If you are planning to visit Tokyo or other parts of Japan as a tourist,  probably the most important thing you will need to confirm is whether you will need to apply for a visa in your home country or not.  There are some nationalities that are exempt, meaning that they don’t have to apply for a visa in their home countries.  They can get a tourist visa stamp in their passport at immigration after they arrive in Japan.  Depending on the nationality, this stamp will allow the person to stay in Japan for a period of between fifteen to ninety days.  This visa is granted on the assumption that the bearer of the visa is here for sightseeing purposes and will not engage in any type of work which he or she will be compensated for.   At the moment, the following sixty seven countries are visa exempt:


Brunei (15 days), Indonesia (15 days), Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand (15 days), Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan

North America

Canada and the United States

Latin America and the Caribbean

Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Surinam and Uruguay


Australia and New Zealand

Middle East

Israel and Turkey


Lesotho, Mauritius and Tunisia


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Sloyakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom

For countries that are not included above, a visa will need to be obtained at the Japanese consulate in the respective country.

Long term stay

If you are interested in staying here long term there are some options.  The first thing that you need to do is to obtain what is called a Certificate of Eligibility.  The purpose of this certificate is to simplify the immigration procedure.  When presenting this to a Japanese consulate abroad it when applying for a visa it will be viewed that the applicant has already been pre screened and meets the conditions of the requested activities that the applicant intends to carry out within the country.  In addition, if the applicant presents this certificate at a port of entry, it will be treated by the immigration officer as having met the landing conditions required related to the status of residence.

There are a total of 27 visas available.  Although this can seem confusing and overwhelming, they can be broken down into 3 main categories.

  1. Working Visa: allows you to work in Japan.

Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services, Intra-company Transferee, Skilled Labor, Business Manager, Highly Skilled Professional, Diplomat / Official, Professor, Instructor, Artist, Religious Activities,  Journalist, Legal / Accounting Services, Medical Services, Researcher and Entertainer.

2.  Non-Working Visa: such as student, dependent, trainee, etc.

Student, Trainee, Technical Internship, Dependent, Cultural Activities and Temporary Visitor.

3.   Family related visa

Spouse or Child of Japanese National, Long Term Resident, Permanent Resident (Indefinite) *Note and Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident.

In my situation when I first came to live here in 1991 I entered on a 90 day tourist visa.  I then enrolled into a Japanese language school and applied for a student visa.  At that time, I had to leave Japan in order to apply for the visa.  So what I did was visit the Japanese consulate in South Korea which is the closest neighboring country to Japan.  My application took aro, und a day or two to process.  After picking up my visa at the consulate, I returned to Japan and entered the country with my new student visa.  If I recall correctly, the visa was initially good for one year and renewable 2 or 3 times after that.Family Related Visa: Spouse of Japanese national, Permanent Resident, etc.

I studied Japanese for a year from 1991 until 1992.  I then came back to the United States for a few years from 1992 until 1995.  In 1995 I returned to Japan again with the intent of staying long term.  At that time I was already married to a Japanese national whom I met when I visited Japan for the first time in 1991.  This time the visa that I applied for was spouse of Japanese national.  The procedure was the same as before.  I had to leave the country and apply at any Japanese consulate abroad.  After receiving my visa at the Japanese consulate in LA, California (USA), I noticed that I was initially given a 1 year visa and had to extend it after that.  From around my second year of living here I was given a 3 year visa.

Then around 2005 I switched to Permanent Resident.  At the time the requirement to obtain Permanent Resident was that you either had to be married to a Japanese national for at 3 years or have been living in Japan for at least 10.  As a Permanent Resident, there are no restrictions with the type of work you are allowed to do (same as spouse visa). The main difference is that you no longer need to renew your visa every few years.  So basically you can live here as long as you like, and are free to do any type of job.  It’s almost like being a Japanese citizen except that you are not allowed to vote.  Of course if you commit a crime, you run the risk of being deported.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section or send me an email.



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