Japan has over two dozen “statuses of residence” (visas) for foreign nationals, but only some of those are work visas. Just as an educational institution would guarantee your status as a student in Japan, your employer (university, research institute or private company) would usually become your “guarantor” during the visa application process. Here are some categories of visas that may be relevant to anyone coming to Japan for research or science-related work:
Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services: This rather long-winded visa covers a broad range of jobs. Engineers and other workers in scientific fields, including IT, can apply for this visa if they have a university degree, or if they have 10 years of experience working in the field.
Intra-company Transferee: This visa is pretty easy to understand. If you’re an employee of a company with some connection to Japan, it could be possible for you to transfer to the Japan-based office. Employees must have worked in the company for over a year in order to qualify for this visa.
Researcher: This visa requires a contract with an organization—public or private—to do research. A Master’s degree or relevant work experience is required to qualify.
Professor: This visa is limited to teaching at university-level institutions (including technical colleges and junior colleges). Research-based jobs at universities also qualify under this visa, rather than under the Research Visa.
Medical Services: This category of visa is quite strict. Applicants must be certified to practice medicine in Japan (not only their home country). This typically means that the applicant has gone through medical school in Japan, though it is possible to get your non-Japanese medical qualification recognized by a Japanese organization.
The Highly Skilled Foreign Professional visa was first made in 2012, and was designed to be a special class of visa. Applicants must qualify via a point system which takes into consideration your academic and professional achievements, your age, and your Japanese language skills. Recipients of this visa are able to engage in a wider variety of work activities than a typical work visa holder, and they (and even their families) receive preferential treatment with regards to immigration paperwork and possibilities.
A final visa worth consideration is the new Startup Visa. This 6-month visa offers the same entrepreneurial benefits as the Business Manager visa, but waives the costly prerequisites (5 million-yen capital, full-time Japanese employees, etc). It is a wonderful visa for highly ambitious people, but is only available in select areas at the moment: Fukuoka, Tokyo, Sendai, Niigata, Imabari, and Aichi and Hiroshima Prefectures. Fukuoka in particular is a leader with this visa, having created a Startup Cafe that provides free consultation services and co-working space for entrepreneurs and innovators.
These are some of the visas that would allow you to come work in Japan, once you secure a job from an employer—but how do you get one? In Part 2, we will go into detail about the application procedures for acquiring a Japanese work visa.