How to apply for a Japanese work visa

More and more companies in Japan are requiring the skills and experience of foreigners – but how do you obtain a work visa for a non-Japanese, non-resident?

In recent years Japan has shown a greater interest in – and willingness to hire – foreign workers. In fact, with labour shortages being felt in many sectors of Japan’s economy, an aging population and a 40-year high job vacancy rate, foreign workers are becoming a necessity in some industries.

At the end of last year Japan had, for the first time in its history, recorded more than one million people working in the country under foreign work visas. With more and more companies needing to secure the skills and experiences of those outside Japan, we at TMF Japan are often asked by our clients to explain visas, and the process by which a work visa for a non-Japanese, non-resident is obtained.

Types of Japanese work visa

In general terms, Japanese work visas can be grouped into these main categories.

Non-working visa

These visas are designed for:

  • foreign students
  • dependents of non-Japanese people who are working in Japan
  • those involved in cultural activities
  • short-term stay visitors (ie. tourists).

At the time of publication, 68 countries do not require tourist visas.

Family-related visa

Under this visa, it is possible to work freely in Japan. This category of visa applies to:

  • spouses and children of Japanese nationals
  • long-term residents and permanent residents
  • the children and spouses of permanent residents.

Working visa

This visa allows skilled individuals who are non-Japanese, non-permanent residents, to work in Japan for a limited period of time (for example three or five years). It is the process for obtaining this particular visa which we outline below.

How to apply for a Japanese work visa

Obtaining a working visa in Japan in simplest terms is a two-step process:

  1. obtain certificate of eligibility (COE)
  2. exchange that COE for an actual work visa.

Step 1

Those who have received a job offer and/or employers who wish to engage a foreign worker in Japan must first make an application for a COE. There are a number of employment classifications, from specialised scientists to diplomatic visas, to highly skilled professionals. Once the COE is completed along with all supporting documentation, the materials are submitted to the Japan Immigration Office for review and evaluation.

The evaluation period ranges from one to three months, with two months being a typical evaluation period. Highly skilled professionals typically receive preferential, expedited evaluations.

Step 2

Once the COE is granted and received, the applicant can then take that COE to the Japanese embassy or consulate in their country of citizenship or residence, to have it converted to a work visa. Typically this process only takes a few business days. Once visa is in-hand, the employee may commence work in Japan.

Talk to us

TMF Japan is able to help clients with the completion of COE applications, with visa renewals and provide referrals to appropriate immigration lawyers for matters which are particularly unique, sensitive, or complex.

Please note, we cannot support Employment without Establishment (without legal entity or permanent in-country establishment) scenarios.

Need more information? Get in touch with our team today.

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