How to Apply for a Student Visa to Study in Japan : Did you do it? Did you get accepted into a Japanese school? Congratulations! You’re well on your way to getting a great education in one of the best countries in the world to study abroad. However, just because you were accepted, doesn’t mean you can just fly over to Japan and crack open a chu-hai. You have to get your student visa first! Today, we’re going to outline how to apply for a student visa to study abroad in the land of the rising sun.

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Do I Need a Student Visa?

Do I Need a Student Visa?
Do I Need a Student Visa?

If you only plan on studying in Japan for a short period of time, you may be able to get by on just a Japanese tourist visa. Tourist visas are easy to come by (many nationalities are immediately approved at border patrol with no need to apply) and allow you to remain in the country for a maximum of 90 days. Therefore, if you don’t plan on staying any longer than 3 months, you’re better off with this option (in other words, you don’t need a student visa).

However, people are known to change their minds in the heat of the moment. You may arrive in Japan, stay for 90 days, and think, “Man, I really wish I had applied for that student visa. I want to stay longer!” Student visas allow you to remain in the country for over 90 days (the total amount of time will depend on the Ministry of Justice’s decision). So, if you think you might like to stay longer than 90 days, it’s advisable to ask your school if they’ll sponsor a student visa. Be careful, though. Some schools are not qualified to do this. That’s why it’s important to ask!

What You’ll Need to Apply   

These are the five required documents in order to apply for a Japanese student visa according to the Embassy of Japan in the United States. This information applies to the majority of nationalities. However, that being said, it’s best to check your local Japanese embassy website or visit their office for more information specific to your country.

What You’ll Need to Apply
What You’ll Need to Apply   

1. A valid passport, with your signature

First and foremost, you’ve got to have a passport before you can get a visa. If you don’t have a passport yet, it’s best to take care of this ASAP. The process of applying, getting accepted, and receiving it could take months. You really don’t want to save this until the last minute or you may have to cancel your flight! Also, make sure that your signature on the passport is consistent with the signature you normally use with other legal documents. Japanese officials will often compare the two.

2. Visa application form to enter Japan, completely filled out and signed by the applicant

This is the standard form for all nationalities applying for a visa in Japan. When filling it out, remember, the Japanese are very strict on appearance and perfection, so use your best handwriting, don’t allow for any scratch-outs or mistakes, and make sure to complete all required fields. It’s also important to be truthful in your answers and accurate, or your application may be rejected. Also, do not staple your documents; paperclip them instead, or keep them in a folder. 

3. Two photographs (Visa application: 2”x 2”, or 45mm x 45mm; Certificate of Eligibility: 1.6”x 1.2”, or 40mm x 30mm) attached to the above and below application forms

Providing a color photograph is an important part of any application process in Japan. The immigration bureau will use this photograph to put on your Japanese ID card, which you are legally required to carry with you at all times in Japan. The photo must have been taken within the last 6 months and must be a headshot from the shoulders up with a solid-colored background. It cannot be a digital or copied image. You’re better off using a photo booth for passport photos for this one. Also, make sure that the photo fits the necessary measurements, or your application may be rejected. Do not staple the photo to the page, attach it with glue stick (the most common way to attach photos in Japan).

4. Original “Certificate of Eligibility” and one photocopy

There are two parts to this application. The first part is pages 1-3, which are to be filled out by you, the applicant. As with the visa form, all required fields must be filled out as cleanly and accurately as possible, or your application may be rejected. And don’t forget to attach your 40mm x 30mm photo!

The second part is pages 4-5, which are to be filled out and handled by your school. In other words, you don’t have to worry about this part. Your school will mail this section to you once they are finished filling it out and the Ministry of Justice accepts it.

There are ways to get a student visa without a Certificate of Eligibility, but this process requires more documentation and an extra headache (visit your local embassy’s website or office for more information on this). In our opinion, it’s much easier to go the Certificate of Eligibility route. 

5. Your ID

When submitting the forms and documents to your local Japanese embassy, they may ask for a driver’s license or legal ID of the country where you reside. It’s a good idea to bring this along with you as well.

You’re All Set!

Now that you’ve been accepted into a Japanese school, have filled out the visa and Certificate of Eligibilty applications, collected all of the necessary documents, and signed everything on the dotted line, it’s time to go to your local embassy and submit everything! Good luck, and have a wonderful experience in Japan!  

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