The scope of the Designated Activities Visa is extremely broad.
It basically allows the Applicant to undertake any activity (paid or otherwise) that is specifically designated by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
However, in practice, many applications will fall under one of the following categories:
- Personal helpers (usually housekeepers and personal assistants) who are privately employed by foreigners holding one of the following visa types: Sponsoring a Japan Visa for a Maid, Nanny, Housekeeper, or other Personal Help.
- Individuals participating in the Working Holiday Program,
- Foreign college students who will undertake paid internships in Japan,
- Foreigners who are employed by (usually large) Japanese companies and also participate in those company’s amateur sports programs (plus their dependent spouses and children),
- Individuals who are preparing to return to their home countries and lack any other Japan visa status that would allow them to remain temporarily in Japan ,
- Foreign lawyers engaged in international arbitration,
- Candidate nurses and care workers coming to Japan under an EPA.
As can be deduced from the above, the preliminary requirements, permitted activities, and procedures applicable to a Designated Activities Visa vary greatly.
As a result, in each case advice needs be sought from a Japanese embassy or Consul or from an experienced licensed Japanese immigration professional.
General Considerations Associated with the Japan Designated Activities Visa
The following are some general issues that applicants for a Designated Activities Visa may wish to consider.
1. Tax Planning Opportunities for Designated Activities Visa Applicants
Depending upon the exact situation, there may be Japan tax planning opportunities for the holder of a Designated Activities 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 Designated Activities Visa will spend time outside Japan on business.
All these matters should be negotiated prior to finalizing the documentation needed for the Designated Activities Visa application. The following article provides more information about this important issue Japan Taxes: Tax Planning for Foreigners Working in Japan.
2. Japan Residence Card
Holders of Designated Activities SOR will generally 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, Designated Activities SOR), period of stay, etc.
You are required to carry your Residence Card at all times.
3. Japan Re-entry Permit
Up until July 2012, if you held Designated Activities 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 may now be 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 Designated Activities SOR should consider applying for a Re-entry Permit. This can be obtained at regional immigration office in Japan.
4. Tax Considerations Associated with the Designated Activities 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 Designated Activities SOR
People living in Japan under Designated Activities 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 Designated Activities SOR
If the holder of Designated Activities 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 Designated Activities SOR leaves Japan
Before leaving Japan, the holder of Designated Activities 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.