What are the conditions for foreigners to work in Japan?

Company employees in Himeji were arrested on suspicion of violating the Immigration Control and Refugee Act (illegal employment mediation) by forcing Vietnamese to work in activities outside of their status of residence and providing services to illegal overstayers (2024/02/20 Kobe Shimbun). We often see reports of illegal employment cases.

First of all, what are the conditions for foreigners to legally work in Japan?

1.When the foreign national have been granted status-based residence status

He/she can take any job (as long as it doesn’t violate the law, of course), regardless of the nature of the job. There are four status-based residence statuses: “Permanent resident,” “Long-term resident,” “Spouse, etc. of Japanese national,” and “Spouse, etc. of permanent resident.”

*The same applies to “special permanent residents.”

2.When he/she has been granted with any status of residence which is allowed to work

The applicable status of residence is “Diplomacy”, “Official”, “Professor”, “Art”, “Religion”, “Press”, “Investment/Management”, “Legal/Accounting”, “Medical”, “Research”, “Education”, “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”, “Intra-company transfer”, “Nursing care”, “Entertainment”, “Skills”, “Specific skills”, “Technical training” and “Specified skilled workers”. Under the Immigration Control Act, only work activities that are in line with the purpose of the activity specified for each status of residence are permitted. To perform work that is different from the purpose of his/her activity, he/she will need permission to engage in activities other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted.

3.When he/she has permission to engage in activities other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted.

This permission is required when attempting to operate a business that generates income that does not belong to the granted status of residence or engage in activities that receive remuneration. To obtain permission, he/she must apply to the Immigration Bureau.

A typical example is when holders of “Student” or “Dependent Stay” residence status work part-time, and the maximum number of working hours per week is 28 hours. This is called a blanket permit, otherwise it will be reviewed on an individual basis. If he/she is permitted to engage in activities other than that permitted, this will be written on the back of his/her residence card.

The above information will become clear from the “Presence or absence of work restrictions” on the front of the residence card and the “Permission to engage in activities other than that permitted under the status of residence” column on the back.

In other countries, the term “Working Permit” can be used in Japan to refer to permission (certification/change) of the status of residence according to the above, and permission to engage in activities other than that permitted under the status of residence.

Please note that there are various terms and procedures related to the keyword “work”, such as the following, but these do not prove that he/she can legally work.

Certificate of employment qualification: This is a document that proves that he/she can operate a business that generates income or receive compensation that can be carried out with his/her residence status, provided by the Immigration Bureau through its application procedure. This is provided for the general convenience of foreign nationals when changing jobs or when requested by a new employer.

Employment visa: This is a visa issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to the above-mentioned employment status of residence. A visa is only a letter of recommendation at the time of immigration examination, and it loses its validity after entering the country, and does not prove that he/she is qualified to work.

This post is available in Japanese.

Japan Immigration News