If you are currently residing outside Japan and wishing to stay in Japan for a long term, you need to apply for a particular visa status based on your objective and purpose for your stay in Japan.

Visa procedures are mainly divided into two types; 

  • for Short-term Stay (Temporary Visitor) 
  • for Long-term Stay

Technically, a term “VISA (ビザ・査証)” means “entry visa” to be obtained to enter Japan. However, a “visa” is widely used to indicate “VISA STATUS (在留資格)” or “Residence Status”, which is visa categories showing the purpose of stay.

Here, you will learn what is VISA and overview of what process you should take to come to and live in Japan.

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VISA (ビザ・査証) and VISA STATUS (在留資格)

Foreign nationals who live in Japan to work, study or engage in specific activity must be required to obtain one particular VISA STATUS or RESIDENCE STATUS called 在留資格 (Zairyu-shikaku) designated by the Japan Immigration Office based on his/her activity in Japan. VISA STATUS is a status allowed to stay in Japan for particular purpose during the period of stay granted.

VISA STATUS is often referred to simply as VISA.
Technically, however, the term VISA (ビザ・査証) formally indicates “a permit to ENTER Japan”, not “a permit to LIVE or WORK in Japan”. Therefore, “VISA STATUS” or “RESIDENCE STATUS” is more appropriate and precise word to indicate 在留資格.

Having said that, immigration lawyers and professionals may also use the word VISA to refer to 在留資格 depending on situation.

There are approximately 30 categories of VISA STATUS based on purpose and activity in Japan. You need to find particular one which is the most applicable to your situation. Each visa status has its own requirements – you need to satisfy the requirements as well as other basic criteria for immigration procedures.


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Short-term Stay (Temporary Visitor・短期滞在)

“Short-term Stay” is a temporary stay for sightseeing, visiting friends and relatives, or business trip (e.g. business meeting, market research, attending conventions/exhibitions etc.) which does not involve any income.

In order to stay temporarily in Japan for the purpose above, you need a VISA to enter Japan (査証) under Temporary Visitor visa status.

Application for a VISA for Temporary Visitor (hereafter referred to as “Temporary Visitor Visa“) is to be filed at the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General outside Japan (or visa processing agencies in your country), which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has authority for the process. It cannot be processed at the Immigration Office in Japan. Therefore, you should contact directly to the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General near you in your residence country for the details of the application. Otherwise, you should hire an agency which handles Temporary Visitor Visa Application in your country.

As an exception, those who are from particular countries listed in the “Visa Exemption Arrangements (jump to MOFA’s webpage)” are exempted from Temporary Visitor Visa based on the decision of the arrangement. If you are from visa exempted countries, you don’t need to apply for Temporary Visitor Visa in your country – you can enter Japan without a visa and stay in Japan for the period granted.

For the details of Temporary Visitor Visa Application, please visit the website of the MOFA here >> https://www.mofa.go.jp/j_info/visit/visa/index.html

Work or Long-term Stay

“Work or Long-term Stay” is a stay which is not applicable to Temporary Visitor.

Basically, you must apply for CERTIFICATE of ELIGIBILITY (COE) for one particular VISA STATUS in advance of coming to Japan through your VISA SPONSOR in Japan (e.g. school, employer, organization and relatives etc. designated based on visa status you are applying for). Before that, you should find out which category of visa status to apply for and check if you and the situation would satisfy the requirements.

The Immigration Office will issue the COE and grant you specific period of stay under the visa status if they acknowledge your eligibility for the visa status and recognize that your situation satisfies the basic criteria and requirements.

After the COE is issued, you need to apply for entry visa with the COE at the Japan Embassy/Consulate-General (or visa processing agency in the country) and then fly to Japan with the entry visa and COE. You will receive RESIDENCE CARD (在留カード) at the airport immigration counter. You may stay in Japan during the period of stay stated on the card and engage in the activity within the limits of what is allowed under the visa status.

During the period of stay given under your visa status, you can travel overseas and reenter Japan without losing the visa status if you have RE-ENTRY PERMIT or SPECIAL RE-ENTRY PERMIT. You can extend the period of stay by applying for EXTENSION of VISA STATUS (or “Visa Renewal”) or you may apply for CHANGE of VISA STATUS if your activity in Japan

Once you obtain RESIDENCE CARD and start residing in Japan, you will be required to take care of administrative procedures as well as visa related procedures as a long-term resident in Japan.

Check also >> WHAT IS VISA STATUS?

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COE (Certificate of Eligibility) is a certificate that the Immigration Office acknowledges your eligibility for one particular visa status you claimed by the application. It allows you to stay in Japan under the visa status for specific period stated on the COE.

In case you are outside Japan and plan to stay in Japan for the purpose which is not applicable to Temporary Visitor Visa, you have to apply for COE of a visa status which is appropriate for your purpose of stay in Japan through a VISA SPONSOR (proxy) living in Japan.

The first thing to do for COE application is to find out an appropriate VISA STATUS for your purpose of stay in Japan and check the basic criteria and whether you (and your visa sponsor) can satisfy the requirements.

For more details of COE Application, jump to the page below:


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After you enter Japan with COE, you will receive RESIDENCE CARD at the airport immigration counter.

Your VISA STATUS and information such as period of stay, date of expiry etc. are stated on the RESIDENCE CARD. You will need to process necessary application or notification when the information written on the card is changed etc. For some VISA STATUS such as DESIGNATED ACTIVITES etc., a slip titled DESIGNATION / 指定書 will be stapled on your passport. This DESIGNATION is something like a part of RESIDENCE CARD to confirm detailed information of your activity granted under the visa status. You must keep it while you have RESIDENCE CARD corresponding to.

For more details of RESIDENCE CARD, jump to the page below:


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VISA SPONSOR here is not a person who is required to support the applicant’s stay in Japan financially. As for visa related procedures, the term “VISA SPONSOR” is often referred to a person (organization, company or school etc.) who invites the applicant for the purpose of stay in Japan and acts as a proxy for the application.

COE Application must be filed in the name of;

  • applicant himself/herself while he/she is staying in Japan, or
  • visa sponsor in Japan as a proxy of the applicant if the applicant is staying outside Japan.

Note that COE application must be submitted while either the applicant or visa sponsor/proxy is staying in Japan (at the time of submission of application at least) even if you or your visa sponsor hires an immigration lawyer for your application.

Immigration lawyer cannot be your visa sponsor/proxy

Immigration lawyer can help you or your visa sponsor with checking requirements, preparing documents, submitting application on behalf of the applicant or visa sponsor and communicating with the Immigration Office for the application. However, Immigration lawyer is not allowed to be your visa sponsor/proxy directly for your application.

Who can be your visa sponsor/proxy?

Who to be a VISA SPONSOR (proxy) is designanted based on category of visa status you apply for and is different depending on the situation.

If you would like to work in Japan, you need to find a job and an employer who is willing to hire you and to be your visa sponsor in Japan first.

If you would like to apply for COE of family-related VISA STATUS such as Long-term Resident (2nd or 3rd Generation Japanese etc.), your visa sponsor/proxy has to be your relatives (親族) living in Japan.

If you want to engage in studying/learning something like Japanese Language, Karate, Judo, Soroban, Shuji, Ikebana, and Sado etc. which are peculiar to Japan and applicable to Cultural Activities, you need to find a person who is happy to accept you as their student and to be your visa sponsor for your COE application.

In case of COE application based on a newly setup business entity (representative office, branch office or subsidiary/company) in Japan and there is no staff or person who can represent the entity, you should come to Japan under Temporary Visitor Visa to sign the application form as the applicant sponsoring your visa application yourself as the representative of the entity in Japan. The COE application must be submitted while you are staying in Japan. You may leave Japan after submitting the COE application and wait for the COE outside Japan during the period of screening of the application. You may also keep staying in Japan until the date of expiry of Temporary Visitor Visa.

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Generally, visa status of RESIDENTIAL STATUS and PERMANENT RESIDENT requires to have a GUARANTOR at the time of application. Work-type visa status such as Engineer/Humanities etc. doesn’t require it.

Guarantor must be a Japanese national or a Permanent Resident who is living in Japan

Responsibility of Guarantor

GUARANTOR for the immigration purpose is not responsible for guarantee of obligation stipulated in the Civil Law of Japan. However, he/she is to promise to fulfill the following responsibility to the Minister of Justice.

  • To provide logistic support for the applicant during his/her stay in Japan if necessary.
  • To support the applicant for transportation fee for repatriation if necessary.
  • To support the applicant to abide by the Japanese Law.

The Immigration Office has no legal force with respect to the guarantor’s responsibility. All they can do is to instruct the guarantor to meet his/her commitments if the guarantor fails to make good on his/her guarantee. However, GUARANTOR will lose his/her eligibility to be a guarantor for any visa application process in the future if he/she fails to fulfill the responsibility.

Guarantor needs to sign the Letter of Guarantee and provide identification such as a copy of Japanese driver’s license or Certificate of Residence (住民票 / Juminhyo).

Who can be your Guarantor?

Guarantor must be a person living in Japan and is a Japanese national or a Permanent Resident.

No requirement for income, civil status and qualification. No prescription about the number of people. However, the Immigration Office would possibly consider it for the decision of approval of each application. If they consider that the Guarantor is unable to have a responsibility as the guarantor, they might decline the application.

From the Immigration Office point of view, the guarantor is supposed to provide the applicant financial and moral support at the critical moment. Therefore, those who are not financially stable (no income or no job) and are neglect their own duties (e.g. not paying taxes) is considered not to be suitable for the guarantor. Therefore, the Guarantor should be a good citizen and it would be better to have specific relationship to the applicant.

Here’s some example;

  • In case of application for PERMANENT RESIDENT: Japanese national or Permanent Resident who is applicant’s parent, relative, employer, colleague, friend, teacher etc.
  • In case of application for SPOUSE/CHILD of JAPANESE or SPOUSE/CHILD of PERMANENT RESIDENT: Japanese spouse or parent of the applicant
  • In case of application for LONG-TERM RESIDENT as 3rd Generation Japanese: Japanese national or Permanent Resident who is applicant’s parent, relatives, employer of relatives, employer-to-be etc.
  • In case of application for LONG-TERM RESIDENT as Spouse of 2nd/3rd Generation Japanese: 2nd/3rd Generation Japanese spouse
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After you obtain RESIDENCE CARD, you have to take care of visa-related application and notification as well as general administrative procedures for all the resident in Japan.

Typical procedures related to visa/immigration is;

  • Extension of Period of Stay (VISA Renewal)
  • Change of VISA Status
  • Application for Re-enter Permit
  • Permission to Engage in Other Activity
  • Notification of Change of Contracting Organization, etc…

For more details of APPLICATION / NOTIFICATION, jump to the page below:


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