What is the change? Immigration authorities have begun requesting detailed information from foreign nationals seeking to obtain residence to work status while in Japan on temporary visitor status, especially when changing their status from a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE).

What does the change mean? Employers should take note of this increased scrutiny and consider the risks of having assignees apply for status of residence to work while visiting Japan before they have completed the normal steps in the application process.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Work permits.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for work permits while in Japan on temporary visitor status.
  • Business impact: Companies should take note of the increased scrutiny and be aware that foreign nationals applying for work permits in Japan as visitors may have their applications rejected if authorities do not find their reasons for lodging the application convincing.

Background: Normally, employers and foreign nationals must complete three steps when applying for a work permit in Japan. Those steps are:

  • Step 1: The employer applies for a CoE from the Immigration Services Agency (formerly the Immigration Bureau) in Japan.
  • Step 2: The assignee applies for an entry visa at a Japanese embassy or consulate in their home country or a country where they have a residence permit.
  • Step 3: The assignee travels to Japan and applies for landing permission at the port of entry. Typically, assignees will be given a residence card after showing an immigration officer their CoE and entry visa (unless the term of stay is less than six months). Once the residence card is issued, assignees have the right to work and their families have the right to reside in Japan.

Occasionally, assignees who are visiting Japan for business, to search for housing or for other reasons, are able to obtain a status of residence to work by applying as a temporary visitor for a change of status, provided the CoE is issued during their stay. Authorities have begun scrutinizing these applications closely, asking for detailed explanations as to why assignees in these cases are applying directly for a work permit without completing the normal steps. Some immigration offices have been refusing to accept these cases and will not proceed with processing if the CoE was issued before the visit. Officials say that if the CoE was issued before traveling to Japan, applicants should not skip Steps 2 and 3 before applying for residence to work.

Analysis & Comments: The increased scrutiny suggests that authorities may become stricter about applicants applying for change of status to obtain a work permit when in Japan as temporary visitors. Assignees will likely be required to show that they have a justifiable reason for skipping the normal steps and that they cannot avoid applying for a work permit with only the CoE. Employers are encouraged to work closely with Deloitte to determine the best options for visitors applying for work permits.

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