Ensuring Your Stay in Japan is a Pleasant One

The Ohara Law Firm has experience handling all types of Japanese immigration matters, from simple Japanese visa applications to complex violations of immigration status in Japan. Our firm has the cultural understanding and detailed legal knowledge necessary to smoothly navigate the Japanese immigration process.

We’re Here to Help You Through the Application Process

Obtaining and maintaining proper visa status is an essential part of working or living in Japan as a foreigner. When applying for a Japanese visa, knowledge of Japanese immigration law and attention to detail are key to ensuring that there are no potential mistakes that could cause problems later on. Our law firm has many years of experience working on Japanese visa applications and our team includes a Japanese immigration specialist trained in handling many different types of cases.

What type of visa do I need?

Both newcomers to Japan and those who have lived here for many years already have, at one point, wondered what type of visa they need to apply for.

The most common visa applications we handle are work, spousal, and long term resident visas.

An employment based visa (就労ビザ shūrō biza) is the most common option for foreign nationals to work and receive income in Japan. Employment based visas, or “work visas,” are visa that allow foreign nationals to live and work in Japan.

However, it should be noted that there is no general “work visa” in Japan.  Each employment based visa is issued for a specific employment field, such as engineer, professor or specialist in humanities.  Because they are issued for one specific field, they also limit the visa holder to employment only within the specified field.  Employment based visas require that the applicant already have a job offer in Japan before applying for the visa.

When applying for an employment based visa it is critical to work closely with your employer and a lawyer to assemble the necessary documents. The required documents may differ according to the type of visa and employer but generally the applicant’s work history and company’s record of the financial performance will be required.

The foreign national spouse of a Japanese citizen or permanent resident may apply for a spousal visa (配偶者ビザ haigūsha biza) to live and work in Japan. There are relatively few requirements to obtain a spousal visa, with the main two requirements being a legally certified marriage and behavior befitting of a married couple. However, it is best to seek legal help when applying for a spousal visa to ensure that the visa application is not rejected unnecessarily.

Unlike student visas or work visas, the spousal visa is not tied to the holder’s employment and therefore has no restrictions on what activities the visa holder can engage in while in Japan. This means that the visa holder may work in any field without restriction. However, the spousal visa lasts only as long as the marriage it is based on and in the case of a potential divorce it is important to consult with an attorney to consider possible alternatives.

A long term resident visa (定住者ビサ teijūsha bisa) is a visa provided to foreign nationals who are granted special permission to stay in Japan by the Minister of Justice. Usually, this permission is granted to foreign nationals for humanitarian reasons. The humanitarian reason must include a strong connection between the foreign national and the country of Japan, such as a spouse or a child living in Japan that would be forced to live separately from the foreign national if he or she was deported. The requirements for this visa are not as clearly defined as other Japanese visas but the vagueness allows for this visa to fit a large variety of situations and personal circumstances.

Foreign nationals who hold long term resident visas are allowed to work without restriction in Japan in a manner similar to permanent residents. However, the long term resident visa is only granted for a set period of time and it must be either renewed by the foreign national upon expiration or the foreign national must transfer to a new type of visa.

What about a more permanent residency?

For those considering living in Japan for the long term, permanent residency and/or naturalization provide stable legal status without the work restrictions or time limits that visas entail. However, the stability and permanence is balanced by a very stringent application process that can be both intimidating and challenging without legal assistance. Many foreign documents must be translated into Japanese and strict guidelines regarding the application itself must be followed to the letter. Our office can help you through the lengthy application process by drafting the application as well as providing legal advice and translation support.

Permanent residency (永住 eijū) allows a foreign national to stay in Japan legally without having to renew a visa every few years. Becoming a permanent resident also lets the foreign national work in any field, not just the industry specified on his or her visa.

A foreign resident of Japan may apply to the Ministry of Justice to obtain permanent residence status. The Minister of Justice has the discretion to approve this application upon a finding that includes whether the foreigner’s behavior and conduct is good, and the foreigner has sufficient assets or skills to make an independent living. There is also a requirement that the foreign national have lived in Japan for at least 10 years, although this requirement is lowered for spouses of Japanese citizens or foreign nationals with special skill sets.

In 2012, the Japanese government introduced a new program where a foreigner recognized as a “highly skilled foreign professional” by the Ministry of Justice can obtain permanent residency after only 5 years. The application process for “highly skilled foreign professional” is similar to a normal visa application, however, foreign professionals already living and working in Japan can also apply to change their status and receive qualification as a “highly skilled foreign professional” to obtain the preferential immigration treatment.

The naturalization (帰化 kika) process in Japan is quite complicated and normally requires six factors to be met before a foreign national can even begin the steps to apply. First, the foreign national must have continuously lived in Japan for five years or more. Second, he or she must be over 20 years old and possess the capacity to act independently under the laws of his or her country. Third, the foreign national must have good moral character. Fourth, the foreign national must be able to support his or her lifestyle in Japan, either through employment or support from a relative. Fifth, the foreign national must give up his or her original nationality upon receiving Japanese nationality. Finally, the foreign national must never have plotted to overthrow the Japanese government.

If the foreign national meets the six requirements, they will be asked to submit various forms of paperwork from Japan and their country of origin, along with translations of the foreign documents and application forms that must be filled out entirely in Japanese. Once their application has been accepted, they will be assigned a case worker and subject to an interview. They may also be asked to take a simple Japanese test. The test is designed to determine whether the foreign national has the simple language skills to survive in Japan and only requires the reading and writing ability of a second or third grade elementary student in Japan. Although each case is unique, it typically takes at least six months after the interview before the applicant is told if they were accepted for naturalization or not.

We Will Work With Immigration to Solve Your Problems

Problems with immigration status in Japan can start small but if not addressed in a quick and efficient manner, they may soon compound into larger problems with dire consequences. Let our experienced team help work with you and the Japanese immigration authorities to ensure that any problems with your Japanese visa status do not result in a larger immigration issue.

One of the most common immigration problems occurs when a visa holder stays in Japan past the end of his or her visa date, commonly referred to as “overstaying” (不法滞在 fuhō taizai). This can happen when the visa holder wants to stay in Japan but cannot acquire a new visa or simply forgets to renew his or her visa.

When handled improperly, overstaying a visa can result in detention and/or deportation from Japan and the longer the overstaying status continues, the worse the situation becomes. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible upon overstaying a visa and consult with a lawyer about potential ways to reacquire legal status to stay in Japan.

In certain cases the immigration department may grant special permission to stay in Japan (在留特別許可 zairyū tokubetsu kyoka) to foreign nationals that have violated the terms of their visa, are facing deportation or would not otherwise have legal status to remain in the country. Each case is considered individually and there is no set formula to determine whether a foreign national will be granted special permission to stay, however, having a strong connection to Japan, such as a Japanese child or spouse, will be viewed positively.

If you have a visa or naturalization application you would like our help on or would like a consultation on your visa status, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.