Obtaining legal documentation to work in Japan can take many forms. In fact, there are nearly two dozen approved routes to be granted a working visa in the country. Regardless of which category you fall under, the validity of your permit is linked to the job that you were approved for. Changing employers, losing your job, etc. will result in your visa being terminated. Exceptions include those who are legal residents in Japan for unpaid reasons, such as students, family of a Japanese national, or interns. These people can seek paid employment freely in the country, so long as they get the job approved by the immigration office and maintain low enough hours to be considered part-time. Of course, receiving permanent residency abroad in Japan eliminates all restrictions on working and traveling in the country.
Approved Categories for a Japanese Work Visa
Below are some of the more common categories for obtaining a work visa in Japan. All categories have their own set of criteria for approval:
- Diplomacy – foreign government employees and their family
- Education – professors at the university level, or approved instructors in foreign language or public elementary/high school-level education
- Journalism – journalists working in foreign media
- Legal/Accounting – attorneys or CPAs
- Medical Services – physicians with recognized qualifications in Japan
- Research – sponsored by either public or private corporations
- Arts – painters, sculptors, writers, etc. who can prove sufficient income to support themselves in the country
- Skilled Labor – includes work such as architecture, civil engineering, athletics, hospitality. Will need to show number of years experience corresponding with Japanese government parameters for each profession.
- Business Manager – those looking to invest in an established corporation in Japan or start their own business in the country. Click here for more information on Investing in Japan
- Company Transfer – reserved for those individuals whose employer is transferring them to the Japanese branch of the company
- Engineering – those working in the field of natural, physical, or engineering science. Must have degree or 10 years of experience in given field.
- Humanities – economics, human sciences, social endeavors, or language instructors hired by private institutions. Relevant degree or 10 years of professional experience.
- International Services – translators, interpreters, product development, PR. Three years of experience necessary.
Necessary Documents to Apply for a Work Permit
To apply for a work permit in Japan, you’ll need to make an appointment with your closest Japanese consulate. Documents you’ll need to provide include:
- Appropriate application form (dependent on which category you’re applying for; can be found online or provided by the consulate)
- Valid passport
- 1 passport-style photograph
- Certificate of eligibility: provided by the immigration office in Japan (which you will need to contact prior to applying for the visa). This will detail your score on the points-based analysis, highlighting whether you qualify for a standard work visa or the HSP.
Highly Skilled Professionals (HSP)
There is a system in place for foreign nationals to receive a special kind of working permit in Japan, based upon merit in their field. A point-based system, the Highly Skilled Professionals (HSP) permit awards applicants based upon their accomplishments in their industry, income, educational degrees, and any other distinguishing traits in their career of choice. Any score above a 70 will grant you the ability to obtain an HSP.
Perks of the HSP include the freedom to engage in activities that intersect different visa qualifications (with a standard permit you can only work within the field you’ve been approved for), an extended life of the permit at 5 years, spouse/parents/dependents of holder can live in Japan and work freely, and preferential treatment at the immigration office (processing/amending current and future visas).
Those who hold the HSP version of residency in Japan can apply for permanent residency after 3 years (6-10 years with standard work visa), or 1 year if they score above an 80 on the qualification test.
Japanese Economic Data:
- Labor force: 65.4 million
- Average Monthly Salary (net): ¥278,918.46 (around $2,500 USD)
- Unemployment: 2.8%
- Residents living below poverty line: 15%
- Labor force by occupation: agriculture (2.9%), industry (26.2%), services (70.9%)
- Main industries: motor vehicles, electronic equipment, machine tools, steel, nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, processed foods
Tyler Sorce is an American writer and digital nomad currently living in Lisbon, Portugal. In a past life he was a chef in Manhattan and Paris, follow his travels and favorite dishes on Instagram.