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Can foreigners have a side-business in Japan?

COVID-19 has changed the rules and situations of businesses all over the world. It has affected many companies, including companies in Japan, forcing people to have less working time or quit their job entirely.

How has this affected foreigners in Japan? Is it possible for them to have a business on the side to make up for the reduced salary? 

In this article, you can learn about the requirements for having a side-business as a foreigner in Japan. Keep reading if you want to know about this, and in addition, to understand the rules of a part-time job for foreign students.

Can foreigners have a side-business in Japan?

We’d like to get right to the point; Yes, foreigners are allowed to have a second job in Japan.

However, there are some requirements and rules you have to follow. Bear in mind that you would be arrested for illegal employment when you go against this law.

What is a Working VISA (就労ビザ Shuro VISA)?

A Working VISA (就労ビザ Shuro VISA) is the status of residence issued for working in Japan, different from the normal VISA. There are lots of categories of a Working VISA. Some examples are;

  • Diplomacy
  • Government business
  • Professor
  • Art
  • Press
  • High-skilled professional
  • Business management
  • Law
  • Finance
  • Medical treatment
  • Research
  • Education
  • International affairs
  • Intra-company transferee
  • Nursing
  • Entertainment industry, etc…

For more details, check out this page.

It is required for foreigners to have any of the above VISAs when working in Japan. If you have a Working VISA, you can have a side-business related to your Working VISA category. For instance, you are allowed to start a second job as a mechanical engineer if the category of your Working VISA is in the skill of engineering. However, in this case, you cannot work as a part-time lecturer at a university since it is not under your specified VISA category. You will need a “資格外活動許可,” permission for activities outside the status of qualification to do so.

The kind of jobs you are allowed to have are limited if you have a Working VISA, but there are no limitations in the number of companies you are employed by and the working hours.

What is a “資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka”?

“資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka” translates to “permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted.” If you have this, you are allowed to start a side-business in Japan even if your Working VISA category does not cover the category of your side-business.

If you start a business on the side without this permit, you will be punished for illegal employment. You will be forced to return to your home country, and you will be prohibited from entering Japan for five years, regardless of if it was your first time or your act was not intentional. 

By the way, you are allowed by law to partake in volunteer works or nonprofit jobs. Therefore you do not need to obtain a “資格外活動許可” if your second job is a volunteering or a nonprofit activity.

How to obtain a “資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka

It is not difficult to obtain a “資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka,” and the application is free.

You only need these three things;

  1. The application sheet
  2. A passport
  3. A residence card

It takes about 2 weeks to 2 months to get the permit after assessment by the Immigration Bureau, so it is important to apply well in advance, bearing in mind the time frame.[s1] 

 [s1] You should also include where you would be applying to, i.e, the immigration bureau.

The requirements to obtain a “資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka

The Immigration Bureau examines the following conditions before issuing a permit.

  1. That the side-business will NOT interfere with the main business
  2. That the activity related to the Working VISA(i.e., the main business) is continued
  3. That the side business is NOT a simple labor
  4. That there is no problem with the residence status

An international student can also start a part-time job with a “資格外活動許可 Shikakugai Katudo Kyoka.” However, there is a limitation of working hours (up to 40 hours/week during the long vacation, and 28 hours/week on other days).

If you want to start up your company, you will need a Working VISA with the category of “Business Management,” but you will not need one if you are the spouse of a Japanese.


Do not let your guard down after obtaining the permit. If you default on the above conditions after obtaining the permit, you would be punished accordingly and sent back to your home country. Therefore you have to be careful not to work on the second job longer than your main job, and not to stop your main job without a particular reason.

Notes for the readers:

Please use this article only as a reference, not as a legal guideline. Therefore, will take no responsibility or liability, so far as legally possible, for any consequences of your actions. This article was written by Kyoko, a SUGEE writer, on 22 June 2020.


[1] 就労ビザを持つ外国人が副業アルバイトをすることは可能?(2020) Retrieved 8 November 2020 from

[2] 就労ビザを持つ外国人は「副業」できる?ケース別に徹底解説(2020) Retrieved 8 November 2020 from

[3] 日本の就労ビザは何種類?2020年最新情報を行政書士が解説!(2020) Retrieved 8 November 2020 from,%E3%81%93%E3%81%A8%E3%82%92%E6%84%8F%E5%91%B3%E3%81%97%E3%81%BE%E3%81%99%E3%80%82

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