Living and working in Japan is the ultimate dream for many people, It’s a paradoxical land of the traditional and modern, the culturally modest and technologically innovative. Expats from near and far have made their way to Japan to experience the culturally infused lifestyle. But you’ll need a visa for that.

We’ve broken it down for you and made this cheat sheet explaining all the different types of visa in Japan from short-term to long-term. In a nutshell, there are 30 types of visas each with its own set of requirements. These visas can be divided into 3 main groups:

  1. Working Visa
  2. Non-Working Visa
  3. Family Related Visa

Persons can only be issued one type of visa at a time, so if you qualify for more than one type you will need to choose one that best suits your situation.

Please note, that this is by no means legal advice and make sure to check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan for all the official and up to date advice.

Working Visa

As the name states, a working visa is for work. Duh. Foreign nationals interested in working in Japan will need to apply for the appropriate working visa. Work visas are categorized into different types under defined professional fields each requiring specific experience and qualifications.

To be eligible for most work visas, you’ll need a job offer from a Japanese organization. Before a working visa can be issued, you will need a Certificate of Eligibility from your prospective employer, and have it approved by the Bureau of Immigration.

Visa TypeAuthorized ActivitiesRequirementLength of Residence
Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International ServicesEngineer: Working in the fields of physical science, engineering or other natural science. Specialist in humanities: Working in legal, economic, social fields or in human science. International services: Working in translation, interpretation, language instruction, public relations, international trade, fashion design, interior design, product development.Engineer: University degree in the corresponding field or 10 years of professional experience Specialist in humanities: University degree or 10 years professional experience in the field International services: 3 years professional experience in the field except for interpretation/translation or language instruction that only require a university degree.1 to 5 years
Company TransfereeExpats of foreign companies or subsidiary companies of Japanese firms located overseasMust have worked more than one year in the said office overseas3 months to 5 years
Skilled LaborCooking, architecture or civil engineering to foreign country processing precious stones, metals or fur, training animals, piloting aircraft, instructing sports, sommeliers3 to 10 years of experience in the corresponding field (including training)3 months to 5 years
Business ManagerStarting or investing in a business in Japan or managing a business on behalf of other investorsPhysical office space dedicated to said business in Japan and 5 million yen investment into the business for new applicants. 10 million yen sales and 5 million yen expenses for renewal.
Highly Skilled ProfessionalCheck out the note below about this special visa.Points are given according to the applicant’s education level and professional background, income and academic achievement. Applicants must accumulate 70 points or more. For more detail, please refer to this page and the Immigration’s website.

Quick Note about Highly Skilled Professional Visa

Under the same category of working visa, there are also specific work visas for highly skilled individuals with specialized status, knowledge or skills. This type of visa was introduced in 2012 and offers a number of advantages. Bear in mind that it is not possible to apply for visas that fall under this category without a job offer from a Japanese organization.

Individuals considering applying for the Highly Skilled Professional visa will be evaluated and points are awarded based on the applicant’s education and professional background, income and academic achievements. Applicants must score 70 points or more to be eligible.

A holder of a Highly Skilled Professional visa will have access to certain privileges including:

  • The opportunity to engage in multiple activities that cover different visa categories
  • Be given a 5-year visa
  • Faster access to Permanent Resident visa
  • Preferential processing of immigration procedures
  • Visa holder spouse can work full-time under certain conditions
  • The possibility of bringing parents to Japan under certain conditions

Applicants should note though that, unlike some other visa types, a Highly Skilled Professional visa is tied to your company so leaving your job will, in turn, invalidate your visa.

Visa TypeAuthorized ActivitiesRequirementLength of Residence
Diplomat / OfficialPersonnel of the Embassies and Consular Offices, Diplomatic Missions, Government personnel and their families. The application goes through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and not the Immigration bureau.
Engage in activities on the part of constituent members of diplomatic missions or consular offices of foreign governments hosted by the Government of Japan, activities on the part of those who are provided with similar privileges and/or immunities as are given to diplomatic missions in accordance with treaties or international customary practices, and the activities on the part of their family members belonging to the same household.Length of Assignment
ProfessorResearch and education at University or equivalent educational institutions.

1 to 3 years
InstructorInstruction of foreign languages or other education at elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, etc.
Note: English language teachers hired by private language schools must apply for the “Specialist in Humanities/ International Services” visa.

1 to 3 years
ArtistArtistic activities that generate sufficient income to support the artist’s life in Japan (painter, sculptor, photographer, writer, composer, songwriter, etc…)
1 to 3 years
Religious ActivitiesMissionaries sent from foreign religious organizations.
1 to 3 years
JournalistJournalists who signed the contracts with foreign media organizations, including freelance journalists.
1 to 3 years
Legal / Accounting ServicesAttorneys, certified public accountants or other specialists with legal qualifications.
1 to 3 years
Medical ServicesPhysicians, dentists or other medical specialists with Japanese qualifications.
1 to 3 years
ResearcherResearch conducted under a contract with public or private organizations in Japan
1 to 3 years
EntertainerTheatrical performances, musical performances, sports or any other show business.
3 months, 6 months or 1 year
Specified Skilled WorkerLess skilled workers in 14 specified industry fields
1 to 3 years

Non-Working Visa

Individuals that don’t fit into any of the above categories, but still want to work in Japan may also be able to work under a non-working visa. However, there are limitations to how many hours per week you can work (except for temporary visitors and trainee visa holders). You will also need permission granted from the immigration office to work under a non-working visa.

Visa TypeAuthorized ActivitiesRequirementLength of Residence
StudentsActivities that involve receiving an education at a university, college of technology, senior high school or language school in Japan.Students enrolled in universities, vocational schools (senmon gakkou), high schools, junior high schools, elementary schools or Japanese language schools. The visa application is submitted through the school and the time of application is limited.
3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years or 4 years
TraineeTraining to learn and acquire technology, skills or knowledge at public or private organizations in Japan.
Given to applicants who plan on using the skills they learn in Japan back in their home country
This status is granted only if the candidate is to engage in a job requiring the technology, skills or knowledge obtained in Japan after returning to the home country.3 months, 6 months or 1 year
Technical InternshipInternship after training under trainee visa

DependentSpouses or children of people staying in Japan under the work visa and non-working visa (except for temporary visitors and trainees).

6 months or 1 to 3 years
Cultural ActivitiesCultural or artistic activities that provide no income. Studies or research of Japanese cultural or artistic activities. University students on an internship without remuneration.
6 months or 1 year
Temporary VisitorTourism, vacation, sports, family visit, participation in seminars, conferences or reunions. It is possible also to have business meetings, sign contracts, engage in PR activities and conduct market research.
15 or 90 days
Designated ActivitiesActivities specifically designated for each case. This is used for every other type of visa that does not fit into any of the other given categories and usually given to people who are in Japan for a specific reason. It is a temporary or transitional status and the visa holder is expected to change their status or leave the country afterwards.
Examples of such visa holders include: Working Holiday, job-hunting after graduating from a Japanese university, long-stay tourism
This status of residence is granted case by case and it’s not always possible to be granted permission to work on a Designated Activities visa.
6 months, 1 year or 3 years

Family Related Visas

These visas have no restriction on work or activities you can engage in while staying in Japan, so it’s possible to work in any field or industry. Family visas provide the flexibility of being able to change jobs or participate in more than one activity.

Visa TypeRequirementLength of Residence
Spouse or Child of Japanese NationalsAs the title of the visa states, you must be a spouse or child of a Japanese national.1 to 3 years
Long Term ResidentsRefugees, descendants of Japanese nationals, people caring for their children with Japanese nationality, people divorced from Japanese nationals, etc.
6 months, 1 year or 3 years
Permanent ResidentsVisa granted to those who have stayed certain conditions regarding the length of time spent in Japan, income, tax payment, etc.Indefinite
Spouse or Child of Permanent ResidentsSpouses and children of Permanent Residents.1 to 3 years