Want to hire foreign workers in Japan?

As Japan’s population shrinks, the number of migrant workers in the country is progressively growing and is expected to increase even more in the future.

According to a Zenken survey cited by The Japan Times, 45.5% of Japanese companies are interested in hiring foreign talent.

However, when bringing foreign workers into Japan, there are various factors to consider in order to comply with immigration laws.

This article provides comprehensive information on the requirements set forth by Japanese labor laws to ensure you legally employ foreign workers in Japan.


How to Hire Foreign Workers in Japan: A Checklist for Employers


If you are planning to hire a foreign national who is currently living abroad, you must ensure that they legally have the right to work in Japan.

Employing an individual who does not meet the legal requirements to work in Japan can have serious legal consequences. These consequences may include imprisonment for up to 3 years, a fine of up to ¥3 million, or even both.

Of course, the first step you need to take in this regard is to find the right workers for your business and sign a work contract.

Subsequently, you can proceed in accordance with immigration laws and requirements.

Here, the key steps you should follow when hiring foreigners in Japan:


Step 1: Identify the Right Category of Japan Work Visa


The Japanese Government is offering a wide array of work visas. These visa categories vary according to the specific area of knowledge and employment type.

You must therefore determine the right type of work visa that will allow you to hire foreign workers in Japan.

Do note that working visas are only for individuals holding a high level of professional knowledge and skills. This means that you cannot hire unskilled workers to perform manual or basic tasks. These tasks may include roles in massage therapy, hairdressing, waiting staff, and the like.


Types of Visas for Foreign Workers in Japan


  • Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services:


    • Job titles associated with the Engineer visa include people working in the fields of physical science and tech professionals, such as software engineers.
    • Job titles associated with the Specialist in Humanities visa include individuals employed in domains like humanities, economics, social sciences, and law.
    • Job titles associated with the International Services visa include individuals employed in domains such as translation, public relations, language teaching, product development, etc.
  • Intra-Company Transferee: For foreign company expats or people working for overseas-based subsidiaries of Japanese companies.


  • Skilled Labor: For skilled workers who have expertise fields such as cooking, training animals, working with precious metals and gems, etc.


  • Highly Skilled Professional: For highly skilled individuals involved in research, technical, or business management activities. This type of visa is issued through a point-based system based on the candidate’s academic background, professional career, annual salary, and age.


  • Working visa: For individuals who have certain status or expertise in specific fields. This type of visa is suitable for a wide array of professionals. These categories of professionals include professors, artists, religious workers, doctors, researchers, entertainers, nursing care, people providing legal and accounting services, etc.


  • Specified skilled worker: For less skilled workers in specific industries. These industries include nursing care, building cleaning management, aviation, accommodation, machine parts and tooling, electronics, construction, automobile repair and maintenance, agriculture, fishery, manufacture of food and beverages, industrial machinery, shipbuilding, and food service.


  • Working Holiday Visa: Japan is issuing Working Holiday Visas to young people aged 18-30 (25 in the case of some countries). There are currently 29 countries that qualify for the Working Holiday Programs in Japan. More information about the Working Holiday Visa for Japan can be found on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.


Step 2: Obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)


Employers who wish to hire foreign workers in Japan should first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE).

A COE serves as an authorized document confirming the applicant’s qualification for entry into Japan under specific residency conditions.

The Ministry of Justice in Japan holds the authority to assess the candidate’s conformity with the qualifications necessary for entry into the country.

To do so, the competent authorities will check if the foreigner meets the following requirements:

  • The activities carried out by the worker must align with those specified in the Work Visa (Residential Permit).


  • The academic and professional qualifications of the worker must meet the prerequisites of the application.


Upon fulfilling all the stipulated prerequisites, the Ministry of Justice will issue the COE, which the applicant will then utilize to apply for a work visa.

As an employer, you must contact your nearest Regional Immigration Services Bureau and apply for a COE on behalf of the employee.


Applying for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE): Supporting Documents


To apply for a COE, you must provide several supporting documents, including:

  • Duly completed Certificate of Eligibility application form (available on the website of the Immigration Bureau of Japan)


  • One passport-size picture


  • Work contract stating the employee’s salary and duration of employment



  • Company documents that may include the certificate of company registration as well as any relevant licenses or certifications


Starting from March 17, 2023, individuals will have the option to receive a COE via email and utilize the same email for the visa application process.

The processing time for the COE may vary based on factors such as visa type and the capacity of the Immigration office.

However, in most cases, it takes between 1 and 5  months for the COE to be issued.

Do note that the COE is valid for 3 months. As a result, your prospective employee must use it to apply for a work visa within this timeframe.


Step 3: Your Future Employee Applies for a Japan Work Visa


Upon obtaining a Certificate of Eligibility, your future employee can apply for a work visa for Japan (also known as status of residence).

The visa application must be submitted to the Japanese Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence.

In most cases, the applicant is required to submit the following documents:


  • A passport-size picture


  • Employment contract signed by both parties


  • Certificate of Eligibility (COE)


  • Letter of Guarantee


  • Professional resume


  • Company’s most recent financial statements


  • Certificate of Registration (“Tokibo Tohon“)


  • Company Withholding Tax Report


  • Any professional certificates, licenses, or diplomas proving the applicant is qualified for the position


  • Documents proving previous work experience


Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. Japanese Embassies and Consulates reserve the right to request additional documents depending on each individual case.

You should also be aware that for certain visa categories, nationals of Russia, CIS countries, and Georgia need to submit two application forms and two photographs.

When issuing a work visa for Japan, the competent authorities will assess factors such as the profitability and stability of the business, as well as the necessity of employment.

The fee for a Japanese work visa depends on the type of visa you’re applying for. Typically, a single-entry visa is  ¥3,000 and a multiple-entry visa is  ¥6,000.


What to Do After Hiring a Foreign Worker in Japan


Once you’ve hired a foreign worker, you are required by law to report your new hire to Hello Work. This is the Japanese Government’s Employment Service Center.

Additionally, your foreign employees must receive the same benefits as national employees. These benefits include health insurance, employment insurance, accident compensation insurance, pension premium, and annual paid leave.

When a foreign worker (outside of Special Permanent Residents or Official Status holders) leaves work, you must notify Hello Work. Failing to fulfill this requirement may result in a penalty of up to ¥300,000.

Please note that a foreign worker is not allowed to engage in activities outside the scope permitted in their visa.

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