Work visas and the new Japan Specified Skills Visa

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Once you’ve finished your studies or maybe even during your studies in Japan, you’ll want to start thinking about working in Japan and how to build your future here. Unfortunately, things can be a bit more complex than you might think but you may also have heard that Japan is making a few changes to their visa system and things are slowly starting to get a bit more accessible and a bit easier.

With the run-up to the Rugby World cup and the Olympics in 2020, the Japanese government is starting to add more visa options to encourage business and to get more workers into the country where there are labour shortages.

The biggest change you may have heard of recently is the Japan specified skills visa (Tokutei ginou, 特定技能ビザ). While you might be moving to Japan to study, it’s always good to know what your options are and how you might survive life after language school.

Here’s an overview of the current work visas available and some of the new ones. Remember that visa options vary from country to country and are never guaranteed. So make sure you do plenty of research on your chosen visa for your country of origin before you go.

Japan specified skills visa

First is the new Japan specified skill visa, announced in May 2018 by Prime Minister Abe, with a view to allow around 500,000 new foreign workers into Japan leading up to 2025. The parameters of these visas haven’t been fully defined yet with the original announcement suggesting this would cover 5 industries and the latest announcement increasing this to 14.

There are two types of this new visa, Specified Skills 1 and Specified Skills 2. The key difference compared to the other work visas on offer is the simplicity of them. There’s no degree requirement and the Japanese Language Proficiency requirement is lower, with applicants needing only N4 level JLPT. However, while other work visas do not require Japanese language skills the weighting of proficiency, N2 or N1, can make a big difference to your application so this can make it much more accessible. While you won’t need a degree as the visa is aimed at lower-skilled workers, it is likely that you may need to complete an exam to measure your skills set and abilities in the area that you are applying to.

The key differences between the No.1 and No. 2 Specified Skills Visa cover 3 points; an additional level of specialization in your relevant field, an indefinite length of stay in Japan and the ability to bring your family with you. Essentially the No. 2 can be viewed as an upgrade from No. 1.

There’s still some work to be done by the Japanese government in defining all the details with these new visas but they have the potential to significantly open up the country and to help alleviate the labour crisis that many lower-skilled industries are facing.

Specified visa – Designated activities

The working holiday visa is one of the easier visas to obtain if available for your country and falls under the specified visa – designated activities category. You will still have similar requirements for the documents you need to submit for your application but as a whole, the process is simpler. You will need to submit documentation regarding how you intend to fund your trip, your intentions while in Japan and proof of age. You can spend up to a year in Japan for travelling and working on this visa and must be between the ages of 18 and 30, although again check your countries restrictions as it can be lower in some places. If you find a job you like and choose to stay you will need to reapply for a work visa once your working holiday visa runs out.

Highly skilled professional visa

This is one of the more complex visas to obtain and requires much more background info. Depending on the area that you are looking at working in, you will likely need several years of work experience, a degree and most importantly a sponsor in Japan. A company that would like to employ you and will help with the visa applications. The three areas of employment that are covered here are ‘advanced specialized/technical activities’, ‘advanced business management activities’ and ‘advanced academic research activities’. The system is points based and you must obtain 70 points or more to receive preferential immigration treatment. This can mean a longer period of stay, simpler permanent residence requirements and permission for a spouse or parent to come with you in certain conditions.

Passports on suitcase

Working visa

This one is different to the highly skilled professional visa and is based more on individual industries. You may have come across this one if you have been looking at teaching English in Japan or have considered the JET programme. The lengths of stay on offer are 3 months, 4 months (Business manager only), 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. From our experience though it is more common to be offered the 1 year or 3 years stay although this depends entirely on personal circumstances. The working visa is also split into categories depending on the industry you work in. As it currently stands visas fall into the following categories but always check on your local embassy site before applying.

  • Professor
  • Artist
  • Investor/Business Manager
  • Journalist
  • Legal/Accounting Services
  • Medical Services
  • Researcher
  • Instructor
  • Engineer
  • Skilled Laborer (chef, sommelier etc)
  • Specialist in Humanities/International Services
  • Intra-Company Transferee
  • Entertainer

In almost all cases, your visa application will need a Certificate of Eligibility. Check out our article on this to fully understand what this means. For work visas, it is likely that your prospective employer will obtain this through the immigration office in Japan and you will need to talk with your company to coordinate any documents that you might need.

Once you’ve found your job in Japan, be sure to discuss with your employer about what you need to do. Just remember that you’ve got options if you want to stay in Japan following your language study or if you want to take a bit of a different approach to starting your life in Japan.

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