The 3 Types of Work Visa in Japan for Entrepreneurs

The 3 Types of Work Visa in Japan for Entrepreneurs

Thinking of starting a business in Japan? Wondering what type of visa to apply for? Here's what you need to know about visas for starting a business in Japan.

While this article can't substitute the guidance of an immigration specialist, it will give you a general idea of the types of business visas you might wish to pursue. 

Once you know what each visa entails, we recommend contacting an immigration specialist to help you navigate the process with ease. 


Note: This information is current at the time of publication, but 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. 


1. The Business Manager Visa 

The Business Manager visa allows individuals to start or manage a business in Japan or participate in the management of an already existing business. This working visa is also referred to as the Investor visa.

This visa type suits founders, presidents, directors, managing partners, and branch office managers. It can be renewed based on business profitability and applied for overseas through a proxy, eliminating the need for in-person submission at a Japanese immigration office.

To be eligible for the Business Manager Visa, you must have 5 million yen in investment capital, 2 employees who are Japanese nationals, a physical office space, and other requirements.

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2. The Four-Month Business Manager Visa

The Four-Month Business Manager visa is part of a visa reform act passed in 2015. This visa type allows you 120 days in Japan to get your business affairs in order. 

To be eligible for a regular Business Manager visa in Japan, your company's registration papers are required. However, to complete company registration paperwork, you must open a Japanese bank account, which requires proof of Japanese residency (residence card)—only given to foreigners with a visa that exceeds the 90-day tourist visa. 

The Four-Month Business Manager visa allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to arrive in Japan, get a residence card, open a bank account, and initiate paperwork to register a company and—once the paperwork is in order—you can start the application process for a 1-year Business Manager visa. 

3. The Startup Visa

The Startup Visa Program, initiated by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), allows individuals to apply for Startup visas at designated “special zones” throughout Japan. 

Within this program, individuals can enter Japan and stay for up to one year without first securing capital or the other requirements for a Business Manager visa or the Four-Month Business Manager visa. 

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4. Other types of working visas in Japan

While the above visa types specifically addressed the type of visa you should get if you want to come to Japan to start a business, there are other visa types that allow you to essentially to self-sponsored and open a sole proprietorship or do freelance work.

a. Permanent resident visa

If you have a PR status of residence, you can engage in all legal work pursuits. Permanent residency in Japan is granted based on a points-based system, and preference is given to highly skilled foreign professional applicants with higher education, a high salary, work experience (university professor, etc.) and other particulars.

b. Spouse or Child of Japanese national or PR visa holder

The spouse or child of a PR visa holder or Japanese nationals are allowed to engage in all legal work pursuits.

c. Working holiday visa

The working holiday visa is granted to individuals (generally 18 to 30 years at the time of application) from 29 eligible countries. With this visa, you are allowed to work in Japan for up to 1 year.

d. Other visa types

You are permitted to freelance on the side if you have a Highly Skilled Professional Visa, Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa, Intra-Company Transferee Visa, Skilled Labor Visa, etc., so long as the freelance work you engage in stays within your visa category.

Frequently asked questions

How can I apply for a work visa in Japan?

To apply for a work visa in Japan, you'll need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Immigration Bureau in Japan. Then you'll submit a visa application form and send it with the required documents to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country.

Can I bring my family with me on a work visa?

Many work visas in Japan allow you to bring dependents, such as a spouse or children. You'll need to apply for a Dependent Visa for them, and specific requirements may vary depending on the type of work visa you have.

How long does it take to process a work visa in Japan?

The processing time for a work visa in Japan may take anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

What happens if my work visa expires?

If your work visa expires, you must either renew it, change to a different visa status, or leave Japan.

Can I study in Japan on a work visa?

You can study part-time while on a work visa in Japan. However, if you wish to study full-time, you'll need to apply for a Student Visa.

Is there a language requirement for obtaining a work visa in Japan?

While not always mandatory, having proficiency in the Japanese language can be beneficial for some work visas. Some employers may require language skills, and it can also help you in daily life in Japan.

In conclusion

Determining between these types of work visas will depend on the particulars of your startup capital, business category, and risk tolerance. 

In making your decision, we suggest seeking the advice of immigration specialists who can not only help you navigate Japan's immigration laws but who can also serve as a proxy in submitting your paperwork. 

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