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Hi everyone,

I've been reading this forum as a visitor for a long time, and as you are all so knowledgeable I wanted to make a post asking your advice.

The bottom line is: I want to, one day, live in Japan for a long time with my partner (and our kids, assuming we have them - I am only just mid-20s now and we're not planning to have them for a while). How feasible is this given our circumstances?

Our circumstances:

I studied Japanese at a prestigious UK university, including spending one year abroad in Kyoto as an exchange student. Since graduating I've been working in a marketing agency, and I am about to start a Masters course (while continuing my employment) in International Management (specialising in Japan). My Japanese level is pretty good, but I'm getting rusty - I'd like to take JLPT 2 or 1 in the winter just to see where I am.

My partner is currently studying remotely with Open University - he did not attend a 'traditional' university at 18, so this is essentially his undergrad study (he is late 20s). He is currently studying Japanese, he is aiming to take JLPT 3 in the winter.

We would both like to start a life in Japan, but we're happy to wait until we're more qualified (he with his distance learning degree, and me with my Masters) and we have more work experience.

I'm keen to know if it's likely that we will be able, not only to survive, but to thrive in Japan. I really want to live there, but the pragmatist in me says it would be silly to move there if my long term earning prospects will be reduced by living there - so I would not be keen on taking on a part-time, baito type job. My partner is a bit more flexible, he is keen on academia and would eventually like to study post-grad in Japan, but until then he would be happy to take a part time job if a full time job is not available to him. He is also open to the idea of me supporting him, but of course I would very much like to maximise our earning potential for as long as possible!

So I guess what I'm keen to know is, with those credentials would it be likely for both of us to get gainful employment in Japan? How would the Visas work in this case? People have mentioned that having a Bachelors is a must for working visas, does this include degrees from distance learning institutions like Open University? Has anyone on this forum had experience with post-grad work?

Lastly, how did you end up in Japan? What would you recommend for a couple planning to move there in a few years?
 

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I ended up here because my employer sent me here (not that I didn't prod them a bit to make it happen, of course). The other common way people end up here is by coming over to teach English. I'm sure there are many other stories put there and I hope anyone with a different story chimes in.

It's mostly true that you need a degree of some sort for most working visas... though I doubt the girls who work in hostess bars have spent much time in college. But I assume you're talking about professional work. I've never seen any requirement that the degree must be the result of having attended classes in the flesh. I'd advise not bringing that up. If the university where you partner is studying is legitimate, my guess is that there won't be a problem. I'd also be surprised if anyone even checks (you may have to submit a diploma, though). It's worth pointing out that the Immigration Bureau is (possibly intentionally) vague about the exact requirements -- they claim things are decided on a "case-by-case" basis. There isn't an exact answer to your question.

The kind of visa you would apply for depends on the kind of work you would be doing. And, unless you're independently wealthy, that will probably depend on what kind of job you can manage to find. You should have a leg-up on most wanna-be ex-pats because you can speak passable Japanese. But so can most Japanese -- so you may need to bring something besides that to the table in order to get the attention of potential employers. Finding an employer is more important than what kind of visa you need. The former usually defines the latter and I can't imagine Immigration turning someone down who already has a job offer from a Japanese company and no other obvious disqualifying attributes.

Since you don't seem to be in a hurry, you might want to consider finding a job with a company close to home that happens to do business in Japan. Then, once you've established yourself as a valuable employee, make it known that you've spent time in Japan and would like to live there long-term (you could even bring that up in the initial interview). If you can find an employer who will eventually send you to Japan on assignment, you're much more likely to be able to thrive when you get here. That should be Plan A.

Even if you decide to come over on your own (ie: Plan B), I would suspect the holder of a Masters Degree who has experience in Marketing would also give you an advantage when it comes to finding a job in Japan. But... therein lies the rub, as they say. Whether you can find a job here really depends on whether you can find a company who needs someone with your skill and training and, in no small measure, whether that same company can find someone already here who has the same qualifications. If you're looking for something on which to focus, find a unique skill or niche that is in demand in Japan but in short supply. Because not being here already puts you at a competitive disadvantage against qualified local candidates for the same job.

If that all sounds vague, that's because the question is vague. Nobody can predict what luck you might have finding a job based on such a quick summary. Plus, since you're not even looking yet, your situation will change over time. It looks to me like you've got the right combination of attributes. But, of course, it will be up to you to leverage those attributes into a job offer and visa sponsorship.
 
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