If you are currently residing overseas outside Japan, you need to obtain specific “visa” according to your objectives to visit Japan and the period of stay.

Visa procedures to enter Japan are mainly divided into two types, Short-term Stay and Long-term Stay;

(1) Short-term Stay

Stay of up to 90 days for sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, or business trip (e.g. business meeting, market research, attending conventions/exhibitions etc.) which does not involve any income. Temporary Visitor visa is required for this type of stay in Japan. However, those who are from particular countries listed in the Visa Exemption Arrangements (jump to the MOFA of Japan website) are exempted from Temporary Visitor visa based on the decision of the arrangement.

Basically, separate from the Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has authority for Temporary Visitor visa application. Therefore, you need to apply for this type of visa at the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General in the jurisdiction over your residence address outside Japan and you cannot apply for this in/from Japan.

For more information on Temporary Visitor visa, please visit the MOFA of Japan website and contact the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General in your country outside Japan.

(2) Long-term Stay

Stay of over 90 days for work, study or other activities allowed under specific Residence/Visa Status, designated by the Immigration Office in Japan. Basically in this case, you must apply for Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for one particular visa status in advance of coming to Japan through your visa sponsor who wishes to invite you to Japan and support/sponsor your visa application for the activity (e.g. school, employer, organization and relatives designated depending on the visa status you are applying for).

(*) Visa (ビザ・査証) and Visa/Residence Status (在留資格)

Foreign nationals who intend to reside in Japan to work, study or engage in specific activity must be recognized to be eligible for one particular Visa/residence status (在留資格 Zairyu-Shikaku) designated by the Japan Immigration Office. Visa/residence status is often referred to as simply “visa”. Technically, however, the term “visa (ビザ・査証)” formally indicates “a permit to ENTER Japan”, not “a permit to RESIDE/WORK in Japan”. “Visa status” or “residence status” is more appropriate and precise word to indicate 在留資格 (Zairyu-shikaku) , but we may sometimes use the word “visa”to refer to 在留資格 (visa status) for our convenience.

There are approximately 30 types of visa status categorized based on purpose and activity in Japan. You need to find one particular visa status which is the most applicable to your situation. Each visa status has its requirement and you need to satisfy it as well as other basic criteria to apply for the COE.

** As an exception, there are some cases (especially, situation applicable to “Long Term” and “Designated Activities” visa status but not designated specifically by the Minister of Justice) that you need to apply for “Change of visa status” from Temporary Visitor to relevant visa status while you are in Japan directly without applying for the COE. In that case, you need to enter Japan under Temporary Visitor visa first, then apply for Change of Visa Status while staying in Japan. **

The Immigration Office will issue the COE and grant you specific period of stay under the visa status if you satisfy basic criteria and requirement and you are recognized to be eligible for the visa status. After the COE is issued, you need to apply for entry visa with the COE at the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General (or other related organization) in the jurisdiction over your residence address outside Japan. The process and necessary documents for entry visa application with the COE depending on the country you reside. You should contact directly to the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General for the details.

After flying to Japan under the entry visa with the COE, you will receive Residence Card (在留カード, Zairyu Card)for your visa status at the airport immigration counter. You may stay in Japan during the period of stay stated on the card and engage in the activity within the limits of the visa status.

Depending on your situation, you may apply for Extension of Period of Stay or what we call “Visa Renewal” (在留期間更新 Zairyu-kikan Koshin)if you would like to continue your activity allowed under the same visa status.

Once you obtain Residence Card and start residing in Japan, you will need to process various administrative procedures as well as immigration procedures as a long-term resident in Japan.

Major IMMIGRATION PROCEDURES for long-term stay

There are various types of immigration procedures you should process at the Immigration Office in Japan depending on the situation.

Here’s the list of the major procedure;

  • you are currently outside Japan and wish to reside and/or work in Japan under specific visa status -> Certificate of Eligibility (COE) Application
  • you want to extend your period of stay of your current visa status -> Extension of Period of Stay (Visa Renewal)
  • you want to change your occupation or situation and you will not be applicable to your current visa status after the change -> Change of Visa Status
  • you change/quit/start your job if you obtain work-related visa status -> Notification of the accepting/contracting organization
  • you are planning to travel outside Japan during the period of stay granted under the visa status -> Special Re-entry Permit or Re-entry Permit
  • you are planning to engage in activity which is not allowed under your current visa status (e.g. Student visa holder who intends to engage in a part-time job etc.) -> Permission to Engage in Other Activity
  • you got divorced or your Japanese spouse is deceased if you hold visa status for spouse of Japanese national -> Report regarding Japanese Spouse
  • you are a Permanent Resident and need to renew the card -> Renewal of Residence Card

ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURES for your daily life in Japan

Here, you can get information about living in Japan, provided by the Ministry of Justice >> A DAILY LIVE SUPPORT PORTAL FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS.
If you are planning to live in Osaka city, the following webpage might help you living in Osaka >> GUIDE FOR LIVING IN OSAKA.

Basic Criteria for obtaining visa status

Basic criteria for obtaining visa status are comprehensive, you must look into all of the items below:

(1) The applicant must have a reason or purpose to come and stay in Japan and have a “visa sponsor” designated based on visa/residence status you are applying.

First of all, the Immigration Office in Japan grants you a visa status only when you have specific reason or objectives to reside in Japan and you are recognized to satisfy requirements for one specific visa status you are applying. You cannot apply for any visa status if you are not going to reside in Japan for your intended activity after you obtain the Residence Card. Also, you are not eligible for Permanent Resident status if you currently reside outside Japan and don’t have any visa status in Japan yet.

Also, you need a visa sponsor who can support your visa application and act as your proxy in Japan. If you don’t have any visa/residence status in Japan yet, you need a proper visa sponsor who can sign your application on your behalf to apply for COE to invite you to Japan.

In case of considering expanding business into Japan or setting up a business entity (branch office or subsidiary/company) in Japan, you should start with finding what types of business entity would be appropriate for your situation. Basically, a physical office space for the entity must be found in Japan and the entity must complete necessary registration before the COE application. Also, you will need to enter Japan under Temporary Visitor visa at the time of COE application if you are the only one who can represent the entity in Japan and may not have any person in Japan working for the entity except yourself.

(2) The applicant must be applicable to one particular visa/residence status and satisfy the requirement.

The foreign nationals who intend to apply for the COE/visa status in Japan must be recognized to be eligible for one particular visa/residence status designated by the Japanese Immigration Office.

Your intended activity must be applicable to one particular visa status. Each visa status has its own requirement. You need to certify your eligibility for the visa status by supporting documents. The Immigration Office discloses basic documents required for each visa status, however, they may require different and additional documents case by case since each applicant has different situation, nationality, background, purpose of activity in Japan, visa sponsor etc. – no one is exactly the same situation like you. You should understand that each country has its own laws and regulation, format of official documents, manners and customs in order to prepare and provide precise documents. All supporting documents should be translated into the Japanese language.

Do not try to make a lie or commit a fraud – it is quite easy to find the fraud if we see all the documents you provide and if we hear all the answer for our questions. It is important to keep consistency of each document and evidence. The Japanese Immigration Office or any immigration lawyer don’t process your case by taking money under the table.

(3) The applicant must not have a bad behavior.

Specifically, those who have criminal records or legal penalties will be judged less capability to adapt to circumstances in Japan, so it could be one of the reason of denial of application.

(4) The applicant and the sponsor (and guarantor when it is required) must be recognized as financially stable.

You must be recognized to have financial stability or ability enough to make a living while staying in Japan. Also, your sponsor (and guarantor if any) must be financially stable and be capable of supporting you when necessary.

(5) The applicant must be deemed to pay taxes properly.

You are required to do the tax return in Japan (or “year end adjustment” for withholding tax if you are an employee and not required to do the tax return) and pay taxes properly during your stay in Japan. At the time of COE application, a copy of tax related notification are required to submit to confirm you and your sponsor knows the process of tax payment. At the time of visa renewal, Income/tax Certificate and Tax Payment Certificate will be required to check your status of tax payment.

If you fail to pay taxes, the Immigration Office would consider your situation negatively and they might not approve your visa renewal in Japan any more.

(6) The applicant must fulfill duties of the administrative procedures and laws and regulations in Japan.

You must fulfill responsibility and duties for your life in Japan and process relevant administrative procedures properly when necessary (e.g. any changes regarding residence address, job and visa sponsor, school, organization, marital status, or any other circumstances). Some procedures has to be done at the city/ward office and some has to be processed at the immigration office. Please note that each country has its own rules and regulations, which is not always the same as your country.

(7) In case of working visa, the applicant’s labor condition must be appropriate, not against the laws and regulations in Japan.

There are laws and regulations regarding labor conditions/standard in Japan. Your terms and condition must be prepared in accordance with the laws and regulations. In general, employer has responsibility for the conditions of their employees, so the Immigration Office will take it into consideration in case the employer violates the labor laws and regulations.

Visa Sponsor

Visa sponsor is not a person who is required to support the applicant’s stay in Japan financially.
The term “visa sponsor” is often referred to a person (organization/company/school etc.) who invites the applicant for activity in Japan and acts as a proxy for the application. Each COE application form must be signed by the visa sponsor as a proxy.

Basically, the COE application must be submitted while either the applicant or the inviting person (visa sponsor) is in Japan even if you/your sponsor hires the immigration lawyer. Immigration lawyer can help you or your visa sponsor with preparing documents, submitting application and communicating with the Immigration Office. However, Immigration lawyer is not allowed to be your visa sponsor or your proxy for your application.

If you would like to work in Japan, you need to find a job and an employer who is willing to hire you and to be your visa sponsor in Japan first. If you want to engage in studying/learning something like Japanese Language, Karate, Judo, Soroban, Shuji, Ikebana, and Sado etc. which are peculiar to Japan, you need to find a person who is happy to accept you as their student and to be your visa sponsor for your COE application.

In case of COE application based on a newly setup business entity (representative office, branch office or subsidiary/company) in Japan and there is no staff or person who can represent the entity, you should come to Japan under Temporary Visitor visa to sign the application form as your visa sponsor, the representative of the entity in Japan. The COE application must be submitted while you are staying in Japan. You may leave Japan after submitting the documents, and stay outside Japan during the period of screening of the application.

Where to Apply

Each application must be submitted to proper office depending on what types of application you would like.

Here’s several cases;

  1. In case of Certificate of Eligibility (COE) Application:
    Generally, this application must be filed at the regional Immigration Office within the jurisdiction over the address of your visa sponsor who wishes to invite the applicant and hire you in Japan. You can check the jurisdictional area for your case here: List of Jurisdictional Area (the Immigration Bureau of Japan website).
  2. In case of Temporary Visitor Visa Application:
    Generally, it must be filed at the Japan Embassy or Consulate-General within the jurisdiction over the applicant’s residence address overseas. For more details of Temporary Visitor visa, please visit the website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA)of Japan. This application is authorized by the MOFA and the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General overseas, not the Japan Immigration Bureau. We cannot take care of this application and submit on your behalf from Japan.
  3. Other than above (e.g. Extension of Period of Stay, Change of Visa Status etc.) :
    Generally, the application must be filed at the regional Immigration Office within the jurisdiction over your residence address (applicant’s residence address registered at the city/ward office). The application other than 1 or 2 above, requires to present the original of your passport and residence card at the time of submission.
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