The digital nomad life is a fun-filled one, as you have the opportunity to explore the world while still earning enough for savings and daily expenses. Most digital nomads, whether beginners or well-versed in remote work, have the goal to stay in Japan for at least a few weeks or months. And I can’t blame them, as Japan is such a beautiful country filled with so much history and tradition, but with the amazing modern technologies we know and use every day.
But you can’t just go to another country for the long-term without the proper documentation and visas! Read on to learn more about the types of visas you can get for a long-term stay in Japan as a digital nomad. Obtaining a work permit in Japan as a foreigner is not an easy process, so prepare well if you intend to stay in Japan for a long term.
Visas to Japan for Digital Nomads
There is no special visa for digital nomads in Japan. When we talk about the “working visa” in Japan, there are a variety of options to choose from. There is not just one kind of visa for everyone, as they differ in the type of work you can do, the length of stay, among other restrictions you need to follow, based on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. >> Visa for Work or Long-term stay in Japan – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Just like other countries, there are different visas you can get, namely working and non-working visas.
Here are the two main types of visas you can look into, made for work and/or long-term stays:
Working visas would only cover occupations that require higher levels of professional knowledge and/or skills. If you are a foreigner engaging in manual or simple labor, there is a low chance of being eligible for this kind of visa, unless you have a visa granted according to your family visa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan also states you may also be able to obtain a trainee visa or have part-time simple work on a student or dependent visa. (https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/w_holiday/index.html)
For instance, there are no work visas available for hairdressers, masseurs, waiters, salespeople, construction workers, and the like. Rather, these are the five different industries that are typically granted work visas in private companies:
Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, or International Services
This visa type permits the following authorized activities:
- Engineers who work in the field of engineering, physical science, or other natural sciences. They require a University degree in their field, or at least ten years of professional experience.
- Specialists in humanities who work in legal, economic, and/or social fields, or in human sciences. Like engineers, they require a University degree in their field or at least ten years of professional experience.
- International services who work in translation, interpretation, or language instruction. They may also work in public relations, fashion or interior design, product development, and international trade. They require at least three years of professional experience in their field, though, for interpretation, translation, or language instruction, they only require a university degree.
These are ex-pats of foreign companies or subsidiary companies of Japanese firms from overseas. This requires at least one year of working in the overseas office.
This type of visa includes the following authorized activities:
- Civil engineering
- Foreign cooking
- Sports instructors
- Piloting aircrafts
- Processing fur, metals, precious stones
- Training animals
Such workers in this visa type require between three to ten years of professional experience, which already includes their period of training.
Startup Visa in Japan
In an effort to promote to increase foreign entrepreneurs in Japan, the Japanese government introduced a Start-up visa program which allows you a status of residence for 6 month/1 year with more relaxed requirements, in certain designated regions like Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hiroshima, etc.
In April 2021, Shibuya ward located in central Tokyo announced to launch a new startup visa for entrepreneurs from around the world. The 1-year start up visa will be issued for the qualified entrepreneurs working in the field of Health/Medical/Welfare, Environment/Energy, Food/Agriculture/Forestry/Fisheries, Information Technologies, Culture/Art, and Fashion. More details for application can be found at Shibuya ward’s website here.
The municipalities offering Startup Visas in Japan are as follows;
- Shibuya, Tokyo (1 year)
- Kyoto (1 year)
- Osaka City, Osaka (1 year)
- Aichi (1 year)
- Kobe City, Hyogo (1 year)
- Fukuoka City, Fukuoka (1 year)
- Gifu (1 year)
- Hokkaido (1 year)
- Oita (1 year)
- Ibaragi (1 year)
- Mie (1 year)
Business Manager Visa
These are people who are currently starting or investing in businesses in Japan or are managing businesses on behalf of investors. This requires a physical and dedicated office space in Japan and at least 5 million yen investment for new business applications, as well as 10 million yen in sales and 5 million yen for renewal expenses.
If you want to establish a business in Japan, you can apply for Business Manager visa which allows you to obtain a residence card, register your business and open a bank account. Opening a business as a foreign national requires a physical and dedicated office space in Japan and at least 5 million yen investment or hire at least 2 full time employees.
This visa type was introduced back in May 2012, which is for attracting workers who are most likely to contribute to the Japanese economy. Based on the June Advisor’s Group, there are points given based on the visa applicant’s educational level, professional background, as well as their current income and academic achievements. (https://www.juridique.jp/immigration.php)
When obtaining over 70 points in the evaluation, you will then be granted special visa status, including preferential treatments:
- The possibility of engaging in multiple activities covering the different visa categories, or to work full-time for your spouse, subject to certain conditions
- The possibility of bringing your parents to Japan or hiring a domestic helper, subject to certain conditions
- 5- year stay and quicker access to a Permanent Resident visa
- Preferential processing of Immigration procedures
There are also other types of work visas granted to those who own certain knowledge, skills, or status, such as:
- Diplomats and Officials
- Missionaries for religious activities
- Legal and accounting services
- Medical services
- Specified skilled workers
You can also work under non-working visas, but only when working below the limited hours weekly and after obtaining permission from the immigration office. These are the following visas you may use:
- Student visas for students enrolled in Japanese schools
- Trainee visas for those training to learn and acquire any technologies, skills, or knowledge in private and public organizations in Japan
- Technical Internships for internships after training under trainee visas
- Dependent visas for spouses or children of those staying in Japan on work and non-working visa
Cultural Activities visas without providing income, such as studies and researches
- Temporary visitor visas for tourism, vacations, family visits, seminars, and the like
- Designated Activities, such as student internships, housekeepers for diplomats, of long stays for sightseeing and recreational activities. These visas are granted on a case-to-case basis.
How to Apply for Japan Visas
Now that you know about the different kinds of visas you can obtain for working, what is the procedure to prepare for?
Besides the educational and/or work experience required, the specific documents you need to prepare for visa application varies on the type of visa you need.
In general, these are the following requirements for Japan visa applications:
- Application form
- Visa application fee
- Certificate of Eligibility
- Passport size photos
- Old and current passport
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate (if married)
- There are also other requirements needed, again, depending on the visa you want to apply for. Some work visas require proof of employment, University diploma, among others. You may also need to undergo an interview before being granted a visa.
There may be a chance of denial, but don’t let that discourage you, as you can apply again after a specific period!
Once you have been granted a working or non-working visa, you are now able to prepare for your trip ahead, knowing how long you’re able to stay there. If you were denied, don’t fret! You can learn from the situation and see what went wrong, so you can prepare better and be granted a visa for you to become a digital nomad in Japan.
Wrapping It Up
Before heading to Japan to pursue your life as a digital nomad, you first have to know about the visa requirements, among other travel documents you may have to submit. This will help avoid any trouble in immigration, removing the risk of being rejected and flown back to your country. With the right visa, you can stay for the long-term without worrying about breaking any laws or restrictions.
Now that you know which visa option suits you best, learn more about its exact requirements, and how to obtain them for a smooth trip to Japan!
If you have any queries or want to share your travel experiences in Japan as a digital nomad, share it in the comments section below. We would love to hear your thoughts.