When I was looking for a teaching job in Japan a couple of years ago, I was offered three jobs while I was still living in Bangkok, Thailand, that would have come with work permits and visas. Many teachers who also want to teach English in Japan, however, aren’t always that lucky and aren’t able to get a teaching job before they arrive. That’s when they wonder if it’s possible to simply go to Japan without a work visa and look for a teaching job when they get there.
You’ll be happy to know it is. In fact, thousands of Western English teachers move to Japan every year without first securing a teaching job, and just about all of them are able to find work in the first week or two after they arrive.
If you, too, would love to teach in Japan but are worried about work visas, really, don’t worry. It’s completely possible to get on a plane and head to Japan, find a place to live, and then look for a job with a work visa. Just be sure you have enough money with you to pay for at least two months of living expenses before you do.
Japan visa on arrival work permit
Americans don’t need a visa to enter Japan, not if they’re planning on staying 90 days or less. That’s because, when you arrive in Japan, you will be given what is called a ‘landing permit’ that will allow you to stay in the country legally for up to 90 days. It’s during this time you will be able to look for a teaching job in Japan, accept one, and then wait for your work visa to be processed.
If you are a citizen of one of these seven countries — the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Lichtenstein, Mexico, or Switzerland — it’s even better for you as Japan has a reciprocal agreement with them. What that means is you are allowed to stay in Japan for six months without applying for a visa.
In fact, a total of 60 countries have agreements with Japan whereby you will be allowed to travel to the country without the need to apply for a visa beforehand and can look for a teaching job when you get there.
Have plenty of savings – Remember, it will take you at least two weeks to find a teaching job in Japan, and even when you begin working, you won’t receive your first paycheck for at least the first month.
That means you should plan on saving at least two to three months’ worth of living expenses in Japan, as well as basic ‘lifestyle set up costs’ before you even consider getting on a plane and flying there to look for a job.
After all, the Japanese don’t look too kindly on destitute Westerners sleeping on their streets, and without savings or contacts in Japan, that could happen to you.
Find a place to live – As apartments are incredibly expensive to rent in Japan, often require several thousand dollars upfront in deposits and ‘key money,’ and no landlord will rent one to you while you are still on a landing permit, your best bet is to rent a room in a gaijin house. This can be done for as cheap as $500 a month in most of Japan’s larger cities, and they often don’t even require a deposit.
As you can also rent by the week or by the month, gaijin houses are incredibly convenient places to stay, particularly while you’re looking for a teaching job and are not sure which area of a city you will eventually end up working in.
Finding a sponsor for a work visa in Japan
Start by visiting all the language schools in the area of Japan you are living in and dropping off your resume.
Places like ECC and AEON are good schools to start with, as they hire a lot of Western English teachers, so they often have positions available. While you will hear some Western teachers saying you must be hired by ECC or AEON while you’re still in your home country, that’s not exactly true. I have friends who were able to find jobs with ECC and AEON, and all were hired while living in the country.
Once you have found a teaching job and signed a contract, the language school or private school you will be working for will do all the necessary paperwork and apply for a work visa for you. This can be obtained while in Japan, with no need to leave the country to obtain it, as was once the case.
It can take several weeks before you receive the work visa, so you will need to have enough money with you for your basic living expenses while it’s being processed, as you cannot legally work without it.
Once you have the work visa in your hand, you are not only able to legally teach at the school where you just accepted a job, but you can also teach anywhere else, as a work visa in Japan is not job-specific.
From arriving in Japan to your acceptance of a teaching job, it shouldn’t take more than two weeks. You’ll usually receive your work visa within a few weeks after that and will then be able to teach in Japan for two years, as that is usually how long your Japanese work visa is valid.
Working on a tourist visa in Japan has consequences
Firstly, it’s illegal. Japan’s immigration laws are strict, and working without a proper work visa is a serious offense. Violating these laws can lead to deportation, hefty fines, and even a ban on re-entering the country for years. This can not only shatter your Japanese dream but also significantly impact your travel plans and even future job prospects.
Secondly, risks extend beyond legal repercussions. Exploitation looms large in the shadows. Unscrupulous employers, aware of your precarious situation, may subject you to unfair working conditions, low pay, and even blackmail. With no legal recourse, you become vulnerable to manipulation and abuse.
Thirdly, your career suffers. Building a sustainable teaching career requires licenses, professional development, and networking opportunities. Operating illegally restricts access to these crucial steps, hindering your long-term goals and limiting your professional growth.
The dream of teaching English in Japan is not dead on arrival. Numerous legal avenues exist. The most common route is acquiring a working visa specifically for teaching English. This requires fulfilling requirements set by the Japanese government, including academic qualifications, experience, and passing the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU).
While rigorous, these steps ensure proper authorization and protect both you and your employer. They open doors to legitimate opportunities at reputable schools and language institutes, offering fair compensation, career advancement, and valuable professional experience.
Alternative options include obtaining a specific activity visa for temporary teaching engagements or exploring online English teaching platforms that cater to Japanese students without requiring physical presence in the country.
For those tempted by the quick fix of working illegally, the message is clear: the risks far outweigh the potential rewards. Embrace the official channels, invest in your qualifications, and embark on your Japanese adventure with the peace of mind and professional benefits that come with doing things the right way.
If you find you love Japan and want to stay longer, you just need to be working for a school, and with the submission of the correct paperwork, your work visa will be renewed.