For a foreign national to manage a company in Japan, that person must first get a business management visa.
This visa used to be known as an “investment management visa”, but the name was changed to “business management visa” by amendment to the law.
As a general matter, a foreign national cannot engage in the management of a company while in Japan without obtaining a business management visa. However, foreign nationals who have a resident status without work restrictions, such as permanent residents, spouses of Japanese, spouses of permanent residents, and long-term residents, may lawfully manage a company just like a Japanese national without having to obtain a business management visa.
In addition, please note that a foreign national residing overseas coming to Japan for a short period to set up a company poses no legal or procedural problems; in other words no visa is required for this purpose. However, to actually start managing a company, it is necessary to first obtain a business management visa.
Since the application for a business management visa can only be made after the company has been set up, an office has been leased, required procedures for business licenses and approval have been obtained and tax procedures have been taken, there could be dire consequences if there is any problem with these various required actions. For this reason, we highly recommend that you move forward by consulting with an immigration lawyer (gyosei-shoshi lawyer) at the company set up stage.
Permitted Scope of Activities
The scope of permitted activities for a business management visa are:
- 1. Start to operate a newly established business and engage in management activities for that business;
- Participate in a business already operating in Japan and be involved in administration and management activities; and
- Takeover the administrative and management activities in lieu of someone who previously managed the company (for example, when you buy an existing company)
Although business management visas are commonly obtained when setting up a new company in Japan, they are also obtained when you purchase a company and become a director or officer of an already existing company.
Conditions for Business Management Visas
For a business management visa, stability and continuity of management is required. Since the procedures and document preparation for a business management visa are more complex than other work visas, the application can be rejected for even a minor reason.
To obtain a business management visa, the following conditions must be met.
- Securing an office. Securing an office or other premises in Japan where the business will be managed
- 2 full-time employees. It is required that the office be of a scale where at least 2 full-time staff resident in Japan (Japanese, permanent resident, spouse of Japanese, spouse of permanent resident, or long-term resident) are engaged in the business, and is separate from the residence. Virtual offices are not recognized for the purpose of this visa.
In addition, please note that even if you do not hire 2 full-time workers, you may be able to satisfy this condition by starting a new business with an investment amount of at least 5 million yen and maintain the capital amount at the same level. Generally, at the beginning, it is more common to set up a company with capital of 5 million yen or than to hire 2 full-time staff.
Further, source of the funds may raise an issue as well. The Immigration Bureau will ask how you raised the 5 million yen in the screening. It is necessary to be able to clearly explain the source of the funds.
- Business licenses. Business licenses and approvals have been obtained for industry sectors that require them (e.g., restaurant operator’s license, second-hand dealers, travel industry, real estate industry, and others)
- All legally required notifications have been made to the appropriate tax authorities.
- Drafting a business plan that shows the stability and continuity of the business
The business management visa is an extremely complicated visa due to the extreme difficulty involved in preparing substantiating documents and explaining these documents.
If the business management visa is not granted, then you will not be able to manage you company even if it has already been set up. Even though it is possible to confirm the reason for the visa not being granted and then amending and re-submitting the application, it is better to get this visa on the first go round since you will not be able to manage your company while you are awaiting the outcome on your revised and re-submitted application.
For this reason, you must think systematically about how to satisfy the conditions for obtaining a business management visa even before you set up your company.
Kobe Legal Partners provides one-stop service and support for the entire process from setting up the company to your visa application.