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
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 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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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