Japan visa change of status and extension

If you are moving to a job which requires a different residency status from your current one, you will need to file a change of status application with immigration. This post talks about my experience of changing my ‘designated activities’ status (working holiday visa) to a ‘specialist in humanities / international services’ status. There is also information about extending your period of stay.

The most common changes for typical readers of my site would be ‘instructor’ to ‘specialist in humanities’ (or vise versa), ‘designated activities’ to either ‘instructor’ or ‘specialist in humanities (for WHV people who are staying longer), and ‘temporary visitor’ status to either ‘instructor’ or ‘specialist in humanities’.

By far the most common one will be changing between ‘instructor’ and ‘specialist in humanities’ as the English teaching statuses are split into two. If you work at public school you will have an ‘instructor’ status, and if you work at a private conversation company (e.g. an eikaiwa) you will have a ‘specialist in humanities’.

Although the post is mainly about changing status, I’ll include information about making period of stay extension applications as that follows a similar process.

Making the application

To change your residence status you will first need a company willing to sponsor the change. In other words you will need to have a job offer from a company.

You will then need the correct paper work. You official process for a change of status of residence is detailed on the immigration website here, and you can also find the extension process details here.

If you look at the link in this section for both the change of status and extension, you’ll see that the main difference between the two is that for an extension you have to provide ‘Documents certifying an annual income and tax payment’ whereas for the change of status you don’t. This makes the change of status simpler for you as you don’t have to go to city hall to get those tax certificates.

The paper work listed for a change of status to ‘specialist in humanities’ listed on this page is:

  1. Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.
  2. Materials showing the business substance of the recipient organization.
  3. A diploma or certificate of graduation with a major in the subject regarding the activity of the person concerned, and documents certifying his or her professional career.
  4. Documents certifying the activity, the duration, position and the remuneration of the person concerned.

Here is the paper work I actually needed.

  • The application form for a change of status (for applicant)
  • Application form for change of status (for organisation)
  • Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.

The first two are from this ‘Application for Change of Status of Residence’ PDF linked from the change of status page. That is 4 sides of A4, and pretty easy to fill in. You’d probably fill in the ‘applicant’ part and your company would fill in the ‘organisation’ part.

Maybe these 4 sheets of paper satisfied parts 2 and 4 of the list of required documents above for my application? Or it could be that Tokyo immigration is quite relaxed?

The ‘copies of company registration/profit and loss…’ consisted of a single sheet of photocopied A4 paper which listed the company name, gave a few details of the company profit, and had the company seal on it (photocopied – not an original seal).

And that was all I needed – 5 sheets of single sided A4 paper. The list of documents does mention needing a degree certificate, but I was never asked for mine.

Of course you need your passport and alien registration card as well.

Making the application

To apply I went to the Tokyo immigration centre which is located on an island near Tennozu Isle Station. There is a detailed description of how to get to the centre on the ‘Way Way in JAPAN! ’ blog. Or if you want the short version find the blue bridge near the station, and if you look North East you will see the Tokyo immigration building (highlighted in red).

tokyo immigration bureau

I went just before the Golden Week holiday, they were obviously expecting a lot of people as they had signs up asking people to avoid making any applications at this time if they could wait. I went in anyway, and headed upstairs to the application counter.

There was first a 10 minute queue to be seen by someone who had a quick scan of my documents. She seemed happy that I had the correct ones so she gave me a numbered ticket. It was about 2:45pm and I was given number 580. There were hundreds of other people in this area of the building. The current number on the screen was 325, so there were 250 tickets to go before mine!

It is good that they do a quick screening of your forms and documents before issuing you a ticket, as it would be terrible to wait for ages for your number to be called, only to find out that you are missing something obvious.

I had plenty of time so I had a walk around, and bought and ate some food. I was able to calculate the rate at which they were getting though the tickets. They had all 6 counters fully staffed and were getting through about 1 ticket per minute.

At 4pm they stop issuing new tickets for applications, but they will keep calling up the numbers until they have serviced all the tickets.

After about 3 hours 25 minutes my number was called! I handed in my forms, passport and alien registration card.

The lady on the counter gave me a postcard, and told me to write my address on it.

After I had done that she told me to sit down. After nearly 10 minutes (I saw her discussing something with another employee) she called me back up. She had stamped one of the pages in my passport with an ‘Application’ stamp, and had stapled in a leaflet explaining what happens next.

period of stay change of status leaflet

Here is the text of it:

A judgment on your application for change of status of residence will be made approximately within a month. Please be advised that it may take more time depending on a case.
When no notice is given after 30 days of the expiration of your period of stay, please visit the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau, and confirm the status of your application before 40 days have passed since the expiration date.
(Note) Those who applied for change of status of residence may extend their period of stay until the earlier of either the date when a judgment on the application is made, or the date when two months have passed since the expiration of their period of stay. Please be advised that you are recognised as an illegal resident and subject to deportation procedures two months after the expiration of your period of stay, even if a judgement on your application has not yet been made.
Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

I only had about five weeks left of my current residency status, so I was keen to know how long it would take to get my results. The lady though it might be about three weeks, but she said it could take longer.

I then aksed about what would happen if my current residence status expired before I got my result. I don’t think she understood my questions, even after I tried to rephrase it three times. And I didn’t understand any of her answers. Don’t expect the immigration staff to speak good English. If you need English help before or after applying there is a help centre on the ground floor with staff that have a higher level of English.

Later when I got home I tried to decode the leaflet. I worked out that it meant that you could stay for up to two months beyond the expiry of your current period of stay *if* you were still waiting for a result. But that if you don’t get any result within 30 days of your period of stay expiring, you should visit them before 40 days have expired since the end of expiry of your residence status.

And very importantly – it stated that overstaying by one day from this two month grace period would cause you to become an illegal resident. Comment 1 on my Japan visa FAQ page will give you an idea of the kind of trouble you can get yourself in if you try overstaying by even one day.

Here is some official information about the special exception to the period of stay from immigration.

Application for extension of period of stay leaflet

If you are applying for an extension at Tokyo immigration here is the text of the leaflet that they are currently stapling into passports.

A judgment on your application for extension of period of stay will be made within the following period unless any special notice is given by the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau. Make sure to visit the office of the Bureau within the specified period. Please contact the Inspection Coordination Department of the Bureau if you cannot do so.
Please bring your (1) passport and (2) foreign resident registration card with you when you visit the office. A fee of 4,000 yen is required when your application is permitted.
Period of visit:
From **/** (month/day)
To **/** (month/day)
(Note) Those who applied for extension of period of stay may extend their period of stay until the earlier of either the date when a judgment on the application is made, or the date when two months have passed since the expiration of their period of stay. Please be advised that you are recognised as an illegal resident and subject to deportation procedures two months after the expiration of you period of stay, even if a judgment on your application has not yet been made.
Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau

The dates given are about a month from the day you apply. The ‘special notice’ refers to them sending you the postcard that you filled in. So if you get the postcard you have to visit them before the date on the postcard. If you don’t get the postcard then you have to visit them between the dates on the leaflet.

They’ve made the English in these leaflets way more complicated than it needs to be. Perhaps they should ask some of those native English speakers in the waiting room to help them rewrite it in simple English.


After making the application you then have to wait. I’ve found that the expected processing times they tell you at immigration are usually the worst case times. There is a good chance that it will be done in about two weeks or less. A friend of mine went to Tokyo immigration late in the morning on Monday, and got the notification card on Saturday – less than a week!

You (probably) don’t need to worry about whether they will grant your change of status/application. If they accepted your documents, and you have a sponsoring company who wants you to work then your request should be granted.

Receiving the postcard

About three weeks later the postcard arrived! It would probably have only taken two weeks if it were not for the Golden Week holiday. Here is my postcard. As they had ticked the box to get ¥4000 of revenue stamps I was pretty sure that I had been granted the change of status.

japan visa notification postcard

If there is a problem with your application they’ll send you a letter asking for more information, or scribble something on the postcard, rather than ticking one of the revenue stamp boxes.

Visiting immigration again

I went back to Tennozu Isle Station, and walked to immigration again. I started queuing from 8:15am, and they opened the doors at 8:30am. First I went to the Family Mart on the ground floor to buy my revenue stamp.

4000 yen revenue stamp

I then went upstairs to the permission stamp counter. I waited in the short queue, handed over my passport and postcard, and was given a numbered ticket. The queue to get your numbered ticket opens at 8:30am, but they don’t start calling up numbers until 9:00am.

At about 9:15am my number was called. The lady handed my passport to me and showed me the page showing that my change of status had been granted and that I had been given a three year period of stay. They must have been feeling generous!

The application stamp in the passport had been marked as ‘USED’.

change of status application stamp japan

And here is a photo of a change of status sticker, as well as an extension sticker.

japan change of status extension permit

If you change your status the one year/three year new residence status starts from the day you collect your sticker. If you have applied for an extension to your current status the one/three year extension starts from the end of your current period of stay.

With my change of status granted I went back down to the Family Mart, bought another revenue stamp and went back upstairs to get my Japan re-entry permit (¥3000 for a single and ¥6000 for a multiple).

One year or three years?

A lot of people want to know how to get a three year residency status rather than a one year one. There are all kinds of theories floating around on the internet such as:

  • You need to have been granted several one year periods of stay before getting a three year one.
  • They want to wait for evidence of a history of having paid all your taxes before granting it.
  • The company you work for may play a factor.
  • The country you come from may influence the decision.
  • It depends on whether the immigration official is having a good day or a bad day.
  • They roll a dice and randomly select what to give you!
  • It depends on which immigration bureau handles your request.
  • The type of job you are doing makes a difference.
  • It depends on whether you tick the one or three year box on your application.

The truth may be in there somewhere, but no one really knows. For obvious reasons their criteria for deciding what length of stay to grant are secret.

I can however say that it is not always necessary to have been granted several one year periods of stay, or to have paid taxes before getting a three year period of stay.

I spent only one year in the country on a WHV (and I did no work – therefore paid no taxes – it was a pure holiday), and I was granted a three year period of stay with my very first application.

Lose ends

Don’t forget to get your alien registration card updated at your local city office within two weeks of being granted your change of status / extension. They will write the new details on the back of the card, and then put a clear holographic security sticker over the writing.

alien registration card updated

34 Comments on “Japan visa change of status and extension”

  1. Hello,
    Firstly, your website is an amazing resource – thank you so much for taking the time to put all of this information up!

    I’m about to apply for a WHV from the UK, my problem is that I don’t have any sort of Uni degree. I’m curious as to how you managed to extend your visa without any sort of diploma?

    I’ll be moving over with my GF who is Japanese and plan on teaching in Iekaiwa schools, but would ultimately like the option of extending my stay potentially.

    Just wondering if you did it all through a school who confirmed your diploma or if it was never asked for at all. Many thanks again for and excellent site, and any help would be massively appreciated!

    Many thanks

  2. Hi Jason, I do have a university degree, and the teaching company I worked for did check the original certificate before giving me the paperwork to apply for the ‘change of status’.

    Immigration didn’t ask to see my certificate, but I had it with me if they had asked. It is likely to be very hard for you to find a company who will extend your residency after the WHV if you don’t have a degree.

    If you want to stay in Japan beyond your WHV you might have to get married to your Japanese girlfriend! Good luck with your working holiday and hope it all works out :)

  3. Thanks for your quick reply! I was wondering mainly if the references were checked, but it seems they are! I’m not trying to scam anyone, just wanted to be prepared!
    I’ll be using your website as a guide when I make my application.
    Thanks again for a fantastic site – very helpful in so many ways!

  4. Hi rml,

    I really like your website’s info. Great job! Think it’s clearer than the official websites. We hv a COE approved. But our visa (if we apply now and it will be approved in 3 days’ time with approved COE ready) has a single entry, meaning we can’t leave Japan once in. However, we will need to settle housing etc…but if we go in using a tourist visa, we don’t have the visa to apply for alien registration etc. Any advice?

    Many thanks,

  5. Hi, I too have a WHV and now I have started working as a teacher I too need to change my visa. However the company I work for has said I need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility before I can apply for the Instructor visa. Do you know anything about this? As it seems you just filed a simple change of status with no CoE required!

    Also could I ask what you put for your ‘reason for change of status’, is there anything they are looking for, or anything I shouldn’t put? The truth is I found a FT job and decided to stay a little longer!


  6. Hi Sarah, I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I doubt you need a CoE. I was able to go from WHV to ‘specialist in humanities’ without a CoE. I just needed to do use the change in status form, and I think it is probably the same for WHV to instructor.

    The problem is that because of the limited number of WHVs issued, a lot of companies, and even local immigration offices don’t know what the procedures are so they just guess.

    You could ask at immigration direct if there is one nearby but I wouldn’t count on them giving a correct answer unless you ask at Tokyo immigration – as Tokyo deal with so many cases they are at least more familiar with what to do with WHV cases.

    If you look at the official information on the CoE you can see that it seems geared towards people who have yet to enter the country, which is why I doubt you would need it.

    In summary I don’t think you need a CoE, but if your company of the local immigration insist on it you might just have to go through this extra hoop to satisfy them.

    As for the reason for the change of status, on the form I wrote something like ‘have been offered a job with _company_’

  7. Your site is fantastic…i actually lived what you wrote almost word for word! I’ve been in Japan for a year now (came last April on a WHV) and just got a job elsewhere. I processed the change of residance application at the immigration office with my new company7s lawyer and it was approved (even though i forgot to include my uni degree diploma!) However, the problem i have is this:

    My WHV runs out in a couple of days and I’m working at an eikawa school. Now, I can easily extend my contract to let me work during my application process but the company’s lawyers said that I’m not allowed to work. Technically I can since it’s an extension of my WHV status until my Spec.In.Hum. visa is done right? I want to keep my eikawa job as it’s ridiculously flexible and i can keep it going after my visa change. BUt if i don’t extend it now it’ll be really hard to go back into later. What should I do?
    Many thanks!!

  8. Hi Arnold, I don’t understand everything you have written so I’ll try to summarise what I believe is your situation.

    o You have a WHV whose expiry date is imminent.
    o You are working at an eikaiwa.
    o You have got another job starting soon and the second company is sponsored your ‘change of status’ to Specialist in Humanities’ (is this why you mean by the ‘change of residence’ part).

    Then it becomes less clear…

    P1: > I processed the change of residance application at the immigration office with my new company7s lawyer and it was approved

    P2: > Technically I can since it’s an extension of my WHV status until my Spec.In.Hum. visa is done right?

    What do you mean? In the first paragraph you seemed to say that your application was already approved, in the second it sounds like you are still waiting for it?

    Please do clarify your current situation in clearer English, and then I’d be happy to help more :) Cheers.

  9. Sorry, let me clarify:

    1. When I went to the Immigration Office with the company’s lawyer, i gave my application and they accepted it at the desk when is when I gave my postcard with my address and they returned my passport with the stamp. Now I have to wait until they confirm or deny my new visa.

    2. During my confirmation notification by post my current status (WHV) is extended until then. This means that I could also extend my eikawa teaching contract since it runs up to my WHV expiry date. Thus if my WHV status is extended,my contract can also be. However, the company’s lawyers said that I’m not allowed to work during the wait.
    Thanks again for your help!!^^;;

  10. Hi Arnold, as you still have a valid WHV you can in theory keep working on it at your old eikaiwa. Your WHV is valid until your new specialist in humanities status is confirmed by immigration sticking the stamp into your passport.

    If your old eikaiwa is still allowing you to work with them does it matter what the new company think? Is it part of the new company’s contract that you have to stop working for the old eikaiwa immediately?

    If you have agreed with the new company to stop working at the old company then you would have to stop working for them. But if not then there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from working at the eikaiwa.

  11. Well, my old eikawa boss said that there shouldn’t be any problem to work during my WHV extention. But my new company and their lawyers checked with immigration and they were told that I’m not allowed to work while I’m waiting.

    My new company’s contract doesn’t stipulate that I can’t work or should stop work while I’m waiting to get my new visa and my old company says I can.

    My new company says i have to attend some training a few days after Golden Week and that7s all. My old company’s job would’nt intefere with this condition at all.

    Should I just extend my contract and just put in 1 shift in my schedule for say, 1 month later? That way I can stay registered at my old company’s ‘itaku’ staff and i won’t actually be ‘working’.

    Thanks for your help! And sorry I’m typing such a long essay of a query!^^;

  12. Hi Arnold, I think I’m getting it now. You said earlier that your WHV is expiring in a few days. You now have an ‘Application’ (or similar) stamp in your passport. This doesn’t mean your WHV is extended, it just means you can stay in the country whilst they are processing your humanities application.

    Whether you can legally work for your old company is a bit of a grey area, but obviously your new company seem convinced you can’t.

    >Should I just extend my contract and just put in 1 shift in my schedule for say, 1 month later? That way I can stay registered at my old company’s ‘itaku’ staff and i won’t actually be ‘working’.

    I think that sounds like a good plan. You don’t want to get in the bad books of your new employer before you have even started!

    It usually takes less than two weeks to get a humanities visa approved so your working status should be very clear again if you just wait for this. Hope this helps.

  13. Great, that clears up it up a lot! I think it’ll take at least 3 weeks (since Golden Week is starting this weekend) so if anything I should know very soon.

    The lawyer did say that since I hold a European nationality and that I had a WHV in the first place it should go rather smoothly.

    Many thanks for your help!! Your site is a godsend and I trust it’ll continue to be on invaluable help to others.^^

  14. One last thing, just to check, within 2 weeks of getting the stamp ‘Application’ in my passport I should go to my local ward office to update my alien card? Does that i mean I also have to get it updated again when i get the new status sticker?
    Thanks again!!

  15. Hi Arnold, you can’t get your alien registration card updated until you have the new visa status sticker in your passport. So wait until you get the sticker, then get your alien card updated.

    If your WHV has expired during the application period you should start carrying your passport with you so you can prove that you have applied for an extension in case you are stopped by the police.

  16. Please tell me if I have only fifteen days stay in japan as visiting relatives how will I extend it and how many months is appropriate for me to extend?

    Please where Im going to extend is it at MOFA or immigration?

  17. Hi Jocelyn, if you have only been granted a 15 day stay, then I think it is very unlikely you would be able to get an extension.

    You’d need a really good reason, and you’ll probably need an immigration lawyer to help you with the application. You would apply via immigration.

  18. Please tell me if the immigration lawyer is free of charge? Where may I find him probably?If ever I want to consult my situation?To extend my temporary visa from 15 days to one year or more.Thank you and God bless you

  19. Hi Jocelyn, you need to be a bit realistic here. If you have a 15 day visa there is no way they are going to extend it to one year. If you had a really good reason there is a very small chance they’d give you an extra day or two.

    If you want to stay in Japan much longer you need a proper reason to be in the country. Just ‘wanting to stay’ in Japan isn’t a good enough reason for the immigration authorities. The main two routes into the country are to either get a job or marry a Japanese citizen.

    You would have to pay an immigration lawyer and I’m sure you could find one on the internet or through your local foreigner association. But it would probably not be an effective use of your money, as I can’t see you getting the kind of extension you want.

    Maybe your relative would be able to help you get a job? Good luck!

  20. hi,, i have a very complicated problem regarding on my visa and i’m very much need ur advice,, my husband died last Jan. 28, 2012,,, my visa is only 1 yr and will expire this comming Dec. 09,2012,,, can i ask permission to stay till my husband’s 1st yr death anniversary,, or ask for another 1 yr to stay here in Japan? Im working right now in a Laundry shop, and paying taxes, do i have a chance get extend! thank you!

  21. Hi, great info, very clear. Just wanted to clarify some info as with the internet there are often conflicting reports and as you have been through the process recently you are the the perfect person to ask. I am on a one year working holiday visa, (British Citizen) (Degree Holder) i’m guessing your British?. Visa runs out in 50 days. Keen to stay so I am in the process of applying for teaching jobs. I have read on another site (independent lawyer dealing with visa’s in Tokyo) that British holders of the working holiday visa are not able to change status. However, it would seem that you were in the exact same situation as myself and simply went of to the Tokyo immigration centre with and job offer and

    The application form for a change of status (for applicant)
    Application form for change of status (for organisation)
    Copies of the company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization.

    and after a bit of a stressed wait, change of status was granted.
    So no trip of to Korea, or U.K. It also appears that the Certificate of Eligibility is for people entering Japan with a job offer, and not for people already here? the COE seems to be a bit of a long process, so nice to know its not required? I believe you have basically answered my question in your post but sweating a bit on this so basically I should be good as long as i get a job offer in the next 30 days or so?

    Lastly was it very difficult getting a position, i was a JET before so fingers crossed. Have you herd of any good companies? Thank you for your time!

  22. Hi Simon, yes it is definitely possible to change from WHV to another visa type without going to S.Korea, UK or needing a COE (I did it!).

    Whether the immigration office that you visit lets you is another matter. It seems that some (especially smaller) offices don’t think it is possible. I went to Tokyo immigration, and they were fine with it.

    There are loads of teaching companies you can apply to – I’ve got a list of some of them on my English Teaching in Japan page.

    Good luck – hope you can find somewhere before you time runs out!

  23. HellO,

    Your website is amazing souce of info. I have a question.I came with my partner as a dependent.His contract with the company ends after 2 years but the visa is for 3 years.Now he has to leave Japan,but fortunately i got a full time job with work permit and my visa ‘ll be changed from dependent to work visa. Is there any provision that my partner can retain his visa and stay in Japan even after he quit from his company for atleast 6 months.
    Thanks in advance

  24. Hi senorita, he should be able to get away with staying until the end of his visa. As long as he doesn’t get the visa cancelled when he leaves the country. If he gets a re-entry permit before leaving Japan (see the article about this on this site), then he can re-enter on the same visa as long as the visa is still valid. Hope this helps!

  25. Hello, Thanks lot for posting such a valuable information. In fact, this is the more that we can get from Japan immigration. Thank you very much.

  26. Hi, it’s me again. Thanks again for the great advice you gave me last year, everything went just as you said and am now enjoying my 3 year visa~^^ Just messaging again for a quick follow-up question:

    I got my visa in my old passport which is due to run out next month. However, I got a new one during Christmas and so I was wondering: is there a way to transfer my visa to my new passport or do i have to carry my old one with my new one when i travel outside the country?

    Thanks ever so much and look forward to your reply~

  27. Hi Arnold,

    I think you can get your visas transferred across by visiting an immigration office. I suggest you enquire at one before travelling abroad to find out what you need to do. If you find out do update us. It would be interesting to know.

  28. thanks for this post! just to be clear, you didnt need to provide any of these? but you did have it on hand just in case you needed to submit it? I dont have a degree but i have the number of work experience needed for the this visa in public relations and i have a company sponsoring me.

    Im also wondering, do you need to show your full resume? and the part that is to be filled on the applicant application is so brief, do you need to fill out start and end date of each job? and all the jobs you’ve ever had, or just the work experience relevant to the visa application?

    also, #4, did you bring any materials to show the business substance of company sponsoring you?

    any insight is appreciated! thank you!

    1. copies of company registration and a statement of profit and loss of the recipient organization
    2.A diploma or certificate of graduation with a major in the subject regarding the activity of the person concerned, and documents certifying his or her professional career.
    3. Documents certifying the activity, the duration, position and the remuneration of the person concerned
    4. Materials showing the business substance of the recipient organization.

  29. Hi Cindy, I provided the information that I said I provided in the “Here is the paper work I actually needed.” section of the post. So yes to 1). Maybe that piece of paper covered 4) as well. And the application form probably covered 3). They didn’t ask to see my certificates but I did have them with me. No I didn’t show my full CV, I just filled in the application form. Hope this helps.

  30. good day! what is the best words for reason of extention for my wife (dependent) visa for 3 years from 1 year visa recently. i had just renewed my engineer visa from 1 year now 3 in years period. i had already prepared all the necessary documents including the application form but i am so worried about “the reason for extension” is there an issues about this? or can share me a key words to enlighten the approving judges.

  31. Hi
    Very Informative
    After how many days of receiving postcard, Can I go to the
    immigration bureau.

    Suppose I go to immigration bureau after 80 days of receiving postcard, s it possible

    Thanks in advance

  32. Hi, dear friend,
    I hope that you will be fine.
    I have an Instructor visa and I had applied for Specialist in humanities visa.
    3 months and 10 days have been passed away, and I’m still waiting for the post card. I asked 5 times to Immigration and officer said, that wait .
    Please, could you tell me that what kind of delay is this?
    My visa will be expired in 24 days.
    Thanks and waiting for reply.

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