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Japan – Work Permits and Working Legally

Necessity of Work Permits for Expats in Japan

Working legally in Japan as an expat often requires obtaining a work permit. In this article, we will explore the necessity of work permits for expats, who is responsible for the application, exemptions, types of work permits, eligibility criteria, application procedures, required documents, costs, and reliable sources of information for working legally in Japan.

Who Submits a Work Permit Application

In Japan, the responsibility for initiating the work permit application typically lies with the prospective employer or the sponsoring company. Therefore, the application for a work permit must be made by the employer in Japan on behalf of the expat worker. The Japanese employer is required to sponsor the expat employee and submit the application to the relevant Japanese authorities, such as the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.

Expats cannot independently apply for a work permit; they must secure a job offer from a Japanese employer willing to sponsor their employment and apply for the work permit on their behalf.

Exemptions from Work Permits

While work permits are generally required for expats working in Japan, there are specific exemptions and categories of individuals who may not need a work permit. Some common exemptions include:

  • Diplomatic and Official Visas: Individuals holding diplomatic and official visas, such as embassy staff and consular officials, are exempt from work permits for certain types of work.
  • Spouse or Child of Japanese National: Spouses and children of Japanese nationals may engage in certain activities without a work permit, such as part-time work.
  • Highly Skilled Professionals: Japan has introduced a Highly Skilled Professional (HSP) visa category, which offers preferential treatment, including work authorization, for individuals with high qualifications and skills.

It is essential for expats and their employers to verify their eligibility for exemptions and understand the specific conditions that apply to their situation, as exemptions may be subject to change and specific agreements.

Types of Work Permits for Expats in Japan

Japan offers various types of work permits and visas for expats, depending on factors such as the nature of the work, the duration of employment, and the individual’s qualifications. The primary categories of work permits and visas for expats in Japan include:


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  • Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa (E Visa): This visa category is suitable for foreign professionals engaged in specialized fields, including engineers, researchers, and business specialists.
  • Skilled Labor Visa: Skilled workers in specific industries, such as construction and manufacturing, may be eligible for this visa category.
  • Technical Intern Training Visa: This visa is for individuals participating in technical intern training programs in Japan.

The specific type of work permit or visa an expat requires will depend on the nature of their work and the terms of their employment in Japan. Employers and expats should consult the Ministry of Justice’s website or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s visa information for the most up-to-date information on permit types and eligibility criteria.

Eligibility Criteria for Work Permits in Japan

Eligibility criteria for work permits in Japan can vary depending on the type of permit or visa being sought. However, some common requirements often include:

  • The expat must have a valid job offer from a Japanese employer or sponsoring company.
  • The Japanese employer must provide a letter of appointment to the expat, specifying the terms and conditions of employment.
  • The expat’s qualifications, skills, and experience must align with the job offered.
  • The sponsoring company may need to demonstrate that the hiring of an expat is essential and cannot be fulfilled by a qualified Japanese national.
  • Proof of financial stability and accommodation in Japan may be required.

The eligibility criteria may also depend on the specific visa or permit category, so it is crucial for expats and employers to review the requirements outlined by the Ministry of Justice and seek guidance if needed.

Procedure to Apply for a Work Permit in Japan

The application process for a work permit or visa in Japan typically involves the following steps:

  1. Job Offer: The expat secures a job offer from a Japanese employer or sponsoring company.
  2. Employer’s Application: The Japanese employer submits the work permit or visa application to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan or the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.
  3. Application Processing: The authorities review the application, including the job offer, the expat’s qualifications, and other relevant documentation. The processing time can vary.
  4. Visa Issuance: Once the application is approved, the expat will receive the appropriate visa or permit.
  5. Arrival in Japan: Upon receiving the visa or permit, the expat can travel to Japan and commence their employment.

The specific requirements and procedures may differ based on the type of visa or permit being applied for and the expat’s country of origin. It is advisable for employers and expats to consult the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate and refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan for detailed guidance.

Documents Required for a Work Permit Application in Japan

The documentation required for a work permit application in Japan typically includes:

  • A valid passport with at least six months of validity beyond the intended stay
  • Passport-sized photographs of the expat
  • Job offer letter or employment contract from the Japanese employer
  • Letter of appointment specifying terms and conditions of employment
  • Evidence of the expat’s qualifications and experience
  • Proof of financial stability (e.g., bank statements)
  • Proof of accommodation in Japan (e.g., rental agreement)

Additional documents may be required based on the specific type of visa or permit being sought. It is essential for expats and their employers to compile and submit all necessary documents accurately and promptly.

Costs Involved in Applying for a Work Permit in Japan

The costs associated with applying for a work permit or visa in Japan may include:

  • Visa application fees
  • Health insurance fees
  • Residence tax (paid by the expat)
  • Legal and administrative fees (if applicable)

The specific fees can vary depending on the type of visa or permit, the expat’s nationality, and other factors. expats and their employers should check the current fee schedule on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s website or with the relevant Japanese authorities.

Where to Find Reliable Information on Working Legally in Japan

For reliable and up-to-date information on working legally in Japan, expats and employers can refer to official government sources and relevant agencies:

  • Ministry of Justice: The Ministry of Justice’s website provides comprehensive information on immigration procedures, visa types, and eligibility criteria in Japan.
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: This ministry’s website offers information on visas, entry requirements, and the location of Japanese embassies and consulates worldwide.
  • Immigration Services Agency of Japan: The agency’s English-language website provides guidance on immigration procedures, residence status, and application forms.

Working legally in Japan requires adherence to local regulations and obtaining the necessary work permits or visas. It is essential to rely on official government sources and seek legal counsel or professional guidance if needed to ensure compliance with Japanese immigration laws.


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