You will need to be in possession of certain documents before you travel to Japan. You must have a valid passport, and if you need a visa to visit Japan it should be attached to your passport for inspection upon arrival. You should check with the Japanese Embassy or consulate in your home country to determine whether you need a visa or not (see below for information on consulates and embassies). Generally travel to Japan is unproblematic, but should you have any complex or detailed questions regarding your entry into Japan the Immigration Bureau has an extensive website:
As a tourist you will normally enter Japan on a tourist visa, which is valid for ninety days. Should you wish to extend your stay the simplest way is probably just to leave Japan and re-enter for another ninety-day period.
You will need a working visa to work in Japan legally. If you’re hired by a Japanese company they will normally take care of this, it just requires them to fill out a few forms and submit them to the appropriate authorities on your behalf. Officially you can’t actually start work until the visa comes through, which can take up to two months, but there are some unofficial ways around this. If you don’t have at least an undergraduate degree from an established university you may have a hard time finding a Japanese firm that’s willing to hire you and take care of your visa affairs. Your Japanese language skills (or lack of them) do not affect your application for a working visa. The working visa is valid for one to three years (the authorities will decide on the duration of its validity based on your application). It’s best to apply for a multi-entry permit at the same time; otherwise if you leave Japan, even for a short holiday, your working visa will no longer be valid upon re-entry.
Anyone who intends to stay in Japan for longer than ninety days is required to register as a foreign national at their local ward office in order to be issued with the obligatory alien registration card (gaikokujin toroku is the Japanese term for alien registration). To register you will need two recent passport photos. You will not be issued with your card straightaway; you’ll be notified when it’s ready. Once you get your card you must keep it with you at all times.
The Shinjuku Foreign Resident Information Center at Shinjuku Multicultural Plaza offers immigration advice to foreign nationals. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm, except for national holidays and the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.
As a permanent resident of Japan both you and your spouse can freely undertake paid work there.
If you’re entering Japan on a student visa you will not be allowed to work legally unless you obtain special permission from your place of study and the immigration office. Even then you will only be able to work a certain number of hours per work. If you are a citizen of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea, France, Germany, Ireland or the United Kingdom, and are between eighteen and thirty years of age, you can apply for a working holiday visa which will allow you to work in Japan for up to twelve months.
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