The 3 Types of Visas You Need to Start Your Business in Japan — and how to get one.

The 3 Types of Visas You Need to Start Your Business in Japan — and how to get one.

Thinking of starting a business in Japan? Wondering what type of visa to apply for? Here’s what you need to know about visas for starting a business in Japan.

While this article can’t substitute the guidance of an immigration specialist, it will give you a general idea of the types of business visas you might wish to pursue. 

Once you know what each visa entails, we recommend contacting an immigration specialist to help you navigate the process with ease. 


Note: This information is current at the time of publication, but please keep in mind that Immigration Law in Japan frequently changes, with addendums and stipulations coming into or going out of effect. Refer to the Immigration Services Agency of Japan or your immigration lawyer for situation-specific questions. 


The Business Manager Visa 

Business Manager Visa

Previously known as the Investor visa, the Business Manager visa provides a 1-year stay and allows individuals to start or manage a business in Japan or engage in other activities that further the business’s success. This visa’s scope also includes managing a business on behalf of another or participating in the management of a business already in operation. 

This type of visa is ideal for founders, presidents, directors, managing partners, branch office managers, etc. It can be renewed depending on the profitability of your business. You can apply for this while overseas through a proxy, eliminating the need for in-person submission at a Japanese immigration office. 

☑️ Who is eligible to apply for the Business Manager visa?

To be eligible to apply for the Business Manager visa, you first must secure the following: 

  • A business office in Japan. 

  • Investment of 5 million yen capital into your company or the employment of 2 full-time employees residing in Japan (which excludes the individual applying for the visa application). 

  • If the individual applying for the visa intends to engage in business management, they must have three years or more of business management experience (can include years of business management study at a graduate school). 

In your application, you will need to submit documents showing your company’s registration in Japan, bank account balance, and other related documents. Therefore, registering a company in Japan can also be considered a prerequisite of eligibility.

👉 How to apply for the Business Manager visa

  1. Prepare a strong CV and documents proving education and relevant work experience. 

  2. Prepare documentation of company existence, proving your company has completed registration in Japan. Other company-related documents include a well-written business plan (in Japanese), proof that your company has 5 million yen capital, copies of your employees’ contracts, proof of business office location (pictures and real estate contract), and company financial statements. Additionally, depending on the type of business that you have established in Japan, you may need industry-specific licensing, the proof of which will also be required. 

  3. Fill out the Certificate of Eligibility application. You can also hire a bilingual lawyer or English-speaking immigration specialist to help you with this. (Learn more about the Certificate of Eligibility here.)

  4. Send in the Certificate of Eligibility application for your Business Manager visa to an immigration office, which will evaluate your application and confirm whether you have fulfilled the requirements. (Processing time: 1 to 3 months)

  5. Submit your Certificate of Eligibility along with a visa application to the immigration office, essentially exchanging it for a Business Manager status of residence (visa status). This step can be by proxy and does not require the individual to apply in person. (Processing time: 1 to 2 weeks)

The Four-Month Business Manager Visa

Four Month Business Visa

Immigration specialists often recommend the Four-Month Business Manager visa, which is part of a visa reform act passed in 2015. This visa type can’t be considered an alternative to the Startup visa or the Business Manager visa. Still, it allows you 120 days in Japan to get your business affairs in order. 

As you may recall, to be eligible for a Business Manager visa, you must have papers documenting your company’s registration in Japan as a prerequisite. 

However, to complete company registration paperwork, you must open a Japanese bank account, which requires proof of Japanese residency (residence card) — only given to foreigners with a visa that exceeds the 90-day tourist visa. 

The Four-Month Business Manager visa allows entrepreneurs the opportunity to arrive in Japan, get a residence card, open a bank account, and initiate paperwork to register a company, and — once the paperwork is in order — apply for a 1-year Business Manager visa. 

☑️ Who is eligible to apply for the Four-Month Business Manager visa?

You will still need to meet all the Business Manager visa requirements mentioned above but not as a prerequisite to applying for a Four-Month Business Manager visa. 

That is, instead of proving company registration in Japan, you will need to prove that you are in the process of incorporating a business. 

Specifically, you must provide articles of incorporation that detail your company’s trade name, business purpose, capital investment, head office location, investor list, list of officers, etc. A judicial scrivener must certify this paperwork. 

👉 How to apply for the Four-Month Business Manager visa

  1. Prepare a strong CV and documents proving education and relevant work experience. 

  2. Prepare your company incorporation documents, including articles of incorporation that detail your company’s trade name, business purpose, capital investment, (projected) head office location, investor list, list of officers, brochures, website, and/or other material outlining your future business, etc. The real estate contract for your business location is unnecessary, but some immigration specialists advise that you include real estate locations you are considering. All documents submitted should include a Japanese translation. 

  3. Fill out the Certificate of Eligibility application. You can also hire a bilingual lawyer or English-speaking immigration specialist to help you with this.  

  4. Send in the Certificate of Eligibility for your Four-Month Business Manager visa to an immigration office, which will evaluate your application and confirm whether you have fulfilled the requirements. (Processing time: 1 to 3 months)

  5. Submit your Certificate of Eligibility along with a visa application to the immigration office, essentially exchanging it for your Four-Month Business Manager status of residence (visa status). This step can be by proxy and does not require you to apply in person. (Processing time: 1 to 2 weeks)

The Startup Visa

Startup Visa

The Startup Visa Program, initiated by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), allows individuals to apply for Startup visas at designated “special zones” throughout Japan. 

There are 10 official local governments where you can apply for this visa (links go to Startup Visa pages on each local government’s official site):

Within this program, individuals can enter Japan and stay for up to one year without first securing capital or the other requirements for a Business Manager visa or the Four-Month Business Manager visa. 

The purpose of the Startup Visa Program is to provide international entrepreneurs (who might lack startup capital) support from local governments — with the desired goal of strengthening Japan’s startup culture and economic growth.

Preferences are given to original business plans with outstanding growth potential, as well as to those with a focus on deep-tech industries and SDG-oriented startups. 

☑️ Who is eligible to apply for the Startup visa? 

There is no capital investment required, nor do you need to have office space in Japan to apply, nor a registered company. However, each participating local government has specific criteria for accepting applications (refer to official sites listed in the previous section). 

The local government will assess your application on the strength of your business plan and history of successful projects/resume combined with the local government’s industrial focuses. All documents submitted in the application process must be submitted in Japanese or include a Japanese translation.

You can submit the initial application through a proxy; however, there will be an interview if you pass the initial screening, which is typically done in person.

👉 Steps to applying for a Startup visa

  1. Prepare a strong CV and documents proving education and relevant work experience. 

  2. Prepare your business implementation plan. 

  3. Determine where you will be residing during your stay. Prepare to submit this documentation.

  4. Prepare documents showing the balance of your assets.

  5. Submit business plan, application, proof of assets, location of residence during visa stay, and any other required documents to the local government participating in the Startup Visa Program. (Processing time: Depends on the local government)

  6. If your application successfully passes the initial screening, the local government agency handling your application will call you in for an interview. 

  7. If you pass the interview portion of your application, you will be issued a Certificate of Confirmation of Business Startup Activity, which you must submit along with a Certificate of Eligibility application to an immigration office. (Processing time: 1 to 3 months)

  8. Apply for your Startup visa. With your Certificate of Eligibility in hand, submit it along with an application to the immigration office for your Startup status of residence (visa status). (Processing time: 1 to 2 weeks)

In conclusion

Determining between these types of visas will depend on the particulars of your startup capital, business category, and risk tolerance. 

In making your decision, we suggest seeking the advice of immigration specialists who can not only help you navigate Japan’s immigration laws but who can also serve as a proxy in submitting your paperwork. 

Feel free to request referrals to immigration specialists!

Contact us for referrals to immigration specialists so you can immediately get started on your journey toward establishing your business in Japan! 

Want to do more research before contacting an immigration lawyer? Let one of our TokyoMate Assistants get you the information you are looking for!

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