May 07, 2012

Today, the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) is implementing a new Points-Based System (PBS) to offer enhanced work authorization benefits for qualified highly-skilled professionals that includes the ability for qualified, accompanying spouses to request work authorization in Japan. Additional privileges include relaxation of permanent residence requirements for assignees and immediate family members and the opportunity for professional workers to apply for temporary residence on behalf of extended family members and one domestic worker.

What’s Changed?

Japanese immigration law has remained relatively unchanged for at least two decades as its national economy remained a world leader with a productive and stable workforce consisting of highly-educated workers.

The recent global economic downturn coupled with a rapidly ageing workforce and recent natural disasters have prompted the BOI to make changes to its immigration policy to attract foreign skilled talent that will help rebuild the country’s national infrastructure as well as aid Japan in remaining a competitive economy.

The BOI has announced that effective May 7, 2012, a new PBS work permit (Certificate of Eligibility or “COE”) application protocol is in place for Japanese companies to sponsor professional foreign nationals.

According to the BOI, points-based COE applications for foreign nationals will be available for three, distinct “Designated Activities”: Academic/Research Activity; Advanced/Specialized Technical Activity and Business Management Activity.

According to the BOI, foreign professionals who earn 70 points or more will be given preferential treatment in having their COE applications adjudicated within approximately 10 days of submitting the application. Points will be awarded according to a points calculator published on the BOI’s website:

More specific information regarding the changes and enhanced benefits (e.g., ability for spouses to enjoy work privileges, application for extended family members) can be reviewed at the following:

For assignees already working in Japan in what may qualify as “highly-skilled” areas (e.g., Intra-company transferees, Investor/Business Manager, Researcher, Engineer, Specialist in Humanities/International Services) should assess their academic/professional qualifications against the points required in a particular PBS “Designated Activity” category. If a minimum of 70 points is assessed, the assignee can apply to change his or her residence status to a “Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional”.

Companies should note that the maximum duration of stay will be three years for PBS COE’s issued between May 7-July 8, 2012 and five years for COE’s issued on or after July 9, 2012.


Companies should review with their global immigration supplier whether an assignment candidate will meet a points-based COE category by assessing the candidate’s academic and professional qualifications and properly completing the “Points Calculation Table” when submitting an assignee’s COE application to the BOI.

Please note that as these are significant changes to major work permit categories, implementing this system will take time. The expected turnaround times of 10 days after submission of a PBS COE application to the BOI may be extended until the system is running smoothly. Assignees wishing to change their residence status to a highly-skilled professional category are advised that such applications are highly discretionary.

Companies are advised that while the PBS COE protocol is a significant new change in processing Japanese work authorizations, the general application process for obtaining work visas will remain the same.

Japanese companies must still apply to the BOI for a COE on behalf of the foreign national and (if applicable) all accompanying family members.

Once the COE is issued, the foreign national and family members must apply for a work/residence visa with the Japanese consular post in their country of legal residence. Upon arrival in Japan, work/residence visa holders will be issued with a biometric residence card at a Japanese airport. Within 14 days of arrival in Japan, all foreign nationals must register their residence cards with the local Municipal Office in the prefecture of residence.

Glenn Faulk, Global Knowledge Manager, has written this alert in coordination with our Japanese KGNM-Tokyo Orientations Inc.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.