The process for applying and obtaining a work visa in Japan is a straightforward process and generally much easier for teachers to navigate than those of surrounding countries. Your work visa type will vary depending on where you want to work, but the requirements are generally the same across the board with more specialized institutions like universities requiring a few more things.
Unless you are a Japanese national then yes, you will need a dedicated work visa in order to legally teach abroad in Japan. This visa will link you and your employer and while there are ways to transfer both visas and jobs, it’s more common to work for one employer for the duration of your contract.
Which visa do I need?
There are three main types of visas for people looking to teach in Japan with the biggest difference being where each allows you to teach.
The Instructor Visa is one of the most common in Japan and allows you to work as an ALT in public institutions like elementary and high schools. If you are planning on working for the JET Program this is the visa you will need.
Specialist in Humanities Visa
This is another common work visa in Japan and allows you to work for private schools and companies like eikaiwas and business teaching programs. If you plan to teach with any of the big schools like GABA or AEON, this is likely the work visa you will need.
Working Holiday Visa
Rounding out the types of Japanese work visas available for teachers is the Working Holiday Visa. Only available residents of certain countries (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Norway), this visa is meant for those who want to split their time working and exploring Japan.
This visa is only valid for 6 months (though it can be extended) and applicants need to meet a few other requirements listed here.
Work Visa Requirements
As we discussed in our Requirements to Teach in Japan page, applicants don’t need much to qualify for a Japanese work visa:
- Be a native English speaker OR have at least 12 years of schooling in English
- Bachelor’s Degree in any subject
In addition, your school is likely to require the following:
- At least 2 recent passport size photos
- A copy of your passport information page (the one with your face on it)
- A copy of your resume
- A copy of your degree
- A certified letter of graduation from your university OR a sealed transcript
- A copy of your teaching license or certification
Looking for a TEFL? Check out our list of the best TEFL courses for Japan here!
How to Get a Work Visa in Japan – the Process Explained
The following is assuming you meet the requirements to teach English in Japan and have already received an offer of employment (if not, make sure to check out our Japan job board). Once you get this offer, a few things will happen with the end result being a legitimate Japanese work visa getting placed in your passport.
- Send required forms and documents to your future school
- Your school will apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) on your behalf and send it to you
- You will convert the CoE to a work visa at your nearest Japanese Consulate or Embassy
- You will receive your Status of Residence and Residence Card upon your arrival in Japan
Every school is different but expect to have to produce copies of at least some of the documents listed above. Your school will use these to secure your CoE on your behalf and prove to the government you meet the requirements to teach in Japan.
Certificate of Eligibility (CoE)
While applicants can handle this on their own if they are in Japan, your school should be willing to apply for a CoE on your behalf. A Certificate of Eligibility is essentially a form saying where you be working, who you will be working for, and what your job will be. The CoE is not mandatory to receive a working visa, but it does speed the process up significantly.
Changing the CoE to a Visa
The school will provide you with the CoE and you are expected to use it to apply for the appropriate visa at the nearest consulate or embassy. Use the form found here and feel free to use a visa service if you don’t live near an embassy or consulate.
Status of Residence and Residence Card
The last step in the process happens once you arrive in Japan – as a temporary resident of Japan (thanks to your work visa), you will receive a residence card that has all your information embedded in a chip. This is your official identification for your time in Japan and affords you access to all social services.
This card is usually provided at all major arriving airports but if not then you will be required to visit your local government office in order to receive it.
What is the average processing time for a work visa in Japan?
Teachers that are in a hurry to get their work visa should be aware that the entire process can take 1-3 months from application to arrival. The majority of this is spent on processing your Certificate of Eligibility and very little can be expedited with the exception of turning your CoE to a visa (this can be done in a day if rushed, 3-4 days otherwise).
How long is the visa good for?
All work visas are valid for a period of 1 or 3 years.
Can you work on a tourist visa in Japan?
No, it is illegal to work as a tourist in Japan. There are, however, processes in place that allow tourists to convert their visa to a work one if they find employment in Japan. Because of this, it is not uncommon for teachers (or travelers) to arrive in Japan as a tourist, find a job, and then change over their visa.