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Going Without a Visa
To Teach English In Japan

"Can I still go to teach English in Japan without a visa?" Folks, we hear this quite a bit especially from students who are getting close to their graduation or those who have already graduated and or some who have a gap year and wish to fill it.

We often hear, "I can't get hired from America... can I still go to teach English in Japan without a visa?" As a matter of fact you can. Do people do it?

Yes and in droves. Thousands every year jump onto a plane and jump into the fray that is teaching in Japan.

Teach English in Japan - The Great Buddha of KamakuraTeach English in Japan - The Great Buddha of Kamakura

One thing to keep in mind is time and money. Why? Because if you intend to teach English in Japan and arrive there without a working visa, (via a landing permit) you’ll have 3 months to find work. (Your landing permit or tourist visa as it used to be called is only good for 3 months).

Getting teaching jobs generally isn’t a problem – especially in spring. Keep in mind that many giant English conversations schools don't hire from within Japan. What does this mean? If you want to teach English in Japan, and go there without a working visa, you'll probably wind up teaching for one of the many smaller (multi-branch) schools. Or you'll be hired as an ALT.

Teaching English in Japan and Some Considerations

Money gives staying power and time to decide what’s really right for you. Heading off to teach English in Japan without at least $3,000 is risky. (If you’ll be staying with someone this is a whole different story. You can get by with much less).

Remember you'll most likely be interviewing for multiple positions over several weeks. Looking desperate in an interview because you’re almost out of cash is not a good position to be in. Having said this, because you don’t have to go where Geos, Nova or the Jet Program sends you, you need to:

1. Apply for your passport.

2. Begin your internet search for jobs in Japan. Job listing, resume posting and student finding page. Also, check out the Monday’s edition of The Japan Times for listings. Monday is the big day for listings. Other days will have few. Check out our jobs page for full-time teaching work. And you can find part-time listings as well. 

3. Start studying some Japanese! Although it’s not necessary for finding jobs in Japan, it makes it a whole lot easier to teach English in Japan not to mention a metric ton more enjoyable. It reduces culture shock in addition to rapidly widening your social circle. (The Ultra-fun part of living in Japan).

4. Set your date. Early spring is the best time to look for jobs to teach English in Japan, as schools do the bulk of their recruiting for the year in spring. If spring doesn’t work for you, don’t worry there is still a lot of hiring done throughout the year. Keep in mind that your average English teacher only teaches English in Japan for 3 years before packing it in - so there are quite a few vacancies throughout the year.

Survival Tip To Teach English in Japan
Don’t fly near Golden Week (late April to the first week of May) or Obon – mid August or close to Christmas. Why? Firstly, plane tickets are nearly double in price and second, the whole country is on holiday so you won’t be able to get any interviews. Lastly, everything (trains, restaurants, hotels tourist attractions, roads, bus stations, bathrooms etc.) are crowded at these times. When we say crowed we mean crowded.

5. Write your resume, letters of introduction and letter about why you want to teach in Japan. We highly recommend you have them in electronic format so you can quickly change your contact information if you need to. Need help picking the right resume format? Here's some help with picking the right resume format. Here's a bit of advice on writing with power and clarity.

6. Pick your city. There are a few things to consider here. Many say to teach English in Japan is a snap - just show up and WHAM you'll have a job and housing in a jiffy. This really isn't the case any more - sorry. You need to think about whether there will be available housing for foreigners or whether you're going to try to rent your own apartment.

Often very small cities won't have "gaijin houses" or guest houses. So finding a place to stay can be tough. Often, the decision to teach English in Japan is based simply on availability of accommodations and not other cultural or employment aspects. Here are some pointers on the differences on big and small city living and teaching in Japan. This bring us to...

7. Deciding on housing. We personally don't recommend trying to rent your own apartment. (If you don't have friends in Japan that are Japanese nationals or don't have a spousal visa). Also we recommend you don't take this step until you've been in Japan for well over 6 months, as getting set-up isn't cheap. Small cities often don’t have "gaijin" or guest houses. All  your larger cities Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Kobe etc.  will have them.

If this is the case, rather than blowing 10,000 yen a night to stay in a hotel, you might consider a cheaper alternative of staying in either a youth hostel, minshuku or ryokan. Even cheaper are the always entertaining love hotels as they are called. Much cheaper than business hotels etc. with the added "kicker" of the stigma attached that you are there for some play time.

Still with so many going to teach English in Japan, guest houses are found in most major cities. Many gaijin or guest houses accept credit cards and will take your application over the internet or by phone. Some allow you to move in as quickly as a week after your application is approved.

8. Next stop: Start shopping for cheap round trip tickets. 
Survival Tip: Make sure you buy a round-trip ticket. Japanese immigration authorities want to make sure you’ll be going home if you don’t get a working visa. It might be a very short trip if you buy a one-way ticket.

10. Check out our list on what to bring and what to leave home! Tips for packing for your adventure. Leave Old Yeller at home but make sure to bring a lot of cash.

  11. Get ready for your flight. See our section on baggage requirements, coping with jet lag and more. Coping with jet-lag, baggage requirements and how to survive the flight.

Everyone has their opinions on what it is like to teach English in Japan. Some are good & some are not so good. To help round out the page a bit we thought it would be nice to include a video of an ALT (assistant language teacher and some of the positive things he likes about his job.

Dave, the video host, in this relatively short video, gives us the lowdown on what it's like to teach in Japan. He touches on various perks in his job that he finds to be sweet. A down to earth  look at a typical day of an ALT teaching junior high school. 8:47 seconds. And as usual, if you can't spare the 8:47 seconds, below are the main points.

  • Free time for doing things you like between classes
  • The bulk of the work load falls on the Japanese teacher
  • Use of the school's car for personal use
  • Generous time off besides national holidays
  • Quite a bit of personal freedom

More Related Pages to Getting Started  and Preparing to Teach in Japan...

Fees, processing times and safety tips for your trip to Japan

Info. on bringing pets, toiletries and clothing etc.

Tips for handling jet lag and surviving the flight to Japan.

Thinking of Blasting Off to Japan on a Tourist Visa
and Then Lining up Your Work Visa and Your First ESL Job?

Are you interested in teaching English in Japan but want to go to Japan on a tourist visa and are Wondering About the Risks or if it Can be Done?

Many others ave similar questions sooo....
help yourself and by doing so you can help others too!

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What Other Visitors Have Said or Asked

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

Not so Good 1 year and I'm Out 
In my first year, I had to work six days a week. Some months I had only two days off. 2. There was a point where I did 30+ hours of overtime, but I …

Zimbabweans & Finding ESL Employment in Japan 
Hi, nice site! I have a Diploma in Education and am an English specialist teacher who has taught at an elementary school for the past two years. Do I qualify …

What are my Best Options for Moving to Japan as a Married Couple? 
Hi there. I am a pediatric nurse in the USA. My husband has a degree in film but is working in Accounts Payable. We both want to spend at least a year …

Teach English in Japan With My Family 
Hi, I was wondering what it would be like to bring my family with me to teach English in Japan. How difficult would it be to bring my daughter (3) and …

Teach English in Japan,
Getting A TEFL and Shared Housing
Hi I want to teach English in Japan, but I still have some questions. I plan to get the TEFL certification and apply for JET program right after college. …

I am completing a B.A. From the University of South Africa, an Accredited Correspondence University. Can I Teach English in Japan?  
Dear Sir/Madam I am completing a Bachelors degree from UNISA (University of South Africa), this is an accredited correspondence university in South Africa. …

Wanting to Teach English in Japan But Jet Programme Application Was Declined 
Hello, First of all, thank you for the very informative website, I've found a lot of useful information here as I consider going to teach in Japan for …

After Teaching at AEON, What Next? 
I'm thinking of working at AEON Japan and teaching English. But I don't think it will be for the long-term what jobs or advancements do You recommend after …

School Sponsorship Without a Visa 
Hi there, I have been reading through your blog and I have a question about visas. If you don't have a degree however you want to get a job with a school …

Arriving In Japan on a Tourist Visa 
Hi, If I arrive on a tourist visa, is it realistic to believe I can find a job in only 3 months? What are my chances?

How should I conduct myself during an interview? 
Recently I've applied to both AEON and ECC. AEON turned me down after the Skype interview, and now I am trying my luck with ECC and going to be flying …

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