How to change from a Student Visa to a Work Visa in Japan

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Una persona che utilizza un laptop per cambiare il loro visto studentesco in visto lavorativo in Giappone.

Whether you’re looking for a full-time job, or already found one after studying, you might be wondering how to change from a Student Visa to a Work Visa in Japan. It’s a fairly common process and we’ll give you all the information you need right here in this article! Read on to learn more.

What kind of Work Visas are there?

There are a variety of Work Visas in Japan and it’s helpful for you to understand what they are, and which one would apply in your situation.

Students sitting at a table in a work/interview situation.

Work Visa

This visa is based on individual industries and is probably the one you’re most familiar with. You typically need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree, or at least 10 years of work experience, in order to be eligible for this visa.

There are different visa lengths: 3 months, 4 months (only for Business Managers), 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years. It’s most common to be offered this visa for 1 year or 3 years.

The Work Visa is split into the following categories:

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

Highly Skilled Professional Visa

This visa is a lot more complex to obtain than other visas, requiring more background checks and a significant amount of working experience in a particular field. 

It also is based on a points system, which requires you to have 70 points or more to potentially receive this visa. The Highly Skilled Professional Visa pertains to three areas of employment only:

  • Advanced specialized/technical activities
  • Advanced business management activities
  • Advanced academic research activities

The benefit of this visa category is that if you get it, you receive a 5-year visa right away. Moreover, it is a fast track to permanent residency depending on your amount of points.

Working Holiday Visa

This category of visa is only available to those who are from countries that have a Working Holiday agreement with Japan. It’s available to those between 18 and 30 years old at the time of application, although some countries may have a lower age limit so make sure to check with your local embassy. 

Additionally, this visa’s primary intention is for people outside of Japan to travel around Japan, rather than to work. It’s best to keep that in mind when you’re looking at how to change from a Student Visa to a Work Visa in Japan. We recommend consulting with an experienced immigration lawyer if you require more details about the Working Holiday Visa and how it might help you obtain a Work Visa in Japan.

Specified Skills Visa

In April 2019, Japan established this new type of visa with the goal of overcoming Japan’s labor shortage in certain fields. It is important to note that the Specified Skills visa has two different types: Specified Skilled Worker (i) and Specified Skilled Worker (ii).

For both of them, you do not need to have a degree or 10 years of working experience. However, they will make you take an exam to assess your skills and abilities in the field you’re applying to. For Specified Skilled Worker (i) you will also have to have at least the equivalent of JLPT N4 in Japanese language skills.

Here are the fields covered by Specified Skilled Worker (i):

  • Nursing Care
  • Building Cleaning Management
  • Machine Parts and Tooling Industries
  • Industrial Machinery Industry
  • Electric, Electronics and Information Industries
  • Construction Industry
  • Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery Industry
  • Automobile Repair and Maintenance
  • Aviation Industry
  • Accommodation Industry
  • Agriculture
  • Fishery and Aquaculture Industries
  • Manufacture of Food and Beverages
  • Food Service Industry

The Specified Skilled Worker (ii) covers the two following fields:

  • Construction Industry
  • Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery Industry

An important difference to note between the two types of Specified Skilled Visa is that the first type is only available for 5 years, after those 5 years you would have to go back to your home country. On the other hand, the second type allows you to stay longer and you can bring your family with you to Japan.

For more information on this visa, we recommend checking the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan’s website.

Image of EU passport on top of Japanese language exercise book

What you need to change from a Student Visa to a Work Visa in Japan

To make your visit to the Immigration Office as smooth as possible, we’ve made a list of the documents you will be required to provide in order to change from a Student Visa to a Work Visa in Japan.

In order to successfully change residence status, you need an offer of employment from your employer. You will need this before starting the application process. 

Remember also: in order to even be considered for a Work Visa by the Immigration Office, you will need either at least a Bachelor’s Degree or at least 10 years of working experience in a certain field.

To switch to a Work Visa, you will need:

  • The application form for a change of residence status (online or on paper, you can find it here)
  • A portrait photo
  • Your current passport
  • Your Japan residence card (Zairyu Card, 在留カード)
  • Your resume
  • Certificates of Degree, certified transcripts, or certificates of diploma
  • Proof of your Japanese proficiency (JLPT N2 or above is recommended)
  • Documents that prove your employment, salary, and period of time you need to be in Japan. This can be your contract with your employer, your invitation letter, or any documents that prove your employment.

There are also documents you need that your employer will provide you with:

  • The company’s most recent financial statement
  • The company’s withholding tax report
  • Description of the company’s activities

Many employers will help you with the application process and might even do it for you. But this isn’t always the case, so it’s best to always be prepared in case you have to handle it on your own. 

Keep in mind that you should apply for a Work Visa as soon as possible after signing your contract with a Japanese employer in order to not be working under the wrong residence status. When in doubt as to what your options are or how to handle the application process, we recommend consulting an immigration lawyer.

Our 5-year plan gives you an overview of how to achieve your goals of living in Japan long-term, from learning the language to achieving permanent residency.

How long does it take to process the application?

Each application is unique and depends on the individual office that’s processing your application. Therefore, it’s difficult to say for certain how long you will need to wait for your application to be processed. 

The best guideline we can offer is that when you apply for a change in residence status, your current visa is automatically extended for 2 months while your application is being reviewed by the Immigration Office. You can assume you’ll receive a response within that period of time. 

What happens if you get denied?

Unfortunately, your application to change your residence status could be rejected. In that case, you will be given a temporary status to allow you time to leave.

There are various reasons that could explain a rejection. Some of them are as follows:

  • Your qualifications
  • Your work experience
  • Your employer’s financial records
  • Incomplete forms or errors in the documents provided

You can go to the Immigration Office to ask for explanations and it is possible for you to re-apply. In that case, you will need extra documents based on the reason behind your rejection.

Go! Go! Nihon is always here to help!

While we can’t help you extend your Student Visa or change residence status, we can still advise you if you wish to extend your Student Visa, or change to a Student Visa in order to become a full-time student! 

Contact us for more information, our team is more than happy to help you!

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