For a foreigner to start a business or run a business in Japan, they need a Business Manager visa. Many people know they need one, but do not really know what it is or how to obtain it. I’m sure there are many of you out there. Therefore, SUGEE interviewed Ms. Aiko Okuda, a public notary, to clarify the realities of the Business Manager visa and give you a concrete roadmap to starting your own business in Japan.
This article will give you the ultimate instructions on how to set up your own corporation in Japan.
There is a lot of valuable information you can’t normally get on the internet, such as requirements for the visa, how to obtain one, and specific examination details, so be sure to check it out!
Table of Contents
- Self-introduction by Ms. Okuda
- What is a Business Manager Visa?
- How to obtain a Business Manager visa
- The shortest route to starting a business in Japan
- Message to those thinking about obtaining a Business Manager visa
Interviewer: Haruki Morikawa from SUGEE Kansai
Interviewee: Aiko Okuda, a public notary from the Public Notary Office Kokoro
Thank you very much for accepting this interview. First of all, for SUGEE readers, Ms. Okuda, please tell us about your work.
As a public notary, I mainly help people with obtaining visas and subsidies. Among visas, I often deal with work-related visas, such as “Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services” and “Specially Designated Skills” visas.
What is a Business Manager Visa?
I’d like to move on to the topic of visas. To start a business here in Japan, you need to obtain a Business Manager Visa. This visa allows you to conduct business management activities in Japan. You will be able to work as a representative director or anything with the job description of “management”. This visa only allows you to do what is usually a manager’s job. For example, if you ran a restaurant, you can’t cook, but you can do sales and marketing.
What are the requirements for obtaining a Business Manager visa?
There are four main requirements.
1, Your business must have an office in Japan
2, Your business must be greater than a specified size
3, Your business must be sustainable.
4. You must have qualifications as a manager.
As for the size of your company, you basically have two options.
You either hire at least two full-time employees other than yourself, or have a capital of more than 5 million yen.
Most people choose the latter as the former is quite risky. With the former, insurance premiums, salaries, and other payments will cause you to have expenses right out of the gate.
There is one more option in which you prove that the size of your company is as big as you can indicate with the other two options, but doing this requires a lot of money anyway.
How can you measure sustainability and continuity?
When you start a new company, you need to prepare a detailed business plan. Specifically, you are required to submit your plan of monthly expenses and incomes of the first three years and a specific plan indicating how you will secure sales. You will also need to submit documents that prove these plans will actually work. The Immigration Bureau will examine them very closely.
A Business Manager visa can only be applied for after you are fully ready to start running your company. You can’t just rent an office and get started. You must register your company and secure a certain number of business partners. You may also need specific permits, depending on what business you are starting.
How to obtain a Business Manager visa
Is it difficult for people who have just come to Japan to apply for a Business Manager visa?
If you have a residence card and a bank account, you can apply for a Business Manager visa.
If you don’t have them, you need to find a Japanese partner to get started. Without your residence card, you can’t rent an office or open a bank account in Japan.
Usually, until you obtain a Business Manager visa and can come work, you get your Japanese partner to start your company and temporarily be the representative director. When you apply for the visa, you must submit a written pledge to the Immigration Bureau that the current Japanese representative director is only temporary, and will resign when you come to Japan. If you don’t, it will be considered unnecessary for you to obtain a Business Manager Visa.
Is it possible to obtain a Business Manager visa as a director or an officer?
It is possible, but difficult.
The Business Manager visa is a visa for management and that is the job of a representative director. Because of this, it is difficult to obtain a visa simply by joining the board of directors. If you do not prefer to become a representative director, I suggest you become a co-owner.
Getting the Business Manager visa is not easy.
You will need a lot of money, and even with all the effort you put into it, you may very well not be able to obtain one.
Preparation is very important. It is crucial you make your business plan as perfect as it can be.
You have to be especially careful if you are inexperienced in starting/running a business.
So having 5 million yen capital does not necessarily secure a business manager visa?
No, it doesn’t. In the past, this visa was called the Investor / Business Manager visa. Some people took advantage of this visa. They would start companies and obtain these visas only to work elsewhere. It became even harder to obtain this visa after people started doing this.
Switching from a foreign students visa to a Business Manager visa is being particularly scrutinized because there were some people in the past that considered it as a loophole, something that lets them extend their stay in Japan.
As a result, including other visas, the examination of the status of residence itself has become stricter recently.
If you are an exchange student studying in Japan and wish to start a company, I suggest you obtain a Designated Activities visa. It was introduced on November 20, 2020. It allows international students who graduated from specific Japanese four-year universities to prepare for entrepreneurship for up to two years. If you are planning to start your own business while you are still in university and your school supports your entrepreneurial activities, I recommend that you change your visa status to this visa and then change your visa status to a Business Manager visa afterwards.
The Shortest Route to Starting a Business in Japan
There are actually three types of visas other than the Business Manager visa, that allows you to start a business in Japan: “Permanent Residence”, “Spouses/Dependent of a Japanese National”, and “Long-term resident”.
With these, you do not need to pay 5 million yen and can establish a joint-stock company from 1 yen, just like Japanese people.
If you have lived in Japan for more than 10 years, you can get the Permanent Residence visa or Long-term Residence visa.
If you have not, but want to start a business right away and are married to a Japanese, I advise you to get a “Spouses/Dependent of a Japanese National” visa.
Be careful though, because you can only obtain this visa for the purpose of spending life with your significant other, not to start a business.
You will be able to start your business with this visa, but that is not the main purpose and you will be checked whether you genuinely want to be with your significant other.
You will need to submit some documents including a list of your phone calls, where and when you and your significant other met, and why you decided to get married. When I work with people who want to apply for a Spouse/Dependent of a Japanese National visa, I sometimes visit their homes to make sure they are living together. That is how closely the applicants will be examined to prevent misuse of this visa.
What is the shortest way for foreign nationals to start a business in Japan then?
The shortest way would be for you to set up a company outside of Japan and establish a subsidiary or branch office here before applying for a Business Manager visa. When you apply for your Business Manager visa, this and the stability of your company will be on your track record and will help you. You will need a helper in Japan to do this though.
What are the key points to keep in mind to qualify for a Business Manager visa?
It is important to be able to show the examiner how serious you are about your business. Since all visa examinations are based on written documents, the key is to be able to show a detailed business plan on paper, including the status of contracts, the number of contracts to be signed, specifics on your preparations of your office, and how you plan to attract consumers.
To those who wish to obtain a Business Manager visa
Have there been any COVID-19 pandemic-related changes concerning visas?
If you are newly coming to Japan from abroad, nothing much has changed. If you are already in Japan and cannot return to your home country due to COVID-19, there is a way for you to apply for a visa right here in Japan, which was not possible pre-covid.
A good example would be foreign students studying in Japanese universities graduating in March. Under normal circumstances, they were not allowed to work part-time after graduating and would have had to return to their home countries. Now, however, there are visas that allow them to stay in Japan and work part-time even after they graduate.
Is it not widely known that you can get your visa in Japan without returning to your home country?
Many people don’t know about it. Even some Japanese language schools do not know about it. If you are in this situation, where you want to get your visa but are not able to return to your home country, please reach out to a public notary like me immediately. It will be very difficult to learn about Business Manager visas on your own.
If you are a student, or if you are currently working in Japan and have started thinking about starting your own business, I strongly suggest that you consult us public notaries before you quit your current school or job.
Even if you can’t get a Business Manager visa, you may be able to find a new job and change jobs. But if you quit your school or your job, it may affect your current status of residence and you may have no choice but to return to your home country. If you are thinking about starting a business, we can help you out. Please consult us early on so that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your future.
I not only help with the work visa process, but also with finding jobs, which is not common for public notaries to be able to do. Even if you choose to find a new job instead of getting a Business Manager visa, I will be delighted to help you out.
In the end, what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to rely on a public notary!
In this interview, Ms. Okuda, a public notary, talked about the biggest obstacle to starting a business in Japan: obtaining a visa.
In the interview, she strongly advised that if you are thinking of starting a business in Japan, consult public notaries like herself as soon as possible. If you’d like to talk to Ms. Okuda, feel free to click here to contact SUGEE and get in touch with her!
Aiko Okuda, a public notary from the Public Notary Office Kokoro.
She specializes in visas and subsidies.
The Public Notary Office Kokoro
Representative public notary: Yoshiyoshi Morita
Visas, permits, traffic accident claims, grants
1-14-11, Hashirui, Toyonaka-shi, Osaka, Japan