As I’m from the UK, this article is based on my experience for applying for the Japanese working holiday visa as a UK citizen, I have included details on the variations on different countries options though, there are slight variations in requirements depending on which country you are coming from. Japanese working holiday visas (which entitle the owner to stay in Japan and gives them the legal requirement to work) are for residents from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, France, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. With the exception of Ireland (which is 18-25) residents of these countries applying for the Japan WH visa must be between the ages of 18 and 30 (inclusive).
France, Germany, Korea, Denmark, Ireland and the UK are granted 1 year with no extensions possible. Six month visa’s are granted to the other countries. Australian and Canadian citizens may extend their visa twice (They can stay up to 18 months) while NZ applicants can extend it once (to maximum of 12 months). Please be aware this data is subject to change and you should check for current rules and reg’s on visa applications.
Currently only 1000 WH visa’s are allocated to UK residents per annum. This was recently increased from 400. Generally there isn’t as many people coming to Japan on a WH visa as Australia though, so this is not normally an issue. The visa year is September>September, so the best time to get one is around Sept/Oct every year when the 1000 spaces will still mostly be available.
You must also not have dependant children, be in good health, a good character (no criminal record), and not be with a spouse (unless they have the same visa status granted), have never applied for this WH visa before . The ‘spirit’ of the working holiday visa is you find work to supplement your travel fund as you go around, not have a job before you arrive (this is important to remember when applying). You also need ‘adequate’ funds (explained below) for your initial stay and intend to leave Japan at the end of your visa. This visa is also single entry, so you can’t leave and continue on the same visa rights (however this can be gotten around by getting a re-entry permit before leaving Japan – note this can not be done at the airport, it needs to be pre approved in a village before you leave – so bare this in mind if you have to make a trip – emergency or otherwise – out of Japan when staying in due to your WH visa).
Materials and requirements
The materials you need to submit in person (don’t send Mummy to do this – that isn’t allowed) are as followed and need to be done in your home country. You CAN NOT go to a Japanese embassy in any other country and apply for it, you need to be in the country that your passport is from. You usually have to go to your nearest consulate too. Scottish applicants are not to go to London Japan consulate for example – they go to Edinburgh one.
- A completed Visa application form
- A 35x45mm photograph taken within 6 months
- A personal history, resume or curriculum vitae typed on A4 paper
- A proposed itinerary for your stay in Japan
- A written personal reason for wanting to go to Japan, typed on A4 paper
- Either £2500 in cleared funds OR £1500 plus an onwards flight ticket out of Japan
- £20 cash for the visa application.
The above is for UK residents, some of the differences for different countries that I know are:
- Australians only need AU$2500 cleared funds there is no application fee.
- Canadians need a return flight ticket and CN$2500 in cleared funds, no application fee.
- Kiwis need Flight ticket home + NZ$3000 or NZ$5000 in cleared funds, no application fee.
- Danish applicants need 11,000DKK and return ticket home 22,000DKK, no application fee.
- French applicants need a medical certificate, €2700 + flight ticket home or €4000, and to fill out a stay program form, no fee.
- German applicants need €1200 with a return ticket or €2000 without, they also need to provide proof of insurance for their stay, no fee.
- Irish citizens have to be 25 or under (some exceptions – I don’t know what though) need €1600 euro + plane ticket, or €3200, travel insurance. No fee.
- Unsure about Korean applicants as I can not read the embassy website (linked).
- Taiwanese need to find out details on applying through the Interchange Association (Japan)
Please note that some countries allow you to apply as a married couple too which allows you to bring a different amount (i.e. in a shared bank account) for example this is NZ$8500 for the couple if you are from New Zealand.
You DO NOT need a degree to get the working holiday visa (unlike a Japan work visa) but the visa does bar you from certain work opportunities. Mostly this is in the ‘entertainment’ industry. So if you’re a pop star singer, bar man or F1 driver, you can’t use the working holiday visa for these occupations (separate visa’s are issued for them). Many of the visa applications like to see Japanese language ability however it isn’t required.
‘Cleared funds’ means exactly that – credit card/s with large limits don’t count neither do any other sort of IOU. You need this in a bank account and to show them the funds. For UK you need to show previous 3 months bank statements, although I believe some others (Canada) you only have to show 1 previous month. Can you borrow the money from someone and make it look like you have it? Officially no.
In reality? Yes. I actually had a ‘financial dump’ which I borrowed off my parents to make up the £2500 requirement and it was on the statements. Did they ask about it? Yes. Because it is suspicious and it all of a sudden meets their requirements they WILL question it. I had to get my parents to fax in a statement to the consulate to prove that it was a gift and I owned the money to do whatever I wished with it. Of course once I got the visa I returned the money.
Next the Itinerary. I suggest if you want to last over 6 months in Japan you be careful in what you write and try to pad it out. If you intend to stay 2-6 months and this is mentioned then they are unlikely to grant the visa as you can just have a tourist one (valid for 3 months) and no right to work. Break it down into sections saying what you will do in each period (I suggest 2-4 month periods). Don’t make it up, actually do some research into Japan attractions that you are likely to visit anyway and explain why. Something like ‘I want to go to Tokyo because I love manga’ is not good enough. Here is a sample paragraph from my own itinerary to give you an example:
Mid October – Min January
I plan to arrive in Tokyo and find a job while exploring the urban culture of Japan’s Capital, I will be looking for a job when I arrive to support my time in the city. I will visit local temples, shines and parks, Akihabara, Sega joypolis, and sumo wrestling . I will also look for a language exchange with a local. I want to finish off my period in Tokyo celebrating the new year.
You see I have mentioned the place/area of stay, that I am looking for work, some attractions I’m likely to visit and another activity (language exchange). This doesn’t have to be true but it does have to be believable. I actually found this process quite interesting and helpful for planning my time in Japan anyway.
For the statement, work with your plan and think about why you want to go to Japan. Again ‘because I love manga’ is not good enough – why do you love manga? Here is a part of my statement:
Ever since a child Japan had an influence. Starting off with a Sega Mega Drive and all the colourful creations across my screen raising my interest in Japanese art and technology.
I then went on to mention martial arts, Japanese cars and culture, all of which I have had a genuine interest in over the years. Again – it doesn’t have to be true, but if you are struggling to write a page (200-400 words) on why you want to go, then maybe you need to rethink things.
Got The Visa?
Please note once you arrive in Japan you MUST register for an alien (Gaijin) cards from the local village of where you are staying within 90 days of your arrival if you intend to stay longer than 90 days. This acts as your ID in Japan and overrides your passport in many cases, for example if you want to apply for a bank account. You can’t get a Japanese bank account without this card.
Also you have 1 year to enter Japan from when your visa was issued (up to 8 weeks, but it typically takes 2 after application). The visa starts from the date you arrive in Japan.