For an up-to-date breakdown of who is covered by which visa, check with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. No matter what visa you require, you will want to prepare certain documents prior to your visa application. These include:
- Valid passport
- Two passport-size photos
- Application forms (available through your Japanese consulate or embassy)
- Proof that you possess financial means to support yourself while living in Japan
- Proof of medical insurance
- Proof of a return ticket or funds to purchase a return ticket to your country of origin
These documents are required for every visa application unless otherwise indicated. Apply for your visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate prior to leaving for Japan, and make sure you apply far enough in advance to leave time for processing.
Temporary visitor´s visa
If you are a tourist coming from a visa-exempt nation, you will generally be able to stay in Japan between three and six months without a visa. If your home country does not have a visa exemption agreement with Japan, however, you will need to apply for a temporary visitor´s visa (tani-taizai). By far the easiest visa to apply for and to obtain, tourist visa applications require a valid passport, a visa application form and proof of a return ticket from Japan.
Japanese work visas
To live and work in Japan you will need to apply for a work visa. Work visas are issued for specific fields. If you work as a journalist, for example, you will be issued a journalist visa.
In all, there are 14 types of work visas. To apply, you will want a Certificate of Eligibility from the company or organization that is sponsoring your move to Japan. While it is technically possible to obtain a work visa with alternative documentation (documents supporting your stated reason for living in Japan, proof of financial means of support), for the sake of convenience and your sanity you should make every effort to obtain the Certificate of Eligibility.
Your employer must submit additional forms to the Immigration Bureau, including a registration form (tokibo tohan), profit-loss report (son-ekai keisansho) and general company information. You will have to provide your CV, degree, and employment contract as part of the application process. Work visas may be issued for lengths from two months to several years.
If you wish to stay in Japan longer than your visa permits you must apply for an extension before it expires. If you fail to do so you will have to leave the country and apply for a new visa at a foreign embassy.
Working Holiday visas
The working holiday visa was created to promote cultural exchange among young people. This visa allows a person between 18 and 30 to spend a year living and working part-time in Japan. Likewise, young Japanese are permitted to apply for working holiday visas abroad. You are eligible to apply for a working holiday visa if you are from any of the following countries:
- New Zealand
To obtain a working holiday visa you will need to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself. You will need to submit a CV along with all other required documents. After arriving in Japan, you must register with the embassy of your home country. The Japanese Association for Working Holiday Makers (JAWHM) has more information on the working holiday programme. Note that the working holiday visa only allows you to enter Japan once. If you travel outside Japan during your stay you risk being refused re-entry.
Student visas for Japan
If you are studying in Japan for longer than 90 days, your study abroad program or Japanese university should be able to help you obtain a student visa. However, you must apply for your visa at a Japanese consulate or embassy prior to your departure. Requirements are similar to those of the work visa, with the university taking the place of the employer. Students are not allowed to work in Japan (even part-time) unless they get special permission from local immigration officials.
Cultural activities visas
Japan offers cultural activities visas to serve foreigners involved in cultural or academic studies not covered by the student visa. Foreigners studying martial arts in Japan, for instance, are eligible for cultural visas. This visa allows you to remain in Japan longer than a tourist visa (up to a year). In order to obtain a cultural visa you will need to submit proof of your cultural activities in addition to the commonly required items.
Since 2003 and the introduction of the Volunteer Visa Scheme (a bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and Japan) it is possible for British citizens to volunteer in Japan for up to one year. Recipients of this visa must work for a registered charitable organization providing public services (The Red Cross, for example) and may not receive any payment for their work. Applications can be submitted at the Japanese consulate in London or Edinburgh. Those travelling on volunteer visas may not bring children or spouses with them.