The Japan Instructor Visa

Japan Visa Services

The Japan Instructor Visa is for Applicants who will act as instructors at educational institutions.

The most common places of employment are elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools. However, the Instructor Visa may also apply to applicants who will work in other educational institutions such Handicapped children's schools and vocational schools.


In order to obtain an Instructor Visa to work in Japan, an Applicant will need to complete the following seven steps:

Step 1

Confirm that the Applicant satisfies the preliminary requirements for obtaining a Japan Instructor Visa.

There are several initial points that need to be confirmed prior to applying for an Instructor Visa. These requirements will vary depending on the nature of the sponsoring institution and the Applicants planned activities:

In most cases, the Applicant must have graduated from university or must hold a license to teach the subject that she will be teaching.

In addition:

  1. When the Applicant intends to teach a foreign language, she must have been educated in that language for at least 12 years,
  2. For teaching other subjects, the Applicant requires at least five years' teaching experience in that subject, and
  3. The Applicant should receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.

Special Rule for Teaching in Schools for the Children of Diplomats

There is also a special rule that applies to Applicants who will be teaching the children of diplomats. In such cases, the Applicant need only have graduated from university or hold a license in the subject that she intends to teach.

Step 2

Confirm that the proposed work in Japan is consistent with the activities permitted for the holder of an Instructor 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 the holder of an Instructor Visa are language instruction and other education at one of the following institutions:

  1. Elementary school,
  2. Lower secondary school,
  3. Upper secondary school,
  4. Secondary educational school (chutokyoikugakko),
  5. School for special needs education,
  6. Advanced vocational school (senshugakko),
  7. Vocational school (kakushugakko) or other equivalent educational institution.

Step 3

Assemble the documents required to support a Japan Instructor 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.

For an Instructor Visa application, the following documents are required:

  1. Material showing an outline of the organization where the Applicant will work,
  2. Documents that certify the Applicants academic career and / or a copy of an appropriate educational license,
  3. Documents that certify the Applicants professional career, and
  4. 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 an Instructor Visa.

Note regarding Japan Tax Planning Opportunities for Instructor Visa applicants:

Typically, tax planning opportunities for the holder of an Instructor Visa are quite limited. But, items such as employer provided housing, commuting allowance, and employer funded home leave can result in significant individual tax savings. All these matters should be negotiated with the employer prior to finalizing the documentation needed for the Instructor 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.

Step 4

Submit an application for a Japan Instructor 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 Instructor Visa application.

An application for an Instructor 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 an Instructor 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 an Instructor Visa COE.

Step 5

Await Approval of the Instructor Visa COE.

The processing time for an Instructor 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 Instructor 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).

Step 6

Obtain Instructor Status of Residence (SOR).

Once an Applicant has the Instructor Visa COE in hand, the next step is for her to exchange the COE for Instructor “Status of Residence” (usually abbreviated as “SOR”).

Technically speaking, it is the Instructor SOR that will form the basis of the Applicant actually living and working in Japan.

There are two methods for converting the COE to Instructor SOR:

1. Exchange the Instructor COE at a Japanese embassy or Consul outside Japan.

This is the traditional route for obtaining Instructor SOR.

The Applicant first exchanges the Instructor Visa COE for a Instructor 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 Instructor SOR at the port of entry.

2. Undertake a Change of Status to Instructor SOR in Japan.

In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of a Instructor COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Instructor 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 Instructor SOR at the airport upon entering Japan (see Step 6 (i) above) or via a change of status application filed at a regional immigration office in Japan (see Step 6 (ii) 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, Instructor SOR), period of stay, etc.

You are required to carry your Residence Card at all times.

Step 7

Consider applying for a Japan Re-entry Permit.

Up until July 2012, if you held Instructor 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 Instructor 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 Instructor 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 Instructor SOR

People living in Japan under Instructor 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 Instructor SOR

If the holder of Instructor 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 Instructor SOR leaves Japan

Before leaving Japan, the holder of Instructor 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.

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.