Japan Work Visa – Do I Need a Degree ?


Actually, you do not need a degree to obtain a Japan Work Visa, as you can also substitute this for professional work experience. But this is where it becomes a little more complex, obtaining a Japan Work Visa means you need to be able to validate a minimum of 3 years professional experience. Of course, this experience needs to be relevant to your job, and you will probably have to present documented proof from your previous employer(s). Now, I was able to receive a Japan work visa by proving my own work history, so I will take you through my exact experience. Hopefully, to help provide some further insight, and a different approach to Japan work visa application process.

I travelled to Japan many times before finally making the plunge of hauling myself over from Australia. It probably took at least 10 visits and a whole lot of consideration and consultation with various people before I made my final decision. At the time, I had already tried applying with many companies while living in Australia, for both financial and English teacher related roles. However, I was often rejected by either a lack of response or just the standard rejection template. Whilst this was completely expected, due to my lack of a university degree, it did not break my determination to obtain a Japan work visa.

During my Japan adventures in 2013 and 2014, I had made several attempts to secure interviews with a few prospective companies to discuss working opportunities. However, by the end of most interviews, I soon made a realisation. The jobs were either too good to be true or required a Japanese level beyond anything I could hope to achieve in the short-term. At this time I began to formulate a plan …

Try a Student Visa First?

I quit my Sydney job in the middle of 2014, and initially came to Japan on a tourist visa, as this gave me sufficient time to plan my life ahead. I visited a number of schools, participated in some trial lessons, and ensure my student visa application was submitted by the quarterly cut-off. This would eventually qualify me for a Japan student visa, to study and improve my grasp of the native language. Beyond that, it also gave me the opportunity to experience the country from a different perspective, adjust myself to the lifestyle and make friends in the process.

Just a note on the student visa application process, there is usually a quarterly cut-off date for both immigration and language schools. As a result, the timing of everything relating to your entrance into the country and starting school will mostly depend on these deadlines. I would strongly suggest making sure you are familiar with this schedule and plan accordingly. Furthermore, I believe the advantage of going via the student visa route is, it prepares you better for life in Japan, in both terms of culture, language and adjusting to the lifestyle. The visa also makes it easier to find an apartment, purchase a mobile phone, wifi, set up a bank account and more. It also grants the holder a part-time working permit to help offset some of the school-related costs. So I feel this is a better way to enter the country.

English Teacher or English Teacher?

Upon securing my student visa I started to look for work. I always thought about being an English teacher via the standard Eikaiwa offering (English conversation school), was an easy way into Japan. I thought I wanted something more dynamic and challenging, so I continued my hunt. At first, I stumbled over a few introduction agencies, and they helped to introduce me to a few students. Basically, they will introduce you people who wish to learn English privately, with you one on one in a quiet cafe, usually close to their home. Some people may prefer to teach at home, but this was never an option for me as I usually prefer somewhere away from my place of leisure. There is also a multitude of companies that offer Skype lessons, and the pay across these companies will also vary, but I find it more frustrating teaching over the internet.

Ultimately, I came across a few institutions offering Corporate English classes. I had submitted already my application to several organisations already without any response, so I looked for different ways to convey my interest. Through the use of LinkedIn, I found I was able to connect with a number of trainers who held similar roles. They were happy to provide me with different insights into the world of corporate training and advice on how and who to contact. The more I dug, the further I could network, until I eventually came across several key contacts, including Human Resources managers from one particular company. After speaking with them, introducing myself and providing them with a copy of my resume, I was able to secure an interview.

The interview ended up being quite similar to others I had experienced in Australia, including questions based on my past experience, strengths and weakness and hypothetical scenarios. Additionally, I was required to conduct a short sample group lesson on Presentation skills, to prove my teaching ability. I was also given a short knowledge test on a range of topics, and a worksheet to demonstrate how I would explain certain English terms or expressions. None of these tasks was particularly tough, and from my corporate training experience, I was able to display sufficient ability and business experience to receive an offer.

After accepting the role and working for a few months, I could see it was becoming increasingly difficult to balance my schedule. The demands from school and study combined with the commitments of work and a gradually increasing schedule of corporate classes. After several months, I felt that I wanted a release from school and freedom to continue my own study. Hence, I spoke to the HR manager of my current company and sought their advice about Japan work visa sponsorship. After several conversations and a few resume rewrites, I could convince them to proceed with granting me a Japan work visa.

The Notorious Shinagawa Immigration Office

As anyone will tell you, Shinagawa Immigration Office is definitely a trying experience, you can even read about Luke’s mix of adventures at the office here. If I could give you any advice, it would be to arrive as early as possible. This is to ensure the quickest turnaround possible, in terms of submitting any documentation and to guarantee an earlier exit. The first time I experienced this ordeal was arriving around 11 am only to wait 45 minutes to have my paperwork checked off, and a further 4 hours and 15 minutes to submit the paperwork and ensure all documentation was complete.

Documents I presented to immigration include:

  • Passport
  • Existing Student Visa ID Card
  • Sponsorship documents from my Employer
  • Resume with my complete work history (English)
  • Proof of length of service from one previous employer (English)

Following a nervous 3 week wait, I received the dreaded immigration postcard in the email, advising me to come back to the Shinagawa office. After my last experience, I was keen to ensure I would not make the same mistake and arrived at the Immigration Office around 8:15 am. However, as expected there was already a queue forming outside the front doors. Right on 8:30 am, the doors open, the crowd started to pour into the building in what seemed like a great race, to the first counter. Upon taking my number, I waited about 40 minutes and received my brand spanking new 5 year Japan work visa.

That’s right, I couldn’t believe my eyes either, especially given this was my first application for a Japan work visa. A feeling of liberation and relief came over me, and as I walked out the doors I smiled. I was well aware I did not need to go through this horrendous process again until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

For further information on Japan Work Visa’s please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

If you’re interested in applying for a Japanese student visa, you may wish to read more about my experience.

I have several other friends in a similar position to myself, people without a University degree and who used work experience to secure their working visa. As this site grows and develops, I hope to be able to share their stories to provide an insight from a range of people about their experiences.


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