The Covid 19 Pandemic affected billions of lives worldwide. I myself was forced to leave Japan in mid 2020 just as I was starting my new tourism business back then, but it made no sense to proceed as majority of my customers would soon no longer be able to enter Japan, as with many business travellers, and indeed, foreign residents of Japan.

Fast forward to 2022, and things have changed. Regulations for entry have been eased since June 2022, with tourism now allowed in a restricted capacity.

The Japanese Government is once again opening up for business. So, for prospective entrepreneurs looking to gain entry into Japan on a Business Manager Visa, here are the steps I took to achieve my goal of returning to Japan and restarting my tourism business in 2022.

1. Contact the relevant startup centres in Japan

Depending on where you are looking to start your business, you have a few choices.

The Startup Guide covers 5 cities (there are 3 more) offering startup visas.

The Startup visa is an initiative started by the Japanese government to allow foreign entrepreneurs to enter the country to prepare for their incorporation and eventually convert to a Business Manager Visa . The startup visa allows stays of between 6-12 months, personally, I received the 6 month stay (not ideal, but more on this later.)

2. Apply through the startup centres

startup fukuoka city logo

I applied for the startup visa through Fukuoka’s Global Startup Centre (GSC). GSC offers entrepreneurs, not limited by nationality, the chance to consult current founders, accountants, lawyers and HR specialists in a converted elementary school. This stylishly cosy cafe (aptly named Startup Cafe) is conveniently located at Tenjin, Fukuoka, just 5 mins from the station.

3. Submit all the relevant documents

Be prepared. There are quite a few documents to submit. I’ll put a non exhaustive list here that I submitted when I made my application.

Passport main page copy. Please make sure your passport is not expired.

Bank statement to prove that you have the 5 million yen capital ready. Alternatively, you may provide proof of investments that can be liquified before you start your business, can be in stocks, ETFs mutual funds etc. Do note that the investment statements MUST be in your name.

Initial business plan. This is a multi page document covering aspects ranging from an explanation of how your business will gain traction in Japan, what kind of products or service you are providing, how will you be turning a profit, how many staff you are going to hire, etc. Be aware that you might be quizzed further on the details provided in this document. Also, there could be some correspondence from the startup mentor in charge regarding corrections or additions required. This form should be completed in Japanese.

Personal application form. This includes your personal information, photo as well as some of your relevant work experience related to the startup that you are going to run in Japan. This form should also be completed in Japanese (DeepL will be very useful here).

Covid related documents. This section may well be outdated by the time I publish the post, but I’ll remove it when Japan has conclusively scrapped the need for these documents.

They include proof of vaccination, ideally Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines, if you don’t have them, you’ll be required to go for a longer quarantine. Proof of installation of Japan’s 2 Covid related phone applications (MySoS and Cocoa), a negative PCR test 72 hours before you fly.

When the visa is approved, you will be sent 2 letters. The first letter is Certificate of Eligibility from the Fukuoka government stating that they will be your initial sponsor for the visa. The second is information of your guarantor working in the startup department which you will need to fill up the application form for the actual visa.

The actual visa application is done in person at the Japanese embassy in your country. Make sure you complete this form and print it out. During the Covid period, appointments were necessary to enter and hence the waiting lines were much shorter than during pre-pandemic times.

You can expect to head down twice, the first time to submit all the relevant documents, and the second time to collect your passport. Do take note there was a payment of SG$38 for the administrative charge (the amount was correct as of 2022). As you collect your passport, there will be a sticker visa stating your duration and purpose of visit. For startup visas, this should range from 6 months to a year.

4. On the home stretch

Finally, after you have gotten your visa sticker in the passport, send details such as your hotel you will be staying in initially as well as your flight details to your startup mentor.

If you have any questions, drop a comment and I’ll try to reply to the best of my knowledge. Good luck and see you in Japan 🙂