Congrats, you’ve done it—you purchased a one-way plane ticket to Japan. I remember the exhilaration of heading overseas to start a new chapter. Nothing compares.
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. Even with how prepared I was, one ordeal after another just kept arising. I had to Japanify my name (thus totally altering my identity), negotiate a cell phone contract in a foreign language, and take out a loan because I ran out of money before my first payday. In the hopes you’ll have an easier transition, here are 10 things to help you prepare for and settle into your new life in Japan.
1. Handle your visa situation beforehand
Unfortunately, you can’t just hop off a plane and swagger in, confetti falling. Anyone looking to study or work in Japan long term should secure a proper visa before they arrive.
How to become a resident of Japan
First, apply for a visa. To do so you’ll need:
- a valid passport (that won’t expire during your intended period of stay)
- a visa application form
- a recent photograph
- a Certificate of Eligibility (COE)
- various other documents depending on your situation
You’ll then take or send these documents to your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate and let them handle the rest.
Visa sponsorship is a case-by-case scenario, so make sure you investigate your options carefully. Check out the Immigration Bureau of Japan and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan websites for help. The two main types of long term permits are for employees and students.
A work visa allows foreigners to live in Japan with the sponsorship of their employer (or a Japanese national). Working visas are normally granted for periods of 1 year or 3 years (with the option for renewal) to those with some kind of specialized skill—categories include artist, engineer, instructor, investor, and journalist.
This is a great time to make a living in Japan because the rules for acquiring a work visa were recently relaxed due to local labor shortages. Native English speakers are even more fortunate—jobs teaching the language are always available in abundance.
Working Holiday visas
Japan has working holiday arrangements with many nations, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, South Korea, and the UK. People between the ages of 18-25 (and up to 30 with special approval) can work part-time for one year.
Student visas are available to anyone going to Japan to study. Generally, people do this by studying Japanese, attending a Japanese university full-time, or joining a study abroad program. Kyoto University has a helpful guide on how to apply for a Japanese university. Contact your local universities to see if they have a study abroad program in place.
Insider Tip: If you don’t want to teach English, however, there are other options. If you know Japanese, you can get a job as a translator or at a local company. Freelancers with multiple income streams can self-sponsor if they can provide proof of adequate income. Don’t assume you have to go down the English teaching route just because everyone else does.
2. Figure out your finances
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