NOTE: The information below is just a general guide. Please refer to the relevant embassy/consulate for updated information.
Below is a basic introduction of the Japanese immigration system. Please contact your closest Japanese embassy or consulate to make sure that you have all the required documents before entering Japan.
Please be aware that landing permission, which is stamped in your passport by an immigration officer at the airport or seaport upon your arrival, is completely different from a visa. Regardless of whether a visa is necessary or not, it is this landing permission, not a visa, that authorizes your initial entry into Japan.
Temporary visitors (tourists)
If you are a citizen of one of the over 50 countries, with which Japan has concluded a "general visa exemption arrangement", you need only a valid passport in order to enter Japan as a "temporary visitor", otherwise, you need to apply for a visa before coming to Japan. Temporary visitors from most countries are allowed to stay in Japan for up to 90 days.
If you are a citizen of Austria, Germany, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Switzerland or the United Kingdom, you have the possibility to extend your stay in Japan to a total of up to six months. You still initially enter Japan for 90 days, but can then apply for an extension at an immigration office in Japan.
Temporary visitors are not allowed to engage in any paid activities. Short term studies at Japanese language schools are permitted.
Travelers, who change airplanes or ships in Japan, may be eligible for a transit visa, which allows them to enter Japan for up to 15 days for sightseeing purposes, before proceeding to their final destination outside of Japan.
All foreign tourists in Japan are required to carry their passports with them at all times.
Foreigners, who wish to work in Japan, need to apply for an appropriate visa. There are about a dozen types of working visas, each allowing the holder to engage in paid activities only within a defined professional field. For example, there are visas for artists, professors, engineers, instructors and entertainers.
If you change jobs while you are in Japan, you also need to change your status of residence, provided that the new job falls into a different professional field. Most working visas are valid for one or three years and need to be extended before they expire. A prospective employer is needed as sponsor when applying for most types of working visa.
Foreigners who wish to study in Japan (except for short term studies at language schools), need to apply for a student visa. There are a few types of student visas depending on the type of studies. An educational institution is needed as sponsor when applying for a student visa.
Student visa holders are not allowed to engage in any paid activities, unless they get the permission of the school and the immigration office. Even then, students may work only a set maximum number of hours per week.
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