Japan Visas, Permits and Immigration

by Jose Marc Castro on August 11, 2009

VISAjapan200All applicants including foreign residents must have photographed and fingerprinted documentations before entering Japan. This is a standard operating procedure to prevent terrorism in the country. People who cannot provide such requirements are not allowed to enter Japan. Foreigners who enter Japan will receive a class of residence. The residency classes are subdivided into different groups. Some types are temporary visitors for travelers and a variety of classes for workers, students, and family relatives of Japanese citizens or residents.

Entering Japan

There are 2 types of visas in Japan. These include seal type visas and stamp type visas.  The seal type visa, which is placed on the passport, are used overseas for Asian countries like Hong Kong, Philippines, and Thailand.  Stamp type visas are issued for residents of non-Asian countries.

Japanese Immigration Laws

The immigration Control Act of Japan specifies the basic legal structure for foreigners settling in Japan in terms of position in residence. This Act  has an alien registration system to control and monitor foreigners who are entering Japan. This immigration control act was issued in May 2000.

Japan Patriot Act

The Japanese has legislation for foreigners who illegally enter the Japanese territory. The Japan Patriot Act made it more difficult for foreigners to enter Japan. Those who want to enter Japan are required to pass important documents. These requirements include:

•    a valid visa;
•    an identification card;
•    certificate to act as proof that the individual has no criminal record; and
•    a letter stating the reasons for the individual’s intentions of staying in Japan.

Types of Landing Permission in Japan


The common entry status of those visiting Japan goes under a temporary visitor category. The temporary visitor permit is issued for 15 up to 90 days. This depends on the reason of the visit and the country of origin.

Working permission

Work permits have a huge number of classes. Most work permits are valid for one up to three years except for those who have entertainment permits.

Entertainment permits are valid for three up to six or even twelve months. An employer is usually essential to serve as the applicant’s guarantor. The applicant can work for any employer within the range and length of their landing permit.

Children and Spouses

Dependent children and spouses of foreigners who are allowed entry in Japan are given landing permissions for the same length as their parent or spouses.  Dependent children and spouses of Japanese nationals can receive landing permits or permissions for 1 up to a maximum of 3 years. Generally, the first landing permission valid from 1 to 3 years can be extended upon the first and second renewal.

Long-term residency

Long-term residency or nationality is specialized in categories of residency.  This is normally given to refugees. A  Japanese descendant from abroad among other groups overseas can be granted long term residency.

Permanent Residency

The permanent residency is the highest form of Japanese landing permission. This gives the owner the right to work and live within the Japanese territory. A permanent resident enjoys the benefit of being able to successfully apply for loans. Loan applications by foreigners who are not permanent residents of Japan are usually denied.

Once in Japan, aliens must register with the local government office having authority over their place of residence, pursuant to the Alien Registration Law of 1952 . Each registrant is issued a Certificate of Alien Registration, colloquially known as a Gaijin Card, which they are legally required to carry at all times and present upon demand (e.g. by a police officer). The certificate is the property of the Japanese government and must be surrendered at the time the alien leaves Japan, unless they have first applied for re-entry.

The peculiarity of the Japanese system is described by an expat in Japan Expat Forum last March 13, 2009:

As of noon (or so) yesterday, I now have a visa stamp in my passport which bears no expiration date. Having accomplished this feat allows me to debunk a couple of the stranger myths about Japanese permanent residency that I’ve picked up along the way.

First, you obviously don’t have to be a famous celebrity or a sumo wrestler. I’m neither.

Second, you don’t have to have a Japanese spouse (although, from what I hear, that can make the application more of a formality than a hurdle).

And, lastly, you don’t have to fit the apparent high standards suggested by the examples presented on the MOFA website.

You probably *do* have to be able to show some committment to living in Japan (there are no written rules but I’ve been here over 10 years now). You probably also have to show some reason why you want to live here forever, other than simply enjoying the parties in Roppongi. We have two kids who were born here but, because Japanese citizenship only transmits by parentage, they’re both US citizens. They played a large part in the “reasons” essay I wrote as part of the application. It’s not certain which of the reasons I gave turned out to be the winner — they don’t return the paperwork with grades on each point. But you can bet they at least considered the reasons before granting the visa.

The point is that if you’re patient, stable, and have good intentions, you *can* obtain permanent residency in Japan — even if you’re just a working stiff like the rest of us.

I hope this information helps encourage others who may be thinking of applying. If anyone is in that position and has questions as to my personal process, contact me either privately or on this thread.

Types of Visas

Student Visa

The student applicant who wants to study in Japan is required to get a student visa at a consulate outside of the country or within the Japanese embassy. This is done to enter Japan on a status of residence with permission for long-term schooling in the country.  Student applicants are prohibited to engage in other activities once they get permission from the immigration office of Japan or in their school.

Work visa process

When the applicant enters Japan, the individual will potentially be on a tourist visa exemption.  This is valid for 90 days. The owner of the validated passport may get an extra ninety days extension if the reason and circumstances agree with the law and the holder’s intention. The holder must leave Japan before the exemptions expire but can return almost immediately and get another 90-day visa extension.

Applicants are not allowed to get involved in any form of employment in Japan without a working visa. This process has a loophole because if in case the applicant gets a job and the company wants to sponsor the applicant, the individual can apply for the working visa permit in the Japan immigration office without ever setting foot outside Japan.

Visa Eligibility

Foreigners are prohibited to work in Japan if they do not have a proper Japanese working visa. There are several ways to get a working visa.  Some of them are listed below.

  • Marry a Japanese citizen – If a foreigner can find a Japanese citizen who is willing to marry the applicant, then the Japanese citizen will be able to help the foreigner get a work permit.
  • Get a working holiday – the applicant should be under thirty years of age to get this type of visa.

An expat shares tips on the Japanese immigration intricacy in Japan Expat Forum last January 30, 2009:

From what I can tell, there are two paths one can follow (you can also Google all this from the MOFA web site). One would be to submit everything at an embassy or consulate outside of Japan with a visa application. According to MOFA, if you take this route, they may well send your stuff to Japan for review so you need to submit it well in advance (unfortunately, like most things Japanese, the time it takes isn’t mentioned). The other way would be to have someone (the school, perhaps) submit an application in Japan for what is known as a Certificate of Eligibility. This is a kind of “shortcut” in that the officials in Japan can verify that your position meets the criteria for a working visa and then you just submit the actual visa application at an embassy or consulate outside of Japan, along with the certificate, and receive the visa in just a few days (I think mine took 3-4 days when I applied in Los Angeles).

If you happen to be elsewhere at the time, you should know that it’s possible to apply for the actual visa at *any* consulate or embassy — it doesn’t even have to be in your home country. For instance, it used to be common for a job seeker to come to Japan on a tourist visa, land a job, and then take a week’s trip to South Korea to apply for the visa. In fact, when I came over back in 1998, I came to Japan on a business trip and walked the CoE paperwork through myself — then returned to LA for a brief trip to obtain my visa.

I’ve also heard (on this forum, I believe) of a few people who have recently been able to convert a temporary visa into a working visa while here in Japan. While I’ve never seen that method mentioned in any official sources, and way back when that used to be impossible, things do change over time so it might pay to inquire at an embassy or consulate — or, if you happen to be in Japan, at one of the immigration offices. Even if the rumors are untrue, Korea is only an hour’s flight away and it’s an interesting place to spend a few days while they issue your visa.

It’s highly unlikely you will be able to use fax copies of any documents you may be required to submit. If the school plans to submit the paperwork for your CoE, you should ask them what you will need and have it sent over as soon as possible. When you apply for the actual visa, you will most likely need to do that in person *and* you will need to submit your passport.

Japanese Immigration Rule

According to the immigration rule issued in 2007, all foreigners over the age of sixteen should be photographed and fingerprinted before being granted entry rights to Japan. Foreigners refusing to comply will be denied entry. Foreigners who go through the photographed and fingerprinted Japanese system can stay and work in Japan. The rule applies to foreign nationals including re-entry permit owners, permanent residents and visitors except holders of special permanent visas. This fingerprinted and photographed system is used to prevent smugglers and terrorist travelers from entering Japan.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

md hasan February 23, 2010 at 2:44 pm

i want to visit visa in japan


Baby August 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

hello!!! What if my US Citizen mother petitioned my japanese citizen sister and her 2 kids, what category is it? Is it an IR5 or F3? By the way, she's married to a Japanese citizen but he died last year.


anthony s, castillo December 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm

can a foreigner(non-japanese) mother of a japanese citizen acquire a visa anytime she wishes to enter japan with or without her japanese child.


megha sharma January 24, 2011 at 7:07 am

I am having work visa for 3 months in japan starting from 8th jan 2011 but its a single entry visa and i need to come back before 3 months(around 1 week of march) due to personal reason for 4 days.what should i do to make a multiple entry .


nasir ali August 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

HI. my name is nasir ali i am from pakistan . my brother stay in japan he marrid in japan he have marrid visa. i also want to go to japan form vist if he send for me sapanser later i can go to japan or not …?


Khalid Hameed April 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I am a teacher for O& A Levels for the subjects of Economics, Islamiyat and Accounts in Pakistan. I need work permit amd I want to teach in Malaysia. Would you please help me in this regard, I have Master degree in Economics and I will have Master degree in Islamiyat in August 2012. Along with the Master's degree, I have triple Graduates in Education, LAW and Commerce as well and CIPSIE from Bradford college. I have 12 Years experience of O/A Levels in Beacon house School System, Karachi-Pakistan.


Morris July 25, 2014 at 11:22 am

Hello sir/madam,
I will like to know how to process Japan student visa as i really want to study in Japan best regard morris from nigeria.


Sheikh tanveer November 26, 2014 at 5:44 am

I am sheikh Tanveer from lahore,Pakistan want to visit Japan for sightseeing plz assist me how to get visit visa.


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