Temporary visitors to Japan will need a visitor visa for stays of up to 90 days, although citizens from countries such as the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as EU nationals, are exempt from this.
All visitors intending to stay in Japan for longer than three months or engage in paid work will need to apply for a long-term visa. While on a tourist visa in Japan, sightseeing and tourist activities are allowed, but engaging in employment is illegal.
Temporary visas for Japan
Those who are not from a visa-exempt country and would like to visit Japan for tourism purposes, attend conferences or conduct research are required to apply for a temporary visa for Japan. The validity of a Japanese temporary visa (usually 30, 60 or 90 days) typically depends on the applicant's nationality and the purpose of their visit and can be applied for at a Japanese embassy or consulate before arriving in the country.
Applicants will need to complete an application form and submit proof of return flights. If travelling to Japan on business, additional documents, such as a letter from the applicant's company stating the nature of their visit, may be required.
Long-term visas for Japan
Those intending to live and work in the country for an extended period must apply for a long-term visa for Japan. There are different requirements depending on one's purpose in the country. Long-term visas should be applied for before entry into Japan. Work permits for Japan fall under this category.
Those wishing to study, live or work in Japan are usually required to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility before applying for a long-term visa at a Japanese embassy. The applicant's sponsor in Japan, such as their employer or school, applies for the certificate on their behalf and testifies that the bearer meets the requirements for a visa. It's typically valid for only three months, so the applicant must obtain their visa and arrive in Japan before the certificate expires.
There's no need for expats to change their visa status if they change employers while in Japan, as long as they still work in the same visa category. English teachers, copywriters and translators all fall under the Specialist in Humanities category, for example. Visas can be renewed from within Japan on an annual basis at the local Immigration Office.
- Learn about the requirements for long-term visas
Getting a residence card for Japan
Visitors who arrive in Japan on a long-term visa, and those intending to work in the country, will need to get a residence card (known as a Zairyu Card). This can be done on arrival at any of Japan's main airports. For those not arriving at one of the designated international airports, the card will be delivered in the mail.
The residence card is valid for one to five years, depending on the type of visa. It may or may not automatically allow multiple re-entries into the country, depending on the specific conditions of the visa. Having a residence card in Japan allows expats to register for critical services and products, such as opening a bank account, getting a mobile phone contract or a driving licence, or registering for the National Health Insurance benefits.
Permanent residency in Japan
Expats applying for permanent residency in Japan can do so through a points-based system, which is usually utilised by Highly Skilled Foreign Professionals, or they can apply based on their length of residency and other factors. Points are awarded based on factors, including profession, work experience, academic qualifications, age, achievements, salary and knowledge of the Japanese language.
- Understand the requirements for permanent residency
*Visa and work permit requirements are subject to change at short notice, and expats are advised to contact their nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for the latest information.
► For information about documents needed to take up employment in Japan, see Work Permits for Japan
► To learn about the business culture, read Doing Business in Japan
"I wouldn't list the visa process as easy; it was extremely time-consuming, with an extensive amount of paperwork and documentation constantly being requested from you. My employer handled my visa process and sponsorship." Learn more about moving to Japan in our interview with American expat Kim.
Are you an expat living in Japan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Japan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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