How does a foreign national go about living and working in Japan – and how easy is it? Read on for the success stories of visa-holders from North America, Europe and Asia.

The secret is out: Japan’s cities rank among the most liveable on the planet. That’s not only because of the superb food, warm hospitality, safe streets and dependable mass-transit network in Tokyo, Kobe, Kyoto, Fukuoka and beyond. The country is also becoming an attractive place for skilled specialists, technicians, scientists and managers to seek new opportunities in the workplace. It is also somewhere to consider starting a family – and enjoy excellent quality of life into the bargain.


For a country of 127 million people, Japan has few workers from abroad; just over one million at last count. But the government is looking to attract more specialists from around the globe. It’s now easier than ever for engineers, film-makers, accountants, professors, designers, entrepreneurs and more to find opportunities in Japan.


Who qualifies for Japan’s “highly skilled worker” visa? It all comes down to points. Every application acts as a scorecard. Points are awarded for degrees, work experience, age and annual salary – but those aren’t the only factors. Graduating from a university in Japan, passing Japanese proficiency tests and having a background in research or innovation can boost your chances. With the visa come privileges: a five-year work permit; permission for a spouse to work and parents (or a domestic helper) to come along; and the possibility of a green card to work and live in Japan permanently.