If foreign international students succeed in finding a job and begin to work in Japan, it is necessary to change their visa from a student visa to a work visa. Here we will introduce in detail the procedures to change the status of residence of a visa, which is required after finding employment.
Status of residence for working in Japan
To start with, what kind of status of residence is necessary if you want to work in Japan? The status of residence you need to work in Japan can be roughly divided into the following two categories:
- A status of residence which is granted regardless of your occupation or field of industry.
- A status of residence designated for employment only within a certain range of occupations and industries.
A status of residence which is granted regardless of your occupation or field of industry
The types of visa on which you can work regardless of occupation or type of business are “Permanent Resident”, “Spouse or Child of Japanese Nationals”, ” Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident”, “Long-term Resident”.
A status of residence designated for employment only within a certain range of occupations and industries
Currently, the statuses of residence that you can have that affects the kind of industry you are in, or the occupation you have are as follows: “Highly Skilled Professional” “Professor” “Artist” “Religious Activities” “Journalist” “Business Manager” “Legal Accounting Services” “Medical Services” “Researcher” “Instructor” “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services” “Intra-Company Transferee” “Entertainer” “Skilled Labor” “Care Worker”.
“Highly Skilled Professional ” is a points-based status and only applicable to those who meet certain requirements, such as having a particular educational qualification, a certain length of work experience, annual income, and other factors. Actually, about 90% of foreign students who are permitted to change their status of residence for employment change to”Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services” status visas.
※ The Japanese Government is planning to establish a new status of residence from April 2019, and it is expected that this will make getting employed in Japan easier.
What is the “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services ” visa that 90% of international students end up on?
What kind of visa is the “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services ” status of residence that most international students who are employed in Japan are eligible to change to?
Work activities permitted under this status of residence include humanities and social science, work requiring skills and knowledge in the fields of science, engineering, natural sciences, or work requiring thinking and susceptibility based on overseas cultures. Specifically, it includes jobs in fields such as accounting, finance, general affairs, HR, judicial affairs, project planning, product development, design, marketing, publicity, advertisement, interpretation, translation, language instruction, industrial science, research and development, engineering, programming, architectural design, and system management.
When international students get a job in Japan that falls in any of the above categories of work, basically the most common change of visa status is from “Student” to “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services”, and it’s usually a pretty straight forward process.
The point to be aware of is that to be allowed to change your status of residence in this way, you are usually asked to show some connection between the subject that you majored in at university or vocational school, and the knowledge and skills relevant to the position you have been offered. As a result, it has now become more difficult to get a job that is totally unrelated to what you learned at college.
However, as long as you have graduated from a university, you can work as a translator or interpreter of your native language, or a language instructor, regardless of your university major. For IT related work, if you pass any test related to information technology referred to by the government and/or have some kind of IT qualification, you can also get a visa to work regardless of what your major was.
Factors that are looked at when granting a visa change
When applying to change your visa from “Student” to “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services”, how is your application judged, and what requirements need to be met? We have summarized the points based on the guidelines published by the Immigration Bureau:
- Employment is based on a contract with a public or private institution in Japan.
- It’s a position for which knowledge or technology in the fields of natural science and humanities is necessary.
- The position involves work related to the applicants major at university or vocational school.
- The amount of remuneration is equal to or greater than that which a Japanese national would get for the same position.
- The applicant should not behave in an inappropriate way.
- Fulfilling obligations as specified in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.
- Stability and continuity of employment.
1. Employment is based on a contract with a public or private institution in Japan
The meaning of the broad term “public and private organizations” (or “koushi” in Japanese) includes national and local public bodies, independent administrative corporations, public companies and corporations, charitable corporations and so on, on top of all private organizations. Furthermore, it also includes Japanese branches of foreign national or local public or corporate bodies, even if it’s a single employee, as long as their offices are in Japan. In addition, the definition of “contracts” in the guidelines includes employment contracts and outsourced contracts providing these are continuous contracts and not short-term agreements.
2. It’s a position for which knowledge or technology in the fields of natural science and humanities is necessary
The work contents of the position must correspond to engineering, humanities or international services. However, if you are doing work outside of engineering, humanities or international affairs as part of the orientation training that takes place when you start at the new company, as long as a concrete training plan is also submitted at the time of applying for a visa change then the application may still be accepted. To take a specific example, if you started working at a hotel there would be a chance that you would be also initially trained in setting up the restaurant and how to clean rooms. On the other hand, though, if you were due to continue these kinds of responsibilities for a long period of time after the initial training period had been completed, you would not have your working visa application accepted.
3. The position involves work related to the applicants major at university or vocational school
The immigration authorities may very well look into whether the work you’ll be responsible for doing at the company has a clear connection with your major at university or college. However, whilst vocational college courses are aimed at acquiring the skills necessary for a specific occupation, universities are defined as places to study a broader range of subjects as well as a more general education. Because of this, university graduates are usually judged more flexibly in terms of the relevance between the subject of their major and the employment content.
4. The amount of remuneration is equal to or greater than that which a Japanese national would get for the same position
Another factor looked at is whether compensation for the work is equal to or more than the compensation paid for a Japanese national employee with the same responsibilities. “Remuneration”, (“houshuu” is the Japanese word used in the guidelines) at this time does not include commuting allowance, family support allowance, housing allowance, and so on, but instead solely refers to the salary paid as compensation for the work.
5. The applicant should not behave in an inappropriate way
Before changing the applicant’s status of residence, an assumption is make that they will behave in an appropriate way according to Japanese laws and etiquette, and this clause also acts as a caution not to engage in illegal or anti-social activities in Japan, and a reminder that their application will be evaluated accordingly if they have been found to have been doing so.
6. Fulfilling obligations as specified in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
It is also necessary to firmly fulfill obligations specified in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, particularly regarding the residence card; for example, being careful to renew your residence card before it expires, following the application procedure correctly, if the card has been lost or stolen, properly reporting that to the authorities and then applying for a reissue and so on.
7. Stability and continuity of employment
When changing the status of residence, not only the international students but also the companies that are hiring them will be judged. In addition to showing that your salary is equal to or higher than any Japanese national counterparts, as mentioned earlier, the stability and continuity of the employment will also be looked at, and whether employment is guaranteed for a decent length of time. Therefore, if you want to work for a company accepting non-Japanese employees for the first time, you need to look into closely whether the company meets the requirements to sponsor such a change of visa status.
Points to note when changing your status of residence
The following points are important to note and follow when changing the status of residence of your visa.
- Prepare the documents necessary for your application well in advance.
- It takes about 1 to 3 months for the application to be reviewed and processed, so also apply as early as you can.
- As a general rule, the applicant should apply themselves in person.
- If you still have time on your current visa, it’s possible re-apply again.
Remember, not just the applicant, but also the company the applicant will work for has to prepare documents to submit in the application, so it’s important to give the company enough time to get all the paperwork to you that’s required before you make your application. Hence, once again we advise you to start preparing for the visa application process as far in advance as you can. Importantly, as it takes 1-3 months for applications to be properly reviewed before processed, as a general rule, we advise you to apply in January if you are starting at a company in April. If you are based in Osaka, the Osaka Immigration Bureau recommends applying in December for an April start. Lastly, if the documents you submit are incomplete, you will have to reapply, which may lead to your visa not being ready in time to start the new job, so we cannot stress enough the importance of applying as early as possible.
Documents required for changing the status of residence of a visa
Please refer to the Ministry of Justice page below for a list of documents required for changing from a “Student” status of residence visa to an “Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services” status visa
Read articles of Job Hunting Guide for International Students
- Features of job-hunting in Japan
- Japanese hiring culture
- Job-hunting schedule in Japan
- The advantages and disadvantages of working at different types of companies
- Finding employment for international students
- Why do Japanese firms employ international students?
- Industry research
- How to write a good resume
- Entry sheets
- Written exams
- The steps for receiving a job offer and joining a company
- The procedure to change a visa status
- About job hunting after graduation