Japan at a Glance
Visa Requirements for Japan
To enter Japan, you need a valid passport and, if applicable, a visa that reflects the purpose of your stay. Over 60 countries have visa-waiver arrangements with Japan for foreigners on short-term trips, e.g. for traveling, visiting friends, conducting business negotiations, etc. This means that, depending on your nationality, you will not need a visa for stays of 14–180 days.
For example, nationals of Australia, New Zealand, or the US can stay in Japan for up to three months without a visa. The same applies to citizens of Singapore, Hong Kong, or South Korea. People from selected countries such as Mexico and some European states can even stay for half a year.
However, everyone whose country of origin is not listed among the nations with visa-waiver arrangements has to apply for a visa before coming to Japan. There are general visas for short-term visits and special visas for medical stays of up to six months.
For a long-term stay, though, you need to fulfill the requirements for completely different kinds of visa. Diplomatic and official visas apply to the staff of foreign embassies and consulates. General long-term visas, on the other hand, cover the categories of cultural activities, pre-college and college education, professional training, and dependent family members of long-term foreign residents.
Most expats will probably be interested in the possibility of acquiring a visa-plus-work-permit for taking up gainful employment in Japan. Such a visa can be issued to foreign employees and self-employed expats according to the following classifications:
- religious activities
- investment / management
- legal / accounting
- humanities / international services
- skilled labor
- intra-company transfer
- highly skilled professionals with preferred immigration treatment
Certificate of Eligibility
Every applicant for a long-term visa and/or work permit needs a so-called Certificate of Eligibility (zairyūshikaku nintei shomeisho) from a regional immigration office in Japan. Of course, you do not have to travel to Japan all by yourself in order to get this certificate. You can have a proxy handle the application process for you – e.g. your future employer, a non-profit organization, or an immigration lawyer.
The requirements for obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility and the documents necessary for your application vary from category to category. They are all listed in detail in the appropriate application form, which you can download from the Immigration Department of the Japanese Ministry of Justice.
For instance, expats on an intra-company transfer need to complete a slightly different form to apply for a zairyūshikaku than their dependent family members. Without a Certificate of Eligibility, you will definitely not get a work permit or long-stay visa for Japan.
For more information on visa, work permits, and the Certificate of Eligibility, please contact your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate.