Japan Spouse (Dependent) Visas for Same-Sex Couples

News & Events

Gay and lesbian applicants who wish to obtain a Japan Spouse (Dependent) Visa for a same-sex spouse may face special difficulties.

Cities such as Tokyo have vibrant gay and lesbian scenes. And Japanese society generally tends to be relaxed toward homosexuality.

Despite such attitudes, dependent visas are generally only available to couples whose marriage is legally recognized. As a result, it is often not possible for an applicant to sponsor a visa for a same-sex spouse.

However, there are ways to work around this issue.

The following are seven options that may be available to an applicant seeking to obtain a visa to bring his or her dependent same-sex spouse to Japan. While none of these solutions are perfect, they offer options for individuals who wish to reside with their same-sex spouse in Japan.

  1. Check with the Japanese embassy / consul in your country. In some cases a dependent visa may be available in countries where the same sex marriage is legally recognized.
  2. Short term entry visa. If the same-sex spouse enters Japan for a short period of time, he or she can enter Japan on short-term entry visas. However, continuously leaving and re-entering the country on short-term entry visas is likely to be eventually challenged upon arrival and refused entry. This approach is most convenient for individuals coming to Japan for a short time who come from Japan Visa Waiver country, but may be more difficult for those who cannot avail themselves of visa waivers.
  3. The same sex-spouse obtains a job in Japan. It may be possible to obtain a job in Japan if the same-sex spouse has an in demand skill. This is an ideal solution but, in practice, requires the stars be aligned. Major headhunting firms are a good places to start investigating this option.
  4. English teaching. Although it’s not as easy to find a job as it once was, native English speakers may be able to find employment as English teachers. The same-sex spouse may then independently obtain a visa (typically a Japan Specialist in Humanities Visa / International Relations Visa) through a school. Details of English schools can easily be found online. Often the same-sex spouse must be in Japan for interviews since it is rarely possible to obtain a teaching job sight unseen. Native speakers of languages other than English may also have opportunities but are likely to have more limited options.
  5. Study Japanese. A same-sex spouse with a serious interest in learning Japanese can obtain a visa by enrolling in Japanese language courses. Note that the courses offering visa sponsorship typically require four hours of class attendance per day. This is a great opportunity for a spouse with a serious interest in learning Japanese.
  6. Other areas of study. A same-sex spouse may be able to enter Japan on a Japan Cultural Activities Visa, which involves (unpaid) study of a subject such as ikebana (flower arranging), judo, aikido, etc. This is another great opportunity for a spouse who has an interest in these subjects but can require a serious commitment if the Japan assignment will extend over a number of years.
  7. Start a business in Japan. This is another option we have seen utilized successfully by a number of same-sex spouses that offers much flexibility. It is possible to start a company and have that company sponsor a visa (typically a Japan Investor Visa). It should be noted that the company will need to engage in real activities since visa renewal will require the submission of financial statements. One drawback of this approach is that significant expense may be incurred. Realistically, the company set-up and associated filings may cost approximately JPY1 million without a serious investment of time and without language skills. In addition, the initial paid in capital for the company should generally be at least JPY5 million. For more information, this article discusses Self-Sponsoring a Japan Work Visa.

The above is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute advice to undertake or refrain from undertaking any action. Only qualified Japanese professionals are able to advise on Japan immigration, legal, and tax matters.