Typically, getting a “Certificate of Eligibility” is often the first step when a company or family member wants to invite or arrange for a foreign national who lives outside Japan to come to Japan for certain purposes.
A common feature in cases involving a Certificate of Eligibility is that a third-party, such as a prospective employer or family member, needs to take certain take certain action on behalf of the foreign national. Without this third-party involvement, certain visas cannot be obtained.
Please note that this system does not apply to people with a “temporary visitor” status of residence, i.e. those who come to Japan for sightseeing, visiting relatives, or short-term business.
Below are typical examples of when a Certificate of Eligibility is necessary:
- Inviting a foreign national to whom an employment offer has made to come to Japan as an employee
- Inviting a foreign national who has been appointed to serve as a director or officer at a Japanese company, including a subsidiary of a foreign-based company ( Business Manager Visa )
- Transferring a foreign national employee from outside Japan to work at a branch or affiliate company in Japan
- For the entry in Japan as an “overseas student” of a foreign national who has been accepted at a Japanese language school
- For the entry into Japan of a foreign national spouse of a Japanese and the foreign spouse’s children
In the examples above, getting a Certificate of Eligibility alone is not enough. After being granted a Certificate of Eligibility and before entering Japan, the foreign national must first get a visa issued at a Japanese embassy or Japanese consulate in their home country.
In short, for the examples described above, there are actually two level of procedures; first, obtaining the Certificate of Eligibility, and second, obtaining the appropriate visa. The second procedure will be discussed in a different article.
So, what exactly is this Certificate of Eligibility?
The Certificate of Eligibility is a certificate that is issued based on a preliminary screening where the Immigration Services Agency of Japan determines whether the proposed activities of the foreign national who wants to enter Japan satisfy the conditions for the relevant residence status, and is then issued if the relevant conditions are met.
In short, a Certificate of Eligibility functions as evidence that “a certain foreign individual can lawfully enter into and reside in Japan”.
When you present the Certificate of Eligibility to an overseas Japanese consulate or embassy when you apply for a visa, the Certificate of Eligibility is considered a completed preliminary screening that speeds up the visa issuance process. In addition, since foreign nationals presenting a Certificate of Eligibility are treated as persons who satisfy the immigration conditions for entry into Japan, their immigration inspection (known in some countries as “passport control”) when entering Japan goes much more quickly.
Who can apply for this Certificate of Eligibility?
An application for a Certificate of Eligibility can be made either by the person who seeks to come to Japan or by a “related person in Japan”. The identity of the “related person in Japan” varies case-by-case. When a company in Japan wants to invite a foreign national to Japan as an officer or director or employee, the “related person in Japan” is the sponsoring company; when arrangements are made for a foreign spouse or child to come to Japan, the “related person in Japan” is a relative; and when a foreign student wants to study in Japan, the “related person in Japan” is the school that the foreign student will enter. When a foreign national wants to come to Japan as a “temporary visitor”, he or she can submit an application on his or her own behalf.
What are the steps involved in the Application for Issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility?
1. The related person in Japan who receives a request from a foreign national wanting to enter Japan submits an Application for Issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility to the Immigration Services Agency (“Immigration Agency”) of Japan.
2. After a successful screening by the Immigration Agency, a Certificate of Eligibility is issued.
3. The related person in Japan sends the Certificate of Eligibility to the foreign national.
4. The foreign national submits the Certificate of Eligibility together with other documents to an overseas Japanese consulate or embassy.
5. The overseas Japanese consulate or embassy issues a visa.
6. When the foreign national arrives at a Japanese airport or port, he or she will undergo a landing inspection.
7. The foreign national must report to the local municipal or ward office in their place of residence.
How long does this whole process take?
The issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility generally takes 1-3 months from the time the application is submitted. Obtaining a visa after that takes about one week. Although it varies depending on the residence status, it generally takes about one month to collect or prepare all the required documents. This means that preparation should be started about 4 months before the desired date of entry into Japan.
However, please be aware that a Certificate of Eligibility is valid for only 3 months after its date of issuance. So, in that sense, please be careful not to initiate these procedures too far in advance of the desired date of entry into Japan.
There are no particular fees imposed on the application or issuance of a Certificate of Eligibility by the government. The only expenses involved are expenses for sending documents, etc.