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JAPAN – Residence Statuses Reorganised

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On 1 April 2015 Japan’s Immigration Bureau introduced some amendments to the Immigration Control Act, partially reorganising the residence categories available to foreign nationals, with some benefits to highly skilled foreign workers, managers and entrepreneurs.

Business Manager

  • As of 1 April 2015, foreign nationals engaged in the management of companies are eligible to apply for the “Business Manager” residence status, previously known as “Investor/Business Manager”, regardless of any investment in a company registered in Japan.
  • This residence status was previously only available to foreign nationals occupied in the management of at least partially foreign-owned companies, but has now been opened to managers of Japanese-owned companies as well.
  • Also as of 1 April 2015, foreign nationals planning to establish a business in Japan can apply for Business Manager residence status before their company has been registered in Japan.In this case, they must apply for and submit the company's Articles of Incorporation (and other relevant documents) instead of the Certificate of Company Registration. If successful they will receive temporary residence status for four months, which can be extended once they have completed the company registration in Japan.

Highly Skilled Professional

  • As of 1 April 2015 a new residence category of “Highly Skilled Professional” has been introduced for foreign nationals with advanced and specialised skills who would previously have been given “Designated Activities” status. Qualifying activities include academic research, advanced technical activities and business management.As previously, highly skilled professionals who score more than 70 points for their skills, experience and salary get preferential immigration treatment, such as a longer, extendable duration of stay, work permission for a spouse, a fast track to permanent residence and the right to sponsor parents and domestic workers as dependents.
  • Foreign nationals with the status of residence of Highly Skilled Professional (i), or those holding the status of "Designated Activities", who have been engaging in the activities coming under this status of residence for three years or more, are eligible for the status of residence of Highly Skilled Professional (ii). This allows an indefinite period of stay and permission to engage in certain other professional activities alongside those that come under the Highly Skilled Professional (i) status.

Other Amendments

  • The previous division between “Engineer” and “Specialist in Humanities/International Services has been removed and the two categories have been consolidated into one status of residence called “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services”.
  • The “Student” status of residence has been extended to international students at Japanese elementary and junior high schools.

Action Items

  • Note that managers employed by wholly Japanese-owned businesses now also qualify for the “Business Manager” status of residence, and that founders of as-yet unregistered new businesses may qualify for a four-month stay under this status while arranging the registration of their company.
  • Note that highly skilled foreign professionals with the previous “Designated Activities” status may qualify for “Highly Skilled Professional (ii)” status if they meet certain criteria, without first converting to “Highly Skilled Professional (i)”.