How to Change Jobs in Japan – A timeline

How to Change Jobs in Japan - A timeline

Thinking about changing jobs in Japan? Find out about the process, paperwork and everything you need to know for a good transition to your next career stage.

Ground rules

It is okay to change jobs in Japan. There are just some things to keep in mind.

READ ON  Understanding Japanese attitudes toward changing jobs

Visa validity

Even if you change jobs, your Japanese work visa remains valid until the expiry date written on your residence card. A work visa is not bound to the company that sponsored it. Once you have a work visa it is yours and you are allowed to work in Japan for however many years it says on it.

Visa category

First, your work visa is valid for a specific type of work, if your next job falls under the same visa category all is good, if it is a different one then you need to apply for a new visa.

Notify Immigration office

Second, you need to notify the Immigration office about any change of employer within 14 days after you left a company or changed jobs. If you take some time out between jobs, then two notifications are necessary: first for terminating a job, and for starting a new one. Also, you need to send this by post, so maybe don’t wait until the last minute.

3 months time limit

Third, after leaving a job, holders of work visas have 3 months to find a new job. If you cannot find employment within this time period, your work visa might be revoked and you are expected to leave the country. If you are working in Japan under a non-work related status of residency, you don’t need to worry about time and type of work restrictions.

1. Preparing the job change

How long should I stay at my company?

In many countries it is perfectly normal to change jobs for better conditions but Japan’s corporate structure and mentality still tend to favor people who stay with their company for the long run.
Even though job-changes are getting more common in Japan, 3 years at one company is the recommended time span before switching. Changing jobs too fast or too frequently can make potential employers reluctant to hire you. Many companies see frequent changes as a sign that this person isn’t working well and has trouble fitting (remember the value of team spirit).

Job hunt

Schedule at least 3 months for your job-hunt. This is the typical time required to go from first application to finalizing the paperwork in Japan. Before you decide on a job offer, remember to double check your visa category, and talk to your new company about the application process for the appropriate visa if it isn’t the same.
Don’t let anyone tell you that your visa type doesn’t matter. (Even if nobody seems to mind at the time, a visa that doesn’t reflect what you actually do in Japan is a common cause for rejection when applying for a visa extension.)

If at all possible, job-hunt first and only quit your company when a new position is in reach. This avoids trouble and loss of income.

2. Giving notice

When to tell your old company?

The Japanese Labor Laws require a 2 weeks’ notice for full-time employees. However, companies might ask you for one, two, or three months’ advance notice. To part amicably announce your plans as early as possible and try to follow their wishes, otherwise, have a talk with your boss about your particular case.

Who to tell first?

When you want to quit, you need to talk to your direct supervisor. They might ask for your reasons, so be prepared to explain why you want to leave and what you want to do afterwards. How well you prepare here, decides about how smoothly everything goes.

To have the talk just ask them for some time and make sure you can talk privately in a separate room.
Some companies might consider it inappropriate to have these talks during work hours, so schedule some time, during a break or after official work hours.

Setting the date

After the meeting, your last day of work will be set and it will be decided who will take over your tasks, what you do until then.

Official resignation 退職届

In some Japanese companies, it is common to submit a handwritten resignation letter. Especially when you are the one who decides to move on. Hand it in once the date is decided and everything is settled. Your resignation should be hand-written and in the traditional Japanese style, written from left to right and top to bottom.
Keep in mind that you cannot withdraw your resignation once submitted.

If the company lets you go you don’t need to submit a resignation letter. If they still ask you to do it, be careful what you write as the circumstances of losing a job are important when applying for unemployment money.

Finishing up your work

In the remaining time, you will be expected to finish your work, organize and make sure that the next person can take over your position smoothly.
It’s also your time to use up your remaining paid leave. Many companies handle it that way, that you just stop showing up to work how many days of paid leave you have left before your actual last day.

Your company might ask you to keep the fact that you are leaving to yourself, to not affect workplace dynamics until your last days roll around.

3. Resident tax

Quitting doesn’t only mean you need to talk to your company, you also need to take care of your tax payments. Procedures vary somewhat depending on when you start your next job.

Within one month

If you start your new job within one month, you are continuously earning money, and the procedure is simple. Just let your old employer know who your new employer is and they can take care of the paperwork. If this is difficult for you, go to your municipal office and change your resident tax to 普通徴収 (ふつうちょうしゅう), then let your new employer change it back to 特別徴収 (とくべつちょうしゅう)” again.

After more than 1 month

Resident tax is calculated on your income between January-December of the previous year but the payments cycle goes from June to May. So in which month you leave your job, decides when you have to pay your resident tax.

January to May

If you leave until May the remaining resident tax has to be paid all at once. It will be taken out of your last salary. Your final salary will also come without any of the benefits your company was paying you until then, so get ready for a budget cut.

June to December

From June you have the choice to do the same as above, and pay all your resident tax until May of the following year at once from your last salary. Or you can split up the payments, paying monthly installments by yourself. If you decide to go for the monthly option ask your old employer to change your status to 普通徴収 before you leave the company.

4. The last day

Return stuff

Your final day at the company you will be busy. You need to make sure to return everything you got from the company.
Health Insurance card, employee ID, business cards, in some cases the commute ticket, company uniforms, keys, documents, other items like the company laptop etc.

Get your paperwork together

The last documents will be signed and exchange hands. Make sure you don’t leave your company without:

  • ✔ unemployment insurance certificate (雇用保険被保険者証, こようほけんひほけんしゃしょう)
  • ✔ pension book (年金手帳, ねんきんてちょう) – you might have it at home
  • ✔ statements of your income (源泉徴収票, げんせんちょうしゅうひょう)
  • ✔ loss of health insurance certificate (健康保険資格喪失証明書, けんこうほけんしかくそうしつしょうめいしょ)
  • ✔ unemployment slip (離職票, りしょくひょう) ※
  • ✔ resignation certificate (退職証明書, たいしょくしょうめいしょ) ※
  • ※ only necessary when the new company is not decided yet

Say your goodbyes

On your last day make a round to thank your bosses and colleagues you worked together with. Ideally bring one big box of snacks, like the おみやげ everyone shares after a vacation.
Also be prepared to say a few words to your team or department during a morning meeting. Keep it sweet, short, and positive, and show gratitude for your time at the company.

5. Notify the Immigration office

Notify the immigration office of you leaving a company within 14 days per post.

6. Paperwork after job change

When you are in Japan on a work-visa but unemployed, you have 3 months to find and start a new job before the Immigration Bureau can reclaim your visa. But there is more paperwork to keep in mind. In case you are unsure at any point, go to your local municipal office, and let them check what you need.

Directly start a new job

In the rare case that you will start your new job the day after you finished your previous one AND you keep working in the same visa category, your new company is going to take care of most things. You just need to hand in your:

  • ✔ unemployment insurance certificate
  • ✔ pension book
  • ✔ statements of income
  • ✔ loss of health insurance certificate

Everyone who takes a break

Applying for Unemployment

Even as a foreigner you pay into the unemployment insurance, so you are eligible for payment. Apply for this one as soon as possible. If you quit on your own accord it will take 90-150 days before you get any money. The shortest possible time span is 3 months and 7 days. Unless you are here one a spouse visa or similar, or the company fired you without fault on your side, this isn’t going to help you a lot during your 3 months you get for reorientation to find a new job for your work visa.

Change Pension

If there is even one day you are not employed by a company in Japan you need to change your pension to the national pension (国民年金, こくみんねんきん) or join the insurance of a family member in Japan. Do this within 14 days after leaving your previous company.

Change Health Insurance

There are three available options.

  • ✔ Continue your current insurance voluntarily (via your company within 20 days)
  • ✔ Join the National health insurance (go to city hall within 14 days)
  • ✔ Join a family members health insurance (via their company as soon as possible)

Part-time work

If you are unemployed in Japan you can work part-time as long as it is within the limits of your visa regulations. As “specialist in humanities” you can work part-time as a translator, but not as staff at restaurants or convenience stores. Taking these things lightly could cost your next application for a visa or renewal or residency to be rejected. If you lost your job for reasons you had no impact on (and have documents to prove it) you can apply for a special permission to do work outside of the visa category.

7. A new company

If you got all the necessary documents from your last employer and the visa is taken care of, then your new employer can handle/explain the rest. Just remember to notify the Immigration office within 14 days after starting your new job.

Thinking ahead

When you got your work-visa at the first company, the Immigration Bureau vetted both you and the company. When you change jobs within the field, a second check is not necessary. But since the Immigration office will check your “new” employer when you apply for a visa extension, make sure you work for a financially sound company and your new position still matches your work visa restrictions. If the Immigration Bureau does find any fault with your visa or company, your extension will most likely be denied.

Now there is a way to make sure that the Immigration office is okay with your new employment: getting a Certificate of Authorized Employment. Just apply for it and the Immigration office will check and hopefully approve your new working arrangement. Try to do this while you have more than 6 months left on your residence card. That way, even if you should get denied, this will give you time to take counter-measures, like looking for another job.

The paperwork that comes with job changes can be confusing. Ask human resources or your municipal office for advice if you are unsure about what you need to do. Good luck for your career!

Others also read


After traveling around for a while, I found my home in Tokyo. Now working in Shinjuku and discovering something new about Japan every day.