Long-Term Stay In Japan: Complete Guide To Visas And Statuses Of Residence


Types of Visas Required for Entering Japan

If you visit Japan as a tourist and plan to stay for less than three months (*1) without engaging in work or other paid activities, in many cases, a visa is not required. Japan has short-term stay visa exemption arrangements with 68 countries (*as of June 2020).

Nationals from The People's Republic of China, Russia, and the CIS countries, Georgia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries will be required to hold a short-term stay visa or tourist visa. These visa procedures can be made at the Japanese embassy or consulate in each country.

However, if you plan to work, study, or engage in cultural activities, a working visa or another type of long-term stay visa is required.

We introduce the main types of long-term stay visas and the procedures required to obtain them.

Note about Long-Term Stays and Residence in Japan

The most important thing you need to know about applying for a long-term stay visa and the right to reside in Japan is that you'll be dealing with two different institutions: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which gives you the permission to land in Japan, and the Immigration Bureau of Japan (Immigration Services Agency), which belongs to Japan's Ministry of Justice and issues the residence cards for foreign nationals living in Japan.

In other words, you'll have to go through a set of procedures before coming to Japan to obtain permission to enter the country, and then do another set of procedures after you've landed in order to ensure your status of residence. You'll need a different set of documents for each of these procedures because two different institutions are involved.

Procedures for Obtaining a Long-Term Stay Visa for Japan

To start the application procedures for obtaining your visa, you'll first need to complete the following steps:

1. Visit the Japanese Embassy in Your Country

The Japanese embassy or consulate in your country is the first place to go for advice on visa-related matters. (See the list of worldwide Japanese embassies and consulates.)

Visit the embassy first to see what procedures are necessary to obtain a visa for working or studying in Japan. Here is where you can get a visa application form, one of the documents that you need to prepare for the procedures.

2. Contact Your Japanese Connection

In order to apply for a long-term visa, you'll need a connection in Japan. Your connection can be your employer, the school where you plan to study, or a Japanese acquaintance who agrees to become your guarantor. The cooperation of a Japanese party (your employer, host school, or Japanese friend/relative) is required to get some of the documents necessary for the visa. (*2)

A document you'll need right away before your arrival is the Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which is issued by the Immigration Bureau of Japan. The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is required for all long-term stays visas and certifies that you fulfill all the conditions for being allowed to enter Japan.

Your Japanese connection will have to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) at their Regional Immigration Bureau. After your COE is issued, your Japanese acquaintance will need to send you the certificate.

3. Prepare the Documents to Apply for a Visa

To apply for any type of long-term stay visa, you'll need to submit the following documents to the Japanese embassy in your country.
\- Visa Application Form (*for some countries, two forms are required)
\- Your Passport
\- One or two photographs
\- Certificate of Eligibility (the original and one copy)

Depending on your nationality, some additional documents may be required. Check the official website of the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country for details.

After your application is examined, you'll be called to pick up your passport from the Japanese embassy. If everything goes well, you'll receive your visa for landing in Japan. Please be aware that the visa expires in three months; you need to do the procedures at the Immigration Bureau to ensure your status of residence within 90 days after entering the country.

It usually takes around five workdays for a visa application to be processed.

Check the official website of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs for details on the visa application process.

Long-Term Stay Visa Types

We introduce the main types of long-term stay visas below.

1. Work Visa

Apply for a work visa if you plan to engage in remunerative activities in any of the following professions:

Teaching, arts, religious activities, journalism, business management, legal/accounting services, medical services, research, engineering, humanities, international services, nursing care.

Period of stay
Three months, one year, three years, or five years. (*The period of stay is decided when you get your status of residence at the Immigration Bureau of Japan.)

To apply for a status of residence with a work visa, you'll need to apply for a residence card at your Regional Immigration Bureau by submitting the following documents:
\- Application for the status of residence
\- Your passport
\- A passport-size photograph (3 cm × 4 cm)
\- Documents detailing your position in the company or organization, the salary you will receive, and the duration of your contract.
\- Documents attesting your previous academic and professional history
\- Documents related to the receiving company or organization, such as company registration, statement of profit and loss, etc. (*these are usually provided by the company)

In addition to the above, depending on your profession and nationality, some other documents may also be required. For example, artists may be asked to submit documents showing their previous achievements, and researchers may need to provide academic and professional qualifications.

Find more details on the documents necessary to apply for your status of residence and a list of documents for each profession type on the official page of the Immgration Bureau of Japan.

2. General Visa

If you come to Japan as a student, or to engage in cultural and training activities, or as a family member of a foreign national with a work visa, you'll need to apply for a general visa.

Exchange students, interns (*only for unpaid internships), trainees, or students of Japanese language and culture all fall into this category.

Periods of stay
Cultural activities: three months, six months, one year, or three years.
Students: From three months up to four years and three months.
Training: three months, six months or one year
Dependent (family member of a foreign national): from three months up to five years.

Soon after your arrival in Japan, visit your nearest Regional Immigration Bureau and start the procedures for obtaining your status of residence. You'll need to prepare the following documents.
\- Application for the status of residence
\- Your passport
\- A passport-size photograph (3 cm × 4 cm)
\- Documents regarding the school or institution receiving you. (*The required documents vary depending on the type of institution, so please inquire at the Immigration Bureau at the time of your first visit.)

If you are a family member of a foreign national working in Japan, authorized copies of marriage/birth certificates that attest to your relationship with the holder of the work visa, a copy of their residence card, as well as documents related to their employer will also be required.

3. Highly Skilled Professional Visa

Foreign nationals who engage in advanced academic research activities, advanced specialized/technical activities, or advanced business management activities, and already have a contract with a receiving Japanese institution can apply for a highly-skilled professional visa.

The applicants are evaluated using a point-based system that takes into account previous professional achievements and qualifications.

See more details on the requirements for the highly-skilled professional visa on this page of the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

4. Specified Visa

Foreign nationals who come to Japan on a working holiday program or for paid internships, individuals with Japanese ancestry, as well as spouses/children of Japanese nationals or of permanent residents should apply for a specified visa.

Those participating in a working holiday program, paid internships, and other types of work not covered by the work visa will need a specified visa for designated activities. A long stay of up to six months for sightseeing and recreation will also require a visa for designated activities.

Period of stay
Designated activities: from three months up to five years, or a designated period up to five years.
Spouse/child of a Japanese national: from six months to five years
Spouse of a foreign national employed in Japan: from six months to five years

After your arrival in Japan, visit the Immigration Bureau in your region to apply for a residence card that attests your status of residence.

5. Start-up Visa

Entrepreneurs supported by municipalities in Japan and their spouses or children can apply for a start-up visa. The period of stay is six months.

6. Diplomatic Visa

Members of diplomatic missions receive diplomatic visas for a period of stay that corresponds to the length of their mission.

7. Official Visa

Individuals who come on the official business of foreign governments or international organizations recognized by the government of Japan and their family members receive an official visa. The period of stay ranges from 15 days to five years.

Important Note about the Limitations of Your Visa

If you wish to engage in other activities than those stipulated by your visa, you'll need to apply for special permission at the Immigration Bureau. For example, if your visa and status of residence are for teaching, you'll need special permission to engage in paid work (remunerative activities) unrelated to teaching.

More details on the official page of the Immigration Bureau of Japan: Application for permission to engage in an activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted

Remember to Apply for Your Residence Card after Arrival

We've summed up the main types of visas for long-term stays in Japan. Remember that, if you come to Japan for other purposes than tourism, you have to obtain the status of residence corresponding to your visa, which means applying for your residence card at the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

It takes around two to three weeks for your application to be processed and your residence card to be issued by the Immigration Bureau. In the meantime, your main identification document will be your passport with the visa and landing permit you received upon arriving in Japan.

If your status of residence allows you to stay one year, three years, or five years in Japan, please be aware that an extension of the status of residence is needed if you plan to continue living in Japan. We introduce the procedures for the extension in the following article