Guide to Getting a Japanese Visa

Guide to Getting a Japanese Visa

Are you planning on living and/or working in Japan? Then you’re going to need a visa.

There are 27 different types of visas for entering Japan. The type of visa you need will depend on how long you’ll be staying in Japan, the work you’ll be doing, the kind of work, and other factors.

In this article, we will be explaining to you the details about Japanese Visas. After reading this article, you should know which Visa you should apply for.

It should be noted that some visas require what is known as a COE, or a “Certificate of Eligibility” Study, as part of the application process. Based on the visa you are applying for, you will be required to provide documents proving that those are the activities you will be participating in while in Japan.

For example, a spousal visa requires a marriage certificate and other documents proving your marriage. These documents must be given to your closest consulate with a filled-out COE application; if your COE application is accepted your consulate will give it to you.

Table of contents

  1. Temporary visitor’s visa (Tourism)
  2. Student Visa (Studying in Japan)
  3. Work Visa (Paid Activities)
  4. Specified Visa
  5. Further Information

Temporary visitor’s visa (Tourism)

This visa is the most common visa given to travelers upon arrival to the airport in Japan, if the country you hold a passport in is one of 68 members of the Japanese Visa Exemption Arrangement program. After landing in Japan and going through immigration, simply put sightseeing on the immigration form with the address of the place you will be staying and you will be permitted to stay in Japan for 90-days.

If your country is NOT listed as one of the 68 members, please contact your embassy/immigration office to be informed of the steps you need to take in order to be granted access to enter Japan.

Note that while holding this visa you may NOT engage in any paid activities such as teaching English or modeling.

  • Permitted time of stay: 90 days
  • Cost: Free
  • Deadline: None

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Student Visa (Studying in Japan)

Applying for this visa can be a little tricky depending on the circumstances of your study, so it is important to know if it is needed or not. If you are planning to study short-term (less than 90 days) at a Japanese language school and do not plan to work at the time of your study, you may not need a student visa and can simply obtain the “temporary visitor’s visa” listed above.

However, if you plan to study in Japan as a high school student, long-term language school student, university student or graduate student you will have to apply for a 1-year student visa.

The school in which you wish to study at will have to help you with some documents and application time is limited by deadlines (usually two times a year) so please make sure to communicate with the institution in which you wish to study at so you are aware of deadlines.

Student Visa (Studying in Japan)
Photo courtesy of SME JAPAN

In most cases, a COE (Certificate of Eligibility) is required for studying abroad (university, graduate programs). In order to be granted a 1-year visa (which needs to be renewed once the period is up), you will have to show some documentation to prove that you hold enough funds to live in Japan for the period of stay. Usually these will be in the form of bank transcripts/reports.

Also, you will need to provide any certificates of scholarships that you have been awarded. It is possible to provide documents of a guarantor (e.g. parent/relative) who will be helping you with expenses during your stay. In this case, you will have to submit bank transcripts of theirs as well. This will show that you are eligible to live in Japan for the period of stay. You will then have to visit your closest consulate to submit the COE.

While on a student visa, having a part-time (28hr/week) job is possible, but you have to be granted permission by the Japanese government first. The easiest way to do this is to fill out the form before coming to Japan, and submit it to the immigration officer at the airport upon arrival. You will then be given a sticker/stamp on your residence card, there is no cost to apply for this.

It is highly recommended to apply for work permission, even if you do not intend to have a part-time job while in Japan. It is possible to apply for permission once you are already living in Japan, but it is more difficult and time consuming (2 weeks – 1 month).

Below, you can find the details about work permissions while on a student visa. Fill it out and present it at immigration at the airport in Japan.

Downloadable form here

If you are already living in Japan, you will have to fill out a more detailed form. Please contact the immigration office.

  • Permitted time of stay: Up to 1-year (renewable for the time you are enrolled)
  • Cost: Varies
  • Deadline: Yes (Usually twice a year: Spring and Fall)

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Work Visa (Paid Activities)

There are several subcategories of the work visa that exist for certain specialties. Currently, there are only work visas for skilled work.

Unfortunately, expats may not receive a visa for: Waiter/Waitress, Massage therapist, or salon stylist work. However, some individuals who hold a working holiday visa may participate part-time in restaurant work, etc. There are more working visas in existence than the ones listed below, however these are the most common:

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Visa typeActivities allowedRequirements
Highly Skilled LaborPeriod of stay: 5 year stay in Japan.

Three categories:
  1. Advanced Academic research
  2. Technical activities
  3. Advanced business
    management (business owner)
Between 3-10 years of working experience in your
specified field.

Meet specific amount of points for the point system
created by the immigration bureau of Japan.
View here

For the Advanced Business Management category,
many monetary requirements need to be met.

Categories 1&2 a visa sponsor is required.
Working HolidayPeriod of stay: Up to 1 year.

Allowed to work ONLY part-time.

Cannot work at bars, cabarets, nightclubs
or gambling workplaces.
Must be a passport holder from any of the following
countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Chile,
Czech, Denmark, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Hungary,
Iceland, Ireland, Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway,
Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain or The United Kingdom.

Age: 18-30
Work (Instructor)Engage in Language instruction such as teaching
in Elementary, Junior and High schools.
Submit a COE (certificate of eligibility) which must be
submitted to a regional immigration office.

It is possible to apply for this visa without a COE, but
the process is more complicated and may take a few
months to process.
Intra-company transferWorkers of companies who have branches
overseas as well as in Japan, who are
transferred to the Japan branch of the same
company to work.
Must have worked at least one year in the company at a
different location (branch) than Japan.
Engineer/Humanities
specialist/International
services
Working in the authorized fields.

Commonly used by English teachers
wanting to work for PRIVATE institutions.
Engineer & Humanities: Must have university degree
OR 10 years' experience in the field.

International services: 3 years' experience in the field.

DOES NOT INCLUDE: interpretation, or language
instruction.
ProfessorResearch or education at University
(four-year university, junior college,
graduate school or technical college).
Must submit a COE (certificate of eligibility) which
must be submitted to a regional immigration office and will
take 4-6 weeks to be processed.

Obtain SOR (status of residence) After receiving the
COE, it can be exchanged for the SOR at a Japanese
Embassy or Consulate outside of Japan. (1-3 days)

Obtain the SOR at port of entry in Japan.
EntertainmentPreform theatrical or musical show, any type
of show business.

Supporting individuals in the entertainment
industry, (i.e. choreographers and trainers).

Involved in the production of TV programs
or movies.

Involved in commercial photoshoots or
sound recording.
Must have completed at least two years of study
outside Japan OR have at least two years' relevant
experience outside of Japan.

Several steps must be taken depending on the type of
work the individual is doing under the entertainment visa,
The 7 steps can be seen here.

Must apply for a COE (Certificate of Eligibility). The COE for
an entertainment visa must be submitted in person at a
regional immigration office in Japan, meaning it cannot be
submitted outside of Japan.

When an applicant is not available to submit this
document in Japan, a certified Immigration specialist is
allowed to submit it on behalf of the visa applicant.
JournalistJournalists who are a part of foreign media
organizations or freelance journalists.

Work consists of news coverage and other
journalistic activities. Work should be based on
a contract with a foreign journalistic company.
Apply for a COE (Certificate of Eligibility). The COE for
a journalist visa must be submitted in person at a
regional immigration office in Japan, meaning it cannot be
submitted outside of Japan (4-6 week processing time).

When an applicant is not available to submit this
document in Japan, a certified Immigration specialist is
allowed to submit it on behalf of the visa applicant.

Exchange the COE for SOR (Status of Residence) at an
embassy or consulate outside of Japan. Then receive the
SOR upon entry to Japan.
Religious ActivitiesMissionaries sent from foreign religionsMaterial providing an outline of the foreign religious
organization which is sending the Applicant to Japan.

Material providing an outline of the recipient Japanese
religious organization.

Documents certifying the applicant's current position and
religious career.

In order to obtain the Religious Activities Visa, a COE
(Certificate of Eligibility) must be applied for and exchanged
for a SOR (Status of Residence), which can be picked up at
the airport upon arrival to Japan.
Medical ServicesThe applicant must have certification and
qualification to work in their profession in
Japan. This means that the applicant should
have obtained a medical license domestically
in Japan OR received qualification from a
professional body in Japan.
Must apply for a COE (Certification of Eligibility). The COE
for a Medical services visa must be submitted in person at a
regional immigration office in Japan. Meaning it cannot be
submitted outside of Japan.

When an applicant is not available to submit this
document in Japan, a certified Immigration specialist is
allowed to submit it on behalf of the visa applicant.

Exchange the COE for a SOR (Status of Residence), at
an embassy or consulate outside of Japan. Then receive
the SOR upon Entry to Japan.

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Specified Visa

Specified Visas can be applied for and are mostly used for applicants to stay in Japan for a long period of stay. Each visa under this category has specific and unique requirements to apply.

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Visa typeActivities allowedRequirements
Spouse/ Child of
Japanese Permanent
Resident
Period of stay: 5 years, 3 years, 1 year

No working restrictions
Spouse:
  1. Documents showing the relationship between the spouse and the
    Permanent Resident (photos, messages, etc.)
  2. Copies of the Permanent Resident’s registration certificate or
    passport
  3. Documents showing the profession and income of the Permanent
    Resident or the Applicant
  4. A letter of guarantee from the Permanent Resident.


Child:
  1. Documents showing the relationship between the child and the
    Permanent Resident
  2. Copies of the Permanent Resident’s registration certificate or
    passport.
  3. Documents showing the profession and income of the Permanent
    Resident parent.
  4. A letter of guarantee from the Permanent Resident.


For Both:
  1. Apply for a COE (Certificate of Eligibility). The COE application
    must be submitted in person at a regional immigration office in
    Japan (cannot be submitted outside the country).
  2. Obtain an SOR (Status of Residence) by exchanging the COE at a
    Japanese Embassy or Consulate.
Spouse/ Child of a
Japanese National
Period of stay: 5 years, 3 years, 1 year

No working restrictions
Spouse:
  1. Documents showing that the applicant is the spouse of a
    Japanese national, and a copy of the spouse’s residence card
  2. Documents showing income and career of the applicant or the
    Japanese national spouse.
  3. A guarantee letter written by a person currently living in Japan.


Child: (biological or adopted)
  1. The family registration of the Japanese parent.
  2. The birth certificate of the foreign parent, and other documents
    showing the relationship between the parent and the child.
  3. Documents showing the profession and the income of the foreign
    national or his or her father or mother.


For Both:
  1. Apply for a COE (Certificate of Eligibility). The COE application
    must be submitted in person at a regional immigration office in
    Japan (cannot be submitted outside the country).
  2. Obtain an SOR (Status of Residence) by exchanging the COE at a
    Japanese Embassy or Consulate.
Long-term ResidentPeriod of stay: 5 years, 3 years, 1 year,
6 months.

Specific to: Individuals granted Refugee
status, second & third generation
Japanese settlers, grandchildren of
Japanese nationals, spouses of
individuals who hold the status of
Long Term Resident
NOT THE SAME AS PERMANENT RESIDENCE.
  1. Apply for a COE (Certification of Eligibility)
  2. Contact your closest Embassy to know which specific documents
    are needed.

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    Further Information

    The information provided is general, and many times visa application may be unique and specific to the individual applying. If it is believed that the applicant has a unique case, it would be best to contact a law office in Japan who speaks English and would be able to consult/aid with the process of application.

    Please have fun in Japan!

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