The Business Manager Visa Japan, Explained

The Business Manager Visa Japan, Explained

In general, there are three types of visas that are tailored to foreigners who wish to come to Japan to open a business. Today, we will be covering one of those visa types: The Business Manager visa. 

Previously known as the Investor visa, the Japan Business Manager visa provides a 1-year stay and allows individuals to start or manage a Japanese branch or engage in other activities that further the business’s success.

This visa’s scope also includes managing a business on behalf of another or participating in the management of a business already in operation. 

This type of visa is ideal for founders, presidents, directors, managing partners, branch office managers, etc.

The Business Manager Visa can be renewed depending on the profitability of your business.

You can apply for this while overseas through a proxy, eliminating the need for in-person submission at a Japanese immigration office. 

Investor/business manager visas were only available for managers of foreign companies until 2015, after which the new law allowed presidents and board members of Japanese companies to obtain the visa. 

Also, once you obtain the business manager visa, your spouse or family members can receive a "family stay visa." You can simultaneously apply for a business manager visa and a family stay visa.

Note: Please keep in mind that Immigration Law in Japan frequently changes, with addendums and stipulations coming into or going out of effect. Refer to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan or your immigration lawyer for situation-specific questions. 

Who is eligible to apply for the Business Manager visa?

To be eligible to apply for the Business Manager visa, you first must secure the following requirements.

  • A business office in Japan. 

  • Investment of 5 million yen capital into your company or the employment of 2 full-time employees residing in Japan (which excludes the individual applying for the visa application) or who have Japanese national status. 

  • If the business manager visa holder intends to engage in business management, they must have three years or more of business management experience (can include years of business management study at a graduate school). 

In your application, you will need to submit documents showing your company’s registration in Japan, bank account balance, and other related documents such as the articles of association (“teikan”), often known as the “constitution," that includes company name, address, directors and representative director, and the purpose of business. 

Your company constitution must be notarized at a notary public. Also, tax notifications need to be made to the tax office.

Registering a company in Japan can also be considered a prerequisite for eligibility for immigration procedures.

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Common reasons for Business Manager visa denial

Many applicants for the business manager visa miss the following criteria. For example, the condition that "there is an office in Japan" does not mean any type of office. Here are common reasons for rejection.

  • Virtual offices or shared offices are used on the business manager visa application.

  • The lease agreement of the office is for residential and not for business purposes (If it’s a house, office space and residential area need to be separated).

  • The business plan is not demonstrating a predictable profit (if you are the business manager at the company).

  • Manager provides services to customers (restaurants, hair salons, etc.).

  • International students are applying while their grades are poor.

  • Individual has been convicted in a criminal case.

How to apply for the Business Manager visa

1. Prepare your CV.

Prepare a strong CV and documents proving your academic background and relevant work experience. 

2. Prepare documentation of your company’s existence. 

The documentation must prove your company has completed registration in Japan. Other company-related documents include a well-written business plan (in Japanese), proof that your company has 5 million yen capital as the investment amount, copies of your employees’ contracts, proof of business office location (pictures and real estate contract), company financial statements, and any future business prospects. Additionally, depending on the type of business that you have established in Japan, you may need industry-specific licensing, the proof of which will also be required. 

A business license is required for the following: Restaurant business, recycling, travel agency, personnel dispatching, real estate, and construction.

3. Fill out the Certificate of Eligibility application. 

Fill out and submit the Certificate of Eligibility application. You can also hire a bilingual lawyer or English-speaking immigration specialist to help you with this. (Learn more about the Certificate of Eligibility here.)

4. Send in the Certificate of Eligibility application for your Business Manager visa to an immigration office.

The immigration office will evaluate your application and confirm whether you have fulfilled the requirements. (Processing time: 1 to 3 months)

5. Submit your Certificate of Eligibility along with a visa application to the immigration bureau. 

Once you receive your COE, you will exchange it for a Business Manager status of residence (visa status). This step can be done by proxy and does not require the individual to apply in person. (Processing time: 1 to 2 weeks). The whole process will likely take 1.5 to 3.5 months from the initial application.

What are the tax obligations for Japan's Business Manager visa holders?

National taxes

If you are an incorporated entity, there are mainly two types of taxes one must pay to the national government: corporate tax and consumption tax.

Corporate tax is income tax. If your income is 8 million yen or less, the rate is 18%. For earnings of more than 8 million yen, the rate is 30%.

Consumption tax is the tax on the purchase of a good or service. 

If the company earns 10 million yen or less, consumption tax will be exempted. Consumption tax must be paid, however, if your company capital exceeds 10 million yen.

Local taxes

In addition, other taxes will be required for local governments: Corporate inhabitant tax and corporate business tax.

Corporate inhabitant tax consists of two parts, one to be paid at the rate determined by the capital size and another at the rate for the amount of the corporate tax. All companies will be taxed at least 70,000 yen per year.

The corporate business tax has three rates depending on the income. For a company with an income of 4 million yen or less, the rate will be 5%, 7.3% for an income of 4 to 8 million yen, and 9.6% for 8 million yen or more.

Tax notifications must be made to the tax office. You must send an update on business conditions in a financial report and necessary documents must be presented to the immigration bureau before the visa's expiration date.

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How is the Business Manager visa different from the startup visa?

The startup visa initiated by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) allows a foreign national to move to Japan to understand the market, make all necessary preparations before operating the business, and stay up to one year. The “Startup Visa” is not available for all the cities in Japan.

Currently, startup municipalities approved by the Japanese government are Sendai City, Ibaraki Prefecture, Shibuya City in Tokyo, Yokohama City, Hamamatsu City, Aichi Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, Osaka City, Kobe City, Mie Prefecture, Fukuoka City and Oita Prefecture.

On the other hand, the Japan Business Manager visa allows foreign nationals seeking to launch a business in Japan or to engage in the management and operation of an already-existing company.

If you have a business manager visa for Japan, the period of permitted residence is generally “one year” at first. Renewing the visa after one year will be necessary to keep the visa status.

Visas can be granted a term of five years, three years, one year, or four months. If a long-term period is granted, the status of the business so far will be judged comprehensively. Therefore, a well-organized business plan for the initial application is a must.

What are the other types of visas one can use to start a business in Japan?

Although it is possible for foreign nationals residing overseas to establish a company in Japan, it is necessary to obtain a Business Manager visa to conduct business. Operating a company while staying in Japan for a short period or as an employee of a Japanese company with a working visa or “Engineer” visa holder is not legally permitted.

If you're entitled to receive a visa as a highly-skilled foreign professional such as a “Specialist in Humanities/International Services,” such visa holders can do business as sole proprietors and one can pursue a freelance career in Japan so long as certain conditions are met. 

Also, once one obtains a Highly skilled professional visa in Japan can apply for Permanent Resident status and possibly Japanese citizenship, which allow you to pursue any type of legal business endeavor you wish.

Technically it is possible to change one's status of residence from a working visa with a Japanese company, a student visa, or a dependent visa of Japanese nationals or permanent residents to a business manager visa. Still, some may find it challenging to prepare the required 5,000,000 yen capital and operate a business in Japan.

To change one's status of residence to obtain a business manager visa, you will need the company to be ready to operate, so you need to start the process of company establishment once you make the decision. Items to prepare include corporate registration, obtaining a business license, meeting business office requirements, and recruiting two employees who are either a "Japanese National," “Permanent Resident,” “Spouse of Japanese National,” “Spouse of Permanent Resident,” "Special Permanent resident," or “Long Term visa holder.”

In closing

We understand that setting up a new business and company establishment in a foreign country and having a visa issued can be overwhelming.

While these steps provide a general overview of the process, it is important to note that each situation may require specific attention.

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