Whether you plan to visit Japan as a tourist, a student, on business, or to seek employment in-country, you will need to understand what your obligations are in terms of qualifying for a visa.
Like most other countries around the world, the Immigration Bureau of Japan has in place certain restrictions, guidelines and requirements concerning who can enter the country and what they are allowed to do once they arrive. Specifically, the Bureau requires any and every foreigner seeking to enter the country to have a valid passport and – in some cases – a visa.
Formal definitions aside, essentially a visa is a privilege to enter a given country. It restricts and allows certain activities on the part of that person once they enter that country.
Japanese visas can be obtained by applying to any of your home country's Japanese Embassy or Consulate General offices. Your selection of the proper office will depend upon where you live. Application for a Japanese visa is required to be made in person. However, if you live in a remote area you may apply by mail in some cases.
In terms of a Japan travel visa – or another type of visa you may require to enter Japan – here are your 3 main Japanese visa options:
1. Visa-Free Stay:
If your Japan travel plans have you in country for 90 days or less and you are going to be engaged primarily in tourist activities or visiting a friend or family member, you may be able to travel visa-free. This option is designed for tourists and other short-term visitors to Japan.
Certain restrictions apply, of course. For example, you are not allowed to work or otherwise earn money while in Japan if you enter the country for a visa-free stay. Also, upon entering Japan at the airport's immigration area, your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your planned stay. To change your visa status later (say, to a Working visa), you must leave Japan and return later with the new visa.
2. Working Visa:
Many people go to Japan with the intent of seeking employment there, and many others enter the country having already negotiated a new job or as a job transfere from a position in another country. In any of these cases, the Immigration Bureau of Japan will require that you get approved for a Working visa first. Any type of job that allows you to earn money as a foreign resident in Japan will require a Working visa.
3. General Visa:
There are other reasons why you may want to enter Japan, but either as a tourist or as someone seeking to earn money. In this case, you would require a General visa. For example, someone involved in cultural activities or studies would need this type of visa. Also requiring a General visa to enter Japan would be college students, precollege students, people in training and people engaged in a family stay / home stay. In all of these cases, a General visa is needed if you plan to stay in Japan for longer than 90 days.
Note that there are a handful of other types of Japanese visas that are to be used for other specific situations. These are the Specified, Diplomatic, and Official visas. However, these are fairly rare. If you need to apply for one of these in order to conduct your affairs in Japan you will be directed to the correct type of visa application.
Consider these 3 main Japanese visa options as you prepare for your trip or long-term stay in Japan.