New Specified Skills Residency Visas for Japan: Here’s What You Need to Know

To alleviate labor shortages amid an aging population and falling birth rate, the Japanese government announced this May that it will implement two new residency visa statuses as early as April 2019.

Below we update what is known so far regarding the details of the provisionally named “Specified Skills” (tokutei ginou, 特定技能) visa that is meant to attract foreign workers to Japan in specific industries.

What a minute, didn’t the government announce just one new visa status?

Yes, in the original announcement, the Japanese government provided a broad outline of one new “Specified Skills” visa status. The features of which were as follows:

  • The new visa status is meant to attract lower-skilled workers in five main industries where there are severe labor shortages.
  • The five industries under consideration are:
    • Agriculture
    • Nursing care
    • Construction
    • Ship building
    • Lodging/hospitality
    • Please scroll to the bottom of the article to see the update! On October 29th, the government announced that it is now considering fourteen industries that would qualify for the new visa statuses.
  • Workers under this visa status would be allowed to remain in Japan for a maximum of five years.
  • People currently in Japan on the Technical Intern Training Program would be allowed to change their status of residency to the “Specified Skills” visa upon successful completion of training, which would mean that they could stay in Japan for a maximum of ten years (under a combination of the two residency statuses).
  • In principle, workers staying in Japan on this visa status would not be allowed to bring their families with them.
  • Key to eligibility for application is some level of basic conversational Japanese, equivalent to “N4” on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
  • The ministries overseeing specific industries would be tasked with creating exams to confirm a certain level of knowledge or skills to determine who would be eligible to receive the new visa status.
  • The goal is to attract tens of thousands of new workers a year.

As the government has hammered out the details of the new visa status in the last few months, it has morphed into two new visa statuses: Specified Skills No. 1” and “Specified Skills No. 2

How are the two new visa statuses alike?

  • Minimum level of Japanese language proficiency. Under both new visa statuses, workers have to have a minimum level of Japanese language proficiency equivalent to “N4” on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Some industries may set different (higher) requirements. Workers who have completed three years of practical training would be exempt from the Japanese proficiency exam.
  • Industry-specific exams to certify skills/knowledge. As mentioned above, the government would task the ministry responsible for the specific industry with creating the exam.
  • Remuneration equal to or greater than Japanese workers. Employers employing workers under the two new visa statuses would be required to compensate workers at a level equal to or greater than Japanese workers. This is similar to the way that workers under the existing Technology/Humanities Knowledge/International Work visa status are supposed to be compensated.

“Specified Skills No. 1” Visa Status

  • You must have a certain level of industry-specific skills. This is in addition to the Japanese language requirement to apply for this visa status.
  • You are not permitted to bring your family with you.
  • You can stay in Japan for a maximum of five years under the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa status.
  • It’s possible to switch to the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa from the Specified Skills No. 1 visa, if you have obtained a higher level of specialization during your stay in Japan.
  • It’s possible to switch to from the Technical Intern Training visa status to the Specified Skills No. 1 visa if you meet all the eligibility requirements.

“Specified Skills No. 2” Visa Status

  • You must have an additional level of specialization. Workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa can apply for the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa if they attain higher level specialization in their field.
  • Indefinite length of stay in Japan possible. This is a significant difference from the “Specified Skills No. 1” visa. In principle, workers staying in Japan on the “Specified Skills No. 2” visa may be able to continuously renew their visa status, essentially giving them a way to stay in Japan indefinitely.
  • You are able to bring your family with you. The “Specified Skills No. 2” visa status allows workers to bring family members with them to Japan.

What else should I know about the new residency visas or what might change?

  • The government is considering opening this visa status to other industries besides the five already approved.
  • The new visa statuses are not open to citizens of countries, including Iran, that do not accept forced repatriation.
  • The Immigration Bureau will play a supervisory function by establishing a supporting organization that will receive workers and provide living and housing support for workers accepted under these new visa statuses.
  • Measures will be implemented to prevent abuse of workers by companies seeking to exploit people by, for example, requiring them to pay a deposit before coming to Japan.
  • Information about eligibility for the new visa statuses will be publicized in foreign countries and Japanese language education in these countries will be given additional support.
  • Companies hiring workers under the new visa statuses will be expected to provide information to workers about such things as learning Japanese, daily life in Japan, administrative procedures for living in Japan.
  • If it is found that there is no longer a labor shortage in specific industries, the “Specified Skills” visa may be suspended for that industry.

This page will be updated as new information becomes available about the new “Specified Skills” visa statuses.

14 industries under consideration

October 29th Update: The specific fields that qualify for the new residency statuses will jointly be decided by the Ministry of Justice and the ministry responsible for the particular industry. Below are the fourteen industries under consideration, significantly more than the original five floated when the government announced in May that it would seek a new residency status to increase the number of foreign workers in Japan.

Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare

1. Nursing care

2. Building cleaning

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and FisheriesAgriculture

3. Agriculture

4. Fishing industry

5. Food & drink manufacturing (including seafood processing)

6. Restaurant (food and drink service)

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

7. Materials industry

8. Industrial machinery industry

9. Electronics and electrical equipment industry

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism

10. Construction

11. Ship building/Marine industry

12. Car maintenance

13. Aviation (Airport ground handling, aircraft maintenance

14. Lodging/hospitality


You may also be interested in: Which industries in Japan are most dependent on foreign workers?

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