【Jobs for Foreign Software Engineers】How can foreigners work as freelance software engineers? Working visas and cautions!

Foreigners working as software engineers may want to work as freelancers in Japan. In this article, we introduce cautions and working visas when working as a freelance software engineer in Japan. If you are a foreign software engineer thinking of taking the freelance career path in Japan, this article can be a useful reference.

* Those who have Status of Residence as permanent resident, spouse of permanent resident, spouse of Japanese national or long-term resident can work as a freelance regardless of your visa status.

  1. Foreign software engineers can work as a freelancer
    1. If you have experience as an employee at a Japanese company
    2. If you have no experience as an employee at a Japanese company
  2. Cautions when acquiring a freelance visa
  3. Conclusion

Foreign software engineers can work as a freelancer


Foreign software engineers can work in Japan as freelancers. However, you need to acquire a working visa even when working as a freelance. Below are the conditions required to obtain a visa on a case-by-case basis.

1-1. If you have experience as an employee at a Japanese company

If you have already have experience working at a Japanese company as an engineer after acquiring Status of Residence for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”, and if your freelance job is almost the same as the jobs in your employee period, you will continuously acquire Status of Residence for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”. In this case, you need to make an outsourcing contract agreement with the company you work for, so that you can renew your Status of Residence as a freelancer if you can prove your contract period, compensation and income.

1-2. If you have no experience as an employee at a Japanese company

If you have no experience working as an employee in Japan and wish to acquire a visa as a freelancer, it is harder than the above case 1-1. Please refer here for the requirements such as educational backgrounds.

Status of Residence for “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International” does not necessarily require your employment in a company. It can be acquired even if you have contracts with multiple companies. In addition, there is a chance that Status of Residence is authorized without employment history in Japan if you can prove that you will “be able to earn stable income for a certain period continuously and in long-term”, such as contract period, contract fee of the job or the agreed contracts with multiple companies.

However, acquiring a visa may be difficult if the jobs you undertake cannot expect continuity and stability, even with a large number of contracts. The standard of Status of Residence approval is one year or more of contract period and 3 million yen or more of the annual compensation. However, short-term contracts such as 3 months can be approved with certain conditions such as automatic renewal.

As it is rather hard for those who have no experience as a company employee in Japan to acquire a visa, it is recommended that you ask administrative scriveners (gyo-sei shoshi) for the application and ask them to see whether you are likely to obtain visa or not by reviewing your contract details, compensation and job details.

2. Cautions when acquiring a freelance visa

It is popular to make outsourcing contract agreements with multiple Japanese companies when you work in Japan as a freelance software engineer. In order to acquire a visa as a freelancer, you need to prove that you are “able to work stably on an annual basis as agreed in the outsourcing contract agreement” such as having long-term (more than one year) contract or contract renewals with multiple companies, which provide stable income (more than 3 million yen per year). Your income will be judged by the total amount of fees earned from multiple outsourcing contracts. However, it is possible that the visa is not approved when the unit price is lower than the average rate.

In addition, please note that your contract must fall under the scope of permitted activities in the Status of Residence, which means that jobs generally done by sole proprietors such as administrative works or jobs other than software engineering are basically not allowed.

3. Conclusion

It is possible for the foreign software engineers to work in Japan as a freelancer. However, it seems rather difficult to acquire a visa since it is important to prove that you have continuous jobs with a defined scope of work and earn a stable income. Furthermore, you need to conduct applications by yourself such as filing a tax return and paying tax, something that your company would have done for you as an employee.

Therefore, our advice is that you work first as an software engineer at a Japanese company, and start considering to be a freelancer when you can expect outsourcing contract agreement with multiple companies, such as companies with the same job details or IT companies that you can use your language skills.

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