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Status of Residence (Visa) and Residing in Japan

On December 8, the new Immigration Act was passed at the House of Councilors, the upper house of the Diet of Japan, and thus enacted. It comes into force from April and Japan will accept hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers from abroad. On this occasion, I would like to outline the existing types of visa in Japan.

Apart from permanent residents, most foreigners stay in Japan with a work, spouse/dependent or student visa. The most common categories of work visas are A: “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services,” B: “Intra-company Transferee” and C: “Skilled Labour.” Category A covers most white-collar jobs from system engineer (“Engineer”) to English teacher (“International Services”). While “Engineer” indicates jobs related to natural science, “Specialist in Humanities” indicates jobs related to social science (e.g., accounting/legal assistant). An employee transferred from a foreign company to its Japanese subsidiary/branch falls within Category B, and a skilled worker such as a Chinese/French/Indian chef or cook falls within Category C.

Those who are assessed to have high skills under the points-based system may apply for a “Highly Skilled Professional” visa. The points are calculated by educational and professional background, qualifications, annual income, research results and more. This particular visa allows a foreigner, amongst other things, to obtain a permanent residency in one to three years.

A foreign company which has set up its subsidiary/branch in Japan will send its employee by using the “Intra-company Transferee” visa (Category B). If s/he plays a manager role at the subsidiary/branch, the company may apply for a “Business Manager” visa. The “Business Manager” visa may be applied by an entrepreneur who is going to start a business in Japan as well. Furthermore, Fukuoka City, as a National Strategic Special Zone, offers a “Startup Visa” which permits foreign entrepreneurs to receive a six-month “Business Manager” visa without fulfilling the prerequisites for a “Business Manager” visa (for more details, please refer to my previous article).

Permanent Residency
Roughly speaking, a foreigner who has resided in Japan for ten years or more may apply for a “Permanent Resident” visa. The term is reduced to three years for a foreigner who is a spouse of a Japanese national and one to three years for a foreigner with a “Highly Skilled Professional” visa.

In practice, for those who are considering to apply for permanent residency, it is sometimes hard to find someone to be a guarantor for that application. Although a guarantor in this context is not legally liable for an applicant’s action including his/her debts, the word “guarantor” reminds people of a loan guarantor and puts them off.

Naturalization is not a matter of visa but an issue of nationality. However, in some cases, it can be easier than obtaining permanent residency while achieving the same objective i.e. settling down in Japan. The crucial point in naturalization is that an applicant has to give up his/her original nationality since Japan does not permit dual citizenship.

New “Specified Skills” Visa
Lastly, I will briefly introduce the new visa system mentioned at the beginning of this article.

The new visa accepts blue-collar workers from nine countries (Vietnam, Philippines, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, and Mongolia) in 14 industries: (1) Nursing care, (2) Building cleaning, (3) Materials industry, (4) Industrial machinery industry, (5) Electronics and electrical equipment industry, (6) Construction, (7) Shipbuilding/Marine
industry, (8) Vehicular maintenance, (9) Aviation, (10) Lodging/hospitality, (11) Agriculture, (12) Fishing industry, (13) Food & drink manufacturing and (14) Restaurant. The Government expects that around 345,000 foreigners will come to Japan with this new visa in five years.

Many people consider that this is a rough-and-ready introduction of the new visa system, which is equivalent to a significant shift in the Japanese immigration policy, without enough discussion. An interesting point here is the conservative party of Japan, i.e. the Liberal Democratic Party, led this introduction while the liberal parties were against it, unlike in other major countries (see what is going on in Europe).

However, it happened in any way. We should observe the change closely and try to build a better society for all parties concerned.

I will cover tax, the National Pension and health insurance for foreigners in Japan in the next article.

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, Jan. 2019.
Read more original and informative articles here.

Fukuoka City
Published: Jan 10, 2019 / Last Updated: Jul 14, 2020

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