Destination Guide | Tokyo Japan

Visa and Immigration

Visa System in Japan

Why Are Visas Necessary?

In principle, foreigners wishing to enter Japan (with the exception of shipping and airline crews) are required to apply at an overseas Japanese diplomatic establishment (embassy or consulate) for a visa to be stamped in or attached to their passport valid for travel to Japan.

Under Japan's Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act (hereafter referred to as the Immigration Control Act), it is stipulated that any foreigner wishing to enter or land in Japan must possess a valid passport and a visa obtained from an embassy or consulate. You must have a valid visa.

Accordingly, if a foreigner does not possess the necessary visa, in principle he or she is not granted permission to enter Japan. Do not let your visa expire as this may hold up you entry into or exit from Japan.

What is a visa?

On the basis of the Law for the Establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, visas granted by the Japanese Government are issued only by embassies or consulates under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A visa cannot be acquired after arriving in Japan.
A visa indicates a foreigner wishing to enter Japan has been vetted to enter and stay in Japan.
A visa however does not guarantee landing (status of residence) permission.

What is landing permission?

Landing permission is stamped in a foreigner's passport by immigration officers at the airport or seaport where he or she goes through immigration procedures. It is this landing permission, not a visa, that serves as the legal basis for the foreigner's stay in Japan. A visa is only a recommendation and does not automatically guarantee landing permission.

When a foreigner wishing to enter Japan arrives at an airport or seaport in Japan, he or she first of all has to apply to an immigration officer for landing permission. The immigration officer will check the validity of the foreigner's passport, the existence of a visa when necessary, the validity of the visa, the purpose of entering Japan, the scheduled period of stay, and so on. Landing permission will be granted only if all the conditions stipulated in the Immigration Control Act, including those being checked by the immigration officer, are met.

The stamp of landing permissions state not only the date and port of entry but also the status of residence (often referred to as immigration status) of the foreigner, which determines the activities in which that foreigner is permitted to engage in Japan and the term of residence of his or her immigration status. The receipt and validity of landing permissions are prerequisites for any future applications at the regional immigration authorities in Japan for a specific purpose, such as extension of term of residence or change of status of residence. Any such applications must be made at the nearest regional immigration authority closest to the applicant's place of residence in Japan.

When an immigration officer at the port of entry completes an examination for landing and grants landing permission, the visa immediately becomes invalid (although multiple visas remain valid until the date of their expiration). After that, as explained above, it is the stamp of landing permission that serves as the legal basis for the foreigner's stay in Japan.

Important Note: Changes to the Immigration Control Act

Outline of the 2009 Partial Amendment to the Immigration Control Act and Refugee Recognition Act and other status

Introduction

The law for partial amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and the Special Act on the Immigration Control of, Inter Alia, Those who have Lost Japanese Nationality Pursuant to the Treaty of Peace with Japan (hereinafter referred to as “the amended law”) was passed and enacted at the regular Diet session of 2009, and promulgated on July 15, 2009.

The amended law stipulates the introduction of a new system of residence management including issuance of a Residence Card. It also contains new provisions such as the issuance of a Special Permanent Resident Certificate, revision of the training and technical internship programs, integration of the statuses of residence of “College Student” and “Pre-College Student”, and establishment of the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee.

Major Points of the Amendment

  1. Introduction of a new system of residence management including issuance of a Residence Card
  2. Issuance of Special Permanent Resident Certificates to those who qualify
  3. Other Revisions
  4. Social Insurance/Grace Period/New Application Form

Upon introduction of the new system (1 & 2), the current alien registration system shall become defunct

Effective Dates

Note 2
  • Within three years from the date of promulgation, 1 & 2
  • Within one year from the date of promulgation, 3
  • Effective from the date of promulgation, 4

Note 2-1: The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which contains similar provisions to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, shall be enforced as soon as the treaty comes into effect.

Note 2-2: The actual dates of enforcement shall be determined by Cabinet orders.

1. New System of Residence Management

Outline of the New System

The new system of residence management aims to establish a system whereby the Minister of Justice continuously keeps the information necessary for residence management by combining the information collected via the Immigration Control Act and the Alien Registration Law respectively. Foreign nationals residing legally in Japan for a medium to long term are subject to this new system. Along with the issuance of a residence card to the aforementioned persons, the new system has revised the filing procedures among others. The introduction of the new system ensures further convenience for such persons by extending the maximum period of stay from 3 years to 5 years. In addition, a system of “presumed permit of re-entry”, which essentially exempts the need to file an application for permission for re-entry when re-entering Japan within one year of departure, will be implemented.
Upon introduction of the new system of residence management, the current alien registration system shall become defunct.

Effective Date

The actual date of enforcement shall be determined by a Cabinet order within three years from July 15, 2009, the promulgation date of the amended law

Applicable Persons

Foreign nationals residing legally for a medium to long term with a status of residence under the Immigration Control Act, EXCLUDING the persons described below, shall be subject to the new system of residence management:

  • Persons granted permission to stay for not more than 3 months
  • Persons granted the status of residence of “Temporary Visitor”
  • Persons granted the status of residence of “Diplomat” or “Official”
  • Persons whom a Ministry of Justice ordinance recognizes as equivalent to the aforementioned foreign nationals
  • Special permanent residents
  • Persons with no status of residence

Persons Subject to the New System

  • Persons working for organizations with a status of residence such as “Engineer” or “Specialist in Humanities/International Services”
  • Persons attending school with a status of residence such as “College Student”
  • Persons married to Japanese citizens with a status of residence of “Spouse or Child of Japanese National”
  • Persons with the status of residence of “Permanent Resident”

Persons NOT Subject to the New System

  • Persons staying in Japan for short periods of time (i.e. for sightseeing)
  • Entertainers such as actors and singers granted permission to stay for not more than 3 months with the status of residence of “Entertainer”

What is the Residence Card?

Under the new system, a residence card shall be issued to applicable persons in addition to landing permission, permission for change of status of residence, and permission for extension of the residence period, etc. The card is equipped with an IC chip to prevent forgery and alteration, and the chip records all or part of the information included on the card.
The information on the details of the card is as follows.

residence_card

For example, the name of the householder, place of birth, passport number, occupation, and name and location of the place where the foreign national is employed or his/her office are not given.

Period of validity

  Persons over the age of sixteen years Persons under the age of sixteen years
Persons with the status of residence of “Permanent Resident” Seven years from the date of issue Until his/her sixteenth birthday
Persons other than those with status of residence of “Permanent Resident” Until the expiration date of the status of residence Until the expiration date of the status of residence or his/her sixteenth birthday, whichever comes earlier

Outline of the New Procedures for Residence Management

japan_immigration

What are the merits of the New System?

Extension of the maximum period of stay

With regard to the status of residence with a period of stay of 3 years under the present system, a Ministry of Justice ordinance will extend the period to 5 years.
As for the status of residence of “College Student,” the maximum period of stay will be extended to “4 years and 3 months” from the current “2 years and 3 months” effecting on or before July 15, 2012.

Revision of the Re-entry Permission System

A foreign national with a valid passport and a residence card will be basically exempt from applying for a re-entry permit in cases where he/she re-enters Japan within one year from his/her departure.

Exceptional cases which require a re-entry permit will be stipulated by a Ministry of Justice ordinance. In cases of possessing a re-entry permit, the maximum term of validity for the re-entry permit shall be extended from 3 years to 5 years.

These changes will take effect upon enforcement of the new system of residence management.

Important Notes

Implementation of the new system of residence management includes establishment of the following provisions concerning the conditions of revocation of status of residence and deportation, and penal provisions:

Conditions of Revocation of Status of Residence (Section 1, Article 22-4 of the Immigration Control Act)

  1. The foreign national has received, by deceit or other wrongful means, special permission to stay (Item 5)
  2. Failing to continue to engage in activities as a spouse while residing in Japan for more than 6 months (except for cases where the foreign national has justifiable reason for not engaging in the activities while residing in Japan (Item 7)
  3. Failing to register the place of residence within 90 days after newly entering or leaving a former place of residence in Japan (except for cases with justifiable reason for not registering the place of residence), or registering a false place of residence (Items 8 to 10)

Conditions for Deportation (Article 24 of the Immigration Control Act)

  1. Forgery or alteration of a residence card (Item 3-5)
  2. Being sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment for submitting a false notification required of medium to long term residents, or violating the rules concerning receipt or mandatory presentation of the residence card (Item 4-4)

Penalty

  1. Submission of a false notification or failure to fulfill duties such as submission of a notification required of medium to long term residents, or violation of the rules concerning receipt, carrying and mandatory presentation of the residence card (Articles 71-2 and 71-3 of the Immigration Control Act).
  2. Revision of Encouragement of Illegal Employment (Section 2, Article 73-2 of the Immigration Control Act).
  3. Punishment concerning activities such as forgery or alteration of the residence card (Articles 73-3 to 73-6 of the Immigration Control Act).

2. System for Special Permanent Residents

The new system of residence management does not involve special permanent residents, and therefore the system for persons under such status is essentially the same as before. However, some revisions will be made for the sake of convenience.

With the introduction of the new system of residence management, the Alien Registration Law and the alien registration certificate will be abolished. In lieu of the alien registration certificate, which certifies the legal status, the Minister of Justice is to issue a special permanent resident certificate to special permanent residents.

Other changes involve the information detailed on the special permanent resident certificate. The details on the certificate will be kept to a minimum; and required information has been significantly reduced compared to the current alien registration certificate. Procedures such as changes in registered information and reissuance of the certificate shall be handled at an office of the city, ward, town or village as before.

Furthermore, the requirements of the re-entry permit system will be eased, and a special permanent resident with a valid passport and a special permanent resident certificate will basically be exempt from applying for a re-entry permit in cases where he/she re-enters Japan within two years from his/her departure. In cases where a special permanent resident applies for a re-entry permit, the expiration date of the re-entry permit will be extended to 6 years from the current 4 years.

Effective Date

The actual date of enforcement shall be determined by a Cabinet order within three years from July 15, 2009, the promulgation date of the amended law.

residence_card_new

Compare to the current Alien Registration Card, the items given on the Residence Card have been considerably reduced!

For example, the name of the householder, place of birth, passport number, occupation, and name and location of the place where the foreign national is employed or his/her office are not given.

Period of validity

Persons over the age of sixteen years Persons under the age of sixteen years
Until his/her seventh birthday after each application or notification (in cases of renewal of the special permanent resident certificate, until his/her seventh birthday after the expiration date of the special permanent resident certificate before renewal) Until the sixteenth birthday

3. Other Revisions

Revision of the Training and Technical Intern Training Programs

For the purpose of enhancing the protection of trainees and technical interns, a new status of residence referred to as “Technical Intern Training” shall be established, which enables such persons to engage in the following activities:

  1. “Activities to acquire knowledge through group training courses” and “activities to acquire skills through employment agreements”
    1. Activities performed by an individual enterprise accepting employees of companies with whom the individual enterprise has business relations such as joint ventures overseas (Individual enterprise-based training).
    2. Activities performed under the supervision and responsibility of a non-profit organization such as a trade association (Association managed training)
  2. Activities for a person who has acquired knowledge and skills to engage in business that requires such knowledge and skills through an employment agreement.

Labor laws such as the Labor Standards Law and the Minimum Wage Act shall be applied to activities for acquiring skills through employment agreements. Transfer from 1 to 2 shall be effected in accordance with the procedures for change of residence status.

Relevant ministerial ordinances shall also be revised with regard to issues including:

  • Enhancement of the structure of accepting organizations in terms of instruction, supervision and support, and encouragement of disclosure and openness in the operation of such organizations.
  • Extension of the suspension period for organizations which have engaged in serious improper conduct in receiving interns.
  • Enhancement of confirmation of the conditions of the contract between the sending organization and the intern.

Integration of the statuses of residence of “College Student” and “Pre-College Student”

In order to ensure the stable stay of foreign students, these two statuses will be integrated into “College Student”. Students with the status of “Pre-College Student” do not have to change their status to “College Student” after the enforcement of the law as long as there are no changes in their educational activities.

Establishment of the Immigration Detention Facilities Visiting Committee

The purpose of the visiting committee is to ensure openness of treatment, and improvement of the operation of the facilities. The visiting committee intends to achieve the abovementioned purpose by presenting its opinion concerning the operation of the facilities to the directors of these facilities.

Establishment of a special exception on the period of stay for those who have filed applications such as for extension of the period of stay.

A special exception shall be made for a foreign national who has filed an application by his/her expiration date of residence, yet has received no official decision on the application by the said date. In such case, he/she is allowed to stay until the day the decision is made for the application or two months after the expiration date, whichever comes earlier.

Establishment of special exceptions with respect to denial of landing.

Even if there is a specific fact that constitutes a condition for denial of landing, a new provision allows the immigration inspector to affix a seal of verification for landing without the need for the three-step procedures taken by the immigration inspector, special inquiry officer and the Minister of Justice in cases where the Minister of Justice finds that there are reasonable grounds not to deny landing.

New requirement for crew members with landing permission to carry and display identification such as a valid crew member’s pocket-ledger.

The current Immigration Control Act requires crew members with landing permission to carry and display a crew member’s landing permit, which does not have a photo identification section. Under the amended law, crew members are obliged to carry and display a valid passport or pocket-ledger which contains photo identification along with the crew member’s landing permit. This is to ensure that it is possible to immediately check whether the foreign national with the crew member’s landing permit is the same person who entered Japan and received landing permission.

Establishment of conditions for deportation in order to appropriately deal with activities involving encouragement of illegal employment

The following activities shall be added to the conditions for deportation. There will also be new rules concerning revocation of permission to engage in activities other than those permitted under the status of residence previously granted.

  • Aiding and abetting the making of a falsified or altered document for the purpose of allowing another foreign national to receive permission including landing permission illegally.
  • Engaging in activities that encourage illegal employment.
  • Being sentenced to imprisonment or a heavier punishment for activities other than those permitted under the status of residence previously granted.

4. Social Insurance Systems requires to extend visa or change type of visa

The Japanese Authority requires all salaries workers (includes foreign national) to enroll in one of the appropriate social health care and pension insurance system.

The main social insurance systems for salaried employees in companies and factories in Japan are the Employees’ Health Insurance (Kenko Hoken) as the health care insurance and the Employee’ Pension Insurance (Kosei Nenkin Hoken) as the pension insurance.

After April 1, 2010, applicant must present their social insurance card at the Immigration Bureau when filing the application of extension for period of stay or change of status of residence.

The Japanese Government and below countries have the international social insurance agreements. For the purpose of this agreement in the case of an employee who is send from below counties by an employer in that territory to an affiliated company of that employer in Japan, that employer and affiliated company shall be deemed to be the same employer, provided that the employment is covered under the laws of below countries.

  • Europe: Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Netherland, United States of America
  • Asia: Republic of Korea
  • North America: Canada, United Kingdom
  • Other: Australia

For other countries, the Japanese Authority may accept the application of extension for period of stay or change of status of residence with the proof of Employee’s Health Insurance is covered in the country where the applicant is sent from, with the explanation letter from the company stating why the applicant’ health insurance is not covered in Japan. However, this only accepts the application of extension for period of stay or change of status of residence and not guarantee the approval of the extension for period of stay or change of status of residence.

Grace Period for extension for period of stay or change of status of residence

Foreign national will allow continuing working under current visa for up to two months while extension or change of status are pending.

New Visa Application Forms

The Immigration Bureau announced the visa application forms have been revised and they will accept old applications until the end of 2009.

The revised forms are separated into two forms:

  • For Applicant
  • For Organization

The forms must be signed and stamp of place of employment, organization or representative. The new forms are available from the Japanese Immigration Bureau.

If you have any question regarding this alert, please do not hesitate to contact Ryo Shibahara, Immigration Consultant, Santa Fe Japan.

Ryo Shibahara
Phone: (+81 3) 3589-4022
Fax: (+81 3) 3589-0420
Mobile: (+81) 80-2025-1732

Categories of Visas/Scope of each status of residence

Visa Category Status of Residence Term of Residence Activities authorized to engage in
DIPLOMATIC VISA Diplomat during mission Activities on the part of constituent members of diplomatic missions or consular offices of foreign governments hosted by the Government of Japan, and activities on the part of their family members belonging to the same household.
Activities on the part of those who are provided with similar privileges and/or immunities as are given to diplomatic missions in accordance with treaties or international customary practices (for example, heads of state, ministers, and parliamentary speakers of foreign countries; the secretary general of the United Nations; the secretary generals of specialized agencies of the United Nations; etc.), and activities on the part of their family members belonging to the same household.
WORKING VISA Investor/Business Manager 3 years or 1 year Activities to commence the operation of international trade or other business, to invest in international trade or other business and to operate or manage that business, or to operate or manage international trade or other business on behalf of foreign nationals (including foreign corporations) who have begun such an operation or have invested in such a business. The business in question must meet certain conditions of scale. Applicants who wish to engage in business management must fulfill certain conditions concerning work status and personal history.
Engineer 3 years or 1 year Activities to engage in service that requires technological skill and/or knowledge pertinent to physical science, engineering, or other natural science fields, on the basis of a contract with a public or private organization in Japan. Applicants must fulfill certain conditions concerning personal history and work status.
Specialist in Humanities/International Services 3 years or 1 year Activities to engage in service that requires knowledge pertinent to jurisprudence, economics, sociology, or other human science fields. Activities to engage in service that requires specific ways of thought or sensitivity based on experience with foreign culture, such as interpreting, translation, copywriting, fashion design, interior design, sales, overseas business, information processing, international finance, design, or public relations and advertising based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan. Applicants must fulfill certain conditions concerning personal history and work status.
Intra-company Transferee 3 years or 1 year Activities on the part of personnel who are transferred to business offices in Japan for a limited period of time from business offices that are established in foreign countries by public or private organizations with head offices, branch offices, or other business offices in Japan and who engage at these business offices in the activities described in the "Engineer" or "Specialist in Humanities/International Services" sections of this table. Applicants must fulfill certain conditions concerning personal history and work status.
TEMPORARY VISITOR'S VISA Temporary Visitor 90 days or 15 days Sightseeing; recreation; sports; visiting relatives, friends, or acquaintances; visiting a sick person; attending a wedding or funeral ceremony; participating in athletic tournaments, contests, etc. as an amateur; business purposes (such as market research, business liaison, business consultations, signing a contract, or providing after-sale service for imported machinery); inspecting or visiting plants, trade fairs, etc.; attending lectures, explanatory meetings, etc.; academic surveys or research presentations; religious pilgrimages or visits; friendship visits to sister cities, sister schools, etc.; or other similar activities during a short period of stay in Japan.

 

Exemption of Visas

Visas are not required when applying for landing permission at a port of entry in Japan in the following cases:

A. Nationals of Countries and Areas with Visa Exemption arrangements with Japan

As of February 2008, Japan had taken measures concerning the waiver of visa requirements with 62 countries and regions, as shown in the accompanying table. Nationals of these countries and regions holding valid passports can apply for landing permission for short-term stays for such purposes as sightseeing and business trips without obtaining a visa. However, cases involving paid activities in Japan are excluded. Also, the waiver of visa requirements are not applicable in the case of stays exceeding the period of time stipulated in each arrangement. In such cases, it is necessary for foreigners to obtain a visa.

B. Those Having Obtained Re-entry Permission

If foreigners who already reside in Japan, having acquired a status of residence for a long-term stay, such as for work, wish to leave the country temporarily during the period for which they have received permission to stay in Japan, they can obtain a re-entry permit before departing Japan. This permit enables them to re-enter Japan without having to obtain a new visa, as long as their re-entry is within the valid period of the permit. For such foreigners, the procedures for entering Japan are much simpler than the usual landing procedures.

Applications for re-entry permits can be made at the nearest immigration authority under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. When re-entry permission is granted, the permit is stamped on the foreigner's passport. In principle, re-entry permission is valid for only one time. However, foreigners who have to leave Japan frequently can apply for multiple re-entry permits.

It is not possible to obtain re-entry permission at an embassy or consulate after departure from Japan. However, if a foreigner who has departed Japan after acquiring re-entry permission is unable to return to Japan before expiration of the permit for unavoidable reasons, such as illness, the foreigner can apply at an embassy or consulate for an extension of the re-entry permit's period of validity.

List of Countries and Regions That Have Visa Exemption Arrangements with Japan
(62 countries and regions as of February 2008)

Areas Countries and regions Term of residence
Asia Singapore 3 months or less
Brunei 14 days or less
Hong Kong (BNO, SAR passport) 90 days or less
Republic of Korea 90 days or less
Taiwan 90 days or less
Macau (SAR passport) 90 days or less
North America Canada 3 months or less
U.S.A 90 days or less
Latin America and Caribbean Mexico 6 months or less
Argentina 3 months or less
Bahamas 3 months or less
Chile 3 months or less
Costa Rica 3 months or less
Dominican Rep. 3 months or less
El Salvador 3 months or less
Guatemala 3 months or less
Honduras 3 months or less
Suriname 3 months or less
Uruguay 3 months or less
Barbados 90 days or less
Middle East Israel 3 months or less
Turkey 3 months or less
Oceania Australia* 90 days or less
New Zealand 90 days or less
Africa Lesotho 3 months or less
Mauritius 3 months or less
Tunisia 3 months or less
Europe Austria 6 months or less
Germany 6 months or less
Ireland 6 months or less
Liechtenstein 6 months or less
Switzerland 6 months or less
United Kingdom 6 months or less
Belgium 3 months or less
Croatia 3 months or less
Cyprus 3 months or less
Denmark 3 months or less
Finland 3 months or less
France 3 months or less
Greece 3 months or less
Iceland 3 months or less
Italy 3 months or less
Luxembourg 3 months or less
Macedonia 3 months or less
Malta 3 months or less
Netherlands 3 months or less
Norway 3 months or less
Portugal 3 months or less
San Marino 3 months or less
Slovenia 3 months or less
Spain 3 months or less
Sweden 3 months or less
Andorra 90 days or less
Bulgaria 90 days or less
Czech Rep. 90 days or less
Estonia 90 days or less
Hungary 90 days or less
Latvia 90 days or less
Lithuania 90 days or less
Monaco 90 days or less
Poland 90 days or less
Slovakia 90 days or less