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Japan - Visas

Who Needs A Visa To Enter Japan?

The citizens of 68 countries can visit Japan without a visa for up to 90 days in any one year depending on their nationality. This is because a general visa exemption arrangement has been agreed between those nations. The reason for the visit must be tourism, conferences, commerce, visiting friends and family or undertaking a short-term course at a Japanese language school.

However, you are not permitted to work for a Japanese employer or business under this visa-free arrangement, even for short term or casual work.

Countries whose citizens are allowed a visa-free leisure visit under the ‘exemption of visa short-term stay’ arrangement are listed on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

People from countries that are not on this list must obtain a temporary visitor visa for a leisure trip to Japan.

If you want to stay longer in the country, you must obtain the appropriate visa for your visit. Moreover, you need to do this before you arrive in Japan.

Where To Obtain A Japanese Visa

All visas must be obtained before arriving in Japan. You can make an application through your nearest Japanese consulate or embassy.

Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Mexico who wish to extend their 90-day, visa-free visit for up to another 90 days may do so in Japan at an Immigration Bureau (Nyukoku Kanrikyoku). Branches are located throughout the country.

Arriving In Japan: Border Control

Everyone entering Japan will have their passports and, if relevant, their visa inspected for validity. Evidence of a booked return journey may be requested.

Photographs and fingerprints will be taken of every person entering Japan. This applies to long term residents returning from a trip abroad as well as short stay tourists. Only under 16s, diplomats and visiting dignitaries are exempt from this.

You must keep your passport with you at all times while you are in Japan. An official may ask to inspect it at any time during your stay.

Extending The 90 Day Tourist Period

You can apply for a 90-day extension on top of your initial 90 days if you are a citizen from the UK, Ireland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or Mexico.

Note that you are still not permitted to undertake paid work during this period.

Wealthy Citizens Can Stay In Japan For A Year

Wealthier citizens of the countries within the general visa exemption arrangement may apply to stay for up to one year.

Evidence must be provided that you have savings in excess of 30million yen. Couples can apply for a shared visa.

You must obtain this visa before arriving in the country, and not work during your stay there.

Working Visas

You can only work in Japan if you have the appropriate visa. This applies to casual, short-term work as well as a full-time salaried job. You must obtain your work visa before arriving in Japan, via your nearest Japanese consulate or embassy.

You will need to specify the professional field in which you work. You can change jobs when living in Japan under this visa, but you cannot change professional field without obtaining a new visa.

A relevant university degree is normally a minimum requirement, although an impressive professional CV may be an acceptable alternative.

Your application is more likely to succeed if an employer is sponsoring you. That means obtaining work before you head out to Japan, and is why the most common careers for which expats move to Japan are teaching English as a foreign language through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program, or a transfer from within an international business.

If your application succeeds, your visa will be granted for up to five years. You can apply for an extension later if you wish.

Long Term Study

Whilst many citizens can undertake short term courses at Japanese language schools without applying for a visa, all other prospective students must obtain a residence visa for long term study before they arrive in Japan.

Your application must be sponsored by the institution you will be attending. You will also be asked to prove that you can sustain yourself financially throughout your studies in Japan.

The visa issued will be valid for a period reflecting your studies. This period should be at least three months but no longer than four years and three months in duration. However, you can apply for an extension if your circumstances require it later.

If you want to work while you are studying in Japan, you can apply for permission. However, if this is granted, you will only be able to work a specified number of hours each week. You must not break this limit, as the purpose of your visa is to study and not to work.

Residence Permission For International Spouses And Dependents

A permanent resident or Japanese national may apply for a spousal visa on behalf of their husband or wife. This visa not only allows a family to live in Japan, but also means the spouse can legally work.

The visa issued can be for any time between six months and five years. You may apply for an extension.

A dependency visa will be issued if the international resident does not have permanent residency status. This allows the spouse and children to reside in Japan but not work. Permission for work can be requested, but even if it is granted, the number of working hours will be strictly limited.

Dependency visas are valid for any period between three months and five years, and you can apply for an extension.

Working Holiday Visas

Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 may apply for a working holiday visa if they are citizens of eligible countries.

These visas allow young people to work part-time in Japan for the period specified in their visa, which will be no longer than one year.

Eligible countries are:

● Argentina

● Australia

● Austria

● Canada

● Chile

● Denmark

● France

● Germany

● Hong Kong

● Hungary

● Ireland

● Korea

● New Zealand

● Norway

● Poland

● Portugal

● Slovakia

● Spain

● Taiwan

● United Kingdom

Residence Cards

If you arrive in Japan via Narita, Haneda, Kansai or Chubu airports, you will be issued with a residence card. This is an important document which must be carried at all times. If you come through a different arrival point, you will need to collect the residence card from local authority offices.

Without one of these cards, you cannot open a local bank account, rent an apartment, obtain a valid driving license or take out a mobile phone contract.

The residence card contains a computer chip which means the information on the card can be read by electronic systems. They are difficult to forge, which is why they are such an essential tool for identification.

Leaving Japan For More Than A Year

Migrants who hold a residence card are free to leave and re-enter japan. However, the absence must not last a year or more. If it does, a re-entry permit must be obtained from the local immigration office on return to Japan.

Obtaining Permanent Residency In Japan

The amount of time you must continuously live in Japan before being eligible for permanent residency will depend on your skills and profession. The wait can be up to 10 years, but if you are highly qualified in a sought-after profession, it could be as little as three years.

However, you will have to prove your case to stay. Your finances must demonstrate that you have sufficient assets and income to support yourself without relying on the state. In addition, you must have a clear criminal record.

Once you have obtained permanent residency status, you can choose to work in any job or profession without having to seek approval. You may also stay in the country as long as you wish.

Your residency card will be valid for seven years, after which you will need to request a new one. Despite being a permanent resident, your residency card should be carried with you at all times.

Japanese Citizenship

As with permanent residency, the Japanese citizenship test requires you to prove that you have sufficient income and assets to support yourself and that you have a clean criminal record.

Another feature common to both is that you have indefinite leave to remain and can choose your occupation.

Bear in mind that receiving Japanese citizenship means relinquishing your existing citizenship. You can’t go back to your country of origin as a citizen, and your new status could possibly affect your right to stay there. It is therefore not a step to be taken lightly.

However, if you do decide that you want to be a Japanese citizen, you only have to live legally (and continuously) in the country for five years or less if you are married to a Japanese national.

If you need any further information about Japanese visas, such as how long the queue for a particular visa office is, or the best way to find sponsored work in Japan, why not reach out to the expat community living there?

You can use the ExpatFocus Forum for expats in Japan, or the dedicated Facebook group to ask for help from other people who have been in the same situation as you. This can help your planning - and perhaps introduce you to a new friend or two.

Read more about this country

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