An Introduction to the Different Types of Visa for Japan

If you want to go to Japan, the first and most important thing that you are going to need is a valid visa. There are many different types of visa, all with varying validity periods, terms and conditions etc., so I thought a short introduction would be in order. See below in no particular order.

The short-term stay

The short-term stay visa, sometimes also called a visitor or tourist visa is the most basic visa available. As the name implies it allows you to stay in Japan for a short time (15 to 90 days, though citizens of some countries have the option to extend for another 90 days) and pursue activities such as tourism, visiting friends and business, as long as they do not include remunerative activities. Depending on which country you are a citizen off, you may not even need to apply for this visa, it will simply be issued to you once you arrive at the airport in Japan with your valid passport, but for some Nationalities (Chinese, Russian among others) an application in advance is necessary. 

Working Visa

Working in Japan under a short-term visa is illegal, so if you want to work in Japan you have to get a proper Working Visa. There are many different kinds of working visa, with every visa having strict conditions on what kind of work you are allowed to do. Usually, these are valid for 6 months to up to five years. Included are types such as the Highly Skilled Professional (based on a pretty unrealistic points system), Professor, Artist, Religious Activities, Journalist, Business Manager, Legal/Accounting Services, Medical Services, Skilled Labor, Entertainer, Researcher, Nursing Care and Intra-Company Transferee visa among others. These are all highly specific and restricted in who can apply for them and what activities they are allowed to pursue, so the number of people holding these types of visa is comparatively low. However, there are a few more visa that allows for a broader range of activities.

The Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services visa

A very common visa among people working in an office in Japan. While the Engineer part can mean a person working at a car factory, it also applies to people working in the IT industry for example. The Specialist in humanities/International services part is equally vague, with people working at the reception of a hotel, airport workers and even translators/interpreters holding the same visa. If you apply for a job at a Japanese company, chances are very high that this is the working visa that you will receive. Just be aware that you cannot work “blue-collar” jobs, for example, manufacturing and similar jobs. The visa is usually valid for 1, 3 or 5 years.

The Specified Skilled Worker visa

The Specified Skilled Worker is for “blue-collar” jobs what the Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services is for “white-collar” jobs. Due to Japans ageing population manpower is severely lacking, especially in industries such as farming, nursing and manufacturing. Thus, in 2019 the Japanese government created the Specified Skilled Worker visa. Japanese governments seem to hold a perpetual fear of “low-skilled immigrants”, swamping Japan and disturbing the 和 (Harmony), and therefor rules and restrictions apply. If you want to apply for the Specified Skilled Worker, you need to first pass a test that shows that you have general knowledge about the industry that you wish to work in, as well as a Japanese Language Test (JLPT N4). Then, when you are in Japan and working at your new company you have to take and pass more tests, otherwise, you will not be able to renew your visa. The visa is relatively new and unknown, but the many hoops that have to be jumped through to get it are most likely not helping its cause. 

As a side note, there is also the so-called Technical intern training visa, which is somewhat of a precursor to the Specified Skilled Worker visa. The original intent was to enable people from lesser developed countries to get training in Japan, so they might help the development of their home country once they return. In reality, due to the aforementioned lack in manpower, these trainees were (and still are) often used as cheap labourers, with tales of mistreatment and exploitation not being unheard of. All in all, a visa that’s probably best avoided.

There are other visa types as well, such as the Student visa, cultural activities visa, Spouse of a Japanese National Visa or the unholy amalgamation that is the “Designated Activities” visa status, but for now, I am going to leave you with these, more common kinds of visa.


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