How to Apply for Startup Visa in Japan

How to Apply for a Startup Visa In Japan

Japan’s Startup Visa offers foreign entrepreneurs, both inside and outside Japan, an unparalleled chance to engage with one of the most innovative environments globally. This visa streamlines the process of starting and expanding businesses by eliminating common hurdles like the requirement for physical office space or large initial investments. With supportive measures including temporary office spaces and expert consultations, the visa not only eases the immigration path but also reinforces Japan’s status as a leading tech and innovation center, while attracting foreigners to obtain a Startup Visa in Japan. 

Before diving into the startup visa application procedure, you will also need to know how to set up a company in Japan. Our article Setting Up a Company in Japan will answer your question with all the information you need to know to get your first company in Japan up and running.

What Are Different Types of Visa In Japan?

Different Types of Visa In Japan

7 Types of Visa For Long-term Stays in Japan

Japan offers seven main types of long-term visas, each for different purposes of staying in Japan excluding tourist purposes. The requirements and restrictions for obtaining these visas vary significantly, catering to the specific needs and qualifications of applicants to ensure they meet Japan’s immigration policies.

1. Highly Skilled Professional Visa

The Highly Skilled Professional Visa in Japan is designed for foreign professionals with advanced skills, offering them benefits like longer stay periods and easier pathways to permanent residency based on a points system evaluating their expertise and contributions.

2. Working Visa

Japan’s Working Visa is tailored for specific occupations, such as artists, business managers, and more. Each visa type is designed to match the professional skills and roles of the applicant, ensuring they meet Japan’s employment needs in various sectors.

3. General Visa

The General Visa in Japan is designated for non-work-related stays, catering to specific purposes such as cultural activities, student exchange, training, and family stays. Examples include visas for college students and participants in cultural activities.

4. Specified Visa

The Specified Visa in Japan targets individuals engaged in specific activities, including long-term residents, spouses or children of Japanese nationals, caregivers for the elderly, and specified activities, such as paid internships. 

5. Start-up Visa

The Startup Visa in Japan is designed for foreign entrepreneurs looking to launch a business in Japan, offering them a conducive environment to develop innovative ventures. This visa facilitates a simpler process of starting a business with various supports. We will later dive into the application processes and deeper details of Startup Visa In Japan.

6. Diplomatic Visa

The Diplomatic Visa in Japan is issued to diplomats and consular officials appointed to Japan and their immediate family members. This visa facilitates their stay in Japan, allowing them to perform diplomatic duties and functions. 

7. Official Visa

The Official Visa in Japan is designated for employees of foreign governments or international organizations who are stationed in Japan for official duties. This includes administrative and technical staff, along with their families. 

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How Does a Startup Visa in Japan Differ from Other Working Visas?

The Startup Visa in Japan distinctively supports entrepreneurs planning to establish their own businesses, diverging from other visas that center on employment or visiting Japan. While Working Visas are about employment by the government or companies, the Startup Visa underscores the initiation of businesses grounded in innovative plans. 

The Startup Visa shares similarities with the Business Manager Visa but differs notably in not requiring physical office spaces. It focuses on a viable business plan and growth potential that enables entrepreneurs to contribute to Japan’s economy with fewer constraints, like securing a physical location and initial capital, thus easing their entry into the Japanese market.

How to Apply For a Startup Visa?

To apply for Japan’s Startup Visa, applicants must meet specific criteria, including a concrete business plan, to utilize the viable visa period effectively. The application process involves direct engagement with one of the 14 designated municipalities, a task that’s notably simpler for current residents of Japan, who can contact these local authorities directly. For overseas entrepreneurs, reaching out via mail or email can be more complex and time-consuming to obtain the visa. 

Necessary Documents For the Application

Necessary Documents for Applying for Startup Visa in Japan

The necessary documents may vary depending on the type of startup and the municipality you are applying to. However, some commonly required documents for Startup Visa In Japan include:

  • Resume
  • A Copy of the Applicant’s Passport
  • A New Business Implementation Confirmation Application Form
  • A New Business Implementation Plan
  • Proof of Accommodation in Japan
  • A Recent Bank Statement of the Applicant

These documents are primarily for verifying the applicant’s potential to create a successful startup within the visa period. For the accurate necessary documents, restrictions, and their fields of support, we can find the information on the website of each of the 14 municipalities as shown below.

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Visa Application Processes

1. Initial Application: Apply to 1 of the 14 municipalities

The 14 municipalities approved for issuing a Startup Visa in Japan require the submission of necessary documents for application. Each municipality targets specific types of businesses, offering visas with durations ranging from 6 months to 1 year. It’s crucial to review each municipality’s restrictions and policies before applying to ensure compatibility with your startup’s focus and goals.

2. Examination: Document Examination and the Interview

The examination process for the Startup Visa includes a detailed review of submitted documents and an interview.  The document review ensures the business plan and other submitted materials meet specific criteria and requirements set by the municipality. During the interview, applicants may be asked to elaborate on their business model, strategies for success, and how they plan to contribute to the local economy. This comprehensive evaluation helps determine whether the applicant will receive the Startup Visa.

3. Result Notification

Applicants are informed of the examination’s outcome. Successful candidates are notified that they have met the necessary criteria and are eligible to proceed with their business establishment in Japan under the Startup Visa’s temporary residency status. This step enables them to move forward with implementing their business plans in Japan as a recognized startup founder.

Which Startup Cities Are Popular for Startup Founders?

Startup Cities In Japan

Across the 14 municipalities offering the Startup Visa in Japan, there’s a diversity in the types of startup ventures they support, reflecting national trends. You’ll find a strong focus on cutting-edge fields like information technologies, environmental solutions, and health-related startups. It is important to choose the right municipality for a startup visa application, so let’s look at the examples of 3 startup cities!

1. Shibuya City Office

For example, the Shibuya City Office, located in the center of Tokyo, targets giving Startup Visa for startups in these 5 fields. There are also plenty of supports available in Shibuya, such as startup events and subsidies.

  • Health, Medical, and Welfare
  • Environment and Energy
  • Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
  • Information Technologies
  • Culture and Art Fashion

2. Hokkaido

Hokkaido is focusing on the startup fields that promote their local businesses. They have a unique startup culture that is different from one in the capital of Tokyo with different focuses.

  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries that support local communities
  • Food-related Industries that utilize regional resources
  • Hokkaido Tourism Business
  • Businesses that promote developing manufacturing industries
  • Businesses that promote what market needs

3. Kobe City

Kobe City is promoting any technologies or businesses that benefit the city. There are also various startup programs in Kobe for anyone interested.

  • IT, health, medical/ welfare, environmental, and logistics fields.
  • Businesses that produce value in existing products/ services regardless of the field.
  • Other projects deemed necessary by the mayor of Kobe.

If you are looking to do a startup in Japan but don’t have your products or services yet, check our article 10 New Business Ideas in Japan of 2024 to see what business field is currently trending and profitable in Japan. 

3 Things to Note When Applying for a Startup Visa in Japan

What You Should Keep in mind Before Applying for Startup Visa In Japan

While exploring how to start your business with a Startup Visa in Japan, it’s important to keep in mind that there are a few restrictions to be aware of. These will ensure the alignment with local and national economic goals that will facilitate the success of your ventures.

1. Limited Period Of Stay

You will have to convert the Startup Visa to a Business Management Visa or others after the period of the Startup Visa. The limited stay of 6 months to 1 year is like a sprint to get your business up and running. But remember, crossing the finish line to secure a Business Management Visa requires a fresh set of paperwork and meeting new criteria.

2. Conversion to Business Management Visa

Starting your journey with a Startup Visa might be an easier path. However, you eventually need to apply for the Business Management Visa which can be more intricate. It’s a leap from the initial process, but it’s all part of scaling and rooting your business in Japan.

3. Municipality-specific Restrictions

There are unique restrictions for each municipality. For instance, places like Shibuya City are conducting regular interviews to ensure your business is actively progressing. Failing to demonstrate activity could lead to your visa being invalidated. 

Having a partner for your startup is important, why don’t you listen to our podcast How to Establish Business Partnerships in Japan with Fariza Abidova with the first-hand experience of establishing partnerships in Japan 

3 Benefits of a Startup Visa

Financial Support For Startup In Japan

Becoming an entrepreneur in Japan with a Startup Visa comes with many advantages. This program is designed to lower the entry barriers for international innovators. It’s a golden ticket to turning your business dreams into reality in one of the world’s most dynamic markets.

1. Lower Barrier to Start a Business In Japan

With a Startup Visa, Japan simplifies the journey for aspiring entrepreneurs. You initially don’t need an overly high bank balance or a physical office. Local municipalities are also there to guide you, making it significantly easier to bring your innovative ideas to life in a country known for its welcoming approach to global business minds. 

2. Access to Local Networks and Resources

Japan’s startup visa program not only facilitates entry but significantly provides entrepreneurs with an abundance of networking events and resources. This initiative includes specialized coaching programs aimed at nurturing startups, alongside vibrant networking events designed to foster idea exchanges, propelling startups toward success.

Getting your business running and having a visa to go with it is great, but how do you find your first customer in Japan? This is where networking comes into play. There are countless startup events in both Tokyo and Osaka. Visit our Guide to Business Networking in Japan to find our top picks of 15 networking events to go to once you have your visa. 

You can also check out this video below of Antti Sonninen, organizer of Takeoff Tokyo (One of the largest startup events in Japan) talking about events you can attend in Tokyo.

3. Wide Range of Financial Support 

There is substantial financial support from the government. Various subsidies and incentives are available, tailored to alleviate the financial pressures on new businesses. This increasing support underscores Japan’s commitment to nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship, facilitating a startup in Japan.

Visit our article on Guide to Startup Subsidies in Japan to see the list of subsidies in Japan for exploring what types of subsidies are available for your startup!

Japanese Taxes Are Too Difficult?

Check our accountant recommendations to find the right Japanese tax accountant for you!

Final Thoughts

Japan’s Startup Visa program represents a remarkable opportunity for foreign entrepreneurs to launch and grow their businesses in a highly innovative and supportive environment. The program lowers traditional barriers to entry, such as the need for a physical office, and provides access to a wealth of resources, including networking events, coaching programs, and financial subsidies. Embracing this opportunity can open doors to one of the world’s leading markets. Seizing the Startup Visa in Japan offers not just a chance to start a business, but to become part of Japan’s ongoing story of innovation and global collaboration.

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