Visa Applications at the Immigration Office in Japan
To be able to enter and stay in Japan, it is necessary to obtain a visa (status of residence) in advance.
The category of visa that you will need to apply for depends on the type of activities that you intend to engage in Japan.
If you are coming to Japan only for a short period of time, and will not engage in remunerated or paid activities, such as sight-seeing, visiting family and friends, attending a wedding, attending business meetings etc., you can apply for the "temporary visitor visa" (generally called "tourist visa") directly at the Japanese Embassy / Consulate nearby.
Citizens of the countries having visa exemption arrangements with Japan can arrive in Japan only with their passport without going through any procedure in advance, unless you intend to stay for a long period of time, or to work.
If you intend to stay longer or wish to work, it is necessary to obtain a long term visa.
To be able to do so, it is first necessary to determine which type of visa you qualify for.
This also means that you need to have found a job in Japan if you are applying for a working visa, or a school if you are applying for a student visa.
Once you have chosen the type of visa that best suits your case, you will need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (if you don't live in Japan under a long term visa yet).
Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
To obtain a long term visa while living outside of Japan, it is first necessary to apply for the Certificate of Eligibility (COE) at the Immigration Office in Japan, rather than applying at the Japanese Embassy / Consulate directly.
The application can be submitted by a family member staying in Japan (for the family related visa), by a personnel of the hosting organizations (for other types of visa), by the applicant himself visiting Japan with a temporary visa, or by certified Japanese Immigration Lawyers like us.
The fact that you have applied for the COE doesn't give you the right to stay in Japan after the expiration of the temporary visitor visa, so if it will expire before the COE is issued, it is necessary to leave Japan.
The processing time of the application will vary greatly depending on various factors such as the type of visa, location of the Immigration Office with jurisdiction of a certain case, the size of the sponsoring organization in Japan and the capacity of the Immigration Office.
To give a rough indication of recent processing time, a standard work visa COE case submitted in Tokyo recently takes about 2 to 5 months from application date for a smooth standard case, and the processing time is usually shorter for cases where the sponsoring entity in Japan is a large or listed corporation (around 2 to 4 weeks) and cases utilizing the Highly Skilled Professional Visa Option (around 4 to 6 weeks)).
However, please note that the processing system at Japanese Immigration is not systematic and thus the timeline may vary very significantly depending on the capacity of the Immigration Office, changes in policy and/or the complexity of a specific case.
After an application has been submitted, there is no way to control the processing time or expedite it.
Once the COE is issued, you will then need to go to the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in the country of your nationality or residency, in order to have the COE validated and the visa issued/stamped on your passport, which will usually take about 3-5 of business days.
Even if the applicant happens to be in Japan under the temporary visitor status at the time of COE issuance, it is no longer possible to apply for a direct change to the work visa etc. in Japan upon presentation of the COE, unless there is exceptional reason to justify the need to do this.
In principle, applicants must validate the COE and get the visa issued abroad. In the past, the Immigration Office used to offer the option to change visa status directly from the temporary visitor status upon presentation of the COE, until they changed policy in August 2019 so this option is no longer available.
We are certified as Immigration Lawyers by the Japan Immigration Office, we can help you with obtaining an appropriate visa and with other Immigration procedures and services.