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Moving to Japan

Visa and Immigration Procedures

To work in Japan, the most essential thing you need is a valid working visa. To receive a working visa, both you and your future employer in Japan (your sponsor company) have to submit various documents to prove that you’re eligible.

In this article, we go over all the paperwork you and your sponsor company have to take care of. At the end, we also give you a short rundown of the procedures you’ll have to go through at the airport, after arriving in Japan.

The Right Visa for your Job

The kind of visa you will have to apply to depends on the type of work you will do in Japan. Different jobs require different visas. For example, as an English teacher on the JET Programme, you have to apply for an “Instructor” visa. However, English teaching at private English conversation schools (commonly known as Eikaiwa) requires the “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” visa.

Here‘s an overview of all the different working visa types (from the website of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs):

Visa type Job examples
Professor University professor, assistant professor
Artist Photographer, painter, composer, sculptor
Religious Activities Monks, bishops, missionaries
Journalist Newspaper/magazine journalist, editors, cameraman for news publications
Business Manager Company president, director
Legal/Accounting Services Attorney, tax accountant, judicial scriveners
Medical Services Doctor, dentist, pharmacist, nurse
Researcher Employee at research institute
Instructor Teacher at regular Japanese schools (ex. JET programme teacher)
Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services IT engineer, mechanical engineer, foreign language teacher, translator/interpreter, designer, international consultant
Intra-Company Transferee Employee transferred to the Japanese branch of their company
Nursing Care Certified care worker
Entertainer Musician, actor, dancer, model, comedian
Skilled Labor Chef, animal trainer, pilot, sports trainer, carpenter, baker
Specified Skilled Worker Construction worker, care worker, building cleaner, automotive repair worker, farm worker, food service worker
Technical Intern Same as specified skilled worker


Some of these visas, including the most common type (“Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”), require the applicant to have graduated from university. While it is not impossible to obtain a working visa without a degree, job options and opportunities for non-university graduates are severely limited. Notable exceptions to this rule are the “Specified Skilled Worker” and the “Technical Intern” visa.


To get a working visa without a degree, the most effective thing you can do is present evidence of work experience. The most commonly cited requirement is 10+ years’ worth of experience in the same branch of work.

In the end, you don’t worry too much about choosing the right visa type. Your sponsor company knows what type is required for your job and will handle the first steps of the application for you (more on that below). Your visa type and its period of validity will already be decided on before you hand in your application to the embassy.

Japanese working visas come with different durations: Three months, one year, three years, and five years. How long your visa will be valid varies depending on the type of work you do and your sponsor company – there’s no way to directly influence the duration.

The Visa Application Process

Getting your Certificate of Eligibility

Before applying for the visa proper, you need to obtain a so-called Certificate of Eligibility (COE). This document, issued by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, serves as proof that both you and your sponsor company have passed the necessary checks and are eligible for a working visa (hence the name).


The COE alone does not allow you to work in Japan. Working full-fime before you receive your proper visa is illegal, so make sure you go through the full application process before coming to Japan for work.

The application for the COE is handled by your sponsor company. Your company may ask for additional documents that you didn’t already provide during the application process for your job. Aside from that, you’re not involved directly. If the application is successful, your company will send you the physical COE document by mail.


The processing of a COE application requires several months. Because of this, you should make sure to enter the COE application stage at least 3 to 4 months before you come to Japan for work – ideally even earlier. Maintain close contact with your company and (if necessary) remind them of the application schedule.

Aside from basic information like your name and birthdate, the COE that arrives in your mail at the end of this process mentions the type of visa you will have to apply for (e.g. your future resident status) and the duration of your visa. The COE itself is valid for 3 months. If you fail to complete the proper visa application within this timeframe, you will have to start over and get another COE.

Applying for your visa

Once you have received your COE, you will have to go to the Japanese embassy or consulate responsible for your current place of residence in your home country and apply for the visa.

Requirements vary depending on visa type and what country you are from, but in most cases, you will have to prepare/bring the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • A filled visa application form corresponding to your future resident status
  • A photo of you (see below for the details)
  • Your COE (original version)
  • A copy of your COE

The photo for your application needs to clear the following requirements:


  • Height: 4cm
  • Width: 3cm

Other requirements:

  • Face & body centered and facing the camera straight-on
  • Well-lit (no harsh shadows on your face or the background)
  • No exaggerated facial expressions
  • No objects that obscure your face (hair, cloth*, glasses with reflections in them or with especially thick rims, etc.)
  • No backgrounds that make it hard to identify your face’s contours (white is best)

*Headscarves worn for religious reasons etc. are acceptable as long as they don’t obscure your face

After handing over all your documents, the embassy will check the paperwork once more and issue your visa. Compared to the COE application, this process doesn’t take very long. In many cases, you can already pick up your passport with the visa in it on the next weekday. Even if things takes a bit longer, you will only have to wait for about a week at most.

With your visa in hand, all you have to do is pack your belongings, head to the airport, and start your Japan adventure!


Immigration Procedures at the Airport

Immigration Check

Upon arriving at the airport, you need to complete a simple immigration check. After leaving the plane, you will encounter a row of gates that separate arriving travelers into the following three categories:

  • Japanese nationals
  • Foreign residents (Re-entrants)
  • Foreigners first arriving in Japan

Hold your passport ready and head to the gate for new foreign arrivals. An immigration officer will check your documents and issue your residence card (also known as zairyu card). For the issuing of the card, you will be asked to provide fingerprints – just follow the instructions you’re given. The process will only take a few minutes.


Your residence card is your main ID for Japan. It contains all your basic information, complete with your residence status and period of stay. As a foreign resident, you’re required to always have your residence card on your person. Be careful not to lose it and inform immigration immediately if you do. When first arriving in Japan, the “address” field in the front will not be filled in yet. When registering at your ward or city office, it will be noted on the back (keep in mind to update it whenever you move).




After passing the immigration check, there’s only one more thing left to do: Customs.

A customs declaration form will likely be handed out to you while you’re still on the plane. If you want to have a look at it in advance, you can download a PDF version here.

Your duty-free allowance includes the following goods and articles:

  • Alcohol: up to three 760ml bottles
  • Tobacco: up to 400 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, or 500g otherwise
  • Perfume: up to 56ml
  • Other goods: up to a total value of 200,000 JPY

For everything that exceeds these limitations, you will have to pay taxes according to the respective item’s categories. For cash and other kinds of payment (checks etc.), you can freely carry up to 1,000,000 JPY.

If you have unaccompanied baggage (items that you send to yourself instead of taking them with you on the plane), you need to fill out the customs declaration form in duplicate.

There are a number of articles that are restricted by law, most notably animals and plants as well as their products (meat, fruits etc). If you have any of them on your person when you enter Japan, you have to have them checked at the animal/plant quarantine counter. If you planning on taking your pet or a plant to Japan, make sure to have the proper paperwork ready. Otherwise, chances are high that the articles will be confiscated at the airport.

Finally, it goes without saying that there is a list of goods that you’re absolutely not allowed to bring into Japan, without any exceptions. These include:

Illegal drugs (heroin, cocaine, opium, cannabis, and others)
Firearms and firearm parts, ammunition
Counterfeit money
Child pornography
Articles that infringe on intellectual property rights

You can find the full list of prohibited items on this page of the Japan Customs website.

Registering at your Local City Office

Once you’ve moved into your apartment or share house room and recovered from the trip, it’s time to register at your local city office (or ward office if you live in the central areas of a bigger city). You need to register within 14 days after moving to Japan. It’s advisable to take care of the registration as early as possible.

Depending on how crowded the city office is, the registration process will take 1-2 hours. Keep in mind that most city offices are only open on weekdays and close their counters as early as 5 PM.

For registration, you will need to bring the following things:

  • Your residence card
  • A document/note with your new address on it, including the name of the building and the number of your room (unless you have it all memorized)
  • A Japanese telephone number (if you don’t have your own number yet, you can use a number from your company)
  • Your passport

Foreigner-friendliness varies from office to office. For example, not all cities have English versions of the resident registration form. If you’re unsure about whether you’ll be able to handle the process on your own, ask a future colleague from work or a Japanese friend to accompany you.

The Registration Process

(The following part is based on the procedures at the Setagaya Ward Office in Tokyo. Please be aware that there might be slight differences depending on where you live.)

Once you’re in the building, head to the counter that says 住民登録 (じゅうみんとうろく, Residence Registration) or ask a staff member to direct you to the right counter. Draw a number from one of the ticket machines and wait until your number is called. Once you’re at the counter, ask for an English registration form (or a Japanese one if you’re confident in your abilities).

After the clerk checks your residence card and passport, you will be asked to fill out the form. You can find examples of filled forms in English and Japanese here (PDF file). The form contains a space for your old address – when you register your first address in Japan, either leave it blank or write the name of your home country.

Once you’re done with writing everything, return to the counter once more (you might have to draw another number and wait again). The clerk will leave you alone for a moment to print your address on the back of your card and take a copy of it. Then if there’s nothing else to take care of, you’re done!

Certificate of Residence

As an optional part of the registration process, you can get one or multiple Certificates of Residence (住民票写し, じゅうみんひょううつし). Unlike the registration itself, this document costs a few yen a piece. You won’t need it often, but many companies require their employees to provide one. Even if you haven’t heard anything from your company, it might be good to get one or two of them just to be safe (and prevent another trip to the city office).

Moving Within Japan

When you’re moving within Japan (e.g. from a share house to your first own apartment), the registration process is the same as the registration process described above. The only difference is that moving from one municipality to another in Japan requires two trips to the city/ward office.

When moving within Japan, you have to de-register at your old place of residence before registering at your new city office. It’s not possible to just “overwrite” your old address with the new one. Most cities allow you to complete the de-registration process up to 14 days in advance.

市役所 (しやくしょ) – City office
区役所 (くやくしょ) – Ward office
住所 (じゅうしょ) – Address
住民登録 (じゅうみんとうろく) – Residence registration
住民移動届 (じゅうみんいどうとどけ) – Notification of change of residence
転入届 (てんにゅうとどけ) – Move-in notification
転出届 (てんしゅつとどけ) – Move-out notification
転居 (てんきょ) – Changing addresses (within the same municipality)
住民票写し (じゅうみんひょううつし) – Certificate of Residence

Extending your Visa

Now for the last major organizational procedure in Japan: Extending your visa.

As a long-term resident (staying in Japan for 6 months or longer), you can start the visa extension process up to three months before your visa runs out. In most cases, the processing of an application for extension takes between 2 to 4 weeks.

Your extended period of stay will start on the day after your old visa expires, so there’s no reason to wait until the last moment. Start the extension process as early as possible to prevent trouble down the road.

A visa extension costs 4,000 JPY, which you will have to pay through revenue stamps (収入印紙, しゅうにゅういんし) after the application. You can buy revenue stamps at your local post office.

The Visa Extension Process

To hand in your application for visa extension, head to your nearest Regional Immigration Services Bureau or Immigration Information Center. You will need to bring the following things:

  • Filled application form (Download it here)
  • Photograph (dimensions/requirements: see above)
  • Documents related to your activities in Japan, based on your resident status (Check the requirements here)
  • Residence card
  • Passport (or Certificate of Eligibility)

Regarding the documents related to your activities in Japan, talk to your company. They will know which kind of material is required and if there are any documents that you need to prepare yourself.

If you have worked in an area that falls outside of your regular visa category, you also need to bring a stamped Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted Under the Status of Residence Previously Granted (more info on that here).

Changing Visa Types

In Japan, the kind of work you’re allowed to do is tied to your residence status. When changing jobs, you might have to switch to another visa category. In this case, you have to apply for a Change of Status of Residence.

Remember that you need to do this whenever a job change that requires a different resident status occurs. Working at your new job with your old visa could result in your status of residence being revoked.

The procedures and documents required for a change of residence status are almost identical to a visa extension. For more info, check out the corresponding webpage of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan here.

You can get more information about procedures for entry and residence from this site:
Guidebook on Living and Working ~For foreign nationals who start living in Japan~

Opening a bank account

Requirements for opening a bank account

If you have been in Japan for less than six months, you may be able to open a non-resident bank account, but you will not be able to open a general savings account.
When opening a bank account in Japan, there are two main conditions that need to be met.

  1. Those who have been living in Japan for 6 months or more for the purpose of work or study
  2. Registered as a resident in Japan and able to obtain a certificate of residence.

The first condition is that you are staying in Japan for more than 6 months, which means that you fall under the category of “resident.”
The second condition is that you have a visa (status of residence) that allows you to stay in Japan for more than 6 months, which allows you to obtain a residence card. With a residence card, you can obtain a certificate of residence by registering as a resident in the municipality where your actual residence is located.

Required items

In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to open a bank account in Japan without the required documents. It is recommended that you check with your local bank in advance to confirm the required documents.

Although there are differences in standards, the following items are generally required to be submitted when you are opening a bank account.

  • Residence card 在留カード
    All foreigners who will be staying in Japan for more than 6 months are issued a residence card.
  • Passport パスポート
    You will need a passport with a valid expiration date.
  • Hanko (name seal) ハンコ
    Although there are more and more banks that allow you to use your signature these days, you will generally need your personal seal to open a bank account.
  • Documents proving that you are living in your current residence 現在の住居に住んでいることを証明する書類
    You will need to prove that you live at the address you will be using to open the bank account by submitting a lease agreement or utility bill (receipt).
  • Certificate of residence 住民票
    You can obtain a certificate of residence by registering as a resident in the municipality where your actual residence is located.
  • Employee ID card 社員証
    ※if you don’t have it, please go to the financial institution with someone from your company

In accordance with the request from the international community and the provisions of laws,
financial institutions must ensure that the goods and services they deal with are not involved in money laundering or terrorist financing. To this end, financial institutions verify the identity information of customers (e.g. the name, address, period of stay, status of residence, and employment status) at the time of opening an account without exceptions, and after opening an account if necessary. You may not be able to open an account or use your account if your identity information is not verified.

What you can do with your bank account

  • You can transfer money from your bank account to banks in almost all countries and regions
  • Your salary will be paid into your bank account from your employer
  • Electricity, water, gas bill can be deducted from your bank account
  • Rent, smartphone bill and many other payments can be made automatically from your bank account.

You can get more information about opening bank account and sending money abroad from the website of the Financial Service Agency


Legal compliance

Bank account lending or trading is a crime

Buying and selling bank accounts or creating accounts by impersonating others is a crime.
The accounts sold or transferred in this way are likely to be misused for criminal activities such as fraud and money laundering, and you may be made to participate in financial crimes without your knowledge.

“I want you to open a bank account for me.”
“I’ll give you 100,000 yen, but I want you to lend me the bank book and cash card of the account you’re not using.”
“Please send this money through your bank account for me. ”
“I want to use your bank account after you go back to your home country.”
You may have experienced this kind of offer from a friend or someone you met on social media.
However, this kind of account lending or bank account trading is a crime.
According to the Act on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds, both the seller and the buyer of the account may be punished.
If you simply accept the offer because it is a favor from a good friend or because you think it will be a good way to make some extra money, you may get into trouble later.
Remember, if you do something illegal such as this, you may not be able to stay in Japan or re-enter Japan.

Cyber security

Ensuring corporate information security starts with your awareness of the need to keep your computers and networks safe. No matter how many of the world’s best security technologies you have installed, they will not work unless you understand your role and responsibility in protecting confidential information and preserving company assets.

Be aware of your responsibilities. First, know what is prohibited. Think carefully about what you can and cannot take home (e.g., company laptops), what you can and cannot do with company information assets, the significance of obtaining backup data, and what role it plays in the security technology you have in place.


Many emails contain file attachments such as documents, photos, web links, etc. Cybercriminals make the recipient open these attachments and direct them to websites that collect personal information (phishing), download malicious software (spyware), or flood the inbox with spam (junk mail).
Although Cybercriminals are getting more sophisticated, you can prevent them by using email alerting and email filtering.

What is spam (unsolicited email)?

When you use e-mail, you should use an e-mail filter.
If you don’t use a filter, you will receive large amounts of spam, viruses, etc. Most email software allows you to set up filtering, so learn how to do this correctly to make email fast, safe, and simple to use.
First, you need to enable your email (junk mail) filter. Most e-mail software and online services come with this feature. It’s usually “on” by default, but if it’s not, you can easily enable it by finding the filtering settings tab.
Some email filters allow you to set the level. If you set it to the highest level, you will be able to filter out all the emails you do not want to receive. Just be aware that if you set it to the highest level, you may not be able to receive some of the emails you want to receive.
The next step is to filter to block emails from specific addresses. This setting depends on the e-mail software you are using.

Email filters are not perfect. Even if it is from a sender with whom you have regular email correspondence, there is a possibility that it is spam.

What is Phishing?

Phishing is an attack that uses email or a malicious website to collect personal information. The attacker will send an email claiming to be an emergency and request account information. Sometimes the attacker will pose as a credit card company or financial institution. Once the requested information is sent, the attacker collects personal information from the acquired user account.

How to avoid becoming a victim
Do not include personal information or financial information in emails. Do not include personal or financial information in emails, and do not respond to email inquiries.
When sending important information through a website, make sure that the website is legitimate; check the URL of the website (the URL may use suspicious letters/words or domain.
If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of an email, contact the company that sent it to you. Take information security measures such as installing anti-virus software, enabling firewalls and email filtering software.

If you become a victim, consult with your provider.
If your bank account information may have been compromised, please contact your financial institution immediately and close your account. Check your bank account for any suspicious debits or credits.

2. Web browsing

To protect devices that contain a variety of personal information such as pictures, music, videos, etc. is very important. With a few simple steps, you can improve the security of your device and protect your information.

A virus is a harmful computer program that is transmitted primarily via email. There are many different types of viruses, but they are generally designed to infect one computer to another via the internet, and also to allow attackers to manipulate computers from the outside.

Spyware can be classified into several categories
1) It is downloaded without permission, for example, when visiting a dangerous website
2) It initiates activities that are not necessary. Some of the simpler ones just display ads (called “adware”), but the dangerous ones track your online activities, steal your passwords, and compromise your accounts.

Phishing is an attack that uses email or malicious websites to collect personal information. The attacker sends out an email claiming to be urgent and asks for account information. Sometimes the attacker will pose as a credit card company or financial institution. Once the requested information is sent, the attacker collects personal information from the acquired user account.


A botnet consists of a large number of infected personal computers (often by means of some of the above threats). The PCs are controlled by the botnet, and in many cases, the users are not even aware that they are infected. Attackers use the infected PCs to generate large amounts of traffic to attack websites and other sites. These attacks can disrupt companies and even entire nations. The personal information of people who have been controlled by the botnet is also at risk and can be spoofed.

Recommended information security measures

There are three pieces of software that should be installed on any computer connected to the Internet. These measures are the best defense against cybercrime and intrusion.

  1. Anti-virus software
    Antivirus software protects your computer by scanning files and e-mails and deleting the infected ones. Viruses can cause data corruption, performance degradation, abnormal software termination, and use your computer account to send spam.
    You can download it from the websites of antivirus software companies or buy it from a retailer. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also offer antivirus services.
  2. Firewalls
    A firewall prevents attackers from gaining access to your computer. While antivirus software scans files and emails, firewalls are like walls that deny unauthorized access itself.
    Some operating systems include a firewall feature. If your operating system does not include a firewall feature, you will need to install a separate firewall software or install a hardware firewall.
  3. Anti-spyware Software
    Spyware is malicious software that monitors your online activities and potentially collects personal information. Anti-spyware software scans your computer on a regular basis and helps you remove spyware. Some antivirus software includes anti-spyware features.
  4. Operating systems and browsers
    Regular software updates are essential because outdated or flawed software is a target for attacks. Also, you need to keep your OS and web browser updated regularly.

3.Downloading and File Sharing

File sharing allows you to exchange music, games, and other files online. Sharing information can be fun, but be aware that you may accidentally download spyware, or copyrighted materials.
If you are going to share files, be careful about installing file exchange software. Also, understand that sharing is only for legitimate files and that free downloads carry a high level of risk.

4.Mobile Devices

Mobile devices can be used to take pictures, send text messages, browse the web, etc. Take the same precautions for mobile devices as for computers.

These listed below are things you should not do with your cell phone.

  • Talking on your cell phone with people you do not know
  • Replying to emails from people you do not know
  •  Taking pictures or videos with your cell phone without the other person’s permission
  • Letting others take pictures or videos of you without your permission

Only give out your cell phone number to people you know or trust, and know how to block phone calls from people you don’t know. Be aware that the pictures or videos may be posted on the Internet without your knowledge.

If you lose or have your cell phone stolen, contact the local police and your cell phone company immediately.

(Information Security Handbook for Internet Beginners)

National center of Incident readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity
Financial Services Agency