If you’re an expat living in Japan, you may be considering applying for a working visa if your current visa (such as an Resident visa) doesn’t allow you to work or earn money during your stay.
Working visas can be valid for different durations, and they come with different rules and restrictions depending on the type of visa and the company where you apply.
To help you navigate the Japanese immigration system, here are seven tips that should guide you through the process of applying for a working visa in Japan.
1) Understand the Requirements
If you’ve been issued an Employment Visitor visa by a Japanese embassy or consulate, that means your application has already been approved.
All you need to do is collect your passport and book your flight to Japan! Working visas in Japan are valid for between one and three years and must be renewed each year if you wish to remain working here.
This step-by-step guide outlines all of the different requirements as well as practical information regarding: where and how to submit your application, what documents are required, what additional materials are needed if English isn’t your first language, etc.
These tips will help make sure that you have all of your bases covered so that there’s nothing standing between you and getting started on working towards making those sweet yen!
2) Prepare Documents
Before applying for your working visa, make sure to have all of your required documents in order. If you need to renew or change your passport, start doing so well before it expires; same goes with visas.
Be aware that Japanese embassies and consulates often require several weeks—sometimes even months—to process paperwork, which is another reason to plan ahead. As far as what documentation you’ll need, check out our guide on how to get a visa in Japan.
It contains everything you’ll need to know about visas and other documentation requirements for entering Japan. Note: If you are planning on teaching English (or any kind of language work) as part of your visa application, be sure to check out our guide on teaching English in Japan.
It will help clarify some common questions regarding obtaining an E-2 Visa (the visa specifically issued for teachers). Additionally, if you are planning on living outside Tokyo when applying for your visa (for example: if you plan on living in Osaka), be sure to read up on Living Outside Tokyo – The Good & Bad!
Finally, we highly recommend getting advice from someone who has experience helping foreigners obtain working visas in Japan.
This could mean asking friends who live there or contacting a company that specializes in immigration law.
They can tell you exactly what documents they think you’ll need and whether they think your chances are good at certain embassies/consulates.
We’ve found Meiji University’s Career Support Center to be especially helpful when trying to get advice on things like these.
3) Acquire Recommendations
One of your biggest hurdles may be acquiring letters of recommendation from professionals who will vouch for you. Depending on your field, that could include teachers, supervisors, past colleagues or business partners.
The Japanese government doesn’t require specific forms or letters to apply for visas, but you may need to provide them with sufficient documentation to prove your qualifications.
To avoid being flagged by immigration officials when they look over your paperwork during processing, make sure you have recommendations and documents that support why you should get a working visa in Japan.
4) Have an Emergency Fund
It’s important to have an emergency fund. While it might be hard to set aside money, having cash on hand could help you pay your rent or take care of some other pressing need—and it also prevents you from turning to sources that charge high-interest rates.
To apply for a working visa in Japan, you’ll need proof of funds equal to 100% of your living expenses, and while wages vary depending on where you work and how much experience you have, an annual salary above $50,000 is typically required.
In short: Figure out where your money is going each month, put aside some cash and figure out what happens if things go wrong with your job or income.
5) Pass the Interview
While getting your working visa in Japan requires some steps and preparation, generally, it is pretty easy to accomplish. However, once you’ve received your visa, you might find yourself getting stuck with how to apply for jobs.
While Japanese job applications are much more streamlined than their Western counterparts (you can normally fill out everything online), it helps to know what’s on them and how you can increase your chances of making it past the interview stage!
The following is based on my personal experience applying for work at an English conversation school—however, it should give you some insight into general Japanese hiring practices.
6) Get the Job Offer
In some fields, it’s possible to get an entry-level job offer after your third year at university or two years of work experience.
To do so, you must have: excellent grades, good communication skills and solid references. Check with Japanese schools in your home country that offer language courses to see if they have alumni who are willing to help connect you with their contacts overseas.
Then begin networking early and research companies before graduation so you can be prepared when an opportunity arises.
Once you land a job offer, start looking into how to obtain a working visa in Japan—the sooner you plan, the better off you’ll be.
7) Arrive with Money Saved Up!
The first step to obtaining a working visa in Japan is, of course, to obtain said visa! The application fee varies depending on which company or organization you’re working with, but it can be as low as $300 and as high as $2,000.
Keep in mind that it’s likely to take months or even years before you receive your residence permit—so don’t arrive at Narita Airport with just one small bag of clothes and $200.
Instead, apply with enough money saved up so that you can get settled into Tokyo once you arrive.
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