Japanese Working Visas – 4 Major Visas

Japanese Working Visas

If you don’t speak and read Japanese well it can be very difficult to understand Japanese Working Visas. This article will give you basic information on 4 of the major working visas here as well as the requirements for each.

The 4 visas this article will explain are,

  1. Technical Intern Visa
  2. Specific Skilled Worker Visa
  3. Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, International Services Visa
  4. Designated Activities Visa

This article will not discuss Working Holiday Visas, Spouse Visas or Refugee Visas. While many foreigners work on these visas, I will have to cover them another time. I hope this article will help those of you abroad thinking of working in Japan as well as those in Japan on non-working visas considering a change.

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Technical Intern Visa 技能実習ビザ

This visa was made by the Japanese government to bring foreigners to Japan who want to learn a technical skill. The nationalities that are allowed to apply for this visa are restricted so only think about this visa if you are from the following countries.

  1. Vietnam
  2. Thailand
  3. China
  4. Phillipines
  5. Indonesia
  6. Cambodia
  7. Nepal
  8. Laos
  9. Myanmar
  10. Bangladesh
  11. Uzbekistan

This visa is meant to be a form of “contributing to the international community.” The goal is to come to Japan, learn a skill, and use those skills to grow their country’s economy.

That was the goal, but unfortunately the reality is quite different. Often Technical Interns end up just doing manual labor and don’t get the chance to study.

Of course, asking a technical intern to do only manual labor is against Japanese labor laws. So if you are a technical intern and being asked only to do manual labor you should seek consultation with your local labor board.

Pay for this visa is often very low because Japanese companies only need to pay interns minimum wage and under Japanese law, interns are not usually allowed to switch jobs. So be careful when applying for companies under this visa. You cannot switch after you commit without a very good reason.

Specified Skilled Worker Visa 特定技能ビザ

The Specified Skilled Worker Visa was created as an extension of the Technical Intern Visa. This visa is more difficult to apply for than the Technical Intern Visa, but the conditions are much better. If you have completed the Technical Intern Visa Program however the application process is very easy.

This visa does not have a nationality restriction but is only for industries that really need workers. I will list the industries at the end of this section. Also, this visa requires that you take tests that are only held in Japan or a few other countries. 1 Japanese language test (around JLPT N4 or N3 Level) and 1 Technical skills test. 

There are actually 2 versions of this visa. Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 and No.2. Visas for type 1 can be renewed up to 5 years. If you finish 5 years of type 1 in Construction or Ship Building you can switch to Type 2. Type 2 can be renewed and has no limit on renewals.


  1. Take and pass a Japanese language test & technical skills test in your desired field. (If you finished the Technical Intern Visa program No. 2 you do not have to take these tests.)
  2. Sign a contract with a support organization.
  3. Receive a job offer from a company in Japan.

(More information from the Japanese government: https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000459527.pdf)

What is different from the Technical Intern Visa?

  1. Pay must be the same as Japanese workers.
  2. Manual labor is allowed.
  3. You receive support for living in Japan from a support agency.
  4. You can switch jobs.

Specified Skilled Worker Visa Industry List

  1. Nursing/Caregiver
  2. Building Cleaning/Janitorial
  3. Machine Parts & Tooling
  4. Industrial Machinery Industry
  5. Electric, Electronics Information Industries
  6. Construction Industries
  7. Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery Industry
  8. Automobile Repair and maintenance
  9. Aviation Industries
  10. Accommodation/Hotel Industry
  11. Agriculture/Farming
  12. Fishery
  13. Manufacture of Food and Beverages
  14. Food Service Industry

Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, International Service Visa 技術・人文知識・国際業務ビザ

This is one of the most basic and widely used visas for foreigners working in Japan.

There is no language requirement for this visa. However, your goal should be to have at least JLPT N3 level Japanese. N2 or N1 is obviously better, but N3 is a good baseline.

Unlike Technical Intern Visas and Specified Skilled Worker visas, this visa has requirements for education. To apply for this visa you need either a college degree or 10 years of experience in your field. If you do not have a college degree or 10 years of experience you cannot apply for this visa.

Manual labor is also not allowed on this visa. You should think of the Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, International Services Visa as the visa for office workers.

When you apply for your visa you must already have a job offer. That job offer must be related to your major in college or 10 years experience.

For example:

If you studied economics in college and are trying to work as a computer engineer your application will likely be denied because you are not working in the field you studied.


  1. Have a college degree OR 10 years experience in your field.
  2. Receive a job offer from a company related to your experience.

Designated Activities Visa 特定活動ビザ

The Designated Activities Visa has a number of different versions. In this article I will only talk about Designated Activities Visa No.46. This is the most difficult visa to get; however, it has the most freedom of any normal working visa. The only visas that have more freedom are spouse visas and permanent residency.

For this visa you must graduate from a 4 year Japanese University or Graduate School. You must also have JLPT N1 certification.

If you meet both of these requirements you can apply for a Designated Activities visa No. 46.

But why is this visa better than others on this list? Well the big difference is that as long as you are doing something related to your studies, you can do anything you want for work. (The only exception is working in prostitution and other illegal industries). If you have this visa you must also find a job that pays more than the same job for most Japanese people. However, if you have the level of education and test scores this visa requires, it should be easy to find. Also, it is very easy to renew this visa and stay in Japan for a long time.


Below is a basic chart to help you understand Japanese Working Visas.
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A summary of Japanese Working Visa requirements