New Work Visas Combatting Labor Shortages

April 10, 2019 | Japan


New work visas were introduced in Japan due a shortage of labor the country is facing, especially in the construction industry, which has recently experienced extreme labor demands. The new visas also come with more protections for visa holders due to employer abuse which has been a problem in the past. Japan has already been preparing for an uptake in work visa applications because of the 2020 Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo; with the new visas as part of the preparation process.

Specified Skilled Worker 1 Visa  

To qualify for this visa, applicants must have completed the Technical Intern Trainee program or have relevant experience in the specific field. The applicant will also need to pass a qualifying test relevant to the field as well as a Japanese Language proficient test proving they have at least daily conversational abilities. The visa is valid for either four months, six months and one year. The visa can be renewed to a maximum of five years.

The following are industries eligible for the Specified skilled Worker 1 visa:

  • Nursing Care
  • Building Cleaning Service
  • Casting
  • Industrial Machine Manufacturing
  • Electric and Electronic Information
  • Construction
  • Shipbuilding and Marine Equipment
  • Automobile Repair
  • Aviation
  • Hotel
  • Agriculture
  • Fishery
  • Food and Drink Manufacturing
  • Food Service

The list of eligible industries will be reviewed after two years to determine if labor shortages still exist based on reports from each government ministry in charge of the specified industry. Lastly, individuals on this visa cannot sponsor dependents.

Specified Skilled Worker 2 Visa

To qualify for the Specified Skilled Worker 2 Visa, applicants must hold a Specified Skilled Worker 1 Visa and [ass a higher-level qualifying test in the specific field; or must be highly skilled worker who can directly pass the higher-level qualifying test on the specific field.  The visa is valid for three years, one year or six months. Unlike the Specified Skilled Worker 1 Visa, there is no limit to renewals and the holder of the visa is given a pathway to permanent residency.

Construction and Shipbuilding/Marine Equipment are the only two designated industries for this visa. The list will be reviewed after two years to determine if labor shortages still exist based on reports from each government ministry in charge of that specific industry. Lastly, unlike the Specified Skilled Worker 1 Visa, holders may sponsor their spouse, children and dependents.

How are we impacted?

Specified Skilled Worker visa holders can change employers without affecting their visa and will be guaranteed the same level compensation compared to a Japanese national. An academic degree or work experience of more than 10 years is not required from applicants, unlike the other highly-skilled visas. Before these two new visa categories, there were no work visas available for semi-skilled professionals in Japan.

The government’s continued relaxation of its immigration policies should encourage the migration of qualified foreign workers to Japan. Japanese authorities have also been implementing more regulatory measures to combat employer abuses. These changes may bring work visa-related process and rule changes in the future; with a system that may be more responsive to the labor needs of Japan.