Freelancer Visa In Japan

Freelancer Visa In Japan: The Ultimate Guide

Dvelving into the world of freelancing in Japan feels like unlocking a secret level in a video game—exciting, slightly mysterious, and brimming with opportunities. Worry Not! We’ve got you back!

Whether you’re an artist painting the town red or a coder dreaming in binary, Japan’s freelancer visa is your golden ticket. But, as with any quest, there are rules to follow and dragons to slay. Let’s embark on this journey together, uncovering the ins and outs of securing your freelance visa and thriving in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Let’s dive in!

Which Visa Is Needed For Freelancing In Japan?

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To get into Japan for the first time, you may need a regular job and a company that sponsors you. If you want to have extra income later, you can do freelance jobs. 

Japan has different visa categories that may accommodate individuals engaged in freelance or self-employed activities. 

This includes the Business Manager Visa or the Investor/Business Manager Visa:

  • Business Manager Visa: This visa is suitable for individuals intending to engage in business or management activities in Japan. It can be applicable if you are setting up your own business, including freelance work.
  • Investor/Business Manager Visa: This visa category is designed for individuals who are investing in or managing businesses in Japan. It may be applicable if you plan to operate as a freelancer or self-employed individual. Or
  • Engineer/Specialist In Humanities/International Services Visa: It is based on a contract with a company within Japan and is used to invite foreigners to engage in work that requires professional expertise in the fields of science and humanities.

Documents Required For Freelancer Visa Application

A “Freelancer” in Japan is named sole proprietor and needs to be registered at the tax office

Being an owner of a company like a Company Limited or a Limited Liability Company is not considered as a freelancer activity in Japan.

The documentation you are required to present is listed as follows:

  • Application form
  • Passport, Residency Photo, and Certifications
  • Contracts from Current Employers depending on the nature of your business (such as  business registration certificates, or letters of intent from potential clients)
  • Tax Withholding Slips and Tax Returns
  • Proof of Retirement
  • Application for Permission to Engage in Activities Outside of Your Visa Status, needed 
  • If you want to work outside your visa category. You have to apply for permission from Japanese immigration.
  • Sole Proprietorship Form
  • National Revenue Stamp
  • Certificate of Residency (from the country you are currently residing in)

To request from your sponsor:

  • Any contracts, written agreements, or other documents that prove your employment status, salary, and other activities with the company
  • The company’s registry certificate 
  • The company’s most recent financial statements
  • The company’s withholding tax report

Be sure company documents are stamped with the company seal officially called the representative’s seal or legal seal.

These documents show the applicant’s expertise, financial stability, and intention to contribute to Japan’s workforce. 

Comprehensive document preparation is necessary for a seamless and productive visa application process.

What Is The Freelancer Visa Process For Japan?

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It’s important to require information about the steps required to obtain your visa. They are listed below:

  • Determine visa eligibility
  • Prepare the necessary documentation listed on the Immigration Services Agency of Japan.
  • Establish a business presence
  • Secure a legal representative
  • Submit your visa application
  • Wait for the postcard indicating your visa is ready. 
  • Collect your new visa

It is highly recommended you give yourself a whole day for the application process at the bureau as some bureaus are quite busy.

At your immigration office, take a number and wait to be called. When called, you can submit your paperwork.

Once you pass in your paperwork at the immigration office, the clerk will hand over a postcard. They’ll ask you to write your name and address and return it back to them.

This postcard is then sent to you when your visa is ready for pickup. This should take about a month if they don’t request any further documents.

Remember to bring the following with you when collecting your new visa:

  • Postcard from immigration
  • Passport
  • Residence card (在留カード zairyu ka-do)
  • 4,000 yen revenue stamp 

Applying From Outside Japan?

Apply at your local Japanese embassy. You’ll get a Certificate of Eligibility when approved. Upon your arrival in Japan, you’ll immediately be issued a residence card.

Advantages Of Japan’s Freelancer Visa

Some of the advantage are listed below:

Flexibility And Freedom: The visa allows freelancers to work on various projects simultaneously, ensuring financial stability and continuous skill development.

Lower Expenses: Unlike establishing a company in Japan, freelancers don’t have to bear the expenses of establishing a company, such as minimum capital requirements and having an office in Japan.

High Demand For Specialized Skills: Japan has a demand for skilled professionals in areas such as IT, translation, design, and marketing. If you possess specialized skills, you may find a market for your services.

Technological Infrastructure: Japan boasts advanced technological infrastructure, including high-speed internet and digital tools. This facilitates remote work and collaboration with clients and teams globally.

✅ Cultural Appreciation for Quality Work: Japanese businesses appreciate high-quality work. If you can deliver a high standard of service, you may gain positive feedback and build a strong reputation.

Networking Opportunities: Japan has a well-established business community. Engaging with local communities, attending networking events, and building relationships with potential clients can open up opportunities for freelancers.

Government Support For Entrepreneurs: The Japanese government has been making efforts to support entrepreneurship and freelancing. Initiatives such as co-working spaces, simplified business registration processes, and tax incentives aim to make it easier for freelancers to operate.

Global Collaboration: Japan is a global economic player, and businesses often seek international collaboration. Freelancers with English language skills, in particular, may find opportunities to work with both local and international clients.

Cultural Experience: Working in Japan provides freelancers with the opportunity to experience a rich and unique culture. This cultural exposure can be enriching both personally and professionally.

What Legal Steps Do You Need To Do As A Freelancer In Japan?

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You are obliged to follow the steps listed below:

  • Applying For Sole Proprietorship: To apply, fill out a form that can be found on the National Tax Agency and send it to your local tax office via mail. Keep in mind that the form is in Japanese, and you’ll need to fill it in Japanese as well. Also, don’t forget to send proof of ID alongside your application form. 
  • Health Insurance: You may join the National Health Insurance System as a self-employed individual. Visit the city hall and apply. After you register, you will receive your insurance card in the mail. The amount of premium you’ll pay will be calculated according to your earnings from the previous year.
  • The Taxes: Registering with the Tax Registration Office is a critical step to ensure compliance with tax regulations. Here’s a list of the general documents you’ll need when submitting your taxes:
    1. Your residence card and “My Number Card”
    2. Tax withholding slip from each of your clients,
    3. Receipts of your expenses you want to be deducted
    4. Your bank book or bank account information.

Visa Renewals And Long Term Residency With A Freelancer Visa

Visa Extension

If you are a freelancer in Japan, you will probably need to handle visa extensions in order to keep up your legal employment. 

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Duration Of Visa: In Japan, work visas are normally only issued for a set amount of time, and they must be renewed before they expire
  • Procedure For Extension: Before your existing visa expires, you must apply for a visa extension. This entails delivering the required paperwork to the Japan immigration office in your community.
  • Submission Of An Application: Send the application for a visa extension and the necessary paperwork to the immigration office. These records could include evidence of continuous freelancing, financial security etc.
  • Notification Of Changes In Work Position: It’s crucial to let the immigration office know about any changes to your work status or to your clients or projects, as they could affect the status of your visa.
  • Renewing A Residence Card: You will receive a new Residence Card if your request for a visa extension is granted. In addition to acting as identification, the Residence Card contains details regarding the status of your visa.
  • Observance Of Regulations: Make sure you abide by all immigration laws and adhere to the procedures outlined by the immigration office. Failure to do so could result in legal consequences, including fines or deportation.

Long Term Residence

Individuals engaged in freelance or self-employed activities often consider the “Business Manager Visa” or “Investor/Business Manager Visa” for longer-term stays.

Here are general steps that individuals engaged in freelancing might consider for long-term residence in Japan:

  • Determine Visa Eligibility: Identify the most appropriate visa category based on your intended activities. The Business Manager Visa or Investor/Business Manager Visa might be suitable for freelancers.
  • Obtain A Certificate Of Eligibility: You or your sponsor in Japan (such as a business partner or client) may need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Regional Immigration Office in Japan before applying for a visa.
  • Fill Out Your Visa Application: Once you have the COE, you can use it to apply for the visa at the Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country or the country where you have legal residence.
  • Arrival In Japan: After receiving the visa, enter Japan and, upon arrival, complete the residence registration process.
  • Residence Card: Foreign nationals staying in Japan for an extended period usually receive a Residence Card. This card includes information about your visa status and allows you to engage in various activities, including work.
  • Extension Of Visa: If you wish to stay in Japan beyond the initial visa duration, you’ll need to extend your visa. The process typically involves submitting the necessary documents to the local immigration office in Japan.
  • Maintain Compliance: Comply with all immigration regulations, report any changes in employment or other relevant circumstances, and stay informed about any updates to the immigration policies.

Health Insurance For Freelancers

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Japan places importance on preventive care, and routine health check-ups are common. These check-ups are often covered by the NHI.

While NHI covers basic dental and vision care, it might not cover the full cost. Many residents opt for additional private insurance to cover these services more comprehensively.

In case of emergencies, you can access medical services, and the NHI will cover a significant portion of the costs. However, there may still be some out-of-pocket expenses.

Some freelancers may choose to purchase additional private health insurance to supplement NHI coverage and address specific needs or preferences.

Tax Compliance For Freelancers In Japan

Freelancers in Japan are required to pay income tax on their earnings. The income tax rates vary based on income levels. 

It’s important to keep accurate records of your income and expenses for tax calculation.

Freelancers need to file an annual income tax return in Japan. The tax year in Japan typically runs from January 1st to December 31st. The tax return is due by March 15th of the following year.

Contributions to the National Health Insurance (NHI) and social insurance are considered part of the overall tax and social security framework. 

Freelancers need to stay current with NHI premiums and may choose to participate in the National Pension System or Employees’ Pension Insurance.

Japan imposes a consumption tax on goods and services. Depending on the nature of your freelancing work, you may need to account for and collect consumption tax on your services. 

Freelancers in Japan can claim various deductions and allowances to reduce their taxable income. Common deductions include business-related expenses, social insurance premiums, and certain allowances.

Depending on the nature of your income, clients might be required to withhold a portion of your payment for income tax purposes. 

It’s essential to communicate with clients about withholding tax obligations.

Given the complexities of tax regulations, it’s advisable for freelancers to seek professional advice from tax consultants, accountants, or tax professionals who specialize in Japanese tax law.

If you are a foreign national working in Japan, consider any tax treaties between Japan and your home country. These treaties may affect your tax liability.

How To Plan Your Financials As A Freelancer In Japan?

Freelancers often experience fluctuating income, irregular payment schedules, and diverse expenses.

Therefore, adopting smart financial strategies ensures stability, enables growth, and paves the way for long-term success:

  • Creating A Realistic Budget:  Categorize expenditures, including business costs (tools, subscriptions, marketing) and personal expenses (housing, utilities, groceries).
  • This helps provide a clear overview of your finances.
  • Emergency Fund: Prioritize building an emergency fund to handle unexpected expenses or lean periods.
  • Separate Bank Accounts: Separation of business and personal finances for your freelance income and expenses streamlines financial management, prevents confusion, simplifies tax filing, and aids in accurate tracking of business-related transactions.
  • Tax Planning: Consulting a tax professional can help you navigate complex tax regulations and optimize your tax strategy, ensuring you meet your obligations while minimizing the burden.
  • Track Income And Expenses: Utilize tools such as accounting software or spreadsheets to monitor cash flow, identify patterns, and make informed financial decisions.
  • Savings And Investments: Consider retirement accounts, investments, and other financial vehicles that align with your long-term goals.
  • Regular Review: Monitor your budget and financial plan to adapt to changing circumstances.


And there you have it—your compass and map for navigating the freelancer visa terrain in Japan. Armed with knowledge and a dash of daring, you’re now ready to turn your freelance dreams into reality.

Remember, every great adventure begins with a single step (or a filled-out application form, in this case). So, take a deep breath, polish your samurai spirit, and step into the vibrant, ever-inspiring freelancer scene of Japan. Here’s to your success and stories waiting to be told!

Freelance Forward!

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