The Skilled Workers Visa category is for the following skilled workers:
- Architectural Engineer.
- Repair Technician.
- Processing Engineer.
- Animal Trainer.
- Mining Engineer.
- Aircraft Pilot.
- Sports Trainer.
- Wine Sommelier.
The common characteristic of these jobs is that they require the application of specific industrial techniques or skills that are considered uncommon in Japan.
The Applicant is expected to have a high level of skill and significant experience. Often, Applicants are brought to Japan to assist with specific projects rather than indefinitely.
SEVEN STEPS TO OBTAIN A JAPAN SKILLED LABOR VISA
In order to obtain a Skilled Labor Visa to work in Japan, an Applicant will need to complete the following seven steps:
Confirm that the Applicant satisfies the preliminary requirements for obtaining a Japan Skilled Labor Visa.
The preliminary items to be determined for a Japan Skilled Labor Visa depend upon the job category to which the Applicant belongs. Note that, in all cases, the Applicant must receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.
Chefs: This covers Applicants who will prepare cuisine based on skills devised outside Japan.
Applicants need at least 10 years' relevant experience. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
In addition, chefs from Thailand may be able to qualify for this visa based upon the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement
- Engineers and architects: The Applicant requires at least 10 years’ experience in architecture or civil engineering. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution. If the Applicant will work under the guidance of a foreign national with at least 10 years' experience, five years of experience will suffice.
- Manufacture / Repair of Foreign Products: The Applicant requires at least 10 years’ experience in the manufacture or repair of foreign products. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
- Experts in Precious Stones or Furs: The Applicant requires at least 10 years’ experience related to the processing of gems, precious stones, or fur. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
- Animal Trainer: The Applicant should have at least 10 years’ experience related to animal training. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
- Energy Exploration: The Applicant requires at least 10 years' experience in offshore oil drilling, geothermal drilling, or marine geological surveys for marine mineral exploration. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
- Pilots: The Applicant should have at least 1,000 hours flight experience. In addition, the Applicants planned activities should be related to international transport on scheduled routes.
Sports Coaches: The Applicant requires at least three years coaching experience. This can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution and time spent as a professional sportsperson (i.e., playing sport for remuneration.)
Alternatively, the Applicant may have competed in international sporting events such as the Olympics or World Championships.
Wine Sommelier: The Applicant requires at least five years’ experience appraising, evaluating, and maintaining wine's quality. The five years can include time spent majoring in relevant subjects at a foreign educational institution.
In addition, the Applicant needs to demonstrate she is internationally recognized. This can be shown via participation and / or results at certain international sommelier competitions or by government certification.
Confirm that the proposed work in Japan is consistent with the activities permitted for the holder of a Japan Skilled Labor Visa.
Once the preliminary items in Step 1 have been confirmed, the actual activities the Applicant will undertake in Japan need to be considered.
The permitted activities for a Japan Skilled Labor Visa are services that require industrial techniques or special skills based on a contract with a public or private organization in Japan.
Assemble the documents required to support a Japan Skilled Labor Visa application.
Once an Applicant has confirmed that her proposed activities in Japan are consistent with those outlined above in Step 2, supporting documentation needs to be prepared.
In the case of a Skilled Labor Visa, the authorities require the following documents:
- From the recipient organization:
- Copies of the company registration,
- Statement of profit and loss,
- Materials showing the organization’s business substance.
- From the Applicant:
- A personal history,
- Documents issued by an official organization certifying the Applicants career and the qualifications.
- Documents that certify the position the Applicant will be taking up along with details of the activity, its duration, and the associated remuneration.
Although not technically required, our experience is that providing Japanese translations enhances the quality of an application. This may minimize delays in obtaining final approval.
Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are able to assist in the preparation and translation of all documentation required for a Skilled Labor Visa.
Note Regarding Tax Planning Opportunities for Skilled Worker Visa Applicants.
There may be significant tax planning opportunities for the holder of a Skilled Labor Visa. Items such as employer provided housing, commuting allowance, and employer funded home leave can result in significant individual tax savings. In some circumstances, off-shore payment of compensation can result in tax savings if the holder of the Skilled Labor Visa will spend time outside Japan on business.
All these matters should be negotiated with the employer prior to finalizing the documentation needed for the Skilled Labor Visa COE application (see Step 4 below). The following article provides more information about this important issue Japan Taxes: Tax Planning for Foreigners Working in Japan.
Submit an application for a Japan Skilled Labor Visa Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”).
Once the Applicant’s activities have been confirmed and the appropriate documents assembled per steps 2 and 3 above, the next step in most cases will be to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (abbreviated as “COE”).
A COE is a document issued by the Japanese immigration authorities. It certifies an Applicant’s eligibility to undertake specific employment in Japan – in this case, the job associated with the Skilled Labor Visa application.
An application for a Skilled Labor Visa COE must be submitted in person at a regional immigration office in Japan. The COE application cannot be submitted by mail or at a Japanese embassy outside Japan.
Where the Applicant is not personally available (for example because she is not in Japan or due to a busy schedule) Japanese law allows a certified immigration specialist to submit a Skilled Labor Visa COE application on behalf of the Applicant.
Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are able to handle all the procedures associated with preparing and submitting an application for a Skilled Labor Visa COE.
Await Approval of the Skilled Labor Visa COE.
The processing time for a Skilled Labor Visa COE is generally four to six weeks.
Once approved, a notice is sent to an address in Japan advising that the COE is ready for collection at the regional immigration office where the COE application was originally submitted.
Where Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists are handling the Skilled Labor Visa application, the notification from the immigration authorities is sent to our office. Japan Visa then collects the COE from the regional immigration office and either forwards it to the Applicant or prepares a change of status application (see Step 6 below).
Obtain Skilled Labor Status of Residence (“SOR”).
Once an Applicant has the Skilled Labor Visa COE in hand, the next step is for her to exchange the COE for Skilled Labor “Status of Residence” (usually abbreviated as “SOR”).
Technically speaking, it is the Skilled Labor SOR that will form the basis of the Applicant actually living and working in Japan.
There are two methods for converting the COE to Skilled Labor SOR:
1. Exchange the Skilled Labor COE at a Japanese embassy or Consul outside Japan.
This is the traditional route for obtaining Skilled Labor SOR.
The Applicant first exchanges the Skilled Labor Visa COE for a Skilled Labor Visa at a Japanese embassy or consul outside Japan. The process generally takes two to three business days.
The Applicant then travels to Japan and is granted Skilled Labor SOR at the port of entry.
2. Undertake a Change of Status to Skilled Labor SOR in Japan.
In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of a Skilled Labor COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Skilled Labor SOR via a change of status at a regional immigration office in Japan.
A change of status takes approximately two weeks. During that time, it is not possible for the Applicant to travel outside Japan.
Where the change of status route is utilized, Japan Visa’s certified immigration specialists can undertake the necessary procedures at the regional immigration office in Japan.
Japan Residence Card
Whether you receive your Skilled Labor SOR at the airport upon entering Japan or via a change of status application filed at a regional immigration office in Japan (see Step 6 above), you will receive a Japan Residence Card.
This is an official identification card that includes an IC chip. The Residence Card contains personal information such as your name, address, birth date, residence status (in this case, Skilled Labor SOR), period of stay, etc.
You are required to carry your Residence Card at all times.
Consider applying for a Japan Re-entry Permit.
Up until July 2012, if you held Skilled Labor SOR and wished to temporarily leave Japan (e.g., for vacation, business, etc.) it was necessary to obtain a Re-entry Permit for Japan in advance of travelling.
However, it is now possible to leave Japan for up to 12 months without a Re-Entry Permit.
If there is any possibility that a trip outside Japan will last for more than 12 months, an individual holding Skilled Labor SOR should ensure that they have a Re-entry Permit. This can be obtained at regional immigration office in Japan.
Some Important Considerations AFTER Receiving your Skilled Labor Visa
There are three particularly important tax matters to bear in mind as you live and work in Japan:
1. Japanese Tax for holders of Skilled Labor SOR
People living in Japan under Skilled Labor SOR will typically be working for an institution that handles at least part of their Japan tax matters on their behalf. This is done by way of withholding tax deducted each month and a year-end adjustment as part of the December payroll.
However, if some income is being paid outside Japan, you may need to submit a Japanese tax return by 15 March each year. It is very important that you understand your Japan tax obligations since no extensions are available.
Complying with your Japanese tax obligations is essential in order to renew your visa.
2. US Tax for holders of Skilled Labor SOR
If the holder of Skilled Labor SOR is a US citizen or green card holder, they will continue to have US tax obligations even while living in Japan.
The US rules applicable to Americans living overseas are complex and constantly changing. In order to avoid possible penalties, anyone with a US tax filing obligation should seek specialist advice to ensure that they fulfill their US tax obligations.
3. Taxes when the holder of Skilled Labor SOR leaves Japan
Before leaving Japan, the holder of Skilled Labor SOR is required to fully settle her taxes or appoint a tax agent.
It should also be noted that Japanese local tax is assessed based on where you live on 1 January each year. As a result, departing Japan prior to 1 January can result in significant tax savings.