Despite eligibility, low numbers for highly-skilled visa applications

This is Stephanie of IMS.

Have you heard of Japan’s highly-skilled visa category? Since its implementation on May 7, 2012, foreign professionals have had the option to apply for the Highly skilled professional visa category, as long as they meet the requirements. These highly-skilled professionals “are expected to bring innovation to the Japanese industries, to promote development of specialized/technical labor markets through friendly competition with Japanese people, and to increase efficiency of the Japanese labor markets,” according to a May 2009 report detailing the benefits of attracting skilled workers from abroad.

However, according to a recent survey conducted by the Internal Affairs Ministry, this system is vastly underutilized, with only 18% of survey respondents as taking advantage, while a large 37% are not, despite being eligible. Reasons include not knowing the application process well enough to apply, not knowing the merits the visa gives to workers, and not realizing that they were eligible in the first place.

There are 3 categories of the Highly skilled professional visa:

  1. Advanced academic research activities
    Activities of engaging in research, research guidance or education based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization in Japan.
  2. Advanced specialized/technical activities
    Activities of engaging in work requiring specialized knowledge or skills in the field of natural sciences or humanities based on a contract entered into with a public or private organization in Japan.
  3. Advanced business management activities
    Activities of engaging in the operation or management of a public or private organization in Japan.

Once granted this visa status, these professionals gain multiple benefits over other work visas, such as permission for multiple activities at a time, a 5-year period of stay, and preferential processing of entry and permanent residence procedures.

Since the government introduced this visa category 7 years ago, only 15,000 foreign professionals have earned this visa status. The Internal Affairs Ministry would like to see this number grow.


Foreigners underuse highly-skilled visa system

Points-based System for Highly-Skilled Foreign Professionals