Visa Requirements for Working in Japan’s Tech Industry
A key requirement for foreign nationals to work in Japan is having a valid work visa, as the government does not permit working on a tourist visa. Fortunately for you, Japan’s labor shortage (especially in the IT field!) means obtaining a work visa is not overly difficult, provided you meet the requirements and submit the necessary paperwork.
In this article, we’ll primarily discuss the most common type of visa for the tech industry: the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa. This covers most tech roles in Japan such as software engineers, developers, programmers and project managers. Of course, other types of visas are also possible, and we’ll touch on those later.
1) University degree
Generally speaking, you’ll need to have a university degree, and one relevant to your intended work in Japan. For example, if you wanted to work as a software developer, it would certainly help to have majored in a subject like computer science or software engineering. Nevertheless, the immigration authorities will not probably not be too picky about this, and any degree related to engineering can theoretically qualify.
It’s also worth noting that if you are already in Japan and possess this visa but are working as a specialist in Humanities (i.e. human resources) or International Services (i.e. teaching English), you could change jobs to one in the tech industry while still on that visa.
2) 10 years of experience
Even if you don’t have a traditional university degree, don’t worry! Having at least 10 years of relevant experience is an alternative way to meet that requirement, and relevant education/training at a vocational school or other institution is also acceptable as experience.
In some cases, demonstrating that your work/educational experience was truly relevant could be a challenge. Naturally, the more straightforward that experience is, the easier it will be for those reviewing your application to make the connection. In other words, clearly stating that you were already a software developer overseas shows you do indeed have the experience to be a software developer in Japan too.
3) Japanese IT qualification
While the above two requirements are probably most relevant to those in the West, it’s worth noting that a third option is also available to those in Asia. Those requirements will be waived if you’ve passed a specialist Japanese exam. These exams are offered in India, Singapore, Korea, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines, with the only such exam available to citizens of any country is the PhilNITS Fundamental Information Technology Engineers Examination.
When it comes time to apply for your visa, you’ll need to gather some documents to present to the immigration authorities.
On your end, you’ll need:
- A resume or CV
- A copy of your university diploma (or other document certifying your educational experience and major subject of study)
From your employer, you’ll need:
- Your offer letter/employment contract
- A copy of the company registration
- The company’s financial statement for the last fiscal year.
- Supporting brochures that describe the company’s business
Once those documents and any other supporting materials are ready, you’ll need to submit an application for a Japan Engineer Visa Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”). The COE certifies your eligibility for specific employment, and it must be submitted in person at a regional immigration office in Japan. This means that if you are outside Japan, you’ll likely need to work with your company and/or a certified immigration specialist to process that.
Period of Stay
Work visas are granted for a certain period of time, so they will expire or need to be renewed. The period of stay can be granted for either 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, or 5 years. There are no set rules as to how long of a visa will be granted. Every situation is different and the length of time is decided by the immigration office on a case-by-case basis.
As we mentioned earlier, other types of visa also permit working in the tech industry, as shown below.
1) “Permanent Resident,” “Spouse or Child of Japanese National,” “Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident,” and “Long term Resident”
If you have any one of the above types of residential status, then you are completely free to engage in any type of work in Japan, and change jobs freely as well.
2) Working Holiday visa
The Working Holiday visa is only available to residents of certain countries under a certain age. Still, this can be a great way to try out living and working in Japan if you qualify. The visa does not stipulate the type of industry or employment, so it offers quite a bit of freedom in that regard.
A key advantage with this visa is that you can come to Japan first and look for work directly, instead of having to secure a job beforehand. Then, should you decide that you’d like to stay on at the company after this visa expires, you can speak to them about sponsoring you for a normal working visa.
3) Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional Visa
The Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional Visa is not limited to any one particular industry. Instead, applicants have to demonstrate their eligibility for this visa based on a points system, awarded based on factors such as academic background, professional experience, position salary, age, and Japanese language ability.
4) Intra-Company Transferee visa
This visa is available to those working outside Japan for a company that has an office, branch or subsidiary in Japan. Should the company decide to transfer you to Japan, you’ll be eligible for this visa so long as you’ve already worked for a year at the company, and other requirements like university education are waived. Typically, however, most people who come to Japan on this visa are only going to be staying for a fixed period of time.
5) Business Manager visa
Finally, there is always the option of starting your own business in Japan with the Business Manager visa. Again, requirements of a university degree or work experience do not apply; instead, you’ll have to invest at least ¥5 million in your company, rent an office, and submit a business plan. Approval for this visa is not guaranteed either, so you’ll need to show you are serious about being an entrepreneur.
For more information
The information we’ve provided here is only a guide and is by no means an exhaustive manual. The specifics of your situation may be different, so if you’re applying for a visa, start your research at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website about visas.
Moreover, your prospective employer will probably be able to support you in the process, and you can also consult your country’s Japanese embassy as well if you have any questions about visa and immigration.
Please note that we are not responsible for links to third-party websites.
Jobs for Foreign Software Engineers
Japan’s IT Industry
- Characteristics of the Japanese IT Industry
- Japanese Language Levels for IT Industry Jobs
- The Benefits of Working at a Tech Company
- The Disadvantages of Working at a Tech Company
Salaries for Software Engineers
Visa for Software Engineers