In this guide, we dive into all the details of a Working Holiday Visa Japan – from what it is, how to get one, why you should get one, our thoughts on the visa and how to find a job once you’re in the country.
What are Working Holiday Visas?
Working Holiday Visas are essentially visas that provide travellers with a temporary residence permit and allows them to take on work while abroad. The programmes are available in a whole host of countries. Designed to provide the “youth” with opportunities to appreciate the culture of another place while being able to supplement their travels with some sort of income.
The three main differences between a Working Holiday Visa compared to a regular Tourist Visa:
- You can undertake employment
- You are a temporary resident
- The length of time you can stay
Why would you want a Japanese Working Holiday Visa?
It really boils down to two reasons:
- You want to stay in Japan for longer than a Tourist Visa allows
- You want to work while in Japan
We wanted to experience all four seasons in the country in one go – obviously this would take longer than the 3 months we would be allowed if we were on a Tourist Visa. We also wanted to give ourselves enough time to really soak up the Japanese culture.
Can anyone apply for a Japanese Working Holiday Visa?
Unfortunately not. There are a few requirements before you can apply:
Be a resident of one of the 23 countries open to the programme (listed below)
Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom
Aged between 18-30 years of age
This includes the ages 18 and 30. Though depending on your country the age range may vary e.g. you must be aged between 18-25 for Australia. You can check here.
Possess a valid passport
As always, check the expiration dates of your passports before you intend to book your tickets to fly.
A return travel ticket or sufficient funds with which to purchase such a ticket. And possessing reasonable funds for the maintenance of his/her stay during the initial period of stay in Japan.
This differs depending on which country you’re applying from. For the UK (where we applied from), they required £2,500 cleared funds in our bank account or £1,500 if we had already bought a return ticket to and from Japan. We didn’t want to buy our flights before given the visa to go so we made sure to have at least £2,500 available.
Being in good health
Rather vague but presumably to prevent illnesses reaching the country of Japan. We never had to undergo examinations, only asked if we had any illness.
Never had a Working Holiday Visa Japan in the past
Only one Working Holiday Visa Japan per person.
The limit of Working Holiday Visa Japan has not been reached
Most countries have a limit as to the number of Working Holiday Visas available for a given year. Unfortunately, until you’ve submitted your application, there’s no way to know whether the limit has been reached… silly I know. Though, you can call your local Japan embassy to ask when their visas refresh for the year. We were told the UK refresh theirs in April which was perfect for us as we were applying in April. You can find the limit of your country here.
The procedure we’ll cover hereon will be relevant to those applying from the UK. Although, we spoke to other working holiday travellers from other countries who mentioned their procedures were pretty similar.
To start, you’ll need to get a few documents ready:
Not a photocopy but your original passport
A completed visa application form
You can download the form from the Embassy of Japan website. The form itself is fairly straightforward. The only points which might be of concern – if you have yet to book your flights and accommodation – are the date of arrival, the port of entry and names and addresses with whom the applicant intends to stay. We wrote estimated dates and the airport we were considering landing at. Please note that this does not change the start date of your visa. For the address, we put down the hotel we were considering. In the end, we never stayed at that hotel and it was fine.
Taken within the last 6 months and approx 35mm x 45mm.
Like the ones you use when searching for a job. We tailored our CV to only show our name, address, contact details, employment, and education history, and finally skills and interests. During the application process, they only glanced at this.
Outline of intended activities
This a document to show what you are planning to do while in Japan. Again, it doesn’t need to be perfect as no one knows what they’re exactly going to do throughout the year. We wrote down each month with some rough ideas of places we wanted to visit and when/where we might do some work. Don’t worry if your intended activities look way too much fun and way too little work – that’s the point of a Working Holiday Visa! Your main intended purpose is to travel to Japan. Having said that, it would be ideal to have at least one intended work activity in there. At the time, we didn’t have anything confirmed but we wrote down the cities we would be searching/hoping to work.
Written reason for applying for the Working Holiday Visa Japan
Think of this as the cover letter to your CV. We wrote about the reasons we each wanted to travel to Japan. Sarah had put down hers as her love for Japanese culture and her desire to learn the Japanese language. Whereas for myself, I put down the desire to learn from Japanese photographers and capture the beauty of the country. We each wrote about why we required a Working Holiday Visa Japan to achieve these goals. Lastly, we highlighted how the programme would impact us as individuals in our future goals. The letter should be no longer than one side of an A4 paper.
Here’s Eric’s letter as an example
Printed Bank statement
3 bank statements covering the 3 months prior to application. The statements are used to check whether you have the necessary funds to meet the requirements.
Once you have gathered all the necessary documents you will need to head on down to the Embassy of Japan. Appointments are not required.
At the embassy, we had to show our passports and pass through security. Inside, you will be given a ticket number for an “interview”. I write interviewed in quotation marks as it’s more of a general conversation. At no point did I, or Sarah, feel we were being interviewed. Once all documents had been checked, we were asked to hand in our passports. They hold onto your passport until your application comes back. Finally, we paid the £21 visa fee – cash only.
It can take up to two weeks to hear back but we got a call within seven days. They didn’t actually tell us over the phone whether we had been granted the visa or not. This made our hour journey into London pretty nerve-wracking.
Back at the embassy, they handed our passports back with our Working Holiday Visa Japan stamped inside. Note, the one year visa starts on the day it gets approved.
What to do when you arrive in Japan
Fast forward to your arrival in Japan. There’s no need to fill in an arrival card, instead, head straight for a member of staff before immigration check to let them know you’re entering via a Working Holiday Visa. We filled in a different form before they took our photo required for our Japanese Resident Card. The resident card became the only ID we really needed inside Japan.
Registering a permanent address
Once through immigration, you’ll be given a letter which tells you to register a “permanent” address within 14 days at a local ward office. This went on to become the most frustrating process of our Working Holiday Visa Japan. Hotel addresses are not accepted because they are not regarded as permanent addresses. This was a big dilemma for us as we were planning to move almost every week, which meant we would not have a permanent address.
We went down to the local ward office who, considering our situation, couldn’t provide us a solution. Thankfully they said we only really needed an address on our resident card if we were taking up work. Unfortunately, the immigration department still required a registered address within 90 days otherwise you could have your visa cancelled. So what did we do? Well, we just put down our accommodation address and left out the name of the hotel – we even left it as our permanent address as we moved around throughout the year. You will be sent a letter so make sure you inform the accommodation that you are expecting mail so that they can pass it on to you. You’re also supposed to unregister when you leave the address but we decided it was more of a hassle trying to register again so we left it.
Note, if you ever decide to register a different permanent address and are still registered elsewhere (like we were), you will need to unregister back at the original ward office in person. Yes, it’s crazy but they can’t unregister you via another local ward office. For those who want to take up work (hence will need to register a permanent address), we suggest you speak to your employer beforehand. We heard from other travellers that some will be fine with you registering your permanent address at their home.
How to get a job
Finding a job in Japan as a Working Holiday traveller can be difficult, especially if you don’t have any Japanese language ability. The most common job most take-up is as an English Teacher. Other possible jobs include farm work, hostel/hotel work, retail or temp office work. The best place to find jobs is on gaijinpot.com where you can even filter jobs to only those that don’t need Japanese language skills.
We never actually took on local work which paid when we were in Japan, as we make our living as freelance photographers and writers. The only work we did do was voluntary which provided food and accommodation in exchange for our time. All voluntary jobs we found were through workaway.info – this is a great site, especially if you’re travelling as a couple as you can apply for jobs together. We highly recommend voluntary work if you have some money saved up already and just looking to cut some costs. It also allowed us to integrate with the local communities and it was fairly easy to find jobs.
Was it worth it?
A great question to round off this guide, was the Working Holiday Visa Japan programme worth doing? Well, if like us, you’re under 30 and looking to immerse yourself in Japan and live like a local – there is definitely no simpler way. We look back at our year in Japan as one of the fondest of our lives. We only wish we could do it all over again.
If you have any further questions, just drop a comment below or send us an email and we’d be more than happy to answer and help if we can.
Information in this guide is correct at the time of writing, please double-check with your embassy for the most up-to-date information.