Points to be aware of when working in Japan : Foreign worker issue1

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The basics of working visas

Not all foreigners are eligible to work in Japan ¬– it depends on your residence status. The status of residence which permits foreigner to work is often referred to as "Syu-ro Visa" or "Working Visa." The visa application does not necessarily have to be submitted by the foreigners themselves. A Gyosei-syoshi (administrative scrivener) can act as a certified intermediary and carry out the task.

At the Immigration Bureau of Japan foreigners can get a certificate issued by the Minister of Justice that proves they're eligible to work. Although this certificate is not absolutely necessary in order to get a job, it is certainly beneficial. It allows companies to confirm that you are eligible to work, to know whether or not you have certain limitations in your activities, and to judge what kind of jobs you are capable of doing. To get this certificate, you'll need:

  1. either a passport or certificate of alien registration,
  2. a permit of activity beyond the eligibility(if required),
  3. application form (download here(PDF)), and
  4. application fee of 680 yen.

Consequences of working illegally

Working without a working visa and engaging in jobs outside of the permitted categories ("Activity beyond the eligibility") are both violations of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. Employers, who knowingly hire ineligible workers and employees both receive punishment. For foreigners, working without official permission may result in the cancellation of eligibility for residence or inability to renew it.

Getting permission to work at previously ineligible jobs

Foreigners with certain statuses of residence (e.g. those with a status of "Study abroad" or "Enter school") may want to work a job that falls under "Activity beyond the eligibility." In that case, you can often apply for permission to do "Activity beyond eligibility" at the Immigration Bureau. Once your application is approved, you can ask for a certificate or a seal proving your "Newly permitted activity," if you require.

Changing jobs in Japan

When changing jobs, you may be told by the company you want to work for that you can't be hired with your current eligibility of residence. In that case, you can submit an application to the Immigration Bureau for permission to change your eligibility of residence. If the Immigration Bureau decides that you fulfill all the necessary requirements, you can change your status within a few months. You should keep in mind, however, that it's often difficult to change your status from one kind of employment to another, as the standards for changing eligibility of residence are generally set high.

Updating your visa

If you change employers but stay in the same general occupation, there will be no changes made to the eligibility of residence. You can update your visa with the submission of the new company's data.

On the other hand, if your new job falls under a different category from the former, it is required, when updating the visa, to acquire a new eligibility of residence or a certificate for working by submitting the current company's data before your period of residence expires. If you're not sure whether or not you can continue working with the same eligibility of residence in the new company, contact the Immigration Bureau or the Employment Service Center for Foreigners (http://www.tfemploy.go.jp/en/info/index.html).

If you need to apply for a certificate for working in order to work at a new company, it is necessary to submit information about the company to the Immigration Bureau. This information includes the company's commercial registration (you can get a copy of commercial registration at Legal Affairs Bureau(http://houmukyoku.moj.go.jp/homu/static/(Japanese Only))), its profit and loss statement, and contract of labor(Offer of employment or Notice of employment). The company should be able to provide you with these materials if you explain the situation.