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Japanese work visa when you only have a 4-year Software Apprenticeship

Question: “Oh Wise One”… I am planning to find a technical job in Japan in early 2009.
I’ve worked with the same company for some time (6 and 8 years), good references and can hold my ground on many things. However, I don’t think any of the degrees I have are recognized by Japan.
I am smart enough to know if you don’t have a “University” degree getting a work visa very hard.
I did a Software/Firmware apprenticeship in Switzerland, which I think is equivalent to a masters (4 years, lots of school etc), but everyone else thinks it’s less than a bachelor (trade school?).
What are your thoughts?

Yep, you are right. No university degree = a fucked start to a tech job in Japan.

In my 20+ years working the fetid bowels of corporate Japan, I have done a lot of resume and hiring examinations of potential foreign engineering employees.

Here’s the Good news/Bad news…

Good news: Many big Japanese companies will accept your 4-years apprenticeship in lieu of a university degree.

Bad news: Japanese Immigration have a random, phase-of-the-moon approach to granting work visas to gaijin/foreigners without a “University” degree.

Basically, work visas in Japan require a 4-year degree from a university. A 2 year degree will not get you a Japanese work visa unless that 2 year technical degree is combined with 6+ years of real work in a technical field for a real company. If you have 5 to 7 years provable experience at a valuable trade such as a chef or a salaried software designer, you can get a “special skills visa.”

Sorry about the vagueness about the number of years of valid job experience—the assholes at Japanese Immigration consider their visa guidelines top secret and apply them totally at random.

If you have a great work portfolio preferably with big-name, mega-corporation clients and proof you worked in a real business with your skills, you can get a “special skills work visa.” Note that self-employment is viewed very negatively by Japanese Immigration and you would have to be world-famous code guru to get “special skills visa.”.

Japan does recognize the German “meister” certification as equivalent to university degree in most technical areas. Getting a Japanese company to “go to bat” for you for your first work visa is the problem. For example, many Japanese companies have a general policy of “no first visa sponsorship.” That is, you ought to get a work visa at a different (crappy) Japanese company and then quit to join a good company (or get a Japanese spouse visa, working holiday, etc.).

Generally, this all means that you have two options:

Winning-the-lottery Option 1. A large international company transfers you to Japan from their foreign office—let’s say San Francisco—as a valued employee on “The Package.” This Package includes free housing, moving expenses, free private schools if you have kids, a car-and-driver, yada-yada, and a WORK visa.
Obviously, “The Package” is a rare and wonderful thing for people with “just” a technical certificate as you. (However, I just reviewed a work contract for a French chef’s “Package” that came to $110,000 USD/year salary, plus $600,000/year in housing and various tax-free benefits.)

Sad-truth Option 2.
You have to scam a work visa by marrying a Japanese for a spouse visa; you can try to escape from an education visa in grad school; you can establish a Japanese corporation with more than $100,000 capital; or you can use some other semi-fraudulent* means of getting your first real visa, and then apply for tech jobs with that work visa in your hand.

*Do not even fucking bother to ask me how to commit
such frauds. I wish a knew of the fool-proof,
perfect way to scam a work visa
(besides marrying a Japanese). If I knew,
I could be obscenely rich “Visa Consultant.”

So, what’s the first step you should take?

Be obscenely wealthy and start a Japanese company to get a “business visa.”
Or, just marry a rich Japanese.

Otherwise, you will have to go through all the stupid Japanese tech recruiters and try to find a company that will give you that all important first work visa.

Some job resources where you can start to look:

Rots of Ruck!

Posted by Taro in General | 2 Comments »


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2 Responses to “Japanese work visa when you only have a 4-year Software Apprenticeship”

  1. Ed Moon Says:

    Quick question if you have the time.

    My Flipino girlfriend has a spouse visa good for 10 more months. She divored after 3 years but managed to have her visa extended for 5 years. Basically she can work under that visa until it expires.

    She now wants to work on-base (US NAVY) for a contractor but they told her she needs a work permit from the Japanese immigration office.

    The question is:

    With only 10 months left on her visa, can she get a work permit for the remaining time her visa is valid?

    I can’t get a straight answer out of anyone so I figured I’d ask someone who apparently is in the know.

    Thank you in advance,

    Ed Moon

  2. sapandeep singh Says:


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