There are approximately 2,9 million foreign residents living in Japan, out of whom the four main nationalities are China, Korea, Vietnam and Philippines.
Registered foreign residents in Japan by nationality
Published June 2021 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
|Continent of origin
||Number of persons
||Number of persons
| North/Mid America
| South America
|| statistics as of end/2020
| no nationality
Gyoseishoshi lawyers are Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialists qualified by the Government of Japan and certified as Immigration Lawyers by the Immigration Office to proceed to visa and status of residence application on behalf of our clients. We are willing to help you with obtaining visas for Japan, proceeding to renewal or change of residence status and setting up business in Japan including all other related legal issues.
We are also legal specialists in international marriage/divorce and naturalization. We can offer you our attentive and professional service as the administrative procedures are somewhat complicated and time-consuming for those who do not have enough experience.
(1) Types of status of residence (Visa)
Foreigners wishing to stay in Japan are required to obtain a residence status (so-called "visa") which is most appropriate for the intended activities in Japan. There are 27 types of residence status in Japan and the requirements as well as the authorized activities are different for each of them.
Registered foreign residents categorized by the types of residence status
Published June 2021 by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
||Status of Residence
||Permanent Resident / Special Permanent Resident
||Engineer or Specialist in Humanities / International Services
||Long-term Resident or Permanent Settler
||Spouse or Child of Japanese National
||Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident
||Temporary Visitor or Short Stay
||Specified Skilled Worker
||All the other types of residence status
||Total （as of end/June 2020）
Basically, the types of residence status are classified in the following three categories;
(A) Working activity visa
(B) Non-working activity visa
(C) Family-related residence visa
(A) Working activity visa: with these, you are allowed to work legally in the specified field.
Main examples of this group are the following 3 types of residence status.
|Engineer or Specialist in Humanities / International Services
||Engineer: working in the fields of physical science, engineering or other natural
science. It requires a degree of bachelor in the corresponding field or
10 years’ professional experience
Specialist in humanities: working in legal, economic, social fields or in the human science. It requires
a university degree or 10 years’ professional experience evidenced by employment
certificates in the corresponding field.
International services: working in translation, interpretation, language instruction, public relations, international trade, fashion design, interior design and product development. It requires 3 years’ professional experience in the corresponding field except for interpretation, translation or language instruction which only require a university degree.
||Foreign cooking, architecture or civil engineering characteristic to foreign countries, processing precious stones, metals or fur, training animals, piloting aircrafts, instructing sports, sommeliers
It requires 3-10 years’ professional experience in the corresponding field.
|Specified Skilled Worker
|| Introduced newly in 2019 to cover shortage in workforce in 14 specific
fields of work such as construction, agriculture, manufacture of food &
beverages, machine parts & tooling industries, shipbuilding, accommodation,
care worker, food service, etc. After 3 years of Technical Internship you
are eligible for this new residence status category I for max. 5 years.
Under this status you are free to choose your workplace or employer which
is not allowed for Technical Internship.
After 5 years of Specified Skilled Worker Category I you will be allowed to move to Category II which allows you to work in Japan almost permanently enabling you also to bring your family to Japan. For the moment the countries are limited to China, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Nepal and Mongolia.
Other types of this group are the following.
||Diplomatic missions and their families
||Government personnel, International Organizations personnel and their families
||A professor or researcher at university or equivalent educational institution
||A person who engages in artistic activity which generates sufficient income to support life such as painter, sculptor, photographer, writer, composer and songwriter
||A missionary sent from a foreign religious organization
||A journalist who signed the contracts with foreign media organizations, including freelance journalists
|Executive / Business Manager
||A foreigner starting a business in Japan or managing business on behalf of investor(s)
||An attorney, certified public accountant or other specialist with a legal qualification
||A physician, dentist or other medical specialist with a Japanese qualification
||A researcher who signed a contract with a public or private organization in Japan
||A person who engages in instruction of foreign languages or other education at elementary schools, junior high schools or senior high schools
||An expert of a foreign company or a subsidiary company of a Japanese firm located overseas with more than one year working experience
||A person who does theatrical performances, musical performances, sports or any other show business.
|Highly Skilled Professional
||A researcher, executive/manager, engineer, or specialist in humanities
or international services with high professional background, academic achievement,
income, etc. After 3 years with basic visa Type 1, you can be upgraded
to Type 2 which gives you a wide range of preferential treatment such as
an indefinite term of residence.
||A person with a certificate of specialist in care and welfare. In order to obtain this qualification you need to attend at least two years of government designated school or college to study required subjects.
Working visas only cover the kind of work that requires high level of professional knowledge or skills; therefore, there is no working visa for a simple, manual labor work such as a construction worker, a waitress, a salesclerk or a hairdresser.
(B) Non-working activity visa: with these, basically you are not allowed to work in Japan.
The main examples of this group are the following.
||A university student, high school student, student at a Japanese language school or other educational institution
||Internship after training under trainee visa
|Spouse or children of a foreign resident staying in Japan under the working visa and non-working visa (except for a temporary visitor or trainee)
or Short Stay
|A typical tourist visa; tourism, vacation, sports, family visit, participation to seminars, conferences or reunions. Maximum period of stay is 3 months, therefore not eligible for a Resident Card.
||Activities specifically designated for each case such as students on internship,
working holiday, housekeepers for diplomats.or executives / business managers.
Under some of these non-working visas, however, some allow you to work under certain condition or you can work within the limited hours on condition that you obtain from the Immigration Office the "permission to engage in a non-authorized activity."
(C) Family-related residence visa: these visas are granted according to the family status.
These are the following 4 types of residence status. Under these visas, basically you are allowed to work without any restriction and you are free to change jobs.
||Visa granted to those who have stayed basically 10 years in Japan without interruption (exception : 5 years for highly skilled professionals, 3 years for spouses of Japanese nationals)
|Spouse/Child of Japanese National
||Spouses and children of Japanese nationals
or Permanent Settler
|Descendants of Japanese nationals, people caring for their children with Japanese nationality, persons divorced from Japanese nationals, etc.
|Spouse/Child of Permanent Resident
||Spouses and children of Permanent Resident
(2) Residency Management System
Since July, 2012, a new Resident Card has replaced the old Alien Registration Card. At the arrival at major Japanese airport (Kansai, Narita, Haneda, Nagoya), you will receive a Resident Card at the immigration office if you have a Certificate of Eligibility and a long term visa (period exceeding 3 months) issued at a Japanese Consulate overseas. You don't receive a Resident Card only if you are a temporary visitor or with a visa valid for 3 months or less.
If you change your address, you must report to your municipality which will update your Resident Card and, in turn, will report the change to the Immigration Office on your behalf. If you change your job or marital status, you must report to your Regional Immigration Office directly. The new Resident Registration law requires that you report the change of employer to the Immigration Office within 14 days; otherwise you receive a penalty for lack of correct "certificate of authorized employment."
It was previously not compulsory to notify the change of employer to the Immigration office, as the application for the "certificate of authorized employment" was optional, not an obligation. With the introduction of the new law, it is required to report the change within 14 days and there is a penalty if you fail to comply with this regulation. The notification, however, can be submitted by sending the document by post.
As the new Resident Card shows your residence status, naturally your employer can see if you have an effective working visa. A new Resident Card is issued each time you renew or change your residence status. For most of the types of residence status, the maximum period of stay has been extended to 5 years, and you don't need to have a re-entry permit if you are coming back to Japan within 12 months. (You will need a re-entry permit if you are coming back in more than 12 months.)
With the introduction of the new Resident Registration system, the foreign residents are registered under the same residence record system as the Japanese citizens, thus making it possible for foreigners to appear in the same Japanese resident certificate (juminhyo) as that of Japanese spouse and children. The foreign residents can now become the head of household of the family with Japanese spouse and children.
If you have an Alien Registration Card, it is still valid until the next visa renewal. However, if you wish, you can have a new Resident Card issued at your Regional Immigration Office any time. If you travel abroad frequently, you don't need to ask for re-entry permit if you have a new Resident Card.
(3) Visa exemption countries
If you are coming to Japan only for a short period of time and do not intend to work, you can apply for the "temporary visitor visa" (namely "tourist visa") directly at the Japanese Embassy / Consulate nearby.
However, citizens of the countries having visa exemption arrangements with
Japan can arrive in Japan only with the passport without going through
any procedure in advance. There are currently 61 countries with such agreement
with Japan, and you are automatically given a temporary visitor visa (status
of residence) at the Immigration Office of the airport of your arrival;
the maximum period of stay is 90 days.
・Please see the following website if your country has such an agreement
(4) Preferential treatment for highly skilled professionals
This system was first introduced in May 2012 in order to attract highly
skilled foreign nationals who are likely to contribute to Japanese economy.
An applicant's educational and professional background, income, academic
achievement, age, etc. are evaluated in points, and you need to reach 70
points to be qualified in this category with preferential treatment.
Visa processing time for this category has a priority; generally the time
required will be less than half of the standard processing time. If you
have this special visa, you will get a 5-year visa from the beginning,
and, moreover, you are allowed to obtain a Permanent Resident visa after
staying in Japan for only 5 years. Other benefits include that you can
bring your parents to Japan, your spouse is allowed to work in Japan, you
are allowed to have a housekeeper or a nanny from your country, etc. Since
April 2015, this status of residence has been changed from "Designated
Activities" to "Highly Skilled Professional."
The point system gives you the points as follows (in case of Type 1 Class B):
(a) 30 points for a Doctor's degree, 20 points for a Master's degree, 10 points for a Bachelor's degree
(b) 5-20 points depending on the professional experience (e.g. 10 points for 5 years, 20 points for 10 years)
(c) 10-40 points depending on the amount of your income (e.g. 30 points for 8 million yen, 40 points for 10 million yen)
(d) 5-15 points depending on the age (younger the more points, e.g. 15 points under 30 years old, 5 points under 39 years old)
(e) 15 points for holder of Japanese Proficiency Test N1 or equivalent
(f) 10 points for holder of Japanese university diploma
It is expected that 2,000 foreign nationals fall into this special visa status category every year with such residence status as Engineer, Researcher, Professor, Specialist in Humanities / International Services, Engineer and Executive / Business Manager.
There are 3 classes of Type 1; Class A for researcher/professors, Class B for engineer/specialist in humanity or international services, Class C for executive / business manager.
Highly skilled foreign professionals are classified in two categories; Type 1 and Type 2.
Type 1 corresponds to the conventional "highly skilled professionals" whereas Type 2 visa holder will be given an indefinite term of residence. Type 1 visa holders have the option of upgrading to a Type 2 visa after 3 years with Type 1. Once you are upgraded to Type 2, your period of stay becomes indefinite like a permanent resident, and you are free to change your work in Japan under this visa.
As of June, 2020, the number of foreigners under this visa is 24,000
(5) International Marriage
When a foreign national is getting married with a Japanese national in Japan, you are required to meet the condition set by the law of your own country. The Embassy or Consulate of your country must prove that you comply with the requirement by providing a document called Affidavit of Competency to Marry (USA) , Certificate of No Impediment (UK, Australia, New Zealand), Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage (Philippines), Certificado de capacidad matrimonial (Spain or Spanish speaking countries), or Certificat de capacite a mariage (France), etc.
With this document, you have to visit your municipality to fill out a Registration of Marriage Form together with your passport, Resident Card and certificate of Family Registry of a Japanese national. Two witnesses must sign and stamp the Registration of Marriage Form. In order to declare your marriage in your own country, you simply present a certificate of marriage issued by your municipality to your country's Embassy or Consulate. When you want to change your visa status to Spouse of Japanese National, you need a certificate of marriage issued by your country's Embassy or Consulate.
(6) International Divorce
When a spouse of Japanese national is divorced, you lose the residence status of "Spouse/Child of Japanese National," therefore, you must report to the Immigration Office and apply for a change of residence status. It is eventually possible to change your spouse visa to a "Long Term Resident" visa if you have lived long enough in Japan (approximately 5 years) or if you have a child of Japanese nationality to raise in Japan. If you do not apply for a change of your residence status after divorce, the Immigration Office may revoke your spouse visa within 6 months from the divorce.
・List of immigration offices in Japan
We provide certification of passport, signature, residence, etc. A spouse
of Japanese national, once divorced, will lose the residence status of
“Spouse/Child of Japanese National,” therefore, that person must report
to the Immigration Office and apply for a change of residence status.
It is eventually possible to change your spouse visa to a "Long Term
Resident" visa if you have lived long enough in Japan.