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How to get a Visa for Japan

Updated on November 20, 2014

Japan is a wonderful place, very little crime, rich with historic culture which can still be observed still today and of course developed in the way of technology. To many Japan, is not the first choice when considering moving country however foreigners who do live there tend to have a wonderful experience and end up making it their home and even purchasing property.

The percentage of foreigners living in Japan is growing but still relatively low compared to other Asian countries. The study of English is mandatory in the Japanese curriculum however the teaching method is still very grammar based and very few people actually speak conversational English. The Japanese language does have a lot of English vocabulary which is what is referred to as "Katakana" English due to the phonetics and pronunciation used. Japanese or Katakana English words often have slightly different meaning to the original English word.

Many foreigners do form communities which have to also have bi-lingual Japanese speakers in them. So non Japanese speaking foreigners are able to lead decent every lives in Japan, however learning the language does make things a lot easier and give you more opportunities in employment. It also means you are more independent and not needing your Japanese spouse or partner to translate things for you.

What are foreigners doing in Japan?

Foreigners are engaged in various types of employment in Japan however a large number of native English speakers are teaching English for a living. Why? Because there is a demand for English teachers in Japan, decent money can be made and also the English teaching companies or schools will normally sponsor your Visa for up to 3 years at a time if you have a university degree.

Teaching English is also a good way to get into Japan even if you are not particularly interested in teaching as you will get a visa for typically three years. Once you have a visa it is no problem to leave the company or change occupation, your visa will be valid until the end of the term.

There are generally two types of places for teaching English. 1) A language school such as NOVA, Shane, Gaba etc. or 2) An actual school (education facility) e.g. Elementary, Junior High etc. The language schools are more likely to process your Visa.

Expats- These are sent on short term assignments for jobs based abroad. The assignments are usually for 1-3 years. Many expats are from companies such as Exxon Mobil, Caterpillar, Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank. They usually live in luxury company funded apartment in Central Tokyo costing in the region of $5,000 - $15,000 per month.

Software Engineers / I.T. related - There tend to be many Indian professionals in this area with many setting up their own companies. Non Indian foreigners may also find jobs in this area provided they have at least 5 years of experience in the industry.

Restaurants - Japan has a lot of international cuisine and the people owning the restaurants are usually the natives of that country e.g. Indian, Chinese, Korean, Turkish etc.

There are of course thousands of types of jobs available however Japanese tends to be the language barrier. Many foreigners can learn to speak conversation Japanese within a year or so however the reading and writing will in many cases prevent a foreigner from general office work. Business level Japanese is rather complex and the use is very different from casual everyday Japanese. Japanese has an official profficiency test, if you can attain a level one (level four being the lowest) you have a better chance of finding work in a Japanese company.

Salary and living costs

Japan is one of the more expensive places to live in the world, especially in the larger cities such as Tokyo and Yokohama which is why the base/starting salary for an English teacher is quite decent - JPY 250,000 per month (around $3,300 at the current exchange rate). Experiences teachers or people working in the professional industries will get much more than this with bonuses.

In Central Tokyo a single person apartment may cost around JPY 80,000 - JPY 150,000 ($ 1,300 - $1,900) per month, wheres the outer areas and residential districts would be around JPY 50,000 - JPY 70,000 ($650 - $900). Many foreigners who are in Japan for a short term tend to stay in residences called "Gaijin Houses". These are like halls of residences with a common washing facilities, kitchen and living room. The rent for these are very cheap starting from around JPY 30,000 ($400) per month depending on the area. There are also Japanese living their sometimes. They like to mix with the Gaijin and brush up on their English skills.

Public transportation is relatively cheap compared to places like London. Trains and buses are very efficient and punctual too.

Driving in Japan is never fun, traffic jams in most cities and on top of that many impatient drivers forcing themselves into impossible gaps causing the driver behind to brake.

How to get started

The best way to get a Visa for Japan is to apply in your home country and obtain a Visa before entering Japan. In Japan Visas are not valid until you enter the country and get an entry stamp.

A good place to start if is the JET programme in the link below:

As long as you are a native English speaker and have a University Degree it shouldn't be a problem teaching English in Japan. While you are there, the visa can be used to pursue other occupations if you need to.

If you arrive in Japan first before getting a job, the visa process can be more complex as you may need to leave Japan again and re-enter to active the visa. In cases like that, many travel to local places like China or Korea. However you don't need to re-enter Japan if you change the visa status for example from Student to Working. Or from dependent to Permanent.


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    • profile image

      Malory 2 years ago

      Japan is not as strict is it used to be on Visas.

    • profile image

      mikeydcarroll67 2 years ago

      It seems pretty straightforward. Do your research, make sure that you have everything lined up before coming over and then come over.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 5 years ago from Japan

      Thank you very much

    • anusujith profile image

      Anoop Aravind A 5 years ago from Nilambur, Kerala, India

      good hub. pretty informative.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 5 years ago from Japan

      If you have a university degree it is very easy to obtain a 3 year Visa to teach English in Japan. I taught English for a few years then, joined a Japanese company. The big English schools will get you the Visa the quickest, go with a 90 days visa and get the status changed. For a foreigner, martial arts training can be tough at first but rewarding.

    • Ms Zilla profile image

      Ms Zilla 5 years ago from New England

      Thanks so much for this hub. I am looking to teach English overseas, and my boyfriend would like to spend time in Japan for martial arts training, after he has earned his black belt. Very useful!

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 6 years ago from Japan

      Jonny, Thanks. You should be able to get a teaching job straight away. However for a job in Engineering you would need around 4-5 years experience in the industry before employees hire foreigners. Japanese language ability would also be a plus.

    • profile image

      Jonny B 6 years ago

      Useful stuff mate. I am looking to go to Japan next year and I have a degree in Engineering. Do you think I will be able to get a job there, in Tokyo?