Every visitor entering Japan must possess a valid visa. Whether that visa is issued on arrival or applied for in advance is based on what type of "residence" the visitor is seeking.
Below is a brief introduction to some of the visa categories for visitors coming to Japan. For specific questions and more detailed information, it is always best to check with your local Japanese consulate or a Japanese immigration bureau in Japan itself.
Temporary Visitor Visa
Most visitors to Japan can enter the country on a temporary visitor visa, or tourist visa, thanks to visa exemption agreements between Japan and many foreign countries.
For residents of over 60 countries (a full list can be found here), a fee-free 90-day visa is issued upon arrival. This requires no advance paperwork and amounts to being merely a landing permission stamp in the traveler’s passport. Visitors from a few select countries (including Thailand, Brunei and Indonesia) are permitted to enter Japan on a 15-day fee-free visa.
Visitors of certain nationalities (Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland or the United Kingdom) who enter Japan on a 90-day visa have the ability to extend their stay in the country by up to six months. Those interested in this option would need to apply for an extension at the nearest immigration bureau in Japan.
Those who would like to attend university or language courses in Japan that last longer than 90 days should apply for a student visa. Most universities and schools will be able to assist potential students with the application process. An application usually needs proof of enrollment at a host institution and evidence that a student can capably support themselves financially during the term of study. Students who hope to see part-time employment to supplement their savings while in Japan would have to apply for special permission from the local immigration bureau.
Most student visas are issued for a term of 3 months to just over 4 years. This can be extended if the student can prove he is still enrolled.
Working Holiday Visa
Citizens of just over a dozen countries (France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) can enter Japan on a working holiday visa. This status allows visitors to pursue part-time work for up to a year in Japan. This visa is not intended for full-time positions, but rather for a series of short-term opportunities.
To apply for this program, visitors must be between the ages of 18 and 30, hold citizenship in one of the above mentioned countries, and submit the following documents for consideration:
- Submit both the required form and a CV
- Supply proof that you possess sufficient funds to support yourself
- Register at the embassy of your home country upon arrival in Japan
More information can be found at the Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers website.
Those who wish to engage in paid, full-time activities in Japan must enter the country with a work visa. Work visas are issues based on what area or field you will be working in during your time in Japan (ie journalism, business management, the arts, teaching, engineering, entertainment, etc). If you change jobs within Japan to a different field, you'll need to apply for a different type of work visa.
Work visas are issued mostly to those who have either advanced degrees (university level or higher) or who possess a significant amount of experience in their field. It helps greatly to have a company "sponsor", showing that you have potential (or guaranteed) employment upon arrival.
Work visas are generally issued for a period ranging from four months to five years and are renewable.
Several other visa categories exist that don't fall into the major categories above. These include the SOFA visa (for military members stationed in Japan or on orders), investor visa, and skilled foreign worker visa.
For more details on those visas, as well as the ones mentioned above, please contact your local Japanese consulate or see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for guidance.