More Visa Comments - Part One

More Visa Comments - Part One

We decided to ask a few visa consultants here in Tokyo about some of the more common questions that we have been asked by candidates over the last 12 months. This column, as well as others over the coming weeks, are taken from a set of questions I asked Marc Bergman of Strata Works - a local company consisting of accountants, judicial scriveners, immigration specialists and patent attorneys that offer a variety of services to allow clients to concentrate on their core businesses.

TL: Is it possible for someone setting up a company in Japan to sponsor their own visa? If yes, what kind of visa can they sponsor? What are the requirements for the company?

Marc: The short answer is yes. It is possible for someone to effectively sponsor their own visa through setting up a company, but it is not as straightforward a matter as one would think. If one becomes the resident Representative Director of his or her own company, for example, he or she is required to apply for an Investor/Business Manager visa. While this can be applied for at the beginning through submitting a Certificate of Eligibility application, it is probably more common for individuals already in Japan to go this route.

This is quite a common situation these days with many aspiring entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses. Commonly, these individuals are already on a regular work visa of some kind (e.g. Specialist in Humanities and International Services) they obtained while working at their previous employer. They have since left that company and have set up their own firm and now need to extend their work visa as their current one is soon expiring. However, if they set up their own KK, YK or Branch Office, for example, and designate themselves the resident Representative Director as mentioned above, Immigration will insist they apply for an Investor/Business Manager visa and the person would then submit a Change of Status of Residence application.

However, just setting up the company is not enough. The minimum requirements are to have hired two full-time employees. They must be Japanese nationals, or foreigners that are on long-term visas, i.e. spouse, long-term, permanent resident, etc. If the foreign employee is on a regular work visa (Specialist in Humanities and International Services, Engineer, etc.) they will not count. If the company has just been established, for example, has one Japanese full-time employee, and has plans to hire another in the coming months, then it can probably be shown that the company has invested at least 5 million yen (e.g. half of a KK's capital investment) and this could make up for the lack of the second employee. There are various other items required to be submitted such as copies of office lease contracts, annual corporate tax return, salary details, photos of the office both inside and outside, etc. but unless two full-time employees of either Japanese nationality or foreign with long-term status are in place, it is difficult to obtain Investor/Business Manager status.

It is somewhat of a gray area since the same person that is now a Representative Director will not be allowed by Immigration to extend his/her regular working visa, therefore having to change to Investor/Business Manager. However, if the company does not yet have employees, it will not qualify the applicant for Investor/Business Manager status. There are a couple of options such as becoming an ordinary director and putting someone else in place as Representative Director, therefore allowing the individual concerned to simply extend their current regular working visa.

Interesting to note is that if the applicant is coming off a 3-year working visa, Immigration tends to look less strictly at the application. While there are many guidelines in place for granting any kind of visas, there is also an enormous amount of discretion employed by the Immigration Officers.

As always, my contact details are simply:

Looking forward to getting some enquiries...