In 2012, the Japanese government introduced a new entry system for highly-skilled foreign professionals, in an effort to draw talent into the country. This is known as the Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa, and it is issued through a point-based system to foreigners who meet the criteria.

Who is Eligible for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan?

There are three categories under which the Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan is issued:

  1. Highly Skilled Professional Visa for advanced academic research activities, issued to foreigners who will engage in education, research, or research guidance in a public or private organization in Japan.
  2. Highly Skilled Professional Visa for advanced specialized or technical activities, issued to foreigners who have specialized skills or knowledge in the field of natural sciences or humanities and who will work for a public or private organization in Japan.
  3. Highly Skilled Professional Visa for advanced business management activities, issued to foreigners who will operate or manage a public or private organization in Japan.

In addition, if you fall under one of the categories listed above, you still have to:

  • Reach at least 70 points on the point-based system; and
  • Work only for the company that sponsored your visa. If you want to change employers, you have to apply for a new Certificate of Eligibility if the work you will do still qualifies for the Highly Skilled Program. If it does not, you have to change the category of visa to a standard Japan Work Visa.

The Point Criteria for a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa

When you apply for a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa, you have to reach at least 70 points on the Point Evaluation Mechanism in order to qualify. You must fill out a Point Calculation Form (as described on the website of the Japan Immigration Bureau here), where you outline all your qualifications along with the corresponding points, and add them up to a total in the end.

The points you receive are divided into four main categories:

  1. Your academic background
  2. Your professional career
  3. Your annual salary
  4. Your age

Then, you will receive additional points if you fulfill certain requirements, such as:

  • You will work for an organization receiving financial support measures (10 points)
  • You have a degree issued by a Japanese higher education institution (10 points)
  • You have a Level N1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test or you have graduated from a foreign institution with a major in the Japanese language (15 points)
  • You have a Level N2 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (10 points)
  • You have previous research achievements (15 – 20 points)

Academic background

Depending on the highest level of your academic background, you can receive the following points:

For advanced academic research activities
Holders of a Doctorate degree 30 points
Holders of a Masters degree 20 points
Holders of a Bachelor’s degree 10 points

 

For advanced specialized or technical activities
Holders of a Doctorate degree 30 points
Holders of a Masters degree 20 points
Holders of a Bachelor’s degree 10 points

 

For advanced business management activities
Holders of a Doctorate or Masters degree 20 points
Holders of a Bachelor’s degree 10

Professional career

The more practical work experience you have, the more points you will receive on the Point Evaluation Mechanism of the Japanese Highly Skilled Professional Visa:

Work experience of ten years and more 20 points
Work experience of seven years and more 15 points
Work experience of five years and more 10 points
Work experience of three years and more 5 points

The minimum annual salary for Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa

You need a minimum annual salary of at least 3 million Yen in order to qualify for a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa. However, if you have a higher salary, you will receive higher points:

Annual salary Points earned
10 million Yen 40 points
9 million Yen 35 points
8 million Yen 30 points
7 million Yen (unless you are 40 years of age or above) 25 points
6 million Yen (unless you are 40 years of age or above) 20 points
5 million Yen (unless you are 35 years of age or above) 15 points
4 million Yen (unless you are 30 years of age or above) 10 points

Age

If you are applying for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan under the category of “advanced business management activities”, then there are no points awarded on the basis of age.

Under the categories of “advanced academic research activities” and “advanced specialized or technical activities” the points criteria on the basis of your age are:

If you are 29 years or younger 15 points
If you are between 30 and 34 years old 10 points
If you are between  35 and 39 years old 5 points

What are the Benefits of the Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa?

If you qualify for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan, you will enjoy the following benefits:

  • You can receive a visa with a maximum duration of five years, which is extendable
  • You can do multiple activities under the Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa without having to obtain a separate permit for each of them or change your status of residence
  • You can bring your family members as well as any domestic staff with you under this category of visa
  • You are allowed to bring your parents with you, provided that the parents will:
    • Live with you and
    • Help take care of your child(ren) under the age of 7 or help take care of your pregnant spouse
  • Your spouse is allowed to work
  • You will become eligible to apply for Permanent Residency in Japan after three years, rather than ten as is the standard requirement
  • If you reach 80 points or more on the Point Evaluation Mechanism, you can apply for Permanent Residency after 1 year of residence

What Documents do I Need for a Japanese Highly Skilled Professional Visa Application?

When you apply for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan, you need several documents to support your application. The documents differ depending on your profession and specific circumstances, but they include:

  • Your valid passport along with photocopies
  • Passport-size pictures with the following specifications:
    • Dimensions: 4cm x 3cm
    • Taken within the last three months
    • Plain white background, without any patterns and shadows
    • You must be starting straight ahead, with a neutral facial expression
    • Your face has to be fully visible
    • The picture must be good quality (focused, clear, and sharp)
  • Documents detailing your position in the company/organization, the salary you will receive, and the duration of the work (eg. a work contract)
  • Proof of your academic qualifications (diplomas, certificates, transcripts, etc.)
  • Proof of previous professional background (work certificate, letter of reference, etc.)
  • If you are applying for “Change of Status of Residence”:
    • Your current Residence Card
    • Proof of previous Tax Payments
  • Documents related to the organization hiring you, such as company registration, statement of profit and loss, etc.
  • Any additional documents supporting your application (eg. the results of your Japanese Language Proficiency Test, proof of Research Achievements, etc.)

How to Apply for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan?

The application process for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa for Japan depends on where you are when you submit the application. However, in either case, you will have to get a Japan Certificate of Eligibility  before the actual visa application.

Applying for a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa from abroad

  1. When you apply for a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa while abroad, your sponsor (the company or organization which hired you) has to apply for your Certificate of Eligibility at their local Immigration Bureau in Japan.
  2. You have to send them any relevant documents required, as well as a Point Calculation Form, where you have outlined your qualifications and the corresponding points.
  3. Once the Immigration Bureau has examined your application (and if they found it acceptable), they will issue your Certificate of Eligibility.
  4. You can use the Certificate of Eligibility to apply for a Japan Visa on the basis of “Highly Skilled Professional” from a Japanese Embassy or Consulate in your country. (You can find a list of the Japanese Embassies, Consulates, and Permanent Missions here.)

Applying for a Highly Skilled Professional Visa while in Japan

If you are already in Japan with another type of visa (such as a Student Visa  or standard Work Visa), you have to apply to change your category into a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa:

  1. Either you or your employer applies for the Certificate of Eligibility at your local Immigration Bureau in Japan.
  2. Submit all the required documents along with a Point Calculation Form where you have outlined your qualifications and the corresponding points.
  3. Once the Immigration Bureau has examined your application (and if they found it acceptable), they will issue your Certificate of Eligibility.
  4. Use the Certificate of Eligibility to apply for a “Change of Status of Residence” at your local Immigration Bureau in Japan.

What is the Duration of the Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa?

A Japanese Highly Skilled Professional Visa can be issued for a maximum duration of 1, 3, or 5 years for the main applicant and his/her spouse and children.

For other dependents of the main applicant, such as the parents and/or the domestic staff, the visa can be issued for a maximum duration of 1 year, or 1 year and six months (parents only).

Extending a Japan Highly Skilled Professional Visa

Before your visa expires, you can apply for a Visa Extension  at the local Immigration Office that represents the region of Japan in which you live and work for a fee of 4,000 Yen.

If you received a three-year visa, you may be able to apply for Japanese Permanent Residence Permit  instead of extending the visa.

How Long Does it Take to Process a Japan Highly Skilled Visa Application?

The application for a Japan Highly Skilled Visa at an Embassy or Consulate of Japan abroad is processed within 5 – 10 working days, starting from the time you submit the completed application.

Before that, when you (or your employer) submit the application for a Certificate of Eligibility at the Immigration Services, it is processed within 10 days.

If you are applying for a “Change of Status of Residence”, the application is processed within 5 days.

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