Types of visa statuses of residence to work in Japan

Being faced with a decline in the working population caused by the nation’s low birth rate, the Japanese government has been adopting new policies to actively open up the country to accept more foreigners. In 2017, the population of foreign workers in Japan set a record of about 1,200,000, and the number of foreign workers is expected to keep increasing in the future.

However, these opportunities are not guaranteed to everyone who wishes to work in Japan. Foreigners need a working visa with an appropriate status of residence in order to work. You can find out about the types of statuses of residence below.

Types of status of residence

In order to work in Japan, a foreigner needs to hold one of the following statuses.
(*Reference: List of statuses of residence As of August 2018

No. Status of residence Activities to authorized to engage in Examples
1 Diplomat Activities on the part of constituent members of diplomatic missions or consular offices of foreign governments hosted by the Japanese Government; activities on the part of those who are provided with similar privileges and/or immunities as are granted to diplomatic missions pursuant to treaties or international customary practices; and activities on the part of their family members belonging to the same household Ambassador, minister, consulate general, or delegation member of a foreign government and their families
2 Official Activities on the part of those who engage in the official business of foreign governments or international organizations recognized by the Japanese Government; and activities on the part of their family members belonging to the same household (except for the activities listed in the “Diplomat” column of this Table) Employee of an embassy or consulate of a foreign government, individual assigned by an international institution for an official assignment, and their families
3 Professor Activities for research, guidance of research or education at a university, equivalent educational institutions or colleges of technology (”Kotosenmongakko”) College professor
4 Artist Activities for the arts that provide income, including music, the fine arts, literature, etc.(except for the activities listed in the “Entertainer” column of this Table) Composer, artist, or writer
5 Religious activities Missionary and other religious activities conducted by foreign religious workers dispatched by foreign religious organizations Missionary assigned by a foreign religious organization
6 Journalist News coverage and other journalistic activities conducted based on a contract with foreign journalistic organizations Reporter or photographer of foreign press
7 Highly skilled professional Activities to engage in highly-skilled professions, research, engineering, and business management,
conducted by foreign nationals who meet the criteria provided (a total score above 70 in set categories in “education,” “experience” and “annual income” in accordance with the points’ system)
Highly skilled human resources in research, engineering, and business management
8 Business manager Activities of operating international trade or some other business of a public or private organization in Japan or of managing such business Manager or administrator of a company, etc.
9 Legal/Accounting services Activities to engage in legal or accounting business, which is required to be carried out by registered foreign lawyers “Gaikokuhoujimubengoshi,” or certified public accountants “Gaikokukoninkaikeishi” or those with other legal qualifications Attorney or certified public accountant
10 Medical services Activities to engage in medical treatment services, which are required to be undertaken by physicians, dentists or those with other legal qualifications Physician, dentist or registered nurse
11 Researcher Activities to engage in research based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan Researcher at a government-related institution or company
12 Instructor Activities to engage in language instruction and other education at an elementary school, junior high school, compulsory education school, senior high school, secondary educational school (”chutokyoikugakko”), school for special needs education (”tokubetsushiengakko”), vocational school (”senshugakko”), miscellaneous educational institution (”kakushugakko”), or the other educational institutions equivalent to vocational schools in facilities and curriculum Language instructor at a senior high school or junior high school, etc.
13 Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services Activities to engage in services, which require skills or knowledge pertinent to physical science, engineering or other natural science fields, or to engage in services, which require knowledge pertinent to jurisprudence, economics, sociology or other human science fields, or to engage in services which require specific ways of thought or sensitivity based on experience with foreign culture, based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan Engineer such as of mechanical engineering, interpreter, designer, language instructor at a private company or marketing specialist
14 Intra-company transferee Activities of a staff member transferred to a business office in Japan for a limited period of time from a business office established in a foreign country by a public or private organization which has its head office, branch office or other business office in Japan, which are to be conducted at such business office in Japan and which are listed in the “Engineering/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” column of this Table. Transferee from an office abroad
15 Nursing Activities to engage in nursing or instructing nursing based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan, which require a nursing license. Certified care worker
16 Entertainer Activities to engage in theatrical performances, dramatic performances, musical performances, sports or any other performing art activities. Actor, singer, dancer, or professional athlete
17 Skilled labor Activities to engage in services, which require industrial techniques or skills belonging to special fields based on a contract with public or private organizations in Japan Chef of foreign cuisine, sports instructor, aircraft pilot, or craftsman of precious metals
18 Technical intern training Activities to acquire knowledge through group training in agriculture, construction, manufacturing industries etc. through an employment agreement Technical interns
19 Cultural activities Academic or artistic activities that provide no income, or activities for the purpose of pursuing specific studies on Japanese culture or arts, or activities for the purpose of learning and acquiring Japanese culture or arts under the guidance of experts Researcher of Japanese culture
20 Temporary visitor Sightseeing, recreation, sports, visiting relatives, inspection tours, participating in lectures or meetings, business contact or other similar activities during a short period of stay in Japan Tourist or conference participant
21 Student Activities to receive education at a university, college of technology (”kotosenmongakko”), senior high school, junior high school or elementary school or elementary school course of a school for special needs education, special training school (”senshugakko”) or miscellaneous school (”kakushugakko”) or equivalent educational institution in terms of facility and organization in Japan Student or pupil of a university, junior college, college of technology (”kotosenmongakko”), senior high school, junior high school or elementary school, etc.
22 Trainee Activities to acquire skills, etc. at a public or a private organization in Japan Trainee
23 Dependent Daily activities on the part of the spouse or unmarried minor supported by the foreign national staying in Japan Spouse or child who is a dependant of a residing foreign national
24 Designated activity Activities which are specifically designated by the Minister of Justice for foreign individuals Domestic staff of a diplomat, etc., working holiday

Restrictions under status of residence

A foreigner residing in Japan may not engage in unauthorized activities, nor change their activities in Japan without applicable permission. Such prohibited activities usually relate to intending to operate a business or engaging in other activities that generate income. For example, generally speaking, working for more than 28 hours a week is not permitted for a foreign resident with a student visa status, as it is intended solely for educational purposes.

If a foreign resident wishes to engage in unauthorized activity under their status of residence, the foreign resident must apply to change their status of residence and obtain permission from the Japanese government. It is mandatory to change the status of residence of a visa in situations like when a foreign student pursues a full-time job at a Japanese company after graduation, or a foreign worker intends to work in a different field than the current one.

A foreign resident needs to apply to extend their period of stay if they intend to stay in Japan beyond the designated period of stay.