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Japan is one of the countries where British citizens can get a working holiday visa for up to 1 year. It’s a country filled with ancient traditions, breathtaking landscapes and technological advancements all within one nation in eastern Asia.
It’s a destination known for many things including the pink cherry blossoms, snow monkeys, ramen, fantastic cuisine, Pokemon, Studio Ghibli, Nintendo and much, much more.
There’s Tokyo, the bustling metropolis that encapsulates everything you’d expect in a supersized city. Kyoto, a traditional city still holding on to many architectural styles from Japan’s past. Okinawa is the “Hawai’i of Japan with its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Not to mention the world-famous Mt Fuji which stands at a staggering 3,776 metres tall. It’s a popular hiking destination that allows you to see far-stretched views of the nation below.
It’s no surprise that it’s hard to fit all of the amazing attractions across Japan into a 3-month tourist visa. So many people
Please note: This post outlines the process for British citizens. If you are from another country, your application process may be slightly different. Please check with the Japanese embassy in your home nation.
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What is a working holiday in Japan?
A working holiday is a specific visa type that allows you to live and work in a country (in this case Japan) for up to 12 months.
What makes it more desirable than a standard tourist visa is the length of time you can stay in the country. British tourists can stay up to 90 days (3 months) visa-free, whereas the working holiday allows a full year. Plus, this specific visa allows you to work and earn money throughout your trip to help supplement your travels.
There are 1,000 visas available for British citizens and applications open on April 1st each year (or the closest weekday to this date).
They will continue to accept applications until all visas are issued which is usually around November or December. However some years they still have visas early into the next year. The best way to avoid disappointment is to apply as early as possible to April when they first open for that year.
British passport holders are fortunate enough to be able to live and work in multiple countries. Most require you to be between 18-31 years of age but some allow up until the age of 35!
Like most visa types around the world, the Working Holiday Visa for Japan has eligibility criteria that must be met in order to qualify. To find out if you’re eligible to apply for this specific visa as a UK citizen, you will need to satisfy all of the requirements below:
- Have an up-to-date British passport.
- Be resident in the UK for at least 3 months before applying.
- Be between the ages of 18 and 30 inclusive at the time of application.
- Have not previously been issued a Working Holiday visa for Japan
3) Concerning your age, being 18 and 30 inclusive means you can apply anytime between turning 18 and 31. So if you are 30 you are still eligible to apply, providing you are approved BEFORE your 31st birthday. If you apply on or after your 31st birthday you will be rejected as you will not be deemed eligible.
4) Note: If you had previously been issued a Working Holiday Visa for Japan but were unable to use it due to unavoidable circumstances, you may be eligible to appeal for a re-issue. If you need to appeal for reissue you can contact the visa office.
With regard to being a resident in the UK for the 3 months before you submit your application, this is something that is taken very seriously by the embassy. There have been cases of applicants being refused their working holiday visa for Japan if they took a weekend trip out of the country in the 90 days before submission. For this reason, it is highly advised that you stay in your home country for months.
Visa rules & restrictions
The working holiday visa for Japan, like most visa types, comes with certain rules and restrictions that must be followed. To avoid getting into trouble and potentially losing your visa, it is best to know what you’re not allowed to do so that you can actively avoid doing them. Let’s take a look below:
Aim to Travel
One of the main visa rules for the Japanese working holiday is to travel and not just focus on working the entire time. Although this visa does allow you to work legally in Japan, it goes against visa rules to work full-time for the entire 12 months.
This is because the visa is aimed at youth exchange to encourage visa holders the chance to experience life in Japan temporarily. You are allowed to work enough to support yourself and supplement the rest of your travels.
No dependents allowed
You are not allowed to have any dependents on your visa. This means you cannot add any children or a spouse to your visa at any time. If you plan on travelling with a partner to Japan, they would need to be in possession of their own independent visa. Children are not eligible as nobody under 18 will qualify.
There are some job restrictions connected to your visa that you need to be aware of. Those on working holiday visas cannot work in establishments connected to adult entertainment such as nightclubs, strip clubs, cabarets etc. This is mostly because Japan is deemed modest (conservative) compared to some Western countries and believes that these business types go against public morals.
This rule can cover a few grey areas, as working in a bar can sometimes be accepted as long as they sell food as this can move them into a bar & restaurant establishment instead of just a bar. To be safe from doing anything wrong on your visa, if ever in doubt, speak to the Japanese embassy, or simply avoid working there.
You must be insured
You do not need to have an insurance plan at the time of your application (this would not be practical until after your visa has been approved), but you should make sure to arrange appropriate travel insurance before departing the United Kingdom (or your home country). This way, you are covered for any medical or travel emergencies during your trip.
Safety Wing is one of my go-to travel insurance choices. If you check them out, you will need to get a personalised quote to see what they offer for your specific situation as not everyone will have the same requirements.
What do you need to apply?
Before it comes time to apply for the Japan working holiday visa, you will first need to gather all your required documents.
Please be aware that you may not receive any documents back after submitting your application (except for your passport that you must collect). For this reason, if you need to keep any of the documents, it is highly advised that you take the original and a copy.
In some instances, you may be required to provide some additional documents, although this doesn’t happen too often.
You will need:
- Your valid and up-to-date UK passport
- 1 passport-sized photo
- Your completed application form (you can download it from the embassy site above)
- Your CV/resume
- A brief itinerary including some activities you plan to do in Japan
- A written letter about why you want to visit Japan and why you want to apply for their working holiday scheme
- £2,500 GBP in accessible cash (credit cards not allowed) or £1,500 and proof of a flight out of Japan before the end of your visa.
- £18 Cash for your visa fee
Step-by-step: How to Apply
Step 1: Gathering your documents
Prepare your passport
Your passport is the most important document as you won’t be able to leave the UK or enter Japan without it. If you do not already have a passport, you can get one here.
If you already have a passport, you will need to make sure it has enough validity to cover your entire stay in Japan. Therefore, since the working holiday visa in Japan is 1 year for British citizens, you will need to make sure you have more than 1 year remaining.
Get passport-style photos
You will need to submit a passport-style photograph (headshot) with your application. This must have been taken within the last 6 months so that it accurately depicts what you look like now. The usual size of these photos is roughly 35mm x 45mm. If you need to get these photos, you have a few options:
- Some large branches of the Post Office and pharmacies have professional passport photo appointments you can schedule.
- Large supermarkets and shopping malls have small photo booths which have the option for passport-style photographs. These cost between £4-£6 for 6 photos and can be printed in a few seconds.
Fill out the application
The application form you need to fill out is used for multiple visa types in Japan so there are one or two fields you do not need to fill in. The entire application is on 2 pages. Although you will need to print the document to take it to your interview, it is advised that you type the answers into the document online instead of writing it all by hand.
You will need to input your personal details which should all match your ID document (in this case, your passport).
If applying for a working holiday visa in 2023 or later, you will not need to provide a certificate of eligibility. This was mainly used for special circumstances throughout the pandemic.
A little over halfway down the first page, the application will ask for arrival details including the date of arrival, port of entry and name of ship or airline. Since it is highly advised not to book any flights to Japan until you have received your visa approval, these boxes can be filled in with estimated dates and port of entry. If you are asked about your arrival plans in your interview you can let them know when you are hoping to arrive and at what airport you are considering.
On the second page, you will be asked to input your partner or parent’s profession which is not necessary to fill out since you are not able to travel with any partners or dependents on the requested visa type. You can also leave all the boxes relating to the “Guarantor in Japan & Invitor in Japan” sections as these are not needed for the working holiday visa either.
The last section relates to criminal pasts and declarations. These are standard questions on almost all immigration-related applications and are often asked on the arrival cards at airports and must be filled in with accuracy.
Prepare your CV/resume
Japan and the United Kingdom have different ideas for the perfect CV layout. So, although you will likely need to adjust your CV before applying for jobs in Japan, it is not necessary to make too many changes for the application stage. Simply make sure that your CV is up to date with your most recent work and also highlights the main skills and experience you have.
Create your Japan itinerary
You will need to create a basic itinerary outlining an estimated plan of what you hope to do each month during your stay. This document is mostly just to show the embassy that you have done some research on their country.
It is not an itinerary that has to be followed completely as your plans are allowed to change. However, you must remember that your primary purpose of the visa is to travel, while only working enough to supplement those travels. For this reason, it is advisable not to fill your itinerary with “working” every month. If you give the impression that you will be working the entire time, you will be rejected.
Write your “reason” letter
The embassy requires a personalised TYPED A4 letter outlining your reasons for applying for the working holiday visa for Japan. This letter is something specific to you and only needs to be a few short paragraphs.
Some examples include: wanting to try specific dishes and cuisine of Japan, being an anime fan who wants to explore the various locations your favourite stories are based in, maybe your hobby is photography and you’re hoping to explore Japan’s landscapes. As long as you show the embassy you’ve done some research on Japan, they should be satisfied with your letter.
Print out your bank statement
You are required to have a minimum of £2,500 in available funds to support yourself in Japan until you can start earning. The only exception to this rule is if you instead have £1,500 in available funds and a return flight/flight out of Japan at the end of your visa.
Credit cards, loans, traveller’s checks and overdrafts are not allowed to be used as proof, so the best way to prove you have enough money to support yourself is by printing out your current account or savings account statement.
It’s often advised to show that you have had the money for at least 90 days before the application so that it doesn’t just look like you’re borrowing the money from someone else just to get approved.
Once you are in Japan you can easily transfer money using Wise. They are a currency exchange app and international virtual bank account that allows you to transfer funds easily. They even have a handy phone app.
Step 2: Book Your appointment
Unlike the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand or South Korean visas of the same type, the Japanese working holiday visa must be applied for in person. Depending on where you live in the UK, depends on what office you will need to apply from.
Embassy for North of England
If you live in the north of England or in Scotland, you will need to visit the Japanese embassy in Edinburgh.
Address: Attn. Consular Section, Consulate General of Japan, 2 Melville Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7HW
Tel: 0131 225 4777
Embassy for the rest of the UK
Everyone else in the UK will need to visit the Japanese embassy in London.
Address: Embassy of Japan in the UK, 101-104 Piccadilly London W1J 7JT
Tel: 020 7465 6500
When you first click on the link ready to book an appointment, please be aware that you can only book three weeks ahead. So if you want to book for Monday 1st of April, the earliest you can book for that date is Monday 11th March which is exactly 3 Mondays in advance.
Appointments are only available Monday-Friday with none available on weekends. If you are unable to find any available appointments, try the next day. They normally renew the appointments at midnight each weekday so if you’re struggling to find appointments, try to get one when they first release them after midnight. That way, you beat the crowd.
If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment date, you will need to do so instead of just not attending. In order to reschedule your appointment you will first need to email firstname.lastname@example.org and inform them. Make sure to put “visa appointment cancellation” in the subject header. Then, once your original appointment has been cancelled you can book yourself a new, more suitable appointment date.
Please note that when you see this screen above, this is NOT your final confirmation. You MUST make sure to input the last 4 digits of your passport number. If you do not do this, you will not get an official confirmation.
Once you have input your passport’s last 4 numbers into the box, you will be sent to a confirmation page. Make sure you print out or screenshot this page as you will need to present your appointment ID (confirmation number) when you arrive at the embassy.
Step 3: Attend the visa appointment
Do not forget any of your documents and remember to take cash with you to pay for your visa fee. They will not accept card or online payments.
Make sure that you arrive no more than 15 minutes early for your scheduled appointment time. On arrival, you will need to show security one of the following to gain entrance to the premises:
- A printout of your appointment ID number
- A screenshot of the appointment ID and confirmation
- A note of your Appointment ID number
Each appointment is only 20 minutes long at most, even if you are asked to interview.
You may not need to be there for that long either if you are not selected to be interviewed. If this is the case, you will be asked to hand in your full application and then you will be told you’re able to leave. If you are asked to interview, you will be asked questions relating to your plans in Japan and they will try to make sure you are going there to travel and not just to work.
Remember, this is a key element of the application process. Do not give them the impression you are going just to work or you will be declined.
At the end of the appointment, assuming everything looks good at first glance, you will be given a date that your passport will be ready for collection. You can collect it on or after that date.
Step 4: Collect your passport (and visa if approved)
After the pre-agreed date, you will need to go back to the embassy to collect your passport. If you are not able to collect the passport in person yourself, you may send another person to collect it on your behalf. However, they would need to have a photographic ID and also a written and signed letter from you (the applicant) giving permission for them to do so. If they do not provide these 2 pieces of information, they will not be able to collect anything on your behalf.
If you are approved, you will be able to collect your passport on this day with your visa inside. Congratulations! Now you can start preparing for your Japanese adventure!
If you are unfortunately declined, you will be notified why. You can try to appeal the decision, but, if you are unsuccessful, you can reapply after 6 months, as long as you are still under 31 years of age.
Prepare for your move to Japan
Make sure you stay connected and can navigate on your arrival by ordering an eSIM in advance. An eSIM can be downloaded directly onto your device for instant use. You can use your data connection to get around easily using useful language and navigation apps.
Book your flights
In order to start your working holiday visa you will need to fly to Japan. The two sites I use the most are Skyscanner & WayAway. You can compare flight itineraries and prices on both platforms. Skyscanner offers more options, whereas WayAway offers a cashback scheme.
Book your accommodation
You will need to book your accommodation in advance so you have somewhere to rest after arriving at your Japanese destination. If you’re travelling solo and want the opportunity to meet people, HostelWorld offers hostels which are a great way to meet other solo travellers. If you want more luxury away from hostels then Booking.com is a great option as they offer a multitude of different property types.
Plan your activities
If you’re looking for activities to do after arriving in Japan, I recommend looking at Viator and GetYourGuide. They are two popular tour companies I always use when looking for things to do during a trip. You can book fairly last minute (providing the tour has vacancies) or book months in advance depending on how organised you are.
Rent a car
If you’re likely to travel around Japan during your working holiday visa, it may be worth renting or buying a vehicle.
If you only need a car for short trips on occasion, renting is an easy option. However, if you think you’ll need a car all year, then it’s a much better investment to purchase a car. To drive in Japan you will need the appropriate paperwork including an IDP (International driving permit), or you can exchange for a Japanese license after being a resident for 3 months in Japan.
After arriving in Japan, you will need to start the process of getting set up as an expat. When you are ready to apply for jobs in Japan, check out my helpful resources.
The main difference between the working holiday visa for Japan and other nations is the appointment you must make in person in order to apply.
This may make the process seem more difficult, but it’s certainly not the most complicated visa I’ve applied for. Besides, isn’t the reward of being approved for a visa that lets you spend a year in Japan, worth the trouble? I certainly think so.
Have you applied for the Japan working holiday visa yet? How did the process go for you?