Business Visas for Japan by SHIMAX Legal


Visas and Certificates of Eligibility


Because the subject of “visas” is too complex of a topic for a one page report to do proper justice to, this article will simply introduce a few points related to certain specific topics of interest. This article is not intended to be and should not be interpreted as being all encompassing.

Understanding the Difference between a “Visa” and a “Status of Residence”

To begin, it may be useful to briefly talk about some common misunderstandings about “visas.” The proper term for what is often called a “visa” is a Status of Residence. A Status of Residence is issued by the Ministry of Justice and allows the holder to engage in certain activities limited to the status that the person holds. A visa on the other hand is a permission issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which simply allows the holder to enter (land) in Japan. Therefore, properly speaking, a person with a visa can land in Japan, and assuming that they have a valid Status of Residence, can then engage in whatever activities they have received permission to do. However, for simplicity purposes, this article will refer to both as a “Visa.”

Understanding the Types of Visas for Entering and Working in Japan

Generally speaking a person can enter Japan either with a “Short-Term” visa or under one of the visa classes which permit the holder to work and live in Japan. A Short-Term visa is often referred to as a Tourist Visa and is issued for varying lengths depending on the nationality of the applicant. This status is for people who are visiting Japan short-term for holidays, visiting family, or attend business meetings.

If, however, a person is going to be living and working in Japan, they will need to apply for the appropriate Status of Residence (“visa”). At the broadest level, it is first important to understand that there is no general “Work Visa”. Furthermore, a person can only apply for a visa after they have received a formal offer of employment from a business in Japan and the category which they apply for is dependent on the type of work activity they will engage in.

Acquiring a Business Manager Visa through Company Incorporation in Japan

Investing in and incorporating a new company in Japan to “sponsor” your own visa is another option. The “Business Manager Visa” as this is called, is for applicants who have setup a new company in Japan and need a visa to be able to live in Japan to operate the business. The Business Manager Visa is one of the more difficult visas to acquire and careful attention needs to be paid when incorporating the company. In addition to the standard minimum incorporation requirements under the Japanese Companies Act, the Immigration authorities have established various other conditions which need to be satisfied. Among these are a minimum registered capital of 5 million yen (or the capacity to hire two additional Japanese residents on a full-time basis) and a requirement for the company to be registered at a physical office space designated for commercial purposes.

Physical Office Space Requirements for Business Manager Visa in Japan

The office where the company is registered plays a critical role in the evaluation process. It is very important that the office is a clearly separate and distinct commercial physical space. Unfortunately, for purposes of applying for a Business Manager Visa, virtual, share or home “offices” do not qualify as an office. If you are considering applying under this visa class, this should be factored in before spending money to rent an office.

Certificate of Eligibility (COE) and the Application Process

Applications for a Status of Residence are in most cases submitted while the applicant is still outside of Japan by applying first for a Certificate of Eligibility (known as a “COE”). In most cases a COE application is filed by someone at the company where the applicant will work and can be thought of as a request for permission to invite the applicant to Japan. A COE if approved is essentially a pre-approved Status of Residence and once received will greatly simplify visa and landing procedures.

As mentioned, this article is only intended as a brief overview of the visa system and by no means covers all aspects and types of visas available. Immigration procedures can be confusing and if you are unsure, consulting with a professional is recommended.