By ATOM Legal Professional Corporation English speaking lawyers in Japan

When hiring foreign employees in Japan, it is crucial that they have, or are issued, a proper status of residence (visa) to live and work in Japan. If you are lucky, your employee will already be living in Japan and either be on the working visa you need, or on a specified visa (Long-Term Resident, Spouse or Child of National, or Spouse or Child of Resident visa). Specified visas allow the holder to work in any industry, both full-time and part-time.

However, if the prospective employee does not hold the working visa needed for your company nor one of the specified visas listed above, then you will have to either issue a new visa to Japan (if hiring from abroad), or change the employee’s current visa status (if hiring from within Japan). First, let’s have a look at the types of working visas in Japan.

Types of working visas

There are currently 15 categories of working visas in Japan (as of 2019), not including working holiday visas. Working visas are typically issued for periods of 1 year or 3 years, with the exception of the Entertainer visa which is typically issued for periods of 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year.

ProfessorFor university professors, assistant professors, etc.
ArtistFor songwriters, artists, composers, photographers, etc.
Religious ActivitiesFor members of foreign religious organizations
JournalistFor journalists, announcers, etc.
Investor/Business ManagerFor company presidents/CEOs, directors, etc.
Legal/Accounting ServicesFor attorneys, accountants, scriveners, etc. certified in Japan
Medical ServicesFor doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. certified in Japan
ResearcherFor researchers at research institutes, etc.
InstructorFor teachers/instructors at Japanese public schools (elementary, intermediate, and high school)
Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/Int’l ServicesFor scientific/IT engineers, interpreters, translators, marketers, designers, language teachers, PR specialists, etc.
Intracompany TransfereeFor employees of a foreign company being transferred to a Japanese branch
Skilled LaborFor workers with specific skills that are considered uncommon, such as cooks, animal trainers, pilots, sports trainers, sommeliers, etc.
EntertainerFor actors, singers, dancers, musicians, models, etc.
Specified Skill WorkerFor workers with considerable knowledge/experience in industries specified by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Technical Intern TrainingFor technical interns

The most common types of working visas for foreign employees working in private companies in Japan are the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities, Intracompany Transferee, and Skilled Labor visas.

Highly Skilled Foreign Professional (HSP) visa

Another visa option for foreign employees in Japan is the Highly Skilled Foreign Professional visa (hereafter referred to as “HSP visa”). The HSP visa is for talented foreign workers with advanced and specialized skills, and has more advantages and benefits than a regular working visa.

Unlike a regular working visa, which usually only requires a degree and/or work experience, the HSP visa can only be obtained by scoring over 70 points on the point chart made by the Japanese Immigration Authorities. If your employee qualifies, some perks of the visa that would be beneficial for them and for your company include:

  • Guaranteed 5 year visa
  • The possibility to engage in any activities in all industries
  • Faster (preferential) processing at Immigration than other visas

The HSP visa is highly preferred, but requires much more documentation and careful processing that could be a much bigger hassle without the help of a lawyer.

How to obtain a working visa

There are two different situations in which you will need to obtain a working visa for your employee. The first is if your employee is already living and working in Japan on a working visa or a working holiday visa, and needs a visa status change (also known as a change of status of residence) to be able to work at your company. The second is if your employee is currently living abroad, and needs to be issued a visa to enter Japan.

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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