Immigration System in Japan

- Difference between "Visa (査証)" and "Status of Residence (在留資格)" -

On our website, we prefer using the term "Visa" instead of "Status of Residence," even though the latter is legally accurate in most contexts. We've made this choice because we understand that, in many conversations among foreign nationals in Japan, the term "Visa" is commonly used to refer to "Status of Residence." Our goal is to keep our website concise and friendly to those in need of information about the immigration system in Japan.


In the Japanese immigration system, "Visa (査証)" and "Status of Residence (在留資格)" are two different things.



What is "Visa (査証)"?


"Visa (査証)" is a "recommendation" made by a diplomatic mission abroad (the head of the Japanese embassy or consulate general) that a foreign national's passport is authentic and valid for entry into Japan and that the foreign national's entry and stay in Japan are appropriate under the conditions specified in the visa to be issued. Visas may be obtained by applying to a diplomatic mission abroad.


Possession of a visa is only one of the requirements for landing under the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and does not guarantee entry into Japan. Even if you have a visa, if you do not meet the landing requirements, you will not be allowed to land.


Even if you intend to engage in activities in Japan that fall under the "Temporary Visitor" status, you must obtain a visa. However, foreign nationals holding passports of countries that are exempt from visa requirements under visa exemption regulations, etc., may land without a visa under the status of residence "Temporary Visitor". "Temporary Visitor"  status does not permit work.



What is "Status of Residence (在留資格)"?


"Status of Residence (在留資格)" is a legal status that allows a foreign national to stay in Japan to engage in certain activities.


In other words, when a foreigner is permitted to enter and stay in Japan, they are granted one of the statuses of residence specified in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act, and may engage only in the activities specified for each status of residence.


When a status of residence is granted, the period of stay corresponding to that status of residence is determined.

Therefore, in order for a foreign national with a status of residence to remain in Japan legally after the period of stay has expired, they must either obtain a permit to extend the period of stay without changing the status of residence or obtain a permit to change the status of residence.



Visa and Immigration System in Japan