[How to Start Life in Japan] Obtain your work permit as an international student

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Japan Racing Association

Moving to Japan and starting a new life can be very stressful. Being prepared by knowing what procedures are needed and how to perform them can reduce unnecessary problems. In this series, written by people who have lived in Japan for several years – your sempai – aims to make your transition to Japan as smooth as possible.

Living in a foreign country as an international student can be difficult in many ways. There are cultural differences and new ways of doing things, and we can say that financially it is difficult for the majority of students.

  • You can receive your work permit at the airport upon arrival.
  • During summer/winter/spring holidays, the upper limit is 40 hours per week and a maximum of 8 hours per day.
  • There are restrictions on the types of work you can do.

Many students are looking for part-time work, authorized by your student visa, if you get a work permit and meet certain conditions.

There are two main methods to apply for your work permit as an international student. Let’s explore what they are.

Where can I apply for a work permit?

You can apply for the work permit in two places: at the airport and/or at an immigration office.

After landing in Japan and when you arrive at the immigration office, submit your completed application form to the immigration inspector. Easy.

The other method will depend on your local immigration office in Japan. Some will require you to submit a weekly schedule of your classes along with your completed application form, residence permit and passport.

Can the international student center help me?

In most cases, yes. However, one thing to note is that your school’s international student center may not be open when you arrive in Japan, especially if your arrival is before the start of the semester. So, if you want help from the international student center, you may have to wait.

Once the semester is underway, check with your international student center and ask if they can process your application on your behalf or provide the necessary documentation to prepare the submission.

Can I apply for the work permit by myself?

Yes. If you decide to apply for the work permit on your own, it is strongly recommended that you present yourself at the immigration office as soon as the doors open in the morning. As the day progresses, it can get quite crowded with many people processing their immigration-related paperwork.

Normal hours at most offices open at 8:30am and close at 5pm, but this may vary. It is best to check your local office website.

How long does the work permit take to be processed?

It may take up to 10 business days to receive approval (or in rare cases, a request for more information) after submitting your application to the immigration office. You will be without your residence card and passport during this period, so you will need to carry a note that your documents are being used by the immigration office.

What does the work permit look like?

The work permit will be stamped on the back of your residence card.

This is what the student visa work permit is called in Japanese:

資格外活動許可 |しかくがいかつどうきょか (shikakugai katsudou kyoka)

How much can I work?

Student visa holders can work up to 28 hours a week when school is in session. During summer/winter/spring holidays, the upper limit is 40 hours per week and a maximum of 8 hours per day.

What is Forbidden?

There are also other limitations. Even during the aforementioned hours, you are not allowed to work in the adult entertainment service industry. For example, no work of any kind is allowed to:

  • Hostess bars or cabarets, where an attendant serves customers at their table
  • Gambling establishments
  • Pachinko Lounges

You are not even allowed to wash dishes or clean in such places.

What are the penalties for breaking the rules?

There are stiff penalties for violations, such as jail time or even deportation, if you work without a permit. The same applies if you are caught exceeding the number of working hours or working in establishments not acceptable by immigration for student visa holders.

You may also be penalized for working as a full-time employee rather than a part-time one. More details can be found on the Immigration Services Agency website.

How do I know where is considered “correct” to work? to?

Check with your international student center or local immigration office if you have questions about which institutions you can work at.

As a general safeguard, if you’re unsure and need to ask someone, it’s probably best not to work on it.

What are some useful Japanese expressions?

資格外活動許可 (しかくがいかつどうきょか | shikakugai katsudou kyoka) Work permit

入国管理局 (にゅうこくかんりきょく | nyuukoku kanri kyoku) Immigration Office

在留カード (ざいりゅうかーど | zairyuu kaado) Residence card

身分証明書 (みぶんしょうめいしょ | mibun shoumei sho) Personal identification (card/certificate)

Read more articles on [How to Start Life in Japan] on JAPAN Forward.

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