Updated July 25, 2023
Does Japan Have a Digital Nomad Visa? [2023 Guide]
Not that working remotely wasn’t a thing before, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic really solidified the fact that remote work is here to stay. In fact, it just might be one of the few good things that came out of that whole ordeal, to put it lightly.
Not only did we realize that not all jobs require in-person presence at the office, but we also realized that working from home is actually way more feasible than we were told (by our employers, to no one’s surprise).
I talked about this in my post on the state of remote work in Japan, but working without ever having to leave your house is very much within the realm of possibility across a variety of fields, despite its formerly questioned feasibility.
The last few years saw even the most stubborn, traditional companies switching to a remote system either fully or partially, and this trend instantly sparked a whole new conversation: if we’re working remotely, can’t we do it from anywhere?
This is exactly what being a “digital nomad” is all about, and if you’re here, it’s likely that you’re somewhat familiar with the concept. But does Japan provide a digital nomad visa to foreign professionals who want to live in Japan and work remotely?
That’s what I’ll explore today in this post, but first, let’s brush up on the basics regarding digital nomad visas and the lifestyle in general.
What Is a Digital Nomad Visa?
As I briefly mentioned, the term digital nomad refers to someone who uses technology to work remotely and can work from anywhere. As the term nomad implies, it’s usually used to describe people that are subscribed to a nomadic lifestyle and don’t want to settle down somewhere for too long.
The digital nomad lifestyle is perfect for people who don’t like to commit to a single place forever and want to explore other places and see the world. Even though the pandemic measures are mostly gone, more and more professionals have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle, and countries have begun to take notice as well.
This has resulted in opportunities for workers to take advantage of increasingly common visa programs that allow for a somewhat limited stay where people can live and work in a country without having full-fledged contracts, i.e., a work visa, as a prerequisite.
While a “digital nomad visa” is the most widespread name, you may also see this visa type referred to as a “temporary stay visa,” but it’s essentially the same thing.
Does Japan Have a Digital Nomad Visa?
Unfortunately, the most straightforward answer to this question is no. However, this hardly means that you’re out of options if you want to come work in Japan as a digital nomad. I’ll introduce the alternatives in a bit, but let’s see whether this may change in the future.
While Japan may not have a digital nomad visa as of yet, it’s being reported that this might change soon. According to news sources, the Japanese government is currently working on a digital nomad visa program that will allow foreign professionals to stay in the country while working remotely.
As far as we can tell, for now, the Japanese government seems to be looking to come up with a solution for high-skilled professionals to stay in the country for a substantial period. Whether the visa will actually be called a “digital nomad visa” isn’t clear yet, but the idea is there.
Even though Japan’s tourist visa currently does allow foreign professionals to stay in Japan, this stay is usually limited to just three short months (although it can change depending on the visitor’s country of origin), whereas a digital nomad usually stays in a country for at least a year or so.
In the meantime, if you want to live and work in Japan, here are the other visa options that might suit you.
Try These Instead: Other Japanese Long-Term Visas
First of all, if you don’t mind a shorter stay, you always have the option to get a tourist visa and enter the country as a “business traveler,” which is arguably one of the easiest ways to visit Japan while working remotely.
It may change depending on your country of origin, but Japan usually offers tourist visas for no longer than 90 days. So, it may not be an ideal option, but it’s still there for those who aren’t looking to stay in Japan long-term.
Alternatively, since a digital nomad visa in the true sense of the word may not be accessible, you could settle for a work visa if you’re eligible and want to stay for longer than the commonly allowed three months. Let’s take a closer look.
When talking about work visas, I should first note that Japan has a wide variety of them, each specific to different industries and circumstances. To be exact, there are 20 different types of “work visas” you can obtain in Japan.
However, if you’re working as an engineer or are working in tech in general, the most suitable options for you will be either the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services Visa, a.k.a. the “Engineering Visa” or the “Highly-Skilled Professional Visa.”
The Engineering Visa
While it’s usually called an engineering visa, this visa actually covers quite a wide range of industries and jobs, hence the actual long name I previously mentioned. Because of its all-encompassing nature, the engineering visa is the most popular visa among foreigners living in Japan.
The length of an engineering visa can change depending on the circumstances of the application, but you do have the option to specify a desired period in your application. That said, it’s by no means a sure thing that you’ll be granted a stay for that given period, regardless of your qualifications.
Some people are granted only one year of stay, while others may be granted three or five years at a time. Simply put, the rules aren’t exactly clear, and long-term visas (five years or more) are usually granted to those who are already affiliated with a Japanese company or people who have had the visa before and are applying for renewal.
Either way, here are the main requirements for the engineering visa:
Working in a field related to science, engineering, or other natural sciences,
Having studied subjects related to your work and having a related university degree (or a vocational school degree) from either Japan or a foreign country,
Having a salary that’s equal to or higher than a Japanese national who has the same job title.
If you don’t have a related college degree, however, you can avoid this requirement by having at least 10 years of experience in your field of work. Alternatively, if 10 years of experience feels like too much to ask, another way you can avoid this requirement is by taking an approved IT exam.
There are various IT exams not just in Japan but all over Asia that are approved by the Japanese government. Keep in mind that, as you need to take the exam in either Japan or another Asian country, this may not always be an option if you’re not already in Asia or in close proximity.
If you’re still interested, you can take a look at some of the old exam questions to get an idea of what the exams are like.
The Highly Skilled Professional Visa
While a digital nomad visa may not be an option for Japan just yet, another type of work visa you may be eligible for is the Highly Skilled Professional (HSP) Visa.
This is a visa that’s specifically established to attract foreign professionals to Japan and is relatively new — it was established in 2015.
In order to obtain this visa, you need to collect at least 70 points in the designated points system. This system involves collecting points based on your education history, your age, your salary, and your proficiency in Japanese.
In addition to collecting 70 points, the other requirement for this visa type is having an annual income of at least 3 million yen, which is around 20,800 USD at the time of writing this post.
Once eligible, the HSP visa is issued for five years, which is pretty great. One downside of this visa, however, is that it’s actually tied to the company you work for. This means that if you happen to change jobs before your visa runs out, you’ll need to reapply, which isn’t the case for the engineering visa.
Another downside of the HSP visa is that it’s harder to obtain, as the application process is a bit of a hassle. There are more documents you’ll need to submit overall, and this includes documents about when you joined and left each company you worked for, documents proving your salary, etc.
The Working Holiday Visa
While a work visa may sound like too much of a commitment, if you want to live in Japan for a while, you can also apply for a working holiday visa, which allows you to stay in Japan for 12 months.
Unlike the work visas I covered so far, the working holiday visa doesn’t limit the work you can do in Japan to just your area of education, and it also doesn’t limit the hours you can work like a student visa does. However, there’s an age limit. In order to be eligible, you need to be between the ages of 18 and 30.
As the visa is based on the agreements countries make with each other, there are slightly different age requirements for some countries. For residents of Iceland, for example, the upper age limit is 26, and for Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Korea, the upper age limit is 25. However, the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs website says the age limit can be updated to 30 on a case-by-case basis for applicants from these countries.
The main focus of the working holiday visa is on the “holiday” part, and it was designed for younger individuals who like to travel and see the world while working smaller jobs to pay for their expenses.
Essentially, you can work as much as you’d like, as long as it’s a job that doesn’t affect “public morals.” What this means might not be clear for a foreigner, so, let’s just say that working in places such as bars, clubs, and gambling establishments is not possible if you have this visa.
Last but not least, in order to be eligible for this visa, you need to have proof of sufficient funds. While this depends on your country of origin, 2,500 USD to 4,000 USD is typically enough to obtain a working holiday visa in most cases.
I talked about both the engineering visa, the highly skilled professional visa, and the working holiday visa extensively in my post on how to get a visa as an engineer in Japan. I also featured other types of visas in that article that may not be applicable here but might just suit you.
Other Countries That Offer a Digital Nomad Visa
While Japan isn’t among the countries that have a designated visa for digital nomads just yet, as I said, there are quite a lot of countries that do offer this visa type.
Now that we talked about the visa options you have for staying in Japan as a digital nomad, I’d like to introduce a few good examples of countries that offer a digital nomad visa before I conclude this post. Let’s have a look.
Croatia is a beautiful EU country that’s known for its nature, and the country offers a digital nomad visa that allows the holder to stay in Croatia for up to a year. After that, you can reapply after spending six months outside the country.
The eligibility criteria for this visa are pretty simple. You must be employed by a company that’s registered outside of Croatia and have a monthly income of about 2,500 EUR (2,750 USD). If you’re bringing any family members with you, this amount is increased by 10% for each family member you’re bringing.
Last but not least, the only other requirement is not being an EU citizen.
Estonia is a pioneer in governmental digitalization, and it’s among the first countries to offer a “digital citizenship” that allows foreigners to start their businesses in the country from abroad.
The country is another EU member state that allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to a year, and the dedicated digital nomad and freelancer visa was established in 2020.
Estonia is the first country in the world to have an official digital nomad visa, and the eligibility criteria are similar to that of Croatia. All you need is a job contract with a company that’s registered anywhere outside of Estonia and proof that you earn more than 3,500 EUR monthly.
While Portugal didn’t have a digital nomad visa until recently, digital nomads were still allowed to apply for the D7 visa that was specifically for passive income earners. Now that the demand has increased, the country has finally launched a dedicated digital nomad visa, and it’s an understatement to say that it was well worth the wait.
Unlike many other countries, Portugal’s digital nomad visa program offers two different visas. The first one is a digital nomad visa that allows temporary stay for up to a year, and the second one is a temporary digital nomad residency that allows you to live in Portugal for up to two years!
The digital nomad “visa” allows you to stay in the country for 12 months, but you can apply to extend it for another 6 months as the end of your visa approaches. In order to apply for the 12-month visa, you need to have a stable monthly income of at least 3,040 EUR (3,350 USD) and provide proof of accommodation for the first 4 months of your stay.
The second digital nomad visa, or the two-year residency, provides the same perks, but it allows you to stay in the country as a resident and renew your visa for up to five years once it runs out. It even allows you to apply for permanent residency once you live there for five years.
As you can imagine, the eligibility requirements are stricter with this one, as you need a Portugeese bank account, as well as a rental contract in Portugal for at least 12 months.
In both cases, since Portugal is in the Schengen zone, this digital nomad visa also allows you to travel and see many other countries in Europe as well, which is a huge bonus for digital nomads.
If you enjoy good food, lower taxes, and an easygoing and welcoming environment, why not consider Greece? With its warm, agreeable weather and beautiful beaches, Greece can be a perfect location for your next destination as a digital nomad.
As is the case with other EU countries, the country offers a digital nomad visa that allows you to stay in the country for up to a year, but it can be extended twice to a total of three years.
The eligibility criteria for Greece’s digital nomad visa is once again being employed by a company that’s registered outside Greece and having a monthly net salary of at least 3,500 EUR.
If you want to get a taste of island life, Barbados can be a great destination.
Barbados is one of those countries that don’t have an official digital nomad visa, but the country has a special program that serves the same purpose.
Officially called the Barbados Welcome Stamp, this visa type is issued for one year. To be eligible, all you need to prove is that your annual income is at least 50,000 USD and that you have private health insurance that covers the duration of your stay.
The visa is issued for 12 months.
Continuing with the tropical theme, there’s another Central American destination you can visit as a digital nomad — beautiful Costa Rica. If you enjoy surfing, the sun, or going on adventures in the jungle, Costa Rica is a nature lover’s heaven.
The country had a visa similar to the digital nomad visa before, which was called “Rentista.” However, building on that, the government recently approved an actual digital nomad visa just last year. This visa allows visitors to stay up to one year in the country. You can even come as a tourist and extend your stay by changing your visa while you’re there.
In order to be eligible, you must be working for a company registered outside Costa Rica and have a monthly income of 3,000 USD if you’re visiting by yourself. If you’re bringing a family member along, the monthly income should be at least 4,000 USD.
While these are just a few examples, there are many more countries that offer a digital nomad visa or its equivalent, so you have plenty of options.
If you’re not a digital nomad and want to find a job that can allow you to become one, however, you’ll be glad to know that Japan is full of remote work opportunities. So, make sure to check out my posts on remote companies that allow working from anywhere in the world, where I featured some of the best companies you can apply for.
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