The Japan Spouse (Dependents) Visa

Japan Visa Services

The Spouse (Dependents) Visa is for an Applicant who will come to Japan as the spouse, unmarried child, or other dependents of a foreigner.

Note that this visa type is sometimes referred to as the Japan Family Stay Visa.

The Spouse (Dependents) Visa allows the Applicant to carry on normal daily activities in Japan but does not allow the Applicant to work. However, once the Spouse (Dependents) Visa has been formally granted, it may be possible for the Applicant to apply for permission to work part time.

Requirement that spouses be legally married

Japan recognizes only legal marriages. As a result, spouses who are in a common law or de facto relationship will not be able to utilize this SOR.

Same sex partners

Japanese society as a whole is tolerant of gay and lesbian same sex relationships. However, it is generally difficult to sponsor a same sex spouse under the Spouse (Dependents) SOR.

The Following article contains Japan Visas for Same Sex Couples


In order to obtain a Spouse (Dependents) Visa to live 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 Spouse (Dependents) Visa.

The initial point to confirm prior to applying for a Spouse (Dependents) Visa is that the Applicant should be the Spouse (Dependents) of a person residing in Japan with one of the following status of residence:

  1. Professor
  2. Artist
  3. Religious activities
  4. Journalist
  5. Investor business manager
  6. Legal / Accounting services
  7. Medical services
  8. Researcher
  9. Instructor
  10. Engineer
  11. Specialist in humanities / International services
  12. Intra-company transferee
  13. Entertainer
  14. Skilled Labor
  15. Spouse (Dependents)
  16. College student
  17. Pre-College student
  18. Trainee

Step 2

Confirm that the proposed activities in Japan are consistent with those permitted for the holder of a Japan Spouse (Dependents) 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 a Spouse (Dependents) Visa are daily activities on the part of a spouse or unmarried minor who is supported in Japan by a foreigner with one of the status listed in Step 1 above.

Step 3

Assemble the documents required to support a Japan Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) Visa, the authorities require the following documents:

  1. Documents that certify the personal relationship between the Applicant and the supporting person already in Japan.
  2. Copies of the registration certificate or passport of the supporting person already in Japan.
  3. Documents certifying the profession and the income of the supporting person already in Japan.

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 professionals are able to assist in the preparation and translation of all documentation required for a Spouse (Dependents) Visa.

Step 4

Submit an application for a Japan Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) Visa application.

An application for a Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) Visa COE.

Step 5

Await Approval of the Spouse (Dependents) Visa COE.

The processing time for a Spouse (Dependents) 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 professionals are handling the Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) Status of Residence (SOR).

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

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

There are two methods for converting the COE to Spouse (Dependents) SOR:

1. Exchange the Spouse (Dependents) COE at a Japanese embassy or Consul outside Japan.

This is the traditional route for obtaining Spouse (Dependents) SOR.

The Applicant first exchanges the Spouse (Dependents) Visa COE for a Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) SOR at the port of entry.

2. Undertake a Change of Status to Spouse (Dependents) SOR in Japan.

In some cases, an alternative may be for the holder of a Spouse (Dependents) COE to enter Japan under the Japan Visa Waiver Program or some other form of short-term entry. The Applicant then applies for Spouse (Dependents) 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 professionals can undertake the necessary procedures at the regional immigration office in Japan.

Japan Residence Card

Whether you receive your Spouse (Dependents) 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, Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) 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 Spouse (Dependents) SOR

Spouse (Dependents) SOR is basically a non-working category so in most cases you will have minimum involvement with Japanese taxes. However, in some cases, you may obtain permission to undertake limited party-time work. In such cases, your employer will likely handle most Japan tax matters on your behalf. This may be done by way of withholding tax deducted each month and a year-end adjustment as part of the December payroll.

If you have multiple jobs or if you have other sources of income 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 Spouse (Dependents) SOR

If the holder of Spouse (Dependents) SOR is a US citizen or green card holder, they may 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 Spouse (Dependents) SOR leaves Japan

Before leaving Japan, the holder of Spouse (Dependents) 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 may result in 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.