What is the change? Japan has started issuing a new type of Designated Activities Visa to foreign graduates of Japanese universities.

What does the change mean? The new visas valid for a maximum of five years, significantly expand work opportunities for foreign graduates of Japanese universities. Visas are available to foreign students who (1) have graduated from a Japanese university with a bachelor’s degree or higher, (2) have full-time employment in Japan, (3) are engaged in work requiring fluency in Japanese, (4) are paid at least as much as their Japanese counterparts, (5) have demonstrated a high level of Japanese language proficiency (e.g., by passing level N1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, completing the BJT Business Japanese Proficiency Test with 480 points or higher or having majored in Japanese at a university or in a post-graduate program), and (6) have no past immigration violations.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing. The first visas were issued last month.
  • Visas/permits affected: Designated Activities Visas (46) for foreign graduates of Japanese universities.
  • Who is affected: Employers and foreign students who want to work in Japan after completing their university programs.
  • Business impact: Businesses will have an easier time hiring foreign graduates because the visas provide foreign students with a broader array of work opportunities. The tourism industry, retail and manufacturers in particular are expected to benefit from the new visas.

Additional information: Up until now, most foreign graduates from Japanese universities were hired on an Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Service visa. Work options were limited under this visa, however. The creation of the new type of Designated Activities Visa was in response to strong demand for foreign students who understand Japanese culture and language. The visas allow foreign graduates to work in any job provided they have full-time work, are paid at least as much as their Japanese counterparts and have a high level of Japanese language proficiency.

Japan has created a number of new visa categories under a new immigration law that took effect earlier this year. Among other new visas are the:

  • Specified Skilled Worker (1) visa. This visa is for foreign workers in designated industries who pass an exam that tests industry knowledge and Japanese language skills. The visa is valid for one year, six months or four months and is renewable for up to a total of five years. Visa holders cannot sponsor dependents. The industries for which this visa is currently available include aircraft handling, shipping, electrical engineering, and industrial manufacturing, among others.
  • Specified Skilled Worker (2) visa. This visa is available for foreign workers who hold a Specified Skilled Worker (1) visa and pass a more advanced exam on industry knowledge and Japanese language skills. It is also available to high-skilled workers who pass the more advanced test. The visa is valid for three years, one year, six months and is renewable with no limit.
  • Designated Activities Visas for Olympics projects. This visa has not yet launched, but will be available in limited circumstances to foreign nationals working on Olympics-related projects for more than 90 days.

Analysis & Comments: Japan is taking steps to open up to foreign workers amid a skills shortage across a number of industries. The Designated Activities Visa or foreign graduates will expand work opportunities for recent graduates and is expected to help tourism-related industries, retail and manufacturing in particular. Employers should note that while Japan is opening up to more foreign workers, authorities have also indicated that they will watch closely to ensure that visas are used properly. Employers are encouraged to work closely with their immigration provider to determine which visas are best for their foreign workforce and to remain in compliance with new regulations.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.