Getting a Visa for Japan

August 6th, 2009By Category: Uncategorized

Depending on your purpose of visit or stay, the visa you need and the procedures required to apply for and renew it are for all their similarities significantly different. Don’t take chances with your visa, it’s what allows you to be in this great country. Just remember, however, that a Visa alone does not guarantee your status of residence, it is Landing Permission that is stamped into your passport by immigration officials at your port of entry into Japan that serves as the legal basis for your stay in Japan.

Get the official scoop – Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration Bureau

Probably one the best places to start for visa-related issues is The Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Guide to Japanese Visas. Once you have your visa and you have arrived to Japan further information can be found at the Immigration Bureau of Japan. The Immigration Bureau will be able to answer questions about re-entry, change of status of residence etc.

Getting a Visa

When applying for a visa from overseas first check what special arrangements your country has with Japan. Each country has different arrangements with Japan that affect the length of stay and the visa eligibility prerequisites. Consult your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for further details. If you will arrive to Japan as a tourist depending on your nationality you might not need a visa. Read more about this under Tourist visa.

Get general visa sponsorship and renewal advice

MOFA – Visa Information Center

Immigration Bureau of Japan

Finally, for anything visa-related it is probably a good idea to go in looking professional. Also, try to make copies of anything you submit to the visa office for future reference. Visa guys don’t like discrepancies in the information you provide them from one year to the next, so copies can help you make sure you are keeping consistent in your applications.

Getting a sponsor

Immigration must know that the applicant will receive over a certain income amount each year. A company that promises this amount of money to the applicant is often referred to as the sponsor. If things don’t work out with the company and you need to move on, a letter of release is required from your former company in order to renew your visa with the new sponsor. Your former employer is required by labor law to provide you with this. If you quit your job, your visa won’t be taken away from you but you will need to find a new employer to take over the “sponsor” title when you renew or extend your visa.

Self sponsorship

Self-sponsorship is very possible: especially if you are already living in Japan and have steady work. A self-sponsored visa falls under the working visa category and you will therefore need to show that all requirements for a working visa is met. You will have to show that you are guaranteed the minimum income required to support yourself in Japan. For example, contracts from 3 companies promising you payment may be required. Free consultations are available at immigration offices in Japan and will they help you prepare the necessary documentation. Self-sponsorship may require some leg work and extra paper work but might be the best solutions for you!

Visa renewal

Visas are usually issued for short term period of between one and three years, so people wanting to stay longer are going to need to get their visa renewed to be able to stay longer. Since you can face deportation and high penalties for overstaying your visa make sure to apply for a renewal well in advance. The visa renewal is made at the immigration office. To renew your visa you will need proof of the purpose of the extension, meaning that if you have a working visa you need to show that you will keep working to be able to have the visa renewed.

Categories of Visa and Status of Residence

There are seven categories of visas; Diplomatic, Official, Working, Temporary Visitor, Transit, General and Specified visa. Under each category there can be several different kinds of Status of Residence. For example a Working visa has 14 different Status of Residence each with its own authorized activities to engage in and special requirements to be met when applying. The term of the residence, meaning the length of the visa is also different depending on the category of visa as well as Status of Residence.

A visa does not guarantee permission into the country. Permission is stamped into your passport on arrival. So be nice to the immigration officials! Check the governments’ visa descriptions for more information.

Working visas

The category of Working visa has 14 different Status of Residence depending on the kind of the work that will be done. The term of residence usually granted is 1 or 3 years. When you apply for a work visa you will need to submit documents to prove the intended activity. The required documents are different depending on which Status of Residence you fall under. You are not allowed to engage in work that falls under another type or category other than that allowed under your Status of Residence. If you have a Certificate of Eligibility you are sometimes not required to submit other proof of the purpose of your stay.

Dependent visa

A dependent visa can be issued for a period of 1 year, 2 years or 3 years as well as for 3 or 6 months. Holders of a dependent visa are allowed to engage in daily living activities on the part of the spouse or unmarried minor child of those who stay in Japan on a working visa or with a Cultural Activities or College Student status of residence.

When applying for a dependent visa you will need to submit document that proves the relationship between the applicant and one who will support the applicant, such as a marriage certificate. You also need to provide copies of the Alien Registration Card or copy of the passport of the person who will support the applicant. Finally you will need to submit documents that proves the profession and income of the person who will support the applicant.

The Dependent visa is sometimes misleadingly referred to as Spouse visa. The spouse or child of a Japanese national or a Permanent Resident can be issued a Specified Visa that provides for less restrictions on activities permitted to be engaged in. Spouse or children of foreigners that are not Permanent Residents will be issued a Dependent visa that restricts the activities that they are allowed to engage in.

Working with a dependent visa

A dependent visa falls under the General visa category and you are therefore not allowed to work as work is not an authorized activity to engage in. If you do want to work you can apply for a special permit: “Permission to Engage in an Activity Other Than That Permitted by the Status of Residence Previously Granted”. This permit will allow you to work up to 28 hours per week. To apply you need to visit the regional immigration office and bring proof of the activity you intend to engage in. If you would like to work more than the hours specified in the permit you need to change your category of visa to a working visa.

Working holiday visa

Some countries have reciprocal visa relationships with Japan allowing their citizens to come to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa. On a Working Holiday visa you are allowed to work part- or full-time to be able to finance your visit/travel to countries involved in the Working Holiday Program. The program currently involves citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Republic of Korea, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark. The general requirements are that you are between 18 and 30 years of age and that you have funds to support your initial stay as well as a return ticket or funds to purchase a return ticket. To learn more visit

MOFA – working holiday

Tourist visa

The length of stay in Japan allowed as a tourist varies depending on the passport you hold, just how long can you stay in Japan and what requirements do you need to be aware of? Normally you are allowed to stay 90 days on a tourist visa and as a tourist you are not allowed to work. If you are coming to Japan as a tourist depending on your nationality visa may not be needed. Some countries, see list, have arrangements with Japan so that those that arrive to Japan and apply for landing permission does not need a visa. Depending on country the authorized stay is between 14 days to 6 months. However those that are allowed to stay for up to 6 months are granted a 90 days stay and need to go to the local immigration office to have their allowed stay extended with additional 90 days.

Student visa

If are wishing to study in Japan you can apply for a Student visa. A student visa falls under the visa category of General visa and the Status of Residence is either Precollege student or College student. To be granted a student visa you need to be submitted to an educational institution and they will need to issue a certificate of your admission. You also need to show that you have the funds to support yourself during your stay in Japan. There are a number of scholarships for students and research students that want to pursue studies in Japan that can cover living expenses and school/college fees. If you wish to study in Japan the easiest way is to contact the school or college you wish to attend since they will normally help you with the visa matters.

If you want to learn Japanese many language schools can also help you to get a student visa. However the schools sometimes demand that your period of study exceeds a certain time period such as a year of study to help you with the process. If you do not intend to study full time you could also face difficulties with having a student visa approved.

Working with a student visa

Students must first prove that they can support themselves with out having to work in order to get the student visa. This includes getting a guarantor in Japan. Then to be eligible to work you have to go to the local immigration office and get special permission, “Permission to Engage in an Activity Other Than That Permitted by the Status of Residence Previously Granted”, which takes the form of a new stamp! You can now work a certain amount of hours per month, depending on your Status of Residence up to 28 hours per week. This process can take a few months but if you indicate that you need to work immediately the process can be speeded up. Does it take 3 months or not? In Tokyo it was issued almost immediately to this writer; whereas immigration office in a different city advised that it would take a few months! Check your local immigration office for further details.

Certificate of eligibility

The certificate of eligibility basically proves to the Immigration Bureau that you have fulfilled all the requirements to be issued the appropriate visa for the industry you wish to work in. This means that once you have the certificate you are eligible to receive your visa almost immediately. Normally the application for a Certificate of Eligibility is made by a proxy and then sent to the applicant although you can apply for it yourself. Check with the local Japanese embassy or local immigration office for application procedures. Tourists don’t need this certificate. List of Offices Handling Matters Related to the Certificate of Eligibility.

Getting a visa without a university degree

You normally need to show that you have a relevant college degree to be able to apply for a working visa. However if you can show that you have a certain number of years relevant work experience you are also eligible to apply. You can also be eligible if you have a degree from another higher, relevant educational institution. Each visa and industry has different requirements.

Image courtesy of Kentin / Wikimedia

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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  • Karthika Kalimuthu says:

    Hi.. I am from india. My husband and his friend r gonna pursue their higher education in Kyoto. Our friend would be leaving by early Sep whereas ma husband will be starting by September end. They have already booked a house and has given advance. Now i am planning to go along wit ma husband. But will be returning in a month. Is that possible? My questions are 1)can i get a temporary visitor visa. 2)can i show my husband’s address(in Japan) as my address?

  • garbonzo says:

    Hi Nicole. I think that you are living with your aunt in Japan and trying to get your mother there from Brazil? I take it you are from a Japanese background originally from Brazil. And you have a residence visa, if not Japanese citizenship? I don’t expect there would be too much drama in getting your Mom a visa to come to Japan, even with your sister. Have you started the paperwork to get them here! Do you need help! The Japanese social services are filled with great, trustworthy people who will help you and assist you with the process. You just need to consult them, let them steer you to the most effective route to get your family to their new home. You might need some paperwork from your mother for example. If you’re not happy with an initial contact – try again!! Frankly they are the best in the world in Japan for social services (I know that), they leave Australia for dead – we are stuck with mindless drongos whose computers are hopeless and the staff are counting the minutes till they go home.
    Good luck, try hard, work hard, and your family will be with you!

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  • Maaz Hussain says:

    hi sir.maaz here want to take japan touisrt visa can you help me,can

  • Lili31 says:

    Hi everybody!!
    I got a 5 years cultural activity visa but the company is awful and I quit about 3 months ago. At the time my company stipulated they will not report it to the Immigration Office and most of my co-workers including HR had different opinion about the validity of the visa. Some said that I cannot lose it and others said I need a “new sponsor”. Do you know more about it? Even people at the Immigration Office were not sure about it, so I don’t know who else to ask. I don’t want to lose my visa…

    Does someone know by any chance if I can stay the 5 years left without officially joining another company? If yes, will not it be a problem when I will enter a new company and will want to renew my visa?
    Also, I am working now as a freelance language teacher but also work in a specialized school but make less hours than a part-time job and my boss said she cannot be my “new sponsor”. Can I still report my change of job to the Immigration and keep my 5 years valid? Can I change it into a self-sponsored visa?

    Thanks for your help, this visa stuff is really freaking me out 🙁

  • Adrey-Jorden Lauriaga says:

    Hello. I’m from philippines, I finished a two year course here in the philippines. And I am 19 year old, I just want to ask if I’m able to work in Japan ? is it my age are okay to work in Japan atleast of 4 or 5 years? .

  • garbonzo says:

    Interesting topic. I spent several years in Japan as a child. My father worked there and we lived in the community in the 60’s. I also did a couple avionics tech rep assignments there in the 80’s seconded to JAL. Now I have retired. My wife is still a part-time nurse here in Australia. We have spent a fair bit of time travelling around Japan from Okinawa to northern Hokkaido….and many many points in between. So now, we are in love with the place. I speak a fair amount of Japanese, it came back rapidly, and my wife speaks some too. We will be self supporting in retirement, and able to afford a decent house in a semi-rural area – for example Yamagata prefecture…or small town areas in Kansai. We’re not too fussed….Anything from Kyoto to Hakodate suits us… the outskirts of them – or beyond…..Not too hot and not too cold is what we want……But the issue is visas, or a path to a resident visa. Is that possible considering we are in our early 60’s? My wife is a highly skilled nurse and speaks several languages and would accelerate her Japanese easily. And she would love to work part-time if possible in a local hospital or clinic. I can teach English or assist a Biology department in a high school or university having almost 30 years experience at an Australian university. But again, I would only be interested in part-time work. And my Japanese is reasonable – and it would go super-nova if immersed. Anyway, my wife intends to retire early next year so at that time we will be looking at what we can do from there. But Japan would be our first priority since there is nothing like it on earth, and we have loved every minute there. So how to get visas that we can convert to residence – if at all possible – and emphasising we are self-supporting and don’t need a yen from the government….and we are wanting to live in a semi-rural or even rural area, where Japanese are abandoning – and we’d be happy with decent access to a moderate size town.

  • James doraemon says:

    Thanks for the info.
    I did also read Q&A on another government site mentioning I have to apply in my home country. In this I may have trouble, I am us citizen living in china working under a Hong Kong contract. Then consider I have no company in japan, I would be the first and in an unusual field. No university degree but I can get letters of recommendation from global locations. Any recommendations?

  • zerin says:

    please help me out!!

    my japanese tourist visa was disapproved.. i want to try again after 6
    months …will my disapproval earlier decrease my chances of getting
    visa again?

  • zerin says:

    my japanese tourist visa was disapproved.. i want to try again after 6 months …will my disapproval earlier decrease my chances of getting visa again?

  • Saleem Khan Cherry says:

    hii i m saleem khan from india my wife is philippeno girl she is permanit residen in japan i want stay toughter with my wife in japan how i get visa for stay in japan plese infrom me my email.

  • Vikram Singh says:

    Having a work visa already need some necessity to visit Japan once in a year just to maintain the work visa? Coz person holding work visa is living in Canada. Need urgent answer. Thx

  • Tatskee Ayala says:

    I want to ask , how can my brother that is 4th generation and 33 years old can get long term risendent visa?
    He applied for visa in the immigration but he denied!

    But my 2 cousins who are forth generation too got their long term resident! How can it happened?

  • katakuriko says:

    Hello! I have a question. I came to Japan to find work but haven’t found any work yet, so I am in the process to change my Visa to a Student visa and I already have the confirmation from a language school. If I were to find work now, would it be possible to change the visa to a work visa BEFORE I even started visiting the language school. And If i even were to find work, before the student visa process is finished would it be possible to get a working visa instead of a student visa ? I don’t know, if there is anyone here who can answer this for me but of course it would be better to earn money instead of spending it, also considering that I already studied japanese studies and can speak some japanese.
    Thank you~ !

  • Jake says:

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  • Gerwyn Jones says:

    Hi there, thanks for the information. I’ve looked into this kind of information a few times at a few sources, but honestly, i’m struggling to find out what I need to know. If you can give me some straight-up answer I’d really appreciate you help. My situation is this:

    I am 30 years old, so i understand that i will never be eligible for a working holiday VISA
    I want to move to Japan in 3-5 years (yes I’m at that point in my life where I am making my first 5-year plan. haha)

    I am about to become qualified with a degree in Computing (I’m a programmer)

    I am prepared to save up all of my surplus money between now and then.

    I understand that I will not be able to walk straight in to a job in my chosen profession once in Japan.

    I am prepared to be an English teacher if this is what it takes.

    I have been learning Japanese over the last 6 months and will be spending all my spare time learning more, and will be undergoing tuition soon.

    I don’t have any family contacts in Japan.

    If i can move in less time than planned then that would be IDEAL.

    What are my options with regard to working VISAs (of any kind) ? How much money will I have to prove i have if i want to move to Japan?
    I’m unlikely to be able to afford multiple trips to Japan to try to find sponsors.

    My priority is getting to Japan ASAP. Can you offer me any advice of the sort of VISA’s in need, and in what circumstances, and how much money i would need to save?
    I’m sorry about the long post, however I believe it is more efficient if i provide you with all the variables.
    Gerwyn Jones

  • Nepal Miles says:

    i have already visited USA once and back to Nepal. As i have Business visa of USA for 5 yrs and now i want to go japan as tourist to promote my business too so i don’t have any relatives or friends in Japan to do sponsor so how can i get visa or can i book hotel to stay in japan. we have a Head office in USA and in Nepal so do i need sponsor letter from japan citizen or not.

  • Cory says:

    My daughter and son are both half Japanese but I’m divorced with there mum now remarried.
    Is it possible to get a visa in japan with my family because of my half Japanese kids?

  • Damo says:

    I have just been offered a job in Japan and intend to move in March.
    I am Married to a Japanese national (10 years)and have held both a business visa and spouse visa previously.
    Am I better off getting the sponsored work visa or applying for another spouse visa.? I am thinking spouse visa..
    For some reason my Japanese wife is being a pain about it and insisting that the company sponsor me!!

  • Melodynt Etz says:

    Hello, i am now studying in japan with student visa and i want to visit other countries such as Malaysia for vacation. So can you please tell me what should i do? Thanks

  • The American says:

    Hi. Trying to get my family to Japan. My job will not sponsor them. The embassy says they are therefore forbidden from ever going to Japan. Save, for 3 months only. Did this change in 2012? I thought it was easier to get dependent visas????

  • The American says:

    Was it morning when you posted this?

  • The American says:

    They are probably wondering why you don’t live in the same country as your husband. In most nations that is as abnormal as your English ability…

  • The American says:

    10 years.

  • The American says:

    The bigger companies, as a rule, require a degree. A smaller company, however, may allow one that has 10 years experience in the field. Which will not be an entry level job.

  • The American says:

    If you need a dependent visa, your wife is not Japanese.

    If she IS Japanese, you would be better off with a non-restrictive spouse visa, no?

  • The American says:

    Mow much money do you need to make per sponsored dependent? I can’t find it anywhere on immigration’s page or in the law. I was told it was something like 10 million yen per person? That is a lot! Also, my job is not guaranteeing me any monthly income. Only an hourly rate, which will fluctuate. I can’t believe there is literally nothing online in regards to dependent visas! Thank you!

  • Steven says:

    Apologies in advance if my situation is unrelated…pretty certain it is. I would just like to ask people for some advice (I`m useless with regards visas etc…). I`ve been living in Japan for 5 years, the last 3 of which have been as an `instructor`. My situation has now changed and have hit the proverbial wall, so to speak. My sponsoring `company` did not renew my visa (NOT performance related) so I attempted to transfer (knowing it highly unlikely to be accepted) my status to `specialist in humanities. My visa has now expired (as of 2 days ago) but my application was logged and I have 2 months to `meet their criteria`. In essence I am attempting to self-sponsor BUT none of my contracts are with `companies` only private students, all of whom have signed contracts totalling 275,000 per month. I KNOW immigration will not accept this. I am aware of course that I could quite easily apply for a f/t position with a school BUT I have a settled life where I live and have great relationships with all my students. I guess I`m just seeking advice on what to do and where I stand IF the 2 months expires and I have failed to get a sponsor. Is there anything I can do? Can I transfer to a tourist visa and `keep looking`. Apologies for my rambling just a little stressed by it all. Thanks in advance.

  • jeffrey says:

    hi..i would like to ask if i get tourist visa?do i really need a sponsor?my aunt there in japan is almost 8months already but she say that she cant help me…please told me that really need a sponsor that paying everymonths there tax….ohayou gozaimasu..

  • Trisheets says:

    Thats because you are a filipino you moron!

  • I dependent VISA is for depending on someone. However, if your wife is a student in Japan (non Japanese I presume right) then can she support you if she is not earning?

  • sushil gharti says:

    hello .. my wife is in japan in student visa.. bt i dont get the idea .. of getting dependent visua.. will you please write me a mail.. i am really confuze … i cant live without my wife. my

  • Just picked up my 3 year visa and enjoying life in Yokohama. Great article!

  • hi just wanna ask if you already try to apply for a visa?

  • Hello.. can i ask.. i am a filipina married to a filipino resident of japan.. and i am applying two times and got reject obviously.. the first apply is tourist.. and the second is with certificate of eligibility.. i dont know whats wrong.. i submit all the documents but still it doesnt change anything.. can you tell me why i am always denied?pls response because i am really confuse.. i am applying again after i gave birth this coming june with our son.. do u think i can get chances to be approved this time? 

  • Mishi says:

    How many years of work experience do you need if you don’t have a University degree? I have a college degree, but where I’m from Uni is higher than College… so I’m assuming you mean uni. Either way, I would really like to know. I’d appreciate anyone who replies, who knows this information. Thanks in advance. 

  • my wife is a permanent residence of japan (she’s a filipino).. and i would like to travel and maybe for good reside also in japan, is it possible any good advice! reply to me asap. email me

  • Petra Keller says:

    Hi, I am a naturalized US citizen here in Tokyo as a tourist, trying to find an English teaching job. I completed my TESOL, have the BA required but nobody wants to hire me. 
    What can I do about a work visa without a sponsor?

  • Anonymous says:

    Required documents may differ by country you live. Please ask Japan embassy or travel agents in your country, that’s the fastest way.

  • Kasungayantha99 says:

    i like to come japan as a tourist..i like to stay there for 90 days.pls can u tell me which are the doccuments i want forward to embassy of japan

  • Bgoode98 says:

    Hi Denis – you will just need to get an employer to sponsor your visa and ask them about the question of not having a college diploma. Unfortunately this does make the situation more difficult, but not impossible. It really depends on your employer and their views on sponsorship. Working for one of the bigger companies can have more sway with immigration too. Good luck!

  • Denis Drawe says:

    I will be obtaining my TESOL/TEFL certification soon and want to teach English in Japan. I have seen on Gaijin.pot that there are quite a few jobs that only need these certifications. As such I do not have a college degree, can I still satisfy visa/ and immigration needs with this, as well as obtain an entry level teaching position in Japan ?. Any help is appreciated  🙂

  • doods says:

    HI!!! I was denied entry in japan airport 20yrs ago and i’m going to get married with my fiance this month, she has a permanent visa. is it possible that she can help me with my visa? is it possible that i will get deny again if ever i got a visa? Now i’m working in other country and i would like to visit japan soon. tnx!!!

  • Essedari says:

    Visait this webSite for Japanese Immigration Visa regulation

  • Kjolly says:

    My wife is japanese and we are thinking of moving there. So if I am working (which I plan to do) what Visa is best? Dependent with Permission to engage in other activities (28 days etc…) or working visa if more days want to work.

  • Adrian says:

    Thank you for this article. I am a U.S. citizen in college. I would like to know as I have not seen any info about the U.S. on this article, is it harder for a U.S. citizen to be eligible to stay in Japan than other countries trying to come to Japan? you can email me at: Thanks.

  • Aj says: a teen ager from phils. i am so eager to go to Japan because of my family but im a legitimate sad i dont know what to do i have passport but i couldnt apply visa im scared to be stuck here ever while my family are in japan…i need so wasted …i miss my family so much…

  • Le23onard says:

    Thank you for your interesting article.I live in New Zealand and would like to work in Japan.I want to be legal though from the very first day.I have completed a Master’s degree in Economic studies in the UK,but don’t have a sponsor in Japan.Can I apply for this Certificate of Eligibility in New Zealand and then travel to Japan?I am wondering…I will contact the embassy tomorrow.

  • balvinderjet says:

    Hi Robin, I like your article but am interested to learn more about Japan and its people, culture and industry. Can you write to me at my e-mail address balvinderjet88@yahoo,com thanks