Immigration Uncovered: Japan

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Japan is a major host to international events and is regularly the base for significant sporting and athletic competitions writes Dominic Higgins, ASG Immigration Limited and Bernhard M Flasar, Nakai Immigration Services.

Late 2012 in particular promises to be an eventful period. In golf, September will see the Asia Pacific Panasonic Open at Hyogo followed by the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour in November, to be held in the national park region of Shima. The Japanese Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in October 2012, while a series of tennis competitions (the Pan–Pacific, ATC Rakuten Japan and WTA HP Japan Womens Open) will take place in September and October. In addition to international visitors coming to watch these events and experience Japans unique culture, many visitors will arrive to perform in events, act as support staff or journalists or temporarily supply goods and services to spectators. General Visa Requirements for large–scale eventsEntry requirements for people providing goods and services at major events vary significantly for different countries. If a person is to work they are generally required to obtain work permission from the relevant immigration department, however business activities like attending meetings and conferences, market research, business discussions and signing contracts are allowed on a visit (non–work) visa. It is also the case that special arrangements are sometimes made for large–scale events. Japans visa requirementsThe requirement to obtain a visit visa before travelling to Japan depends on a persons nationality. Japan currently has reciprocal arrangements with 61 countries/regions whose citizens may visit Japan without a visa. A small number of nationalities, including British and Irish, may visit for up to six months without obtaining a visa in advance. Nationals of most of the other 61 countries/regions, including the USA and Australia, are limited to a maximum three month stay initially although in special circumstances this can be extended. In all cases entry as a visitor is only permitted for the period required to carry out the intended activities. People entering Japan as visitors may be questioned by immigration officers at the airport of arrival, who must be satisfied that they are genuine visitors and will not, for example, engage in productive work. They may be asked to produce documentary evidence of their intended activities in Japan and ability to support themselves and leave at the end of their stay. Those foreign nationals who need a visa to visit Japan must apply for this from the Japanese consular post in their country of residence before they travel and can normally obtain a visa for up to three months. They must provide evidence of their intended activities in Japan as well as their ability to support themselves and leave the country at the end of their stay. For those who intend to engage in productive work a range of visa options is available. Employees of multinational companies who have worked for the related entity outside Japan for 12 months and are being transferred to the Japanese branch may obtain a work visa under the intra–company transferee category. For those who are not eligible, a work visa may be obtained only in specific categories, each with its own requirements. These are: Professor; Artist; Investor/Business Manager; Legal/Accounting Manager; Medical services; Researcher; Instructor; Skilled Labour; Engineer; Specialist in Humanities/International Services; Researcher; Instructor; Engineer; and Entertainer. The application is normally a two stage process. A Japanese sponsor (generally the employer) must apply to the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the proposed foreign employee for a Certificate of Eligibility. The foreign national can then apply for their work visa. The visa would normally be applied for from the Japanese consular post overseas but those nationals who do not need a visa to visit Japan may apply for work authorisation from within Japan. However they cannot work until the work visa is obtained (which can take several weeks or months) and may have difficulty entering Japan if immigration officers suspect they will work unlawfully. Nationals of a limited number of countries (including the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada) are eligible to apply for a working–holiday visa valid for one year, which allows them to spend an extended holiday in Japan during which time they may support themselves by working. Applicants must normally be aged 18 – 30In addition to the above there are a range of other visa categories that allow for various activities, including students, trainees, dependants of visa holders and volunteers (which refers to charitable activities rather than simply working in Japan on an unpaid basis). Japans Visa Requirements for Suppliers to Large–Scale EventsThere are a several categories of work visa that are particularly relevant to suppliers to large–scale events wishing to employ foreign nationals in Japan. These include the entertainer and artist categories and, for highly skilled/specialised support roles, the engineer and business manager categories might be relevant. Some suppliers with branches in Japan may be able to take advantage of the arrangements in place for intra–company transfers. In all cases careful attention should be given as to which category is appropriate ; for example it is important to distinguish between the artist and entertainer categories. It should also be borne in mind that in most cases it is necessary to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility, which requires a Japanese sponsor, before the individual can apply for their work visa and the entire process can take several weeks or months. In some cases foreign nationals can apply directly for a work visa of entertainer, intra–company transferee, or investor/business manager without a Certificate of Eligibility. In the events industry many performers and support staff may be eligible for a working holiday visa and staff recruited in Japan might currently hold such a visa. However it must be remembered that the primary purpose of this visa is to enable the foreign national to have an extended holiday in Japan and any work engaged in should be incidental to this. This category might not be appropriate where it is used purely to enable the foreign national to take up an offer of employment in Japan. Companies wishing to supply service or goods at a major event in Japan are advised to consider immigration arrangements well in advance and to take professional advice. Dominic Higgins, ASG Immigration Limited / +44 7299 3330 / dominic@asgvisa. com / www. asgvisa. com Bernhard M Flasar, Nakai Immigration Services / +81–3–6402–7654 / flasar@tokyovisa. co. jp www. tokyovisa. co. jp This article is not intended to be a complete statement of the law relating to the subject matter. Advice should always be taken on specific matters and no responsibility can be accepted by ASG Immigration Limited or Nakai Immigration Services for action taken based on the content of this article.

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