Investor / Business Manager Visa
The investor / business manager visa is a work visa for corporate executives, CEO and other officers, business owners and managers, etc. This is one of the few visas that will allow its holder to sponsor a nanny or housekeeper upon fulfillment of specific conditions.
The investor / manager visa is often mistaken as a visa based on the act of investing, but the Japanese investor / manager visa is actually a visa for business executives and managers. In other words, it is actually a business visa for the company representative or executive member of the company, and not a visa granted to the investor him / herself by virtue of the investment itself. In many cases, for smaller or personalized businesses, the same person will be the investor and executive member, thus it will seem as if the investor visa has been granted to the investor, but actually this visa has been granted based on his / her position as business executive rather than investor.
The implication of this is that it is not possible for an applicant to obtain an investor / manager visa merely by investing a certain amount or purchasing certain assets in Japan, as is the case in some other countries. The Japanese investor / manager visa requires the applicant to be an executive member of a Japanese business, thus there is no visa that can be applied for based on investments or purchases only. Therefore, in order to qualify for this visa, the investments and purchases must be structured into a business, with the applicant serving as executive. For example, this means that applicants will not be able to obtain this visa buy only purchasing several properties in Japan, but may be eligible for it if the purchased real estate is leased out as a real estate leasing business.
Due to the misleading nature of this visa category name, the Immigration Law has been amended effective as of April 1, 2015, to change the official visa category name from “investor / business manager” to “executive / business manager”.
The executive / manager visa is one of the more complex and difficult visas to obtain. There are many requirements, but the core ones are as follows:
(a) Applicant’s role at the company
For small or mid-sized companies, this visa is generally only granted to one member per company, being the highest ranking officer. In cases where the applicant has the highest authority in the company, there are no requirements on the applicant’s educational or work history. This also applies for single-member operations, where the investor is the sole officer of his / her company and the only person involved in the business at the time of application.
For larger companies, this visa is granted for a wider range of executive and management positions, and not necessarily restricted to one member company. In these cases as well, where the applicant has the highest authority in the company, there are no requirements on the applicant’s educational or work history. However, applicants who are not the highest ranking executives but are in important management positions may also qualify for this visa, provided that they have at least 3 years of business administration or management experience (including terms studying business administration and management at graduate school), and are to receive a salary which is at least the equivalent of what a Japanese citizen in the same position would receive.
Also, in order to apply for this visa, it is necessary to establish a company first (except for special cases, for example, where operating a hotel or lodge as a sole proprietor, and large amounts of business investment has already been made through purchase of land and hotel or lodge). This factor often poses a challenge for new businesses trying to enter the Japanese market, but still this can be achieved with the proper support from a Japanese resident business partner, friend or legal service.
(b) Business size
The business size needs to be one requiring the involvement of at least 2 full time employees. This is not necessarily a requirement to actually employ these 2 employees, and is only an indication of business size. For newly established companies, this is interpreted to be a requirement to invest at least 5 million yen into the Japanese business (the minimum annual salary of one full time employee is estimated at 2.5 million yen, times 2 is 5 million yen), and this visa can be obtained even in cases where there are no employees at the time of application.
In order to be able to maintain / renew the visa smoothly, Immigration looks at business size, meaning that ideally the company should be generating at least 10 million yen in sales and spend about 5 million yen in expenses (excluding the salary that the investor earns for his/her position as representative) per year. The Immigration Office is usually quite understanding during the first few years so generally it is not a large issue even if the company does not clear these figures for the first few years, but eventually applicants may have trouble extending their visas if the business size is too small. Usually, businesses of this scope usually require the involvement of one or a few full or part time employees, but the employment in itself is actually not a requirement.
(c) Having a physical, dedicated office space
Another important requirement for this visa is to have a physical, dedicated office space for the business. The space needs to be a physical space (thus virtual offices will not suffice), must be a dedicated space which is not shared with others. The contract should ideally be in the company name and must specify office use. Also, having a contract length of at least one year is highly advisable, as contracts that are too short may be deemed to be unstable and thus inadequate.
(d) Abilities and skills to operate a business
Recently, Immigration has been puting a lot of emphasis on this factor. The applicant will need to show that he/she has the skills to operate a business, based on educational and/or work experience
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