Procedure for obtaining a new resident visa for visa subjects based overseas
STEP 1: COE Application (timeframe: 1~1.5 months from application date)
The main procedure for obtaining a new resident visa (work visas, dependent visas, etc., i.e. all visas other than temporary visitor visas, which allow their holders to live in Japan and engage in respective activities such as work) for visa subjects who are based overseas (but with plans to relocate to Japan) is the application for a Certificate of Eligibility (“COE”), applied for at the Immigration Office in Japan in the name of the visa sponsor. Accredited Immigration Agents are able to submit this application on the visa sponsor’s behalf.
This step is where all of the substantial examination takes place, to confirm that the visa subject meets all relevant requirements and that the sponsoring entity is a sufficient sponsor. Once all the criteria has been cleared and it becomes evident that the visa subject is eligible for the visa, a COE will be issued, which in itself is not a visa but rather a paper-based certificate which certifies that the applicant is eligible for the respective visa. The COE functions like a ticket which can be presented to the relevant authorities, upon which the visa subject may apply for issuance of the respective visa in STEP 2.
Standard processing time for the COEs is currently between 1 to 1.5 months from application date (in the Tokyo/Kanto area), but may be much longer (3~6 months or even longer than one year in some cases) if the Immigration Office has additional questions or feels the initial documents were not satisfactory and requests additional information. As relocation is always a time-sensitive event, it is highly advised that you consult an advisor to manage the process for you, to ensure higher chances of an efficient and smooth application.
STEP 2: Validation of resident visa
Once the COE is issued, the visa subject may apply for issuance of the respective residential visa, either (a) overseas in their country of nationality or residence or (b) in Japan, depending on where the applicant is located at the time of COE issuance.
(a) Option A: Validating Abroad
If the visa subject is abroad when the COE is issued, the COE will be mailed to the visa subject overseas, where he/she can take it to the Japanese embassy/consulate in the country of his/her nationality or residence to have the visa sticker issued in the passport. This procedure will generally take 2~5 business days after submission. Once this is completed, the respective visa sticker will be placed in the visa subject’s passport and the applicant will obtain resident visa status (e.g. working visa status) upon landing, and a residence card (official ID card for non-Japanese residents in Japan) will be issued upon entry at the main airports.
(b) Option B: Validating in Japan
If the applicant happens to be in Japan under a temporary visitor visa when the COE is issued, generally it is possible to apply to change his/her visa status to the residential visa status in Japan (upon submission of the COE), without the applicant having to leave Japan. This change in visa status can be completed within the same one day, if applied for at certain Immigration Offices, but may take as long as 2~3 weeks in others (e.g. applicants who will be residing in Tokyo). During this processing time, the applicant may not leave Japan (otherwise the application will be cancelled and the COE void), and the residence card will be issued upon completion of this process. Once this is completed, the applicant will have resident visa status (e.g. working visa status) from that time onwards, and will be free to officially start the respective activities (work etc.) in Japan.
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