physicians, dentists or other medical specialists with Japanese qualifications.
*Researcher Research conducted under a contract with public or private organizations in Japan
*Entertainer Theatrical performances, musical performances, sports or any other show business.

Non-working visa

It is possible to work under a non-working visas, but only if you work below the limited hours per week (except for temporary visitor and trainee visa holders), and if you obtain permission from the immigration office.

*Students Students enrolled in universities, vocational schools (senmon gakko), high schools, junior high schools, elementary schools or Japanese language schools.The visa application is submitted through the school and the time of application is limited.
*Trainee Training to lean and acquire technology, skills or knowledge at public or private organizations in Japan.
This status is granted only if the candidate is to engage in a job requiring the technology, skills or knowledge obtained in Japan after returning to the home country.
*Technical Internship Internship after training under trainee visa
*Dependent Spouses or children of people staying in Japan under the work visa and non-working visa (except for temporary visitors and trainees).
Cultural Activities Cultural or artistic activities that provide no income.
Studies or researches of Japanese cultural or artistic activities.
University students on internship without remuneration.
Temporary Visitor Tourism, vacation, sports, family visit, participation to seminars, conferences or reunions. It is possible also to have business meetings, sign contracts, engage in PR activities and conduct market research.

The following status of residence is granted case by case, and the possibility or not to work is determined for each case.

Designated Activities Activities specifically designated for each case.
Housekeepers for diplomats, students on internship, working holiday, Long Stay for sightseeing and recreation

* These visas are subject to requirements that are determined by considering the impact on the industries and society in Japan, and to adjust the quality and/or quantity of the entrants.

Family Related Visas

These visas have no restriction on the activities to be engaged, so it is possible to work in any field or industry. You are free to change jobs or to have more than one activity.

Spouse or Child of Japanese Nationals Spouses and children of Japanese nationals
Long Term Residents Refugees, descendants of Japanese nationals, people caring for their children with Japanese nationality, people divorced from Japanese nationals, etc.
Permanent Residents (Indefinite) *Note Visa granted to those who have stayed certain conditions regarding the length of time spent in Japan, income, tax payment, etc. For more detail, please refer to this page.
Spouse or Child of Permanent Residents Spouses and children of Permanent Resident

Certified as Immigration Lawyers by the Immigration Office of Japan, we can help you with obtaining an appropriate visa and with other immigration procedures.

For more information, click here.

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