• Japan Tips

How to Obtain a Japanese Work Visa as an ALT

Man holding his passport with boarding ticket inside

As an Interac ALT, you will need to hold the “Instructor” status of residence. If you are being recruited from outside Japan, Interac will manage the process to establish your eligibility and provide you with the documentation required to apply and receive a Japan working visa from your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate.


The relevant law states that the Instructor status allows the holder to engage in language instruction or other education at an elementary school, junior high school, senior high school, secondary educational school (“chutokyoiku gakko”). This Japan working visa also includes education facilities such as schools for special needs education, vocational school (“senshu gakko”), miscellaneous educational institution (“kakushu gakko”), or other educational institution equivalent to a miscellaneous educational institution in facilities and curriculum.


One of these other statuses of residence is also acceptable: Permanent Resident, Spouse or Child of a Japanese National, Spouse or Child of a Permanent Resident, Special Permanent Resident, or Long Term Resident.


Japan Visa/Status of Residence Application Process

The process to apply for your status of residence involves mainly the five stages below and can be quite lengthy. More details and instructions on applying for a Japan work visa will be provided to you by your recruiter.


1. Document Preparation and Submission to Interac

To start the application process, you will be required to submit to Interac a range of documents, including copies of your passport, university graduation certification, a resume, and photos. You are also required to submit the results of a criminal background check.


2. Application for a Certificate of Eligibility

Interac’s office in Tokyo will use the documents you provide to prepare and submit an application on your behalf to the Japanese immigration authorities for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). The CoE allows you to then apply for an Instructor visa.


This process takes roughly eight to ten weeks, starting from the time the application is submitted to the immigration authorities in Tokyo. Generally, this process is smooth if the applicant completes and provides all the documents required for a Japanese work visa in a timely manner.


3. Application for a Japan Work Visa

Once the CoE has been issued by the Japanese immigration authorities in Tokyo and your placement is confirmed, it will be sent to you by express mail.

You will then need to submit an application to your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for a Japanese work visa. The embassy or consulate will fix a visa stamp/sticker inside your passport and affix the CoE to your passport. You can enter Japan once this stamp/sticker is fixed.


4. Approval and Granting of Landing Permission/Status of Residence

Upon arrival at a Japanese airport, an immigration official will inspect your passport, check your visa, and ensure everything is in order. They will also mark your visa as cancelled or used and collect the CoE.


5. Residence Card – from July 2012

Since July 2012, at Narita International Airport (Tokyo), Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Chubu Centrair International Airport (Nagoya), and Kansai International Airport (Osaka), mid- to long-term residents are issued a resident card. The card will show your status of residence (Instructor) and for how long this status is valid (usually one year from the date of issue).


At other airports or points of entry into Japan, a stamp/sticker is fixed inside your passport. You will then need to go to the municipal office for the area where you will be living to complete the resident card procedure. The card will then be mailed to your registered address by the regional immigration office.


If you receive your resident card at the airport on arrival, you are also required to visit the municipal office for the area where you live within 14 days of moving in. The purpose is to notify the Ministry of Justice (through the municipal office) of your address and to have the address details updated on your card.


This change, which came into effect in July 2012, is a significant change in the residency management of foreign nationals residing legally in Japan with resident status under the Immigration Control Act. The Ministry of Justice has prepared a helpful guide that explains all the changes here. 


Document Requirements

In accordance with step one of the Japanese visa application process detailed above, you will need to provide Interac with a range of documents. Please prepare and submit these documents in accordance with the instructions provided by your recruiter.


1. A copy of the photo page/inside cover of your passport.

The copy must include the photograph, passport number, issuing authority, date of expiration, etc. When copying, please do not change the original size of the document. Please submit this on white paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11). Please upload a scanned copy of this document onto the document dashboard in your online application.


2. Two identical ID photos taken within the last 3 months in accordance with the following specifications:

  • Photos should be 40mm by 30mm in size. If you are unable to send 40mm by 30mm, then please send the photos in their original size, and our visa staff can cut them to size.
  • [MOST IMPORTANT] The measurement from the top of your head to the bottom of the jaw MUST be between 22mm – 28mm with some space above your head and collars. Please see the detailed specifications for Japanese work visa images here.
  • A plain white background is also required.
  • Photos should be taken when wearing business attire.
  • Your face must be clearly visible, with no long fringes covering your eyes and no facial piercings.
  • You should not be wearing sunglasses or prescription glasses with tinted lenses.
  • Homemade photos are not acceptable.
  • Please provide these photos in a clear plastic bag or envelope.
  • It is recommended that you take a cm ruler with you to measure the facial dimensions once the picture is printed. This may give you the opportunity to retake/re-print the photos before even leaving the photo booth.

If the photos provided are not of the correct dimensions and quality, you will be requested to send new photos for your Japanese visa. This process can be both expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, your cooperation at this stage of the process is very much appreciated.


3. Resume (in addition to your Japanese visa application).

The resume must be a minimum of two pages that includes all work and education details (including primary and secondary schools); all elementary, junior high and high school details as well as all details of employment, with specific dates. The work and education details need to be listed in chronological order (most recent first / newest to oldest). Please ensure that it is completely up-to-date and that any gaps in your education and work experience are clearly explained. The resume must be on white paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11) printed on one side only. The paper copy of your resume must be submitted with your other documentation. If requested, please submit your resume electronically by email in Word format to your recruiter. Please also upload this document in Word format onto the document dashboard in your application.


4. A Photocopy of your University Degree.

If you have more than one degree, this should be a copy of the highest degree awarded on your application. It is helpful if it is copied in color on plain white paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11). The entire diploma, including any seals, must fit within the photocopy. Please upload a scanned copy of this document onto the document dashboard in your online application.


5. One original, non-returnable, certified letter of graduation that certifies your graduation status OR one original academic transcript issued by your university.

This document must be written in the past tense. Statements such as “expected to graduate” or “will graduate” are not accepted by the Japanese immigration authorities as proof of graduation. The letter of graduation must be issued on headed paper and signed by the university, and cannot be more than one year old. This original graduation document must clearly indicate the degree awarded and the date of award. If you cannot provide the letter of graduation or transcript, you will be required to send your original diploma, which of course will be returned to you in due course.


6. Copy of your TEFL, CELTA, TESOL, PGCE or other types of certification if applicable.

Please provide copies of these on plain white paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11). In addition, please upload a digital copy of this to the document dashboard in your application.


7. Results of your Criminal Background Check

Details of how to obtain a Criminal Background Check can be found here.


8. Copy of your driving license (if applicable)

This must be copied on white paper (A4 or 8.5 x 11). In addition, please upload a digital copy of this document to the document dashboard in your application.


Exclusions from a Japanese Visa

If you are married to a Japanese national, and you will be traveling to Japan on a Spouse or Child of a Japanese National visa you only need to provide a certified copy of your degree, OR one original, non-returnable, certified letter of graduation that certifies your graduation status OR original print-outs of your academic transcript. Additionally, you will also need to provide copies of certificates according to item six above, if applicable. To assist us with your placement, we will require an approximate timeline as to when your Spouse or Child of a Japanese National visa will be issued. Please note that usual deadlines apply.


If you already have a valid status of residence for Japan (the status of residence must be Instructor), you will need to supply the recruiter with a copy of the documentation that proves this status of residence. This includes a copy of a valid re-entry permit (if applicable), a copy of a valid residence card or Certificate of Alien Registration (“gaijin card”), and a copy of your university degree.


If you have any problems supplying the required documentation for a Japanese work visa by the given deadline, please advise us in advance so that we can provide guidance.

About the Author

Brian McDonough is a consultant at Interac, Japan’s largest provider of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Originally from the US, Brian has lived in Japan for over 25 years, giving him a unique perspective on the cultural differences and challenges people face when moving to Japan. He has first-hand experience of working in Japan as an American.