In recent years there has been massive growth in the number of expats living in Japan, with nearly three million migrant residents out of a population of roughly 126 million people. This number has tripled since the 1990’s as Japan looks to supplement their aging workforce.
New immigration policies and fast-tracked bills for international trainees and skilled labour are designed to bring even more people into the Japanese workforce. This means that now is possibly the best time to immigrate to the Land of the Rising Sun as many different immigration options are available.
Securing a Job in Advance
By finding a job while you’re visiting on a tourist visa, your new employer can start the visa process for you. This also provides you with an opportunity to explore different parts of the country to determine where you’d like to live and work. It’s worth noting that you will need to leave the country to allow your new employer to begin the visa application process on your behalf by issuing a Certificate of Eligibility (a necessary requirement for all visas in Japan).
Visitors from nearly 70 countries (including Canada, the United States, the UK, France, and Romania) can enter the country on their passport alone as a temporary visitor and are permitted to stay for up to 90 days, with some able to extend this stay for up to six months. Those with a certain level of wealth (roughly 350K CAD in savings) qualify to stay in the country for one year for the pure purpose of sightseeing and tourism. Note you must apply for this type of visa in advance. Under a temporary visitor status, you are not permitted to participate in any paid work, although you may be allowed some shorter-term education opportunities, particularly at Japanese language schools. Note, anyone on this type of visa must always have their passport on their person.
Applying for a Work Visa
Those who want to seek employment in Japan must obtain their work visa from a Japanese embassy or consulate located outside of Japan before they will be allowed to enter the country and allowed to engage in paid work. Many of these statuses are specific to your sector of employment (i.e., a journalist must work in the field of journalism, a car mechanic must work in that specific trade). If you switch jobs, you’ll likely need to change your work visa to remain eligible to work in the country.
Most visas will require proof of experience and education as well as a sponsor (usually your employer) and are granted for a period of four months to five years, and are eligible for extension. Note most extension applications take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so apply in advance, although if your visa expires while you are in the extension process you will likely be permitted to stay in the country while you await approval.
Those who work in fields including construction, hospitality, nursing, and manufacturing may find it easier to apply for a Type 1 visa. Applicants who speak some Japanese may also see a higher likelihood of obtaining their work visa.
Those who have come to Japan for employment may bring their family on a dependent visa. Unless they have special permission from the immigration office, those entering on a spouse or dependent visa must not work any paid activities, and even if that is approved, they may be limited in the number of hours per week they are permitted to work.
Those entering the country who are married to a Japanese national or permanent resident of the country may be able to apply for an extendable spouse visa so they can seek out employment.
Students & Working Holidays
Students and visitors aged 18-30 from countries including Australia, Canada, France, Ireland, Korea, and New Zealand may be eligible for a working holiday visa, allowing for some paid activity while they explore Japan.
Students sponsored by a Japanese educational institution may qualify for an extendable student visa, offered for three months to four years. Note, without special permission students are not permitted to obtain paid work while studying.
Being prepared and getting your paperwork in order is the best way to ensure a smooth move to Japan. The general processing time to obtain a Japanese work visa is roughly 5-10 business days, however this depends on the office processing the request. Note, the Certificate of Eligibility necessary to obtain your work visa may take up to three months to get and is a required component of your work visa application.
Arriving in Japan
All expat residents will be given a residence card when first entering the country. These cards are provided at the airports of Chubu Airports, Haneda, Kansai, and Narita, or in other regions at specific municipal offices. Your residence card must always be carried with you and is needed to open a bank account, procure a cell phone, or obtain a Japanese drivers license.
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