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New One-Year Startup Visa, the First of Its Kind in Japan

As I introduced in my earlier article Fukuoka City National Strategic Special Zone (1) “Startup Visa”, Fukuoka City has been offering a six-month Startup Visa for foreign entrepreneurs who want to start a business in the city, which gives a six-month grace period to said entrepreneurs to prepare to meet the requirements for a Business Manager Visa while staying in Japan. Responding to the criticism that six months is too short for such a preparation, the city introduced a one-year Startup Visa under a new scheme on Feb. 26; the first city in the country to do so.

The basic structure is the same as its predecessor in which applicants must submit a business plan to Fukuoka City for review. If the city confirms that the applicants are expected to fulfill the visa requirements for a Business Manager Visa within one year, it will issue a letter which states the applicants may proceed to apply for a new “Designated Activities” visa (aka Startup Visa) at the Immigration Bureau. Those who are given the new visa must submit an updated business plan before the first six-month period expires in order to extend the visa by six more months. Again, the city will review and issue a letter which the applicants must present as they go through the approval process at the Immigration Bureau.

Apart from the length of stay, another difference from the predecessor is that the new visa can be shifted from other existing visas including a “Student,” “Researcher” and “Professor” visa without leaving Japan.

Eligible businesses remain the same as the predecessor, those which must potentially improve the city’s industrial competitiveness at the international level or expand employment opportunities and belong to following industries: (1) Knowledge creating industry, (2) Health, medical, welfare industries, (3) Environment & energy industries, (4) Logistics industry, or (5) Trade industry (for more details, please refer the page Startup Visa in Miyake Law’s website).

According to the person in charge at Fukuoka City, interpretation categories is quite generous as long as an application is genuine. So it’s worth trying even if your business does not fit neatly into the mold.

I applaud the current local government’s spirit to introduce this improvement ahead of other municipalities. Fukuoka City became the first city to offer the previous Startup Visa in 2015, and again it became the first city to extend its period from six months to one year.

I believe other cities will follow in Fukuoka’s footsteps soon, and I hope that the entrepreneurial spirit the visa brings will help build an atmosphere which brings forward new and great things.

According to the Fukuoka City’s website (Japanese), they are accepting applications for a subsidy program for foreign entrepreneurs from Apr. 1, 2019 and is currently preparing its web page.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Text by: Atty. Atsushi Miyake of Miyake Law, Mar. 2019.
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Fukuoka City
Published: Mar 8, 2019 / Last Updated: Jul 14, 2020

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