How to get a working visa

To be able to work in Japan, obtaining a visa is required. This article will explain the detailed procedures to obtain the appropriate visa status. The information should help those who are hoping to work in Japan.


First of all, foreigners who wish to study in Japan or work for Japanese companies must have a valid passport from their home countries. Those who have a passport can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for Resident Status(the official application for permission to work in Japan).

When entering Japan, foreigners need their passport and a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Please be aware that a foreigner will be deported and will be subject to criminal penalties as an illegal immigrant who has violated the Immigration Control Act if he or she does not meet the requirements.


In addition to obtaining a valid passport, a foreigner must obtain a visa that has been issued by the Japanese consulate.

Please be reminded that a visa is a document to help “confirm” that the passport has been lawfully issued by an official organization. The entry and the stay in the country is appropriate and merely endorsed under the conditions written on the visa.

Though it is extremely rare that a landing gets denied when obtaining a valid passport or visa, not 100% of the landings in Japan get approved. In most cases, a foreigner needs to take their COE to the Japanese consulate in their home country to obtain a visa in their passport before attempting to enter Japan.

Obtaining COE

By Immigration Control Law, when a foreigner intends to stay in Japan with a visa other than “Temporary Visitor Visa,” the Minister of Justice examines the compatibility of entry conditions related to status of residence. As a result, a suitable certificate can be issued when the conditions are met.

This document issued by the Minister of Justice is called a “Certificate of Eligibility (COE).”
This system of COE aims to simplify and speed up the immigration procedures to make them more efficient.

A CEO is issued after the Minister of Justice examines whether or not the activities that a foreigner wishing to enter intends to carry out in the country meet the conditions of landing (the requirements of: relevance of status of residence/compatibility with landing criteria)and acknowledges that said activities met said conditions.

However, a COE will not be issued when a foreigner is denied landing because he or she does not meet the other conditions of landing, in spite of the fact the intended activities meet the requirements of the relevance of status of residence and are compatible with the landing criteria.

For a foreigner trying to gain a COE, the key procedure is “Application for Certificate of Eligibility.” A foreigner who applies for an approval to stay in Japan must have all the supporting documents to prove that the conditions required by their classification of status of residence are met. At the same time, a Japanese company or Japanese branch of a foreign company that hires a foreigner will be subject for screening to see whether the company meets the conditions under the law of Immigration Bureau to host the person.

Therefore, when applying for a COE, please pay close attention to the following two items:

  1. Do I satisfy the required conditions of the status of residence that I am applying for?
  2. Does the company I will be working for satisfy the required conditions?

1. Do I satisfy the required conditions of the status of residence that I am applying for?

A foreigner who does not hold Japanese nationality needs to make sure they meet the requirement for the status of residence, such as the appropriate educational qualifications or a certain number of years in experience, when applying for a status of residence.

For example, currently in Japan, even if the candidate is an excellent worker and is fluent in Japanese, the issuance of COE would be difficult if they have only graduated vocational school when it is required to have an associate degree(typically required for the “Engineer/Humanities/International Services” status visa).

Previous work experience(e.g. international cooking) is necessary for the “Skilled Labor” status of residence. The overseas candidate needs to be careful when applying for the certain status of residence because visas will not be issued when the person lacks the numbers of years in experience for this type of work.

2. Does the company I will be working for satisfy the required conditions?

Knowing whether or not the company you are going to work for satisfy the required conditions is important.

One of the factors that the Immigration Bureau wants to be careful about the most is the risk of bankruptcy due to an unstable management foundation in the hosting company. Another is the hosting company assigning the foreign worker different kinds of work that are outside what they are permitted to do under a certain status of residence, after they employ them. This type of situation may lead illegal stay or criminal activity.

For that reason, it is important that if you are going to work in Japan, you need to do plenty of research on the company they are going to work for. You should not be too concerned about renowned Japanese companies however, they are highly likely to be eligible to sponsor your visa without a hitch, but some small to medium-sized businesses may have an unstable financial foundation. Because of the possible low credibility of a company, permission to grant the status of residence may be denied, or there is a small possibility the company might go bankrupt right after you arrive in Japan, even though you have been preparing to working for that company.

Taking these facts into consideration, when choosing a company it’s important to find out the following information:

  1. Why does the company currently need a foreign worker?
  2. If the company needs a foreign worker, why have they selected me?
  3. Where would I be based in Japan if I work for this company?
  4. What type of work will I specifically do in this company?
  5. What is the work environment like if I work for this company?
  6. How many foreign workers are there in this company?
  7. How many foreign workers are there in the department I will be working in?
  8. What is the average number of years that foreign workers stay in the department I will be working in?

It is highly recommended to ask as many specific questions like above as you can, so that you are able to picture the environment once you arrive in Japan.

Although the Immigration Bureau has information centers to inform and give advice to foreigners, it is not often that they can give specific advice regarding your precise situation in detail. It may be a good idea to consult an experienced agent that specializes in immigration applications for more information, such as a lawyer or paralegal who has been trained and has a specific qualification as an immigration specialist.

As noted above, the chance of an issuance of a COE will be much higher if you have the required documents prepared and satisfy the minimum conditions of work experience and qualifications needed to get a visa with the status of residence required for employment. After a COE is issued, you will need to take it to the Japanese Embassy in your home country and take a pre-entry examination for a smooth entry to Japan.

Consulting Services

The Immigration Bureau has information desks to inform and give advice to foreigners on immigration procedures “Information Center”. Please use the service to inquire if you have any questions or concerns.