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?
The working holiday visa allows young people between the ages of 18-30 to come to Japan for up to one year for the purpose of exploring the country, while also being allowed to work as a way to fund their travels. This program was created to foster mutual understanding for each others culture between young people.
Since the working holiday program is based on bilateral agreements only nationals of Japan’s partner countries are able to take advantage of it.
Who can get a Working Holiday Visa for Japan
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. Now, around 10.000 people go to Japan on a working holiday visa every year.
To be eligible for a working holiday, one has to be a national of one of the following countries.
Countries with unlimited intake:
- ✔ Australia
- ✔ New Zealand
- ✔ Germany
- ✔ Denmark
- ✔ Norway
- ✔ Portugal
Countries with 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.
Even in countries where the number of participants per year is limited it usually isn’t that difficult to get a visa any time of the year. If the number of applicants is higher than the limit, there might be a selection process, or you will be asked to try again the following year. That said, this really is an extreme case and usually doesn’t happen.
What else do you need?
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.
- 18-30 years of age (18-25 for some countries)
- Valid passport
- Sufficient funds
- Plane ticket home
- No dependents or children on trip
- 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
The whole application process for a working holiday visa usually takes less than a month. Still, since your one year period starts, not from the day you get your visa, but from the day you enter Japan, applying early can save you from last-minute stress.
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.
- 1. Valid passport
A valid passport is necessary to get the visa. It should be valid until the end of your planned stay, but at the very least it needs to be valid until after your arrival in Japan (otherwise it will invalidate the visa). If your passport will expire within the next year, consider renewing it before you apply for the visa.
- 2. Visa application form
Answer all questions on the application form, leaving something empty could be a reason for your visa to be denied. Don’t forget to sign and attach a photo of your face like the one in your passport (dimensions 3.5cm x 4.5cm and taken within the last 6 month).
- 3. 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. Travel fees vary by country, for example anyone from the other side of the planet should plan around 100.000 Yen for their ticket back home.
※If your visa gets denied you won’t get money back for your flight ticket, so consider buying flexible tickets where you can change the date later.
- 4. Resume
Prepare a resume including your personal information, educational background, and employment history.
- 5. Proposed schedule
To show how you intend to spend your time, submit a schedule of your planned activities. Be as specific as possible, avoid phrases like “see above,” etc. and write out everything. The submitted schedule is not binding, you can change it up once in Japan, but it’s a good chance to really sort out your plans. When writing it make sure to answer the following points:
✔ Where – when – what – list the stages of your trip
✔ What kind of work you plan to do
✔ If you have any 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.
- 6. 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.
- 7. Proof of funds
Coming to Japan for a working holiday you should have around 200,000 Yen to cover your expenses. This amount can vary by country and will be higher if you haven’t bought your return-ticket yet.
For this purpose, you have to submit 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. That’s what I did.
- 8. Additional Documents
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). If going yourself is difficult, 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.
- 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
What if your visa gets rejected?
If your visa got rejected you can always try and apply again.
The most common reason is that something was wrong with your application, or that you couldn’t provide enough evidence of sufficient funding for your planned trip. Avoid this by double checking all your application documents before submission.
Coming to Japan
Get the Residence card
Japanese Immigration at the airport will issue your residence card, called 在留カード (ざいりゅう) 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.
How long can you stay?
You are now a fresh official resident of Japan, but for how long?
In most cases, one 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. Only Australians can extend their stay twice, for a maximum of 18 months.
Registration at city hall
Go to your local municipal office (市役所, しやくしょ) within 14 days of arrival and register there. When you move to Japan and whenever you move within Japan, don’t forget to notify the municipal office of your new address.
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 just in case you forgot. 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 about your trip. Be aware that spending time outside of Japan will not extend your visa’s validity period. 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.
How to find a job
You can look for jobs before coming to Japan or after your arrival. It can take some time to find a job and get the contracts ready, so schedule at least 1-2 months to find your first job if you are looking in Japan.
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.
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.
The working holiday visa can also be a great way to get to know the country and gain initial work experience for anyone who would like to work in Japan in the future. It’s a great opportunity to get a sense of what life and work culture is really like and see whether you can see yourself living here long-term.
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!