Employer sponsorshipi Work permits
The specific work visa categories and brief descriptions of their respective permitted activities are as follows:
- professor: research, or guidance of research or education, at a university, an equivalent educational institution or a college of technology;
- artist: engaging in artistic activities that produce income, including music, the fine arts and literature;
- religious activities: missionary and other religious activities dispatched by a foreign religious organisation;
- journalist: journalistic activities based on a contract with a foreign press;
- business management: engaging in the operation or management of international trade or other businesses;
- legal and accounting services: engaging in a legal or accounting business that may lawfully only be carried out by registered foreign lawyers, certified public accountants or those with other legal qualifications;
- medical services: engaging in medical treatment services that may lawfully only be undertaken by physicians, dentists or those with other legal qualifications;
- researcher: engaging in research based on a contract with a public or private organisation in Japan;
- instructor: language instruction or other education at an elementary school, junior high school, senior high school, secondary school, school for special needs education, vocational school, miscellaneous educational institution or other educational institutions equivalent to a miscellaneous educational institution in facilities and curriculum;
- engineer, specialist in humanities or international services: engaging in services that require technology or knowledge pertinent to physical science, engineering or other natural scientific fields, and jurisprudence, economics, sociology or other human sciences fields; engaging in services that require specific ways of thinking or sensitivity acquired through experience of foreign cultures, on the basis of a contract with a public or private organisation in Japan;
- intra-company transferee: personnel who are transferred to a business office in Japan for a limited period from a business office established in a foreign country by a public or private organisation that has a head office, branch office or other business office in Japan, and who engages in any of the activities listed within the engineer, specialist in humanities or international services categories at the business office;
- caregiver: engaging in caregiving activities only to be undertaken by holders of licences for certified care workers after graduation from designated schools in Japan;
- entertainer: engaging in theatrical performances, musical performances, sports or any other form of show business;
- skilled labour: engaging in services that require industrial techniques or skills belonging to special fields, on the basis of a contract with a public or private organisation in Japan;
- technical intern: acquiring skills, etc., on the basis of an employment contract with an organisation in Japan; and
- highly skilled professionals I and II.
Only workers from seven of the above categories (instructor, researcher, engineer, specialist in humanities, international services, caregiver, skilled labour, technical intern and highly skilled professional) are required to provide evidence of a contract with an organisation in Japan, which can be an employment contract or another type of contract, at the time of application. Of these, only the technical intern category is designed for engagement of workers in low-skilled jobs for a limited period (i.e., a maximum of three years) for the purposes of acquiring skills, technology and knowledge. Family members of the technical intern status holder are not allowed to stay with dependant visa status unlike other work visa types.
The status itself allows a non-Japanese citizen to carry out the relevant authorised activities without having to acquire a work permit.Timeline of employment visa status
The employer in Japan and the foreign prospective employee first conclude an employment agreement, which will be in effect when the employee acquires the required work status.
The employer in Japan then applies to the relevant regional immigration bureau for a certificate of eligibility. This process typically takes two to eight weeks, excluding time spent gathering documents. Appeals to the Minister of Justice are not available, although reapplication is technically possible.
Upon receipt of the certificate, the employer forwards it to the foreign prospective employee overseas for the visa application.
The employee applies to the embassy or Japanese consulate in his or her jurisdiction for the visa based on the issued certificate of eligibility. The Japanese embassy or consulate then reviews the application documents, including the certificate, and decides whether to endorse the visa. Obtaining the certificate does not guarantee the issuance of the desired visa by the embassy or consulate. This is because the Immigration Bureau belongs to the Ministry of Justice, while embassies and consulates belong to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with both ministries making their own decisions from the deference viewpoints. Rejection of a visa application, despite the issuance of a certificate, may occur.
When the foreign prospective employee arrives at the port of entry in Japan, the immigration officer will conduct a landing examination. If the foreign national is found to be suspicious, a special inquiry officer will hold a hearing. After successful completion of the examination, a residence card will be issued along with landing permission at the airport.
After the foreign national's landing and the commencing of his or her job, the employer must notify the employment and discharge of each foreign worker to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare via the local public employment security office. In addition, the foreign national must register his or her residence at a municipal office.
Once the certificate of eligibility has been issued, some regional immigration offices exceptionally may allow the applicant to change his or her status while he or she is staying in Japan with temporary visitor status. In such cases, he or she does not need to appear in person at a Japanese overseas mission. It takes around a week to obtain permission for a change of status and obtain the proper working status with a certificate. The residence card is issued when permission is granted for the change of status.ii Labour market regulation
In consideration of the influence of foreign workers on the Japanese labour market, the Japanese Ministry of Justice has laid out specific conditions for each work visa category (except those of professor, artist, religious activist and journalist) in its ministerial ordinance.
Nearly all the conditions for work visas have the requirement that the foreign worker receive a salary of no less than what a Japanese national would receive for comparable work. This is to prevent the employment of cheap foreign workers from affecting the Japanese labour market and work conditions. Other conditions typically include requiring degrees or a certain amount of work experience, or both, in addition to other qualifications. This is to prevent employment of underskilled foreign workers.
One especially notable point is that, among the required documentation, many documents concern the employer itself. The Japanese Immigration Bureau generally checks two things: whether the foreign national in question fits the specific criteria and whether the employer is truly financially capable of hiring the foreign national on a long-term basis, while providing adequate support. This is to prevent foreign workers being discharged for financial reasons soon after arrival.
Foreigners with a technical intern visa seeking to engage in jobs not requiring high-level skills are allowed to stay in Japan for one year only. While those with job types in certain categories stipulated by the labour ministry can extend their stay for another two years after examination, they are not allowed to bring their family members.iii Rights and duties of sponsored employeesPermitted activities
A sponsored employee is to engage in the activities permitted within the scope of his or her visa category. He or she may not, therefore, engage in other money-earning activities enumerated in different visa categories, unless he or she obtains either a special permit to engage in those other activities on a part-time basis, or permission to change his or her residence status to another category.Insurance and pensions
With regards to insurance and pensions, foreign workers enjoy the same protection as their Japanese counterparts. Sponsored employees are covered by the Workers' Accident Compensation Insurance scheme, health insurance and either national pension insurance or welfare pension insurance.
Foreign workers who work in Japan for one year or more are entitled to Japanese pension benefits, and must therefore pay pension premiums. When a foreign worker leaves Japan, he or she can receive a lump-sum withdrawal payment of his or her paid premiums, provided that he or she is not a Japanese national and has paid welfare pension or national pension premiums for six months or more, does not have a place of residence in Japan and has never had the right to receive any kind of pension benefits, including disability allowances.
Japan has procured social security agreements with several countries to prevent the double payment of pension premiums. The arrangements based on these agreements vary from country to country. So far, the countries that have made social security agreements with Japan are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Additionally, Italy, Luxembourg, the Philippines and Slovakia signed agreements with Japan that will become effective soon.Leaving jobs
Sponsored employees are free to resign from their jobs, and for the rest of its term the visa basically remains valid, until its expiration date (that is, if the resigning worker finds a new position within the permitted scope of the visa category for the previous job).
If the resigning worker is uncertain about whether his or her new position is within the scope of his or her visa category, he or she may wish to consider applying for a certificate of authorised employment. On the basis of the description on the application form, the immigration control authorities check whether the foreign worker's new job is within the scope of his or her visa category; if it is, they will issue the certificate of authorised employment specifically indicating the foreign worker's authorised activities.
Foreign workers are required to report the fact that they have resigned from their job to the immigration authorities.
Furthermore, when foreign workers have failed to continue to engage in the activities permitted by their status for three months or more while residing in Japan, their status may be revoked by the Minister of Justice.