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April - Visas in Japan Part 2: Application Procedure

The first thing to note is, while the general application process looks similar for most visas, different visas require different amounts of paperwork and qualifying documents. That said, acquiring a work visa should always begin by getting a “Certificate of Eligibility” or COE (Zairyu Shikaku Nintei Shomeisho 在留資格認定証明書). This certificate must be applied for in Japan by your guarantor, the inviting person from the sponsoring organization, typically your future employer. Though this may sound complicated, the hardest part is just filling in all the paperwork. To help you stay focused, please check out this easy-to-understand flowchart of the application process. To complete the necessary documents, the guarantor in Japan may ask you to provide some personal information:

  • The COE application form (several pages of simple paperwork about you and your future employer)
  • A 40 x 30 mm photo of yourself (details on the photo format here)
  • Other related documents depending on the kind of visa being applied for (details here)
  • A document proving the status of the guarantor (the inviting person) in Japan applying on your behalf. (Any number of documents can meet this requirement. This document only needs to prove that the inviting person is connected to the organization─company, research institute or university─sponsoring your visa.)
  • A return envelope with a ¥392 stamp affixed

After your guarantor applies for and receives the COE from the immigration bureau, they send it off to you—and then you can begin the main visa application procedure. While a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) isn’t legally required to get a work visa in Japan, it is the recommended method. Without the COE, the number of documents needed to apply for a visa will increase substantially, as will the time required to process the paperwork and approve the visa. Imagine it like a Disney FastPass! You can still “get on the ride” without one, but it takes much, much longer.

Once you get back the COE, you are officially ready to apply for a work visa! You must prepare several documents, including:

  • The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) that you received from your sponsor in Japan
  • The visa application form (you can find one in your language of choice here)
  • Your passport (a minimum period of validity is not required to enter Japan, but it is better to renew your passport beforehand if the expiry date is close)
  • A 45mm x 45mm photo (or sometimes two—see here for specifications)
  • And any other required documents (which you can find listed here)

After you prepare all the documents and fill out all the paperwork, you can submit them to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your region. Then, after several days or weeks, you will be notified about whether you were granted a visa or not.