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Japan – Self-Employment

Japan has a thriving economy that offers a range of opportunities for self-employment and business start-ups. Whether you are an expat looking to work as a freelancer or start your own business, Japan offers a relatively straightforward process for registering as self-employed or setting up a company. In this article, we’ll break down the process for self-employment and business start-ups in Japan and explore some of the incentives and programs available for expats.

Self-Employment in Japan

Self-employment in Japan is known as “jigaisha” and is a popular option for expats looking to work as freelancers or start their own small businesses. In order to register as self-employed in Japan, expats must follow these steps:

  1. Determine the type of self-employment: There are several types of self-employment in Japan, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability company. Expats should research and decide on the type of self-employment that best suits their needs and goals.

  2. Register with the local government: Once the type of self-employment has been determined, expats must register with the local government where they plan to work. This typically involves submitting an application and providing necessary documentation, such as a passport and residence card.

  3. Obtain a tax identification number: In order to operate as a self-employed individual in Japan, expats must obtain a tax identification number from the tax office.

  4. Register with social insurance: Self-employed individuals in Japan are required to enroll in the National Health Insurance and National Pension systems. Expats must register for these systems at their local city or ward office.

Starting a Company in Japan

Starting a company in Japan is a more involved process than registering as self-employed, but is still relatively straightforward. Here are the steps expats must follow to set up a company in Japan:

  1. Choose a company type: There are several types of companies in Japan, including kabushiki kaisha (KK) and godo kaisha (GK). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so expats should research and choose the type that best suits their needs.

  2. Reserve a company name: Expats must reserve a company name with the Legal Affairs Bureau before registering their company.

  3. Prepare necessary documentation: In order to register a company in Japan, expats must prepare a range of documentation, including the articles of incorporation, a company seal, and shareholder agreements.

  4. Register with the Legal Affairs Bureau: Once the necessary documentation has been prepared, expats can register their company with the Legal Affairs Bureau. This involves submitting the necessary paperwork and paying a registration fee.

  5. Obtain a tax identification number: As with self-employment, expats must obtain a tax identification number in order to operate a company in Japan.

  6. Register with social insurance: Companies in Japan are required to enroll in the National Health Insurance and National Pension systems. Expats must register their company for these systems at their local city or ward office.

Digital Nomads in Japan

Japan is a popular destination for digital nomads, thanks to its advanced infrastructure, high-quality internet connectivity, and rich culture. However, it’s important to note that there is currently no specific visa or legal framework for digital nomads in Japan. Expats can enter Japan as tourists and work remotely, but they must ensure that they do not engage in any work that would violate their visa status.

Incentives and Programs for Expats

There are several incentives and programs available for expats looking to become self-employed or start a business in Japan. Here are some examples:

  • Startup Visa: The Startup Visa is a special visa for entrepreneurs who want to establish a business in Japan. To be eligible, you must have a business plan and a Japanese sponsor. The visa is valid for up to one year, during which time you can establish your business in Japan.

  • Invest Japan Business Support Center (IBSC): The IBSC provides free consultation and support for foreign companies that want to set up a business in Japan. This includes information on visas, company registration, taxes, and other legal and administrative issues.

  • Small and Medium Enterprise Agency (SMEA): The SMEA provides various support programs for small and medium-sized businesses in Japan, including financial support, consulting services, and training programs.

  • Special Zones for Asian Headquarters: The Japanese government has designated certain areas as “Special Zones for Asian Headquarters,” which offer various incentives and tax breaks for foreign companies that establish their regional headquarters in Japan.

Overall, Japan offers a welcoming environment for expats who want to start their own business. With the right preparation and support, it is possible to establish a successful company in Japan.


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