How to Work in Japan Legally: Japanese Work Visas and Eligibility

How to Work in Japan Legally

With a highly developed free-market economy and the third-largest nominal GDP in the world, it’s easy to see why Japan is an attractive destination for workers who want to relocate abroad.

Increasingly more international professionals are deciding to make the move to Japan to work: in 2018, over 1.4 million foreigners were working in Japan — a 14.2 % increase from the previous year.

This surge is not only due to economic growth and an overall improvement in employment conditions but also to the fact that the Japanese government has implemented strategies and policies to encourage highly-skilled foreign labor.

Part of this plan is the launch of new Japanese work visas for foreign nationals sponsored by local companies. Eligible workers who meet the work visa requirements (including a Japanese language test) are now able to apply for 2 different new types of visas depending on their specific circumstances.

The new working visas join the existing list of Japanese visas for professionals allowing skilled worker categories and business people to work in the country.

What Are the Japanese Work Visa Available?

There are several options available to get a work visa for Japan. The applicant’s eligibility will depend on a series of factors such as:

  • The country issuing the applicant’s passport
  • The applicant’s qualifications and skills, including previous work experience
  • Whether the applicant intends to bring business to Japan or work as an employee in a Japanese enterprise.

Although work visas may be made available with an online application in the future, it must be noted that the only travel authorization for Japan that can be obtained entirely online at the moment is the Japan eVisa for tourism purposes.

Currently, foreigners who wish to obtain a business or work visa will need to visit a Japanese embassy or consulate in person.

Invest in Japan: the Business Visas

Japanese business visas are designed for foreigners who wish to work and invest in the country. Eligible professionals include:

  • Investors
  • Stockholders
  • Company directors
  • Deputy directors
  • Technical officers
  • Volunteers for non-governmental organizations
  • Staff members of Diplomatic Missions, General Consulates, the United
  • Nations Agencies and other international organizations.

These visas also include subcategories to match specifically the sector and type of project the applicant will be involved in while in Japan — for example, Diplomatic, Official, Media, Investor, etc.

Work in a Japanese Company with the Work Visas

There are 4 types of working visa categories to match the different employee profiles that the country needs at the moment. Regardless of the specific category that matches their skillset, applicants need to be hired by a Japanese company in order to obtain the visa.

The work visas are intended for a variety of professional profiles, including:

  • Highly-skilled and specialized workers
  • Professors and researchers
  • Blue-collar employees working in industries with a high demand for labor such as catering, cleaning, construction, agriculture, and fishing

Some of these visa schemes are designed around a point-based system that evaluates the applicant’s academic achievements as well as their professional background.

It’s also possible, in some cases, for work visa holders to bring their families to Japan.

How Long Is a Work Visa in Japan?

The Japanese work visas are long-term permits that allow foreign citizens to live and work in Japan for an extensive period of time — from three months to five years depending on the circumstances. There’s also the opportunity for renewal.

The validity of a Japanese business visa is 90 days. During this time, the business visa holder can enter and leave the country multiple times.

How Can I Get a Working Visa for Japan?

In order to be eligible for a work visa for Japan, you’ll need to meet the conditions to obtain a Status of Residence (SOR) that permits employment within the country.

Of course, the application process varies on a case-by-case basis and it’s heavily affected by the applicant’s specific circumstances. However, foreigners who wish to legally work as employees in Japan can generally take the following steps:

  1. Approach a Japanese company that can act as a visa sponsor and is willing to hire the applicant. Usually, all work visas require sponsorship.
  2. Identify the right type of visa that matches the applicant’s skills and circumstances.
  3. Check the work visa requirements and obtain the necessary documentation. The sponsoring entity will be able to assist.
  4. Visit the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate to start the application in person. The applicant will need to submit paper copies of the required documentation (such as passport, recent photographs, letter of guarantee, etc.) and pay the relevant application fee. The cost of a work visa for Japan varies and the embassy or consulate will be able to provide detailed information.

The processing time varies depending on the Japan visa type as well as the applicant’s situation. The extension of the e-Visa program to work permits is expected to make the application smoother and faster.

Can I Work in Japan without a Visa?

It’s illegal to work without an appropriate visa in Japan and doing so may expose you to serious consequences.

Even if you’re legally in the country with another visa (for example, a tourist visa or other short-term travel authorization), performing work on Japanese soil would break the conditions and requirements of your visa.

Not only this means that your visa will be canceled but you may face fines, deportation, and even detention. Moreover, breaking the law may prevent you from applying for a Japanese visa in the future.

It’s also worth noticing that many countries ask for the applicant’s history of visa rejection or cancelation in their visa application forms. In other words, you may be asked in the future whether one of your visa applications has ever been rejected. This means that not respecting the Japanese migration policy and having your visa canceled may be taken into account by other nations when you’re applying for visas in the future.

If you intend to work in Japan but are unsure about your eligibility or are already in the country on another visa, you can contact the Japanese authorities (your nearest embassy or a Japanese migration office) to explore your options.