All about the Working Holiday Visa
For anyone who wants to live in Japan or simply loves to travel leisurely, the working holiday visa is a dream come true. Normally, a lot of bureaucracy and costs, like tuition fees for a student visa, can make it quite difficult or expensive to get a visa for Japan.
The working holiday visa makes all that easier. Without adding a lot of requirements, Japan opens its doors to young foreigners who want to explore the country.
What is a working holiday? (Skip if this is not your first rodeo)
Working holiday is a bilateral agreement between two countries. Its purpose is to foster mutual understanding by allowing participants in the program to work while living and traveling in the partner country. The stay provides a great opportunity to really learn about the culture and way of life in the country of choice.
You can apply for a working holiday visa in a partner country if you are between 18-30 years of age. As the name indicates, the special feature of this visa is that it allows you to work during your travels. Normally, it is not possible to work when staying in a country as a tourist. That is why the working holiday visa was developed to support those who want to learn about and travel to another country, by allowing them to work during their stay. As these bilateral agreements are made on a country by country basis, unfortunately, it is not available for everyone.
Japan made its first working holiday agreement with Australia in 1980. Since then, the list of partner countries considerably expanded, especially in the last couple of years. They now have bilateral agreements with 20 countries, Chile being the newest partner since 2018.
A working holiday visa is for you if
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, the working holiday visa could be a good option for you.
You want to
- ✔ travel long term.
- ✔ live in Japan (without strings attached).
- ✔ study Japanese at your own pace.
- ✔ work in Japan.
- ✔ look for a job in Japan.
The working holiday visa will give you the benefits of
- ✔ a longer stay.
- ✔ the ability to work.
- ✔ not being a tourist but a resident, giving you access to more services.
Who can get a Working Holiday Visa for Japan
Every year around 10.000 people go to Japan on a working holiday visa. To be eligible, you need to be a national of one of the following countries (ordered by intake).
Unlimited intake: Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Portugal
Limited intake: Korea (10,000), Canada (6,500), Taiwan (5,000), France (1,500), Hong Kong (1,500), United Kingdom (1,000), Poland (500), Spain (500), Ireland (400), Slovakia (400), Austria (200), Hungary (200), Argentina (200), Chile (200) ※Applicants must reside in their home country.
I cannot tell you how Japan assigned how many people can be issued a working holiday visa per calendar year. Usually though, even in countries with limitations, you can get your working holiday visa without much trouble as long as you meet the requirements.
In case there are too many applicants (maybe the newly launched program in Chile leads to a surge in applicants) you might have to go through a selection process or wait another year. That said, this really is an extreme case and usually doesn’t happen.
What other conditions apply?
There are a few more conditions you need to meet before being granted a working holiday visa. Specific regulations can vary by nationality, so please check with your local consulate for the details.
- Primary goal is a vacation in Japan for a specific time.
- 18-30 years old (inclusive) ※Countries with younger cut-off ages exist, but exceptions can be granted, so check with your consulate.)
- No dependents or children on trip
- Valid passport
- Return ticket or enough money for it (varies, plan around 100.000 Yen)
- Reasonable funds for stay (around 200.000 Yen, depends on country)
- Good health condition
- No criminal records
- Never received working holiday visa for Japan in the past
- International Health insurance (only in some countries)
How to apply for the Working Holiday Visa
Fill out all documents in English or Japanese. Your local language may be only permissible in certain countries so double check, but in most cases, it has to be one of the above two languages.
You have to apply at an embassy in your home country! For some countries, it is also a requirement that you are a resident of your home country. So please check the points below.
- Valid passport
Make sure that your passport is valid at the very minimum until your arrival in Japan. Otherwise, you might have your pretty visa but no valid ID, and could be denied entry. Check before you give your passport to the consulate and renew if necessary. Ideally, have a passport that is valid until your intended return from Japan. That way you are sure to not run into troubles, even when transferring or visiting other countries.
- Visa application form
You need to answer ALL questions. Don’t forget to sign and attach a photo of your face like the one in your passport (dimensions3.5cm x 4.5cm and taken within the last 6 month).
- Return ticket
To make sure that you will be able to go back home after your stay, a return ticket OR proof of enough money to buy the ticket later is required.
※If you buy tickets but your visa gets denied you won’t get money back for your flight ticket. Consider buying flexible tickets where you can change the date later, making a reservation instead or buying insurance for this case.
A resume including your personal information, educational background, and employment history.
- Proposed schedule
To show how you intend to spend your time, submit a specific schedule of your planned activities. Avoid phrases like “see above,” etc. and write out everything. This schedule is not binding, you can change it up once in Japan, but it’s a good chance to really sort out your plans.
✔ Where – when – what?
✔ Kind of work you plan to do.
✔ Pre-arranged employment.
※Some countries, such as Australia strongly suggest to not stay more than 3 months in one place. So, you might want to schedule accordingly.
- Purpose and Reason for Visit
Write at least 1 A4 page on why you want to go to Japan, and what you will learn from it. Make sure it’s typed, 12px font.
- Proof of funds, 200.000yen
This amount will be higher if you haven’t bought your return-ticket yet (amount varies).
You need a formal bank statement. A printout of your bank account statement is fine, but get it signed or stamped so you can prove it is real. Also, take care to submit a recent document, if it is older than a month, it might not be accepted.
※You can hand in multiple bank statements from different accounts that add up to the total amount. Tried it myself.
- Documents to prove your statements
Required documents include, but may not be limited to, return ticket, bank statement, checks, health insurance etc.
- Document Submission
You can find all necessary documents on the website of your consulate online. Once you filled out the documents you can send them in or bring them to the consulate in person. Since processes can vary by consulate, confirm the method of submission when you get those files.
- Processing Time
After you submitted the documents, expect to wait for about a week and plan for two weeks. Typically, the visa will be issued within the official time frame, but you cannot make the consulate treat your visa with priority, even if you are in a rush. To avoid any problems, apply for your visa well in advance of your flight.
Once my visa was ready, I received a phone call and was asked to come to the consulate to pick it up in person (this was a non-negotiable requirement in my case). If going in person is difficult with you, consult with your embassy about other options. When you go there, don’t forget to bring your ID to prove who you are.
The visa is free of charge in many countries. If you do have to pay a fee in your country, it would be payable at pick-up.
Once it is issued your working holiday visa will be valid for 6 months (more in some countries) within which you have to enter Japan.
- Residence card
Japanese Immigration at the airport will issue your residence card, called 在留カード (さいりゅう) in Japanese. This card proves that you are living in Japan and is your new ID. You are required by law to carry your residence card with you at all times. On the plus side, you can store your passport away in a safe place until you plan to leave Japan.
You are now a fresh official resident of Japan, but for how long?
In most cases, you can stay for 1 year. For some countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, the visa is only valid for 6 months. People from these countries can apply for an extension of their stay for another 6 months at an immigration office for 4000 yen. This way they can stay for a year, but the final decision is in the hands of the officials. Only Australians can extend their stay twice, for a maximum of 18 months.
This one is important. Notify your local municipal office (市役所, しやくしょ) of your address within 14 days of arrival. When you move to Japan and whenever you move within Japan, you must notify the municipal office of your new address.
There, they will print the address on your residence card. You will also be asked to join the national health insurance. You might get a clerk who speaks little to no English. Nevertheless, don’t be alarmed when they tell you to go wait in another area or fill out yet another form. I’ve been through that process more than three times now, it’s always the same every step of the way. Depending on where you live and the time you go, you may want to plan some time for this trip though.
During your time in Japan, you will probably stay in a share house or similar place that allows for short-term rent (take a look at our housing guide). Apartments in Japan are usually contracted for 2 years so it will be close to impossible for you to rent one if you are staying less than one year. (It’s also rather expensive, you might want to spend that money otherwise). If you absolutely need your personal space you can also look for share house companies that offer furnished apartments for short-term rent.
Your options are renting a place from your home country or looking for one after you arrive. I booked a room in a share house before I started my trip to Japan, working holiday visa in hand. For me, it was the most comfortable way. Getting picked up at the train station after the long flight and shown to the house by the staff was a big plus. At the house, I got a quick tour, signed the contract and paid my deposit and rent for the first month. It was all done in a heartbeat and I could call the place with a nice, comfy bed (highly welcome at the time) mine. In this case, make sure you change enough money at home or at the airport to cover all your expenses upon arrival.
Alternatively, renting a hostel room for the first days and looking in Japan is also possible. This way, you can see the room and facilities before making your final decision. Even if you decide to search on the spot, I would still recommend spending some time in advance checking out locations, prices, and availability of places.
If you are really lucky you might even find a host family, but don’t get your hopes up just yet, since they are quite rare. I have also heard of workplaces in more rural areas that provide lodging and food as part of your compensation.
There still are a lot of articles and comments online telling you to purchase a re-entry permit for the working holiday visa. This information is OUTDATED. You do not need to buy a re-entry permit in advance. You do however have to notify immigration when you LEAVE Japan that you plan to come back. You can pick up the re-entry permit near the immigration counters before boarding your flight. Usually, the officers are kind enough to ask you whether you plan to return or not. So make sure you fill out that little piece of paper and see that it is safely stapled into your passport before going to the gate.
When you re-enter, they will check for it and may ask you some questions as to the motivation for your trip.
Be aware that spending time outside of Japan will not extend your visa’s validity. The working holiday visa allows you to stay for up to one year from the date of your first entry. It does not guarantee you to spend 365 days in Japan.
- Working hours
There is no limitation on how many hours you can work per day or week. So make your own schedule, according to your needs.
As an estimate expect an hourly wage of about 890 to 1500 Yen/Hour depending on the job you are doing. There are some higher paying jobs but be aware that most places looking to hire will consider you as a short-term, unskilled laborer. You can also try to work freelance as a teacher or online so you can set your own schedule and prices.
To get a realistic estimate, try calculating at the bottom end with around 1000 Yen per hour.
- What you cannot do
You are not allowed to work in any industry that is considered “morally bad.” That mainly refers to nightlife or gambling-related jobs. Just don’t work in bars, cabarets, nightclubs, pachinko parlors and the like. If you are found to violate this rule, you can get deported and might not be allowed back into Japan anytime soon.
- 1. Language Teacher
Among people with good English skills, being an English teacher seems to be the most popular choice. Some even do it freelance, offering their services online and giving one-on-one lessons at cafes.
Another alternative is working at a language café, and being paid for talking to people who want to learn the language.
- 2. Au pair/Kindergarten
Again utilizing your language skills, you could find a job at an international daycare center or with a Japanese family looking for an Au pair.
- 3. Service Industry
You could also work at restaurants or cafes. Depending on your Japanese skills you might be serving customers or be in the back, washing dishes.
I also once saw a job ad looking for people to make bento.
Cleaning jobs, mail carrier, working at a factory or moving company are other possible positions.
- 4. Work at hotels, ryokans, ski resorts
You think it sounds fun to work where other people come for vacation?
Imagine being by the sea and being able to go swimming and surfing in your free time. Or spending the winter in Nagano, and discovering Japan on ski. Japanese skills requirements vary depending on the position, so take a closer look for a good fit if you are interested.
- 5. Farm work
You want to get to know Japan more intimately and want to experience rural Japan? Then farm work can be a great opportunity. Many places will provide lodging and food in return for your work, so it is a great way to live cheaply.
- 6. Photo Model and TV Performer
Yes, you might be able to make some money by standing in front of a camera. Especially the demand for western models is high. If you are interested in these types of jobs, know that it will be project based and you will probably be paid per day of shooting. It might not be where you get most of your regular income. Also, you often get paid 2-3 months later.
- 7. Shop clerk
If you have not yet mastered Keigo, think more convenience store or supermarket. These jobs will give you a chance to be around Japanese people and allow you to practice your speaking skills all day.
- Extra: Sports instructor
You have a sport you are good at and even have a relevant teaching license? Then being an instructor might be for you. In touristy areas, your experience combined with your language skills will be your greatest asset.
- Part-time job sites for foreigners
- Designated Facebook groups
- Notice boards at Japanese language schools
- Online freelance work
- Company websites, storefronts or 募集中flyer at shops
- Hello Work (for Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya) in your area
- Consumer tax
Japan has a consumer tax of 8% on goods and purchases.
Pay attention when you go shopping, because many shops will advertise the price before tax (税抜, ぜいぬき) instead of the price including tax (税込, ぜいこみ). Check for these marks to avoid confusion at the register when you are asked to pay more than you anticipated.
- Income tax
With a working holiday visa, you have to pay 20% in taxes.
Since you will typically stay in Japan for less than 12 months you have to pay the “non-resident tax.” For residents, the tax rises proportionally with the income, while non-residents have a fixed flat rate percentage.
That said, since the tax will be deducted directly from your salary you won’t have to worry about it. It is not possible to receive any tax refunds.
You will be taxed only on Japanese income. For example, imagine you work freelance online, doing an international job and getting paid in Australian Dollars. You do not have to pay taxes on it in Japan (you may have to pay taxes for it in Australia though).
About Working in Japan
Here is a list with some common jobs you can do. If you are worried about your Japanese level, rest assured that even though the choices are more limited, it is entirely possible to find part-time positions.
How to find a job
While you are recommended to travel around, the longer you stay in a place the easier it will be to find a job. In Japan, most salaries are paid on a monthly basis and many companies require that you work there for at least 3 months. Spending 3 months somewhere should make it realistic to find a position. Maybe consider alternating times for working and traveling in your itinerary.
You could use those first months to do an internship or attend a language school. Both can be arranged from your home country in advance. Intake is often limited to certain time periods, so inform yourself early on.
The job market in Japan can be tough to enter. Schedule at least 1-2 months to find your first job if you are looking on the spot. It will be easier if you are legally adult (21 years) and have a university degree. Both are not a must but can be helpful. Also keep in mind that even though you can work full-time, the jobs you are likely to get will often be simple tasks.
If you want to make sure your stay goes smoothly, you could pay an organization to arrange everything for you. They will help you with your visa preparation, set you up with a job and provide continuous support.
If you decide to do it by yourself, I would recommend to start looking for work before you arrive in Japan. You do not necessarily have a job lined up before you arrive (Immigration doesn’t care about it and you may not be allowed to depending on your nationality) but it will make your first months in Japan easier.
If you decide to just show up here that’s fine, too. In this case, it will be good to look up which websites to search on, which Facebook groups to join and where to go to find the jobs you want.
As orientation, you can start here:
Try to look for the job you would like to do or the place you want to be in, and get a realistic idea of your options.
You will have to deal with two types of taxes in Japan.
Leap of Faith
Over the last decade, Japan really opened up to foreigners. Lots of information and services are available in English, making it easy to get around all of the bigger Japan’s cities. If you venture into the countryside, with fewer foreigners, some Japanese will be essential. In return, you will get a unique perspective on Japan, not many others can boast of.
Many people couple their work and holiday stay with job-hunting activities. While the rule is that you are supposed to return home after your working holiday, and that you cannot change your visa in Japan to a working visa officially, there seem to be exceptions. Be careful though that job-hunting should not be the purpose of your working holiday, but if you do get a job offer in Japan consult with the official institutions on how to proceed.
Getting the working holiday visa requires some preparation and courage, especially if you are not fluent in Japanese yet, but the experiences you can make and the things you can learn during your stay will surely reward you for it!
If you have any other questions regarding the working holiday visa, let me know in the comments!