Japan: Visa for Tourists & Landing Permits
If you decide to travel to Japan and try your hand at teaching, keep in mind the adventure starts with a visa.
You can travel to Japan on what used to be called a tourist visa. In fact, hundreds if not thousands of teachers do every year.
If you are going to go to Japan on a tourist visa, it used to be that you had to leave the country in order to change your landing permit to a working visa. Most chose Korea because of shear proximity and cheap air fare. This has now changed and this requirement is now being waved by officials at immigration.
A landing permit will allow you to stay in Japan for 3 months for residents of the U.S., Canada, France and Italy. And 6 months for residents of Austria, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
If you intend to go to Japan without a working visa, make sure you buy a round trip ticket. This assures immigration that you have the ability to return home if you decide not to change your landing permit to a working visa. Not having one might make your trip a mighty short one!
Keep in mind it is illegal to work with only a landing permit. You won’t be able to teach English at any of the large chain schools, although small schools have been known to let teachers work until they can get a working visa.
In order to teach English as a second language legally, you need a working visa and in order to get this you will need a university degree of any discipline. No ifs on this one - original documentation (your diploma) in addition to other documentation is required in the visa process. When immigration issues your working visa it will be for 1 to 3 years. The company that sponsors you has nothing to do with how long your visa will be good for. This is in the hands of immigration.
There's quite a bit to it but here's what you need to get a "Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa. (This is the type typically given to English teachers.)
1." Documents certifying the relationship between the business office in a foreign country and the business office in Japan."
2. "Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the business office in Japan, and material describing the business activities."
3. "Documents certifying the details of his or her duty and its duration at the business office in a foreign country."
4. "Copies of the company registration of the business office in a foreign country, and material showing its outline."
5. "Documents certifying the activity, its duration, the position, and the remuneration of the person concerned."
6. "A diploma and documentation certifying the career of the person concerned."
In addition to this you or your employer must complete and submit two
1.Visa Application Forms - MOFA with two 45mm X 45mm passport type photos.
2. Reason for Invitation Form and
3. Letter of Guarantee Form.
Visa processing times vary but expect 2 to 3 months for everything to get processed.Neither the Reason for Invitation Form or Letter of Guarantee Form are downloadable. So you have to make your own and it is permissible as long as the content is identical. Samples of these documents can be found on this link at the bottom of the page.
Working Holiday Visa
This is a single entry visa for 6 months that can be extended for another 6 months. Only citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or Korea, Germany, and the United Kingdom can apply for this. Applicants should be between 18 and 30 years old – (25 for the UK.) Applications should be made at least 3 week before you intend to leave (they don’t honor rush jobs.) MOFA Working Holiday Visa information
Working Visa extensions
Extensions or renewals are usually 3 years. You don’t have to leave the country for this but make sure you apply for an extension with immigration before your visa expires. Failure to do this constitutes overstaying your visa and will land you in hot water with immigration.
If during your stay you decide to leave Japan, you’ll need to go to your local immigration department and get a re-entry permit. Note: failure to get a permit can void your visa. A single entry permit is 3000 yen and a multiple-entry permit is 6000 yen. (This allows unlimited departures.) Note: if you intend to return home and not re-enter Japan, this permit is unnecessary.
There are two ways the whole process of getting your visa can go. You can get hired while in your home country, in which case, your employer will handle the bulk of the paper work or you can go to Japan on a tourist visa and look for work when you arrive.
If you get hired while in your home country, you will supply your employer with the documentation they need to get a Certificate of Eligibility for you. Your employer then sends this document to you and you take it to the closest consulate with your passport to get a visa stamped in your passport.
This process can take more than a month so plan accordingly. If you choose to go to Japan without a working visa, you need to be aware of a couple things. It may take a while to find work, so bring a pile of yen.
Transportation is expensive and if you’re traveling between cities doing interviews you’ll run through your savings quickly. However long you think it will take to find work teaching English as a second language, take that number and double it just to be on the safe side. I personally wouldn’t try it without $4,000 in my pocket.
Of course if you know someone who is already setup and you’re intending on staying with them you can get buy with much less.
When you receive your visa from a language school it will probably be the “Specialist in Humanities/International Services" type.
Another thing to consider is that after you find an employer who will give you a Japanese visa, to teach English as a second language, your employer still has to get a Certificate of Eligibility for you to take to the consulate outside of Japan. This can take 3 or 4 weeks so have a plan in mind as to what you will do with all this time.
Many (and I do mean many) begin working in Japan while they’re waiting for Immigration to issue their working visa. It’s illegal to do this but it is perfectly legal to look for work. The large chain schools, Aeon, Berlitz, ECC and G. Communications (formerly Nova and Geos) won’t allow you to work without a proper visa.
However there are many smaller schools that will. Often teachers use this time to start building out their private student base. Here's a link to help you get started with using teacher employment services to find your own students.
More information here on working overseas and how much to charge your private students for lessons.