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Getting a work visa to say in Japan no easy task

By: Anthony Smith

Date Posted: 2001-12-07

Many people may not know this, but if you are a dependant child of a military service member or civilian and have been given SOFA status due to your guardianís position, this status runs out on your 23rd birthday. So, if you are a SOFA status dependent wishing to stay on Okinawa long term, you will have to obtain a work visa. The age thing doesnít matter for non-SOFA status foreigners looking to stay in Japan, but the guidelines to follow for getting a work visa are the same.

Going about doing this is not the easiest thing in the world, and with information being hard to find on this topic, many of us jump blindly into this venture without really knowing what weíre doing. This causes much grief and hardship as we are forced to drive back and forth between immigration offices, police headquarters and other businesses, looking desperately for some way to stay in Japan. There is information on the visa process available on the Internet and in books, but they are certainly few and far between, and often the language is written in a way that is difficult for laymen to understand. I hope this report will be of help to someone and will assist in avoiding problems. By the way, I found one Web site to be of great help while surfing the Web for information on obtaining a work visa: Click here to see it!.

The first, and hardest, thing to do when looking to obtain a work visa is to find a company that will hire and sponsor you in Japan. I am looking to write for Japan Update as a full-time reporter as soon as my visa process finishes up. In the meantime, I freelance. I tried to finish the paperwork for my visa during the past few months but hit a roadblock when I was asked for my actual college diploma. Point to remember: You cannot get a work visa if you do not have a college degree. So I took a test to finish my degree a few weeks ago and am hoping that it comes through positive. Once it does, I can finally hand in the rest of my application paperwork.

But what is a visa? According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs official Web site, ďA visa is a recommendation that a foreigner should be allowed to enter Japan. It is a certificate issued by the ambassador or consul verifying that the foreignerís passport is genuine and valid and that the application for a stay in Japan for the purpose and period indicated on the visa has been deemed appropriate.Ē Basically, it is a statement that the person holding the visa is worth having around and will not be a liability to Japan. If a foreigner is looking to stay long term in Japan, he or she must apply for one of five types of visas: diplomatic, official, working, general or specified. More information on these categories of visas, along with the scope of each status of residence, can be found here. I personally am applying for a working visa under the category of journalist, which has a one-year or three-year scope. Some people take the easier route and marry a Japanese local as their means of staying on Okinawa. If love is part of the bargain, that in itself is not such a bad deal and is much, much easier than the rest of these steps.

When you apply for one of the aforementioned visas, it is recommended that you apply in Japan for a Certificate of Eligibility. By submitting your visa application to an embassy or consulate with a Certificate of Eligibility, you will be able to obtain a visa in a shorter period of time than others who do not have such a certificate. If your purpose of stay is work, your application documents may be forwarded to an immigration authority for screening, so be sure to leave plenty of time for your application to be processed.

Once you have graduated from college, found a company that will sponsor you and applied for a Certificate of Eligibility, you are ready to apply for your visa. This part takes a while to complete, so take it a step at a time. The company that has agreed to sponsor you will likely help you out here. When submitting your visa application, you must bring your passport, two 45mm x 45mm passport-type photos taken within the last six months, two official visa application forms, available at the embassy or consulate, and documents certifying the purpose of your stay in Japan. A list of documents needed for each job type can be found here.

Since I am applying for a journalist work visa, I must submit documents proving exactly what Iíll be doing (i.e. writing for Japan Update), how long Iíll be doing it, what exact position Iíll be given and the amount of money I will be earning during the year. There is a full list of job types and necessary documents on the Web site mentioned above. It also gives the page layout and information required for other needed documents, such as the visa application form, the reason for invitation and a letter of guarantee.

Once you have submitted all the required documentation, the time to register your application form for a work visa usually takes between two to three months and can be even longer, so be sure to leave plenty of leeway. Remember, a Certificate of Eligibility will speed up the registration process.

So there you have it. If you are hoping to obtain a work visa while staying in Japan, these guidelines should be of help. You may run into many roadblocks along the way. I know I did. But the important thing is to overcome each obstacle and keep pushing forward until you have acquired your work visa. Good luck!

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