How-to Guide: Get Internships Visas in Japan — 2020 edition

How I managed to do 5 internships in Tokyo since 2015.

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Ever wanted to do an internship in Japan? No matter what your background is, it’s actually not that hard to find a company looking for motivated foreigners.

Oh, just a tiny problem.

Visa.

You could google your situation, but information is sometimes contradictory and you don’t want to get in trouble with the immigration.

No worries, I’ll tell you everything you need to know.

First, there are only 5 types of visas that will allow you to do an internship:

1. Tourist Visa

Unpaid Internship (less than 90 days)

A single tourist visa usually allows for stay in Japan up to 90 days, and as long as you’re not getting paid, you’ll be fine. Round-trip tickets, housing, meals and transportation expenses, paid by your company, are not considered as “getting paid”. So, even with all these added benefits, you’ll be legally working in Japan.

Some countries do not require for a tourist visa application beforehand, so check here to see if your passport fits the requirement or not.

Unpaid Internship (more than 90 days)

If your internship extends beyond the 90-day limit, and you came on a tourist visa, don’t worry. There’s a way around it. Simply spend a few days (at least 2 days) in another country (I recommend South Korea because it’s close and cheap) and your tourist visa will be renewed when you re-enter Japan.

However, do note that being a tourist visa means that you’re labelled as a ‘temporary visitor’, which means that you can only be in Japan for a total of 180 days during a 12-month period.

For example: Your internship is from June 1st, 2018 to December 31st, 2018 (180 days), and you came with a tourist visa. When your internship is over and you’re safely home, you won’t be able to come to Japan on a tourist visa until 1st June 2019.

Of course, this only applies if you’re on a tourist visa. If you don’t want the trouble of leaving and re-entering the country, there is another option.

2. Cultural Activities Visa

Unpaid Internship (more than 90 days)

The official way to be in an unpaid internship that lasts for more than 90 days is to obtain a cultural activities visa. This visa is usually for people who wish to study Japanese arts, culture and so on, but it can also be used for other unpaid non-cultural related activities.

The procedure to obtain this visa may seems intimidating, but it really isn’t. Your internship company needs to first apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE), and with the CoE, you’ll be able to apply for a Cultural Activities Visa at the Japanese Embassy in your own country.

I personnally have a few friends that used this visa for their 6-month internship and others just to study calligraphy.

If you need more information, I’d suggest asking your company.

3. Student Visa

Paid Internship (up to 28 hours/week, and until school is over.)

This visa only applies to those who are receiving education in Japan. You can work up to 8 hours a day, 28 hours a week while attending school. And during the Summer/ Winter/Spring holiday, your working hours can go up to 40 hours per week. With an average hourly salary in Tokyo of about 1000 JPY (7€/10$), you will easily be able to pay your rent by doing so.

There are two ways to get this permission to work:

You should have this stamp at the bottom of the back of your Residence Card!

4. Designated Activities Visa

Paid Internship (up to a year)

This visa is actually used for a quite wide range of activities, including internships. This only applies if you’re enrolled in a university outside Japan and your curriculum requires you to complete an internship during your university years to graduate.

There are few other rules such as:

  • this visa is only valid for one year per internship.
  • you’re only allowed to stay for half of your entire university period, which means that for a four-year course, you can only stay in Japan for two years.

This is currently the visa I am using at Adidas Japan, so if you need more information about it, I wrote another post about it, right there.

5. Working Holiday Visa

Paid Internship (only applicable to eligible countries)

Japan has partnerships with a number of countries for the working holiday program. This visa only allows for six months to a year of stay in Japan. Plus, during the application for this visa, you must show that the money you will get from your internship is just a way to finance your travel/holidays around Japan, hence the name “working holiday”.

That’s it!

Contact me if you have any question, I will try to be as helpful as possible!

More about the author — Baptiste Delannoy

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Writing how-to guides for foreigners in Japan, based on personal experience. From getting an internship/job to driving or renting an apartment.

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