How to Live in Japan

So you wish to embark on a new journey to live in Japan and now you are wondering what are the different visa options available to you as foreigner in order to live in Japan and start a new chapter in your life. You came to the right place, this article will try to do just that by shedding some light on the subject of Japanese Visas for long-term stays.

Japan has a number of visas that fall under the Work or Long-term stay category. As of this writing, there are 6 categories with 27 sub-categories in total. This guide will list the most common visas used by foreigners wishing to reside in Japan including a small introduction.

The options are generally speaking listed from easiest to hardest to obtain based on the requirements stipulated by the Japanese Authorities but your circumstances of course may be different.

Japan Visas

A list of all visa types for Japan are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) website. Here we will include the most commonly used visas for long-term residency in japan.

Student Visa

The most accessible visa for most foreigners to get their feet in Japan on a long-term basis is the Student Visa. The requirements are relatively simple, a prospective student must apply and be accepted by a licensed educational institution that can sponsor Student Visas. You also have to show proof that you or a sponsor (Family Member) have enough funds to pay for tuition and living expenses.

Student Visa holders are also eligible to work part-time during their stay, provided they have applied for and received a special working permit. You can also change your visa status when you are eligible to do so ( full-time job, marriage etc)

A student visa can be obtained in one of two ways:

Japanese Language School:

The easiest route is by applying for a Japanese Language Institute. If accepted, you will be able to live in Japan for a up to 2 years while attending the language school and learning Japanese. Different courses are available based on your objectives after graduation, for example attending a university or a vocational school, finding employment in japan etc.

Japanese University or Vocational School:

The second route is by enrolling in a University or a vocational school. The requirements and period of stay differ based on the school and the course levels. A common requirement however is a proficiency in the Japanese language validated via the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and/or Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) certifications.

Working Holiday Visa

The Working Holiday Visa is available to a limited number of participating countries and comes with many restrictions, however if you happen to be eligible, it is one of the best options available. The Working Holiday Visa is only valid for 1 year and cannot be renewed but when combined with a Student Visa, you are able to stay in Japan for a total of 3 years.

The only countries eligible for the program as of this writing are:

Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Taiwan.

Every country has specific requirements and restrictions based on bilateral agreements. Please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) website for more information related to your country.

Working Visa

A Working Visa will as the name suggest allow you to work in Japan full-time. In order to be eligible, you have to find a company that is willing to sponsor your visa. It is easier to find a sponsor if you are in Japan rather than overseas since you are able to interview within a reasonable time-frame. Except in very few cases, proficiency in Japanese is almost always a requirement.

Finding a willing sponsor can be hard depending on your Japanese level, academic background, experience and the industry or type of profession you wish to work in.

Below is a list of the most common jobs/industries in Japan with willing sponsors for foreigners. If you are already in Japan under a similar or different long-term visa status, it increases the likelihood of a favorable response.

  • English Teacher (Proficiency in Japanese is usually not a requirement!)
  • Recruitment Consultant ( Conversational Japanese may be required!)
  • Skilled labor ( Sommolier, Foreign Cuisine Chef etc)
  • IT related Work ( Hardware/Software engineers etc)
  • Entertainment ( Models, Actors etc )

Business Manager/Investor Visa

You can apply for a Business Manager/Investor Visa if you wish to open a business or branch office in Japan. There are many requirements and a lot of red tape involved to obtain but a viable Business Plan in Japanese and proof of at least ¥5,000,000 in start-up capital are some of the requirements. Getting legal aid from a Lawyer that specializes in Business/Investor Visa is highly recommended if you wish to go this route.

Highly Skilled Professional Visa

A relatively recent and hard to get one, the Highly Skilled Professional Visa is a point-based preferential visa that gives preference to people who will be in the eyes of the Japanese Government beneficial to Japan. The point system grades your score based on academic background, work experience, annual income and many more factors. The most attractive parts of the HSP Visa is the ability to bring family members as well as a fast track process for requesting permanent residency within 1 year. For more information, please visit

What others are doing

The reality is that for most people, the hardest part of finding a good paying job in Japan is the language barrier and the fact that they are applying from overseas. Being based in Japan and being able to speak Japanese makes it much easier. In order to do so, most foreigners use one of two ways or a combination of both to achieve their goals:

Student Visa: This allows you to stay in the the country for up to 2 years, learn the language and by immersing yourself in the culture and practicing Japanese in your everyday life and your part-time job, you are able to learn the language much quicker. Living in Japan will also allow you to build a network in order to find employment in the future.

English Teacher: For native English speakers, if you are able to satisfy the requirements then this may be a good way of getting your feet in Japan. Many foreigners are quite happy being English teachers in Japan but there are many horror stories about the working conditions and living spaces provided by the sponsors out there. However, this can get your feet in the country, you can learn the language by enrolling in a language school and look for other opportunities locally when you are ready to do so.

This wraps up our introductory article on the different options available to foreigners wishing to start a new life in Japan. Hopefully, the provided information will be useful to many of you embarking on this wonderful new journey.

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