Obtaining legal residency to work abroad in Japan is quite straightforward and rather simple. There are over 20 different categories under which you can qualify to become a paid employee in the country. This, however, is where the simplicity ends. Those looking to retire abroad in Japan will face some frustration unless they are married to a Japanese national or have immediate family with a Japanese passport. Similarly, foreign nationals looking for an incentive-based investment visa in Asia (Golden Visa) will need to continue their search elsewhere. Currently, there is no specific investment visa in Japan under which foreigners can gain residency based on the investment itself. There is, however, something called the Business Manager Visa, which doesn’t necessarily reward investors as much as it rewards successful individuals within a Japanese company.
Business Manager Visa
The Business Manager Visa in Japan grants a renewable single-year residence card to foreign business professionals who hold high ranking positions within a company. For small companies, this is usually only granted to the single highest ranking officer; for larger companies, the scope is widened to other managerial or executive positions.
To qualify, applicants will need to (1) make at least ¥250,000 ($2,203 USD) in monthly income, paid directly from the Japanese company they established/manage. They will also (2) need to show proper qualifications and experience to perform their said role. A (3) minimum of ¥5 million ($45,000 USD) is needed as an investment into the new business, or prove that funds of this amount have already been injected into an existing business. This money can be distributed in any capacity throughout the company, including salaries and operational costs. Finally, (4) the business itself must operate out of a physical space, remote work and digital offices do not qualify.
Note: Though seemingly semantic, the Business Manager Visa is not technically granted to the applicant himself/herself based on their investment. It is granted to the applicant on behalf of the company, and its validity is tied to the applicant’s continuation in the approved role.
What it Means
This Japanese visa doesn’t provide any perks beyond residency and the ability to work towards permanent residency, but it does provide a seamless route to legally living and working abroad in Japan, which can be applied for through your company of employment. Card holders also have the right to sponsor a full-time housekeeper or nanny. While the Business Manager Visa doesn’t grant you the ability to bring your spouse or children to Japan with you, it does qualify them for a dependent visa, which they will need to apply for separately.
When the program was first introduced, it was imperative that the company be established and meet the proper qualifications prior to visa application. However, in recent years, the program has been amended and it is possible in some circumstances to be approved for the visa prior to the company formation. Instead, business managers are granted a temporary residency for up to four months, during which time they can come to Japan and live abroad in the country while they establish the company.
At the end of this four-month period, the company will need to be fully established, with all necessary paperwork, in order to apply for a longer-stay version of the residency card. The goal of this is to allow foreign investors an easier opportunity to open a bank account in Japan in order to carry out company formation.
If the business manager is applying on behalf of an already established company, they will need to submit a certificate detailing the company’s legal registration. If applying for a prospective company that will be registered after arriving in Japan, applicants will need to provide a copy of the Article of Association and any other relevant documents to show that actions have been taken to begin the formation of the company.
Japanese Economic Data
- GDP: $4.81 trillion USD
- GDP rank: 3rd
- GDP per capita: $38,281 USD
- Inflation: 0.7% (2017)
- Labor Force: 65.4 million
- 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.
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