Gaijin Recruit

For job hunting foreigners in Japan


Working in Japan requires the appropriate visa. While the details are complicated, we will try to give you a general overview of what Visa's there are and what you need to do to get one.
The information below is based on research conducted November 2015. For more information and requirements check the following links:

Visa types

People may not be aware of the amount of visas their country has. In Japan's case, there are quite a lot because they are very specific. Most importantly, some allow you to work, others do not. Below is an overall list of visas; the Highly Skilled Professional, the Working Visas, the Diplomatic Visas and Specified Visas allow work in Japan.

Highly Skilled Professional Visa

These visa's allow you to work without sponsorship, but work with a point system instead. For instance, if you have a JLPT 1 qualification, you get fifteen points. When you manage to accumulate 70 points or more, you can apply for one of these visa's. For more details on the system and the points, please visit this page at the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

  • Highly Skilled Professional (HSP)
    • Advanced academic research activities - HSP type (i)(a)
    • Advanced specialized/technical activities - HSP type (i)(b)
    • Advanced business management activities - HSP type (i)(c)
Working Visa

For these visa's sponsorship from someone (usually an institution or company) in Japan is needed. Furthermore, the visa will allow work in the designated field only. Finally, without permission of both the sponsor and the Immigration Office, working on the side (for instance in a conbini) is strictly forbidden.

  • Business manager - Start or invest in a business in Japan; needs a physical office space in Japan and 5 million yen investment into the business.
  • Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services - Only requires a university degree in for translation and language services.
  • Intra-company transferee - Expat of a foreign company; in service for at least a year.
  • Skilled labor - Requires official training, certificate, and years of experience in the field. Examples include foreign chefs, sommeliers and pilots.
  • Professor - Research and education at University or equivalent educational institutions.
  • Artist - As a profession; need proof you can make a living of being an artist alone.
  • Religious activities - Officially connected to religious organization such as monks, bishops and missionaries.
  • Journalist - Needs to be under contract with a foreign media organization.
  • Legal / Accounting service - Specialists with legal qualifications.
  • Medical Service - Medical specialists with Japanese qualifications.
  • Researcher - Conducted under a contract with an organization in Japan.
  • Instructor - Instructor at public or private educational institution (excluding private language schools).
  • Entertainer - Show business related.
Diplomatic Visa and Official Visa

Meant for staff of Embassies and Consulates. Due to the nature of these visa's, application goes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and not the Immigration bureau.

  • Diplomat
  • Officials - For staff of diplomatic missions.
General Visa

The general visa does not allow one to work.
The only exception is the student visa as it does allow part time jobs for a maximum of 20-24 hours per week, as long as it is allowed by the school and the work location is not part of the entertainment district such as bars, nightclubs and similar locations (these jobs are classified as mizushoubai (水商売)).

  • Cultural Activities - Internships, studies of Japan or cultural/artistic activities without remuneration.
  • Student - Students at Japanese educational institutions. The visa application is submitted through the school.
  • Training/Trainee - Granted to people who require training in Japan in skills needed in their home country.
  • Dependent - For the spouse or child of a foreign national with valid Japanese working or non-working visa.
  • Technical Intern Training - Internship after training under trainee visa.
  • Tourist - Also called "temporary visitor".
Specified Visa

These visa's generally allow you to work just like any Japanese Resident.
The exception is the "designated" activities visa, as that visa is "designated" (as the name implies) and rights may vary case-by-case.

  • Spouse or child of a Japanese national
  • Permanent resident - For foreigners who meet certain long term specifications such as ten years consecutive Japan stay of which 5 years are on working visa, or having been married to a Japanese national for three years. For details see The Immigration Office of Japan and Japan Visa.
  • Spouse or child of a permanent resident
  • Long term resident - A very narrow visa intended for people with Japanese ancestry, Indochinese refugees, and the spouses and children of Japanese nationals remaining in China after World War II.
  • Designated Activities - These are on a case by case basis, but generally are for specific activities such as paid internships and working holidays.

Working Holiday Visa

Among the specified visas is a visa that requires extra attention: the "Working Holiday Visa". A select amount of countries have an arrangement with Japan that allows their citizens to apply for a Working Holiday Visa.
The intention of a Working Holiday Visa is for people to be allowed to work during their stay in Japan to (help) pay for their "holiday". On a Working Holiday Visa, one can work part time jobs in Japan. However, as with other work visa's for foreigners, working in the entertainment district such as bars, nightclubs and similar jobs (these are classified as mizushoubai (水商売)) is strictly forbidden. If caught, the establishment will face a fine and the foreigner may be deported and banned from Japan.
As of 2015, countries that are part of the Working Holiday Program are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • Ireland
  • Korea (Republic)
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Depending on the country, the amount of Visa's issued per year is limited.
People between the age of 18 and 30 can apply, except for Australia, Canada and Korea, where the allowed age is between 18 and 25 (unless the authorized Japanese authorities agree to extend the limit to 30).
One needs to be in good health, traveling without family (dependents / children), have a valid passport, a valid two-way airplane ticket and enough funds to maintain ones initial period of stay in Japan.
Finally, one must have never before received a Working Holiday Visa.

For more details, please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan's official website (English).

Getting a Working Visa

While there are many different visa types, it is necessary to check if you qualify for any of the above types. Then try and find a job in that designated field. When a sponsor for the working visa is needed, the company will need to arrange your application. As this usually costs time, money and other resources, the company will NOT be pleased if you quit within 3 or 6 months.
Most visa types require a university degree (foreign or Japanese) at the least. Some may also require other documents, such as certificates, to proof your status. Make sure to have all the necessary documents translated to Japanese in advance to be able to produce them when they are asked for. If not, you may risk having to translate them at a very busy or otherwise inconvenient time. For anything that is not considered a legal document (such as family registers and birth certificates) own translations are accepted.

Visa application time

When applying for a visa, the application from start to end may take as little as a few weeks (especially if you already have a valid non-tourist visa to which the status needs changing) to around two to three months.

Losing Your Job / Visa

If your job sponsored your visa, your visa rights will be revoked when you quit your job. You will have three months to look for another company willing to sponsor your visa and arrange your health insurance. If you did not find a job in those three months, but are still actively searching, you can apply for a six month "job hunting" visa. You will need proof that you are still actively job hunting, however, so have papers of various job agencies where you are registered.
If your visa allows you to work but is not connected to your company (for instance, spouse visa's and working holiday visa's fall in this category), your visa will stay valid until the date written on your foreigner card.