By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

Perhaps your company is looking for foreign employees, either for a specific skill set that is rare in Japan or for the global perspective they bring from living in a different country. However, hiring foreigners from abroad can be difficult and time-consuming. So why not turn to the talented pool of foreigners already in Japan? Hiring foreigners that already have status of residence in Japan has its perks. These foreigners already live in Japan, which means that they are probably somewhat adjusted to Japanese culture. It is also easier to change a visa status than to issue a new visa to someone abroad. With help from a lawyer, changing a status of residence in Japan can take as little as a few weeks.

Types of visas

As of 2019, there are 15 types of working visas, not including the working holiday visa, and one other type of visa that you can help prospective employees change to. These are the Professor, Artist, Religious Activities, Journalist, Investor/Business Manager, Legal/Accounting Services, Medical Services, Researcher, Instructor, Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l Services, Intracompany Transferee, Skilled Labor, Entertainer, Specified skill worker, Technical intern training, and the Highly Skilled Foreign Professional (HSP) visas. The most common types of working visas for foreign employees working in private companies in Japan are the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l Services and Skilled Labor visas. For more details on each type of visa, click here

Meeting the requirements for each visa

One of the crucial things to keep in mind when hiring a foreign employee that resides in Japan is to make sure they have a university/college degree and/or work experience in the field you’re hiring them for. If they do not, it will be much more difficult to successfully change their visa status to one that allows them to work at your company. This is because every working visa category requires a relevant university/college degree and/or several years of work experience related to the job you are hiring them for.

For example, the employee you want to hire is currently residing in Japan short-term on a working holiday visa. You are a marketing company that wants to hire a marketer, which means their status of residence would need to be changed from Working Holiday to Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l Services. However, the employee has a university/college degree in English literature, and no marketing experience. In this case, the visa status change would not be approved and you would not be able to hire them as a marketer.

On the other hand, if that employee had a university/college degree in marketing, business, or something similar, then you would be able to change their visa to Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l Services. Or, if they had 10+ years of experience in the field of marketing (in their home country or Japan), their visa status change would be approved as well. 

The Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l Services visa requires either a university/college degree relevant to the job the foreigner will be doing, or 10+ years of experience in that field. There are two exceptions to this rule: (a) if the job falls under the category of “International Services” (public relations, fashion/interior design, product development, overseas transactions, or copywriting) and (b) if the job is in language instruction, translation, or interpretation. In the case of (a), the employee needs either a university/college degree relevant to the job or just 3+ years of experience in that field, while in the case of (b) the employee only needs a university/college degree in any field.

The process of changing a visa status

If your employee fulfills all of the requirements for the visa status they are changing to, then you can proceed with the application. Note that this process can take 1-3 months, but can be expedited by appointing a lawyer as your legal representative. Also note that until your employee’s residence status is changed and they have a new residence card in their hands, they cannot legally start working at your company.

Both your company and the employee will need to prepare documents. According to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, your employee will need to prepare:

  • Application form
  • Passport-sized photo (4cm x 3cm)
  • Passport and residence card
  • Other supporting documents (dependent on visa status, can be found here)

Your company will need to prepare:

  • Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.
  • Materials showing the business substance of the recipient organization.
  • Documents certifying the activity, the duration, position and the remuneration of the person concerned.

With all the documents, you/your employee/your lawyer must go and hand in the application to the Immigration office local to your employee. For example, if your company office is in Tokyo but your employee currently lives in Osaka, you must apply at the Osaka Immigration Office. The application results will arrive in 1-3 months, or as soon as a few weeks if you appoint a lawyer as your legal representative. Once your employee has their new residence card with the new visa status, they may legally begin working at your company.

A simplified flow of the process of changing the visa status of an employee living in Japan

Hire a foreign employee that meets all visa requirements (a degree and/or work experience)

Prepare documents needed for a visa status change (both employee and company)

Apply at the Immigration Office local to the employee (takes approximately 1-3 months to process)

Receive the employee’s new residence card and visa status

This page is intended to be used for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for obtaining professional legal advice.

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