Back in 2016, a life changing event in my life motivated me to try working overseas. I was decided between Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I decided on Japan in the end as 1. Geographically, it was close enough to Singapore 2 The food was similar, at the very least, rice is a staple. 3 For better or worse, the work culture supposedly had similarities.
I then went about researching how to go to Japan. Here is how I eventually received my visa in Japan and also 4 other ways to get a visa to stay in Japan.
1 Teaching English
Teaching english seems to be the most common path for foreigners to work and live in Japan, especially for English speakers. For jobs as an English teachers, there are several avenues to explore.
Many countries offer a few JET placements to schools across Japan. The JET program is the most prestigious English teaching (other than university teachers) and the pay is correspondingly higher. According to JETProgramme.org, one can expect a 3.36 mil yen salary in the first year, 3.6 mil in the second and 3.9 mil in the third. Definitely a salary that’s sufficient for a basic lifestyle in Japan, even living in Tokyo (more on budgeting here)
English conversation school
This was how I entered Japan. I managed to get a job in Gaba Corp, an Eikaiwa (English conversation school) that consistently ranks as one of the top two in Japan, the other being Berlitz. Gaba teachers are expected to earn a salary to of 250,000 yen (teaching about 166 lessons per month) in order to maintain their visa status after the first visa expires. Berlitz teachers earn about 275,000 yen.
Private dispatch ALTs
This is another avenue for one to get into Japan as an English teacher. According to glassdoors and some of my friends who teach as a private dispatch ALT (PDALT), the working conditions are pretty bad, the pay is outrageously low and there are almost no career progression pathways. If you have a look at Glassdoor, you can see quite a number of negative reviews on PDALT companies. Apply at your own risk, and likely only for the visa.
University teacher (JREC In Portal)
Many an English teacher’s dream job. Better pay than all the English teaching jobs here, but that commensurates with the higher qualification required.
Many universities require either a Master’s in English linguistics (being a native speaker may not help here) or a PhD. They may also specify research publication requirements, which means teaching will only be one part of your job. Nevertheless, you can expect a pay higher than 5 mil a year, up to 8 or 9 mil depending on the position.
2 Working in an International company with a Japanese branch office
Most of the big tech companies come to mind, ie. Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter… etc. The culture in these companies are radically different from traditional Japanese companies. You get most of the benefits of a progressive tech company while still reaping the benefit of living in Japan. The trouble is, getting in is not exactly cakewalk.
3 Working in a Japanese company
This is not for the faint hearted. Language ability not withstanding (most companies demand JLPT N2 certification before granting an interview, some even ask for N1), working in a Japanese company usually entails a hierarchical work culture, working overtime without question, going through layers of red tape, and drinking after work regularly.
Things are changing for the better as times change, but the pace is glacial and depends largely on the outlook of the company (eg. companies with extensive international operations like Rakuten are more progressive than traditional companies like factories and banks). You may also face discrimination (likely passive, but discrimination nonetheless), especially if you are the only foreigner in a sea of Japanese workers.
4 Getting a study visa via a language school
I’ve had some friends and part timer colleagues telling me that they came to Japan on a study visa. These typically range for 6 months to a year.
I am not an expert in this area, but students are typically allowed to work about 28 hours a week, in jobs that usually offer between 900-1500 yen per hour (approximately 112,000 yen if your hourly wage is 1000). The money from the part time work is definitely insufficient, so be sure to have savings before trying to live in Japan on a student visa.
According to the link above in the sub header, there are currently 26 countries with work holiday visa arrangements with Japan.
Different countries have different requirements for entry and obtaining work holiday visas, and the specifics are beyond the scope of this article. But if you only want to experience living in Japan for a short period of time (usually less than a year), just for a “taste”, then this is a no-brainer, given that entry barriers are relatively low, expectations are also lower as compared to being a full time employee of a company.
6 Getting married to a Japanese citizen
Finally, the “holy grail” for some. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet your one true love while staying in a country that’s regularly rated one of the top tourism destinations in the world?
Sounds good, but do be aware that marriages of convenience, where you are marrying only for visa, is illegal in Japan. Also, it’d be terrible for both parties, worse if there are children involved, if the relationship went awry. I’m including this point here only because it is technically true you can stay long term in Japan with a spouse visa, but definitely not advocating it as the main method of doing so.
These are the 7 methods that I know of to obtain a Japanese visa for long term stay. If you have any other methods (legal of course), feel free to share them in the comments section and also share your opinions and stories of getting your long term visa in Japan.
Until next time.