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Unlike in many other countries, there is no separate visa/work permit system in operation in Japan. To gain permission to work in the country, you simply need to obtain the correct type of Working visa. However, in almost all cases, the first step for expats looking to stay in Japan is to obtain a certificate of eligibility. This can take some time as it involves arranging for sponsorship from a prospective employer or other person. For more details on how to get a certificate of eligibility, see Visas and Passports.
Once you have a certificate of eligibility, the next stage is to obtain the correct working visa, of which there are no less than 14 types. Many of these types relate clearly to specific fields of work, such as Engineer, Investor, Journalist, Medical Services and Professor visas. There are also less obvious types such as the Instructor visa, which allows you to teach in a Japanese school. In addition, several of these types of visa are bound by special rules. For example, to be eligible to apply for an Intra-Company Transfer visa, you need to have been working for the company in question for at least a year.
Note that application for a working visa may require additional documents if you are from certain countries, such as China and the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union).
One popular visa type, the Highly Skilled Foreign Professional Visa, is awarded to academic researchers, technical and scientific workers and those in business management. This visa is points-based; to obtain one, you need to accumulate a total of 70 points, based on criteria including academic background, career and salary level. Holding this visa makes it easier to enter the country, apply for permanent residence and bring your family to Japan. For more information on the Highly Skilled Foreign Professional visa, see this page from the Ministry of Justice website.
It is also possible to apply for a Working visa while you are in Japan, if you hold a temporary visa or are from a country whose citizens do not require a visa. To do so, you need to make an application for a change of status of residence. Work visas in all the above categories are valid for either one or three years. Finally, citizens of 12 different countries and territories who want to experience the Japanese way of life and culture for a short while might like to apply for a Working Holiday visa.
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If you are considering moving to Japan or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Japanese section including; details of immigration and visas, Japanese forums, Japanese event listings and service providers in Japan.
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