Japan 8 min

Work permits and visas in Japan: an employer’s guide

Written by Sally Flaxman
Sally Flaxman


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Keeping up with Japan's complex regulations around work permits and visas can be daunting for employers. Japanese law requires that employers obtain the appropriate work permit before hiring a non-citizen to perform any type of paid labor in Japan

This can be complicated and time-consuming, so businesses need to understand their legal obligations ahead of time. Failure to comply with immigration laws in Japan can lead to the employer facing fines, penalties, or legal disputes.

That’s why it's useful to have an expert partner on board while managing the work permit and visa application process for international employees. A global HR service like Remote can help you hire or relocate employees in Japan quickly and compliantly.

In this guide, we’ll explain the basics of work permits and visas in Japan, the various steps you need to take to acquire a work visa, and how you can use an EORto make the process smooth and seamless.

Why is immigration compliance important in Japan?

In Japan specifically, working on tourist visas can often be illegal — governments are starting to enforce this legislation more as remote work becomes increasingly popular with digital nomads. While working remotely in Japan, you may need additional documents such as resident paperwork to prove your authorization to work in the country. 

If caught without having adequately complied with laws regarding permits and employment-related activity, then employers could potentially face hefty fines or even jail time, depending upon national jurisdictions.

Employers thus need to stay vigilant and make sure they ensure ongoing compliance with immigration laws and regulations in Japan.

Who needs a work authorization check in Japan?

Japanese citizens are, by default, eligible to work in Japan (even if they currently live abroad), as are:

  • Permanent residents

  • Long-term residents

  • Spouses or children of Japanese citizens

  • Spouses or children of Japanese permanent residents

If your team member is not any of the above, then they will need to acquire a valid work permit.

Remote is devoted to making the work permit process for employees moving to Japan as straightforward and quick as possible. All paperwork can be managed electronically via our online platform and shared securely with HR teams or third parties if need be. We perform a comprehensive examination of an employee's rights and qualifications, issuing permission swiftly when they meet the criteria set by local regulations.

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Do non-citizens need a work visa or work permit in Japan?

Anyone from overseas planning to work in Japan must fulfill the requirements of its immigration laws and regulations. The most common way is for foreign nationals to obtain a points-based visa or apply for one related to their industry.

In either case, you need an employer based in Japan that sponsors and supports your application for a work permit. This could be challenging if it's your first time entering the Japanese market.

What are the eligibility requirements for a work visa in Japan?

To enter Japan for any non-touristic purpose, you must obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) from Japan’s Ministry of Justice to get a valid work visa. This certification stands as evidence that an individual has the legal capacity to stay in Japan due to employment, family matters, or another legitimate reason. 

You will need this document when applying for the visa itself, so it must be secured before beginning the procedure. The application process may differ depending on which kind of permit needs to be acquired. 

To get a CoE, you will need to submit an application to the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) on the employee’s behalf.

Once you have acquired the CoE, you must send it to your employee, who can then begin the work visa application process.

What are the long-stay visa types in Japan?

Some long-term visa types in Japan come with longer stays by default:

Each visa type has its own specific eligibility criteria based on relevant factors, such as your employee’s role, experience, and background.

  • Work Visa: This long-term visa type is for anyone entering the country to do a job, normally requiring an employment permit. Certain criteria must be met depending on what kind of job it is. 

  • General Visa: For most people looking to stay in Japan longer than 90 days, this type of visa is suitable as you can enter and work without an employment permit or specialized skillset. It's perfect if you're living in Japan with family or have a short-term business trip planned. 

  • Highly Skilled Professional Visa: This visa type is for individuals who possess skills and qualifications that are highly in demand. It lasts for five years. Note that the entry requirements for this visa depend on a range of factors, such as salary, experience, and your team member’s nationality. 

  • Specified Visa: A more specific long-stay residency that applies only when doing certain activities like research, study abroad programs, and the like. You also need extra paperwork from the relevant organizations related to your field or industry upon application approval before taking up residence within the country via this visa.

  • Start-up Visa: This is an attractive incentive, especially for those wanting to set up their own company in Japan — allowing widespread access into any industry space instead of just one sector specified under other visa types. This visa comes with access to grants, subsidies, asset guarantees, and opportunity prospects while residing within Japan's borders.

  • Intra-company transferee visa: This is for employees who are transferring from overseas to the Japanese branch of your company. It may be ideal if you are looking to relocate an existing employee.

You can see a full list of valid work visas on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) website.

How to apply for a work visa in Japan

Once you’ve acquired the CoE and identified the most suitable visa to apply for, your team member can begin the application process.

To do this, they must apply to the Japanese embassy or consulate in their current country of residence. The application should consist of the following documents:

  • The CoE

  • A fully complete application form

  • Passport and photocopies

  • Passport photos

  • The employment contract (and any other supporting documents)

  • Any relevant qualification certificates

Your team member may also be requested to submit additional documents, depending on their role.

Does Japan offer a digital nomad visa?

Currently, the answer is no — there is no specialist digital nomad visa available in Japan. However, your employee can potentially work for up to one year on a working holiday visa.

These visas are based on bilateral agreements with 29 other countries although, in many cases, there is a cap on the number of visas available each year. Currently, nationals of the following countries can apply for one of these visas:

Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, France, Germany, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain Argentina, Chile, Iceland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Sweden, Estonia, the Netherlands, Uruguay, Finland, and Latvia

You can learn more about Japan’s working holiday visas (including eligibility requirements) on the MFA website.

What is the process for employee work visa sponsorship in Japan?

To work in Japan, you will need a sponsor — usually your employer. This person has to submit a CoE application (as explained above) to the local immigration office on your behalf. Unfortunately, it could take up to three months until the certificate is approved and valid for another three months.

The sponsoring company also needs several items ready before they apply:

  1. Letters of guarantee

  2. Invitations issued specifically for potential employees

  3. An applicant list designating who is being considered as well as important details about their business operations in Japan

  4. An itinerary containing specific dates for the applicant's stay in Japan

Depending on which type of visa you are applying for, the documents needed may vary. Once all relevant documents have been collected, the sponsor can then submit their formal application at an appropriate immigration office or embassy abroad.

Instead of handling all the administrative work yourself, why not save yourself the hassle and let Remote sponsor the employee’s work visa for you? Remote’s relocation services can make the process of employee work visa sponsorship seamless.

Why use an employer of record to hire in Japan?

Even if employees are eligible to work in Japan, your company must be able to compliantly hire and pay them in Japan. So, you either have to open your own legal entity in the country or use an EOR to hire team members for you.

Save yourself time and effort by relying on a reliable EOR to do the hard work for you. Learn more about how international hiring can become simple if you use an EOR.

link to How to use an Employer of Record in Japan
11 min

How to use an Employer of Record in Japan

Learn how to use an EOR in Japan and find out how an employer of record platform like Remote can make it easy to hire globally with full compliance.

Sorting out relevant work permits and staying compliant with immigration laws in Japan while hiring in the country is no mean feat. And, as you can see, there’s a lot of administrative work involved. Not to mention, there are compliance and permanent establishment risks that can land you in trouble.

As well as helping you manage the team’s onboarding, taxes, benefits, and payroll in Japan, Remote can support you with the employees’ relocation process. Our comprehensive relocation services cover:

  • visa guidance and sponsorship

  • local immigration and tax guidance

  • relocation and settling-in assistance

  • ongoing compliance with labor laws and tax regulations.

Download Remote’s Relocation Guide for insights on how you can successfully relocate members of your team. Or book a consultation with our team to get the process moving today.

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