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Long-term visa without job/student qualifiers? (business visa??)

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What is the easiest way to get a long-term visa without job/student qualifiers?

TL;DR: - I want to live in Japan and want to start a small business, but not sure if it will ever bring a profit, or how long it will take to become profitable. I'm also not sure if proving you can make a profit is required to move into Japan under business management visa.

I have a modest inheritance that I want to use to move to Japan for about 2-4 years. Recently losing a close relative kind of makes it clear that I have to reach for my goals before it's too late, oddly enough it also gives me the chance to try this.

While I have a bachelor's degree, I've been mostly stuck in low-paying, part-time jobs here in the USA, and I would like to try starting my own small business (again... the first one didn't go so well, but I learned some valuable lessons).

While I think I have the financial situation figured out (i.e. using as little of my inheritance as possible, living frugally, trying to make sure I have a nest egg even if everything fails, etc.), I don't know what to do about the Certificate of Eligibility for my visa. The problem is, I don't know if my business will make any money, especially in the first year, how much it will make, or what the requirements or overhead for businesses are in Japan.

I don't know specifically what the requirements are for the COE/visa, but on the website there was a form that mentioned you should be able to prove you have 3 years of experience managing a business. My last business was in operation for 2 years and 11 months, so I'm not sure if they'll be lenient on that or not.

I spoke with immigration on the phone, with someone who knew some English. He said there wasn't a minimum income required to be a business owner, but that I could only get the visa *before* coming to Japan if my business already existed in America. However, starting a business after arriving in Japan seems counter-productive, since I don't want to rent an apartment before I have my visa (with all the rent start-up costs: deposits, key money, etc., it doesn't make sense if I have to move out when a tourist visa expires). I'm also not sure if he fully understood my question or answered properly, as his English wasn't the best, and it would probably take me an hour to explain it in Japanese.

My goal is to make this barely any more expensive than relocating elsewhere in the USA, while being able to experience a new country, learn more about Japanese culture and learn their language. Honestly I could work on my business idea without registering a business entity, until I have a chance to monetize it, but then it wouldn't help me for the visa requirements.

Is a business manager visa viable to me in my situation? What other options do I have that may work or work better? I read that learning the Japanese language doesn't work for a cultural visa, but the student visa requires too many hours studying (20 hours minimum a week, I think), and that gets expensive fast (if it wasn't already time-consuming, and I doubt many places teach Japanese to English speakers for 20 hours a week, anyway). I'm not ready to go back to school for anything anyhow, and I doubt I can find a full-time job anytime soon, since I had trouble finding one in the US. Even if I could, it probably wouldn't leave any time to work on my business, so it's not my favorite option.

Does anyone have some helpful advice? Has anyone started a business (such as a small studio and/or software company) in Japan? Can you start from nothing or do they expect you already have something? How do you deal with taxes, etc.? Is a sole proprietorship a normal thing in Japan, or would I need something like an LLC? (I'd be keeping the company small, 2-4 employees maximum for the first 2 years, but most likely, just me.)

To anyone that helps or tries to help, thanks! :D
 
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I can write more later if you want, but the bare minimum it will cost you is about 100000 jpy per month (give or take a few 万) to pay office rent, accounting, and legal fees just to maintain the business.

You don't necessarily have to show a profit the first year or two but they will eventually want to see that change.
 
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I want to live in Japan and want to start a small business,
I could only get the visa *before* coming to Japan if my business already existed in America. However, starting a business after arriving in Japan seems counter-productive
Is a business manager visa viable to me in my situation? What other options do I have that may work or work better?
If I understand you correctly, you currently do NOT have a business either in Japan or America, and you want to start one here in Japan. If that is correct, then fine, make a business plan, fill out the COE application for the business manager/investor visa, and hope for the best.

But assuming you need a physical place to do your business, you should obviously know where you will be, what the building rent situation is, etc. On the surface, that seems to mean you have to come here before you apply for the visa just to learn those details. You could come as a tourist and have 90 days, or you could get a student visa (to study at a language school) and stay longer. When you figure out the business setup details, apply for the correct visa (from tourist status) or change of visa status (if you have the student visa).

I'd be keeping the company small, 2-4 employees maximum for the first 2 years, but most likely, just me.
I think you need to have at least 2 other full-time employees. This is what is listed for requirements for that business/investor work visa. Check here.
(i) A business office for the purpose of engaging in the business pertaining to the application shall exist in Japan; provided, however, that in cases where the business has not yet commenced, facilities to be used as a business office for the purpose of engaging in the business shall have been secured in Japan.
(ii) The size of the business pertaining to the application shall fulfill one of the following requirements.
(a) The business concerned shall have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan (except for foreign nationals residing in Japan with a status of residence listed in the left-hand column of Appended Table I of the Immigration Control Act) in addition to those who operate or manage the business.
(b) The amount of the stated capital or the total amount of the contribution shall be at least 5 million yen.
(c) The size of the business shall be recognized to be equivalent to the size set forth in (a) or (b).
(iii) In cases where the applicant intends to manage the business, he/she shall have at least 3 years' experience of operating or managing a business (including any period where the applicant majored in the operation or management of a business at a graduate school), and moreover, shall receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.

I take it you also have looked at these sites:

Japan Times article
Foreigner's guide

Tokyo Immigration Service
JETRO
 
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Thanks for the replies.

@WonkoTheSane I was actually kind of hoping to just start in an apartment and only rent a space and hire workers if I get some good investors or raise some more funds. I want to try making apps and games, and I could do it anywhere, but I need to relocate soon anyway and I'd like to relocate to Japan.

@Glenski It sounds like they want a really heavy financial investment up front, which I really don't have. At best, I think I could only reasonably invest half the funds they are looking for. I did see a couple of those links before, but the others were new to me.

Seeing that I don't exactly have the size of a company nor financial resources they seem to be looking for, are there any other options besides a business visa that could work to get me a 2-3 year visa so I can even live in Japan longer than the tourist visa? I would prefer whatever visa I get to still afford me enough time to work on my business on the side, and I'm not sure I could on a full-time job, especially in Japan if they want you hanging out with co-workers after work or staying extra hours on a routine basis. :/
 
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I mean, it's fine if I have to renew it annually, I just want a visa with a long enough term that I can say, "yes, it financially makes sense to lease an apartment under a 1-year contract".
 

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Thread restated: How can I game the system and subvert Japanese immigration policy?
 
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are there any other options besides a business visa that could work to get me a 2-3 year visa so I can even live in Japan longer than the tourist visa?
Most common ones would be work visa, student visa, cultural activities visa, internship visa.
Marry a Japanese, and you can apply for spousal visa.
Marry a non-Japanese who has the right to stay here, and you can get a dependent visa.
You're presumably American, so you can't get a working holiday visa.

Not much else unless you start your own religion.

I just want a visa with a long enough term that I can say, "yes, it financially makes sense to lease an apartment under a 1-year contract".
I believe most apartment rentals are with 2-year contracts.
 
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I think you need to have at least 2 other full-time employees.
You do not. I am currently on this visa and my company only employs me.

You do, however, have to have a physical office. Not a home office. An actual office in an actual office building of some sort.

You also have to invest 5,000,000 JPY into the business even if it just sits in the bank.
 
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Wonko,
According to that pink quote I gave above, (a) The business concerned shall have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan. How did you get around that?
 
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Lots of missing items, and one of the more important is your "Japan Representative" for your LLC (either GK or KK). The big red flag item you have is "financial investment up front, which I really don't have". If you don't have the money, zero chance.

For an office, you can do that pretty cheaply. Mine is around 20,000 yen per month

For apartment, you can get shorter term lease without all of those high up-front costs. I've just moved back into my old apartment and other than a contract fee, it was walk in the door and all set (utilities included, no key money, no guarantee, no gift, but I need to re-buy some stuff).
 
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Wonko,
According to that pink quote I gave above, (a) The business concerned shall have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan. How did you get around that?
By having the 5,000,000 invested in the company you effectively show you have the capacity. You don't necessarily have to use the capacity, just show you have it.
 
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Thanks, Wonko. I don't mean to criticize you on this next point. I'm criticizing the regulations I copied. I see the point about "capacity" left pretty vague and undefined, and not connected to the 5 million yen. Is your explanation about capacity what immigration told you, or is that your own interpretation?
 
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Thanks, Wonko. I don't mean to criticize you on this next point. I'm criticizing the regulations I copied. I see the point about "capacity" left pretty vague and undefined, and not connected to the 5 million yen. Is your explanation about capacity what immigration told you, or is that your own interpretation?
I paid a company to do the corporate formation and visa and they didn't spell it out specifically that way. They told me the two pieces of information during the same meeting (no employees necessary and capitalization requirements) but did not directly tie one to the other. Essentially, I asked if I needed employees and they said no but I needed x, y, and z.

So I inferred from that the idea that the capacity is different than the use of that capacity.
 

nice gaijin

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Starting a business and sponsoring yourself is an awfully complicated way to move to Japan... If your business doesn't require you to be located anywhere in particular, why not try to start the business and just go bounce around on landing visas; You can either move around and work in coffee shops and shared office space, or pick a place to rent temporarily like sakura house. Might not be as permanent and comfortable a solution, but a whole lot less of a pain (and way less time and money invested in case you end up not liking the situation and wanting to move on)

If you are looking to live and work in Japan for Japanese clients, I imagine you'd run into visa issues if you tried the above, so you're back to needing sponsorship of some kind.
 
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I agree, self sponsorship is a complex and difficult way to do things, but for some of us it is the only option.
 
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Thread restated: How can I game the system and subvert Japanese immigration policy?
A business visa is a valid visa - if you qualify for it. Subverting the system would be more like paying a puppet company to give you a "job", as I bet a lot of rich people do.

You do not. I am currently on this visa and my company only employs me.

You do, however, have to have a physical office. Not a home office. An actual office in an actual office building of some sort.

You also have to invest 5,000,000 JPY into the business even if it just sits in the bank.
This alone increases expenses quite a bit. So even if I can put up the 5mil (and I could, but it would be stretching things), the cost of living to sustain the business location + my home location would likely make it impractical.

In Tokyo? I'm running just under 35K, mind sharing?
I'm curious how you seem to get around the supposed hard limits. I'm wondering if I should just apply with my current business plan (i.e. work from home) and see if immigration approves. Based on your posts, it seems that they are willing to waive requirements depending on the situation.
 
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I'm curious how you seem to get around the supposed hard limits. I'm wondering if I should just apply with my current business plan (i.e. work from home) and see if immigration approves. Based on your posts, it seems that they are willing to waive requirements depending on the situation.
What are you talking about? No requirements were waived for me. Where did I say anything that would make you believe that?
 
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Subverting the system would be more like paying a puppet company to give you a "job", as I bet a lot of rich people do.
Much easier for a rich person to establish his/her own business and get the business sponsor visa. And even the not-so-rich use the option. As Wonko and others have said or hinted at, the capital requirement is to show you have a serious business concern and have the capacity to add to Japan's economy. It is a requirement that is intended to separate the genuine business starters from the people who have a bit of cash in the bank that they might need for living expenses at some point.
While Japan isn't particularly hostile to immigrants, it also is not keen on the idea of allowing people to live here just because it is a life dream. Japan grants you permission to live here for specific purposes: job, school, spouse, dependent, refugee, etc... and of course the slightly complicated "business starter". Fairly regularly people come to this site with the same dilemma: It is my life dream to live in Japan, but I don't have a job or a spouse, and I don't want to go to school... what are my options? Unfortunately your options are very limited, hence peoples' next reaction is often: How can I game the system to allow me to live in Japan?
Why don't you come to Japan on a student visa for learning Japanese? Then, by the time that is finished and you can speak a bit of Japanese, you might be able to get a job here and stay even longer-term, not to mention you will have learned a lifelong skill and will have learned to navigate the country a bit better than the average tourist?
 
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nice gaijin wrote:
just go bounce around on landing visas
IMO, this seems a bit shaky. Immigration doesn't take kindly to people trying to zip in and out of the country.

That Gamer Guy wrote:
I want to live in Japan and want to start a small business, but not sure if it will ever bring a profit, or how long it will take to become profitable...

I have a modest inheritance that I want to use to move to Japan for about 2-4 years...

While I have a bachelor's degree, I've been mostly stuck in low-paying, part-time jobs here in the USA, and I would like to try starting my own small business...
Why do you want to do this business setup in a faraway land like Japan? And if you want to do it for 2-4 years, nice gaijin's suggestion of coming in on "landing visas" is untenable.

If your concept of a company doesn't involve customers in Japan, just get a normal job here and set up your online business on the side until you see that it's making a profit. Then decide if you want to go public with it. If your customer base isn't even in Japan, you don't have to get a biz visa. Just get clients to deposit by wire to your hometown account.
 

nice gaijin

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nice gaijin wrote:
IMO, this seems a bit shaky. Immigration doesn't take kindly to people trying to zip in and out of the country.
I didn't put much detail into this thought, as evidenced by my use of the inaccurate "landing visa" term instead of "visa waiver," but...
If your customer base isn't even in Japan, you don't have to get a biz visa. Just get clients to deposit by wire to your hometown account.
This is what I was talking about; it doesn't sound like doing business in Japan has any logic aside from letting him self-sponsor his visa, so he should just incorporate at home and run his business from the road.

@ThatGamerGuy If you have the windfall and can afford it, and really want to live in Japan for more than a few months, get a language school to sponsor a student visa and use that to live in Japan (and learn a useful skill if you intend to stay longer). Otherwise, just travel all over (not just Japan), and manage your work as you go. 3 months in Japan is plenty if you haven't been there before. You can rent a short-term apartment and get the "living in Japan experience" in the short term without jumping through hoops and getting super invested, and you can make that trip twice in a year. It's not illegal, but don't leave and come back too quickly, or you will be answering some extra questions the next time you visit; they keep all your records and may grill you about suspicious travel patterns.

Figure out the seasons you want to experience, and you can bookend some exploring in southeast asia with big chunks in Japan (totaling 180 days for the year in Japan alone). That sounds way more fun than trying to incorporate a business in a foreign country, to me at least.
 
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What are you talking about? No requirements were waived for me. Where did I say anything that would make you believe that?
You didn't have to. It's what they have written in their immigration policies (in multiple places). See the second row on this page for "Business Manager" requirements:

日本法令外国語訳データベースシステム - [法令本文表示] - 出入国管理及び難民認定法第七条第一項第二号の基準を定める省令

(The same requirements are on one of their application forms... for a visa or COE, I don't remember which.)

In Tokyo? I'm running just under 35K, mind sharing?
Ah, my bad, I mixed this up with the 5mil. I guess you are meeting all those requirements, after all. I don't know how roughly $50,000 USD proves you can employee 2 people full time, though.

Why don't you come to Japan on a student visa for learning Japanese?
Because I read that you have to have 20+ hours a week as a student, and I already have a bachelor's degree. Do you know a school that exclusively teaches Japanese language for 20+ hours a week? Do you know any schools that are not insanely or prohibitively expensive?

nice gaijin wrote:
Why do you want to do this business setup in a faraway land like Japan?
Because I could literally do it anywhere, and then digitally distribute my product worldwide, but I want to relocate to Japan for a while and learn Japanese.

How about the fact that either way, I'd be spending my American-made money in another country on rent, food, transportation, etc.? How is this not beneficial to Japan?

This is what I was talking about; it doesn't sound like doing business in Japan has any logic aside from letting him self-sponsor his visa(...)
Would you guys really give so much trouble to someone who only wants to go to Japan, and decides to teach English in Japan to do it? What is wrong with looking for a legitimate, legal way to get into the country that lines up with my personal goals?

Also if my business became profitable after all, wouldn't Japan benefit from that? Well, at the end of the day, it doesn't have to warrant the personal approval of any of you, just the approval of Japan's Immigration Bureau. Maybe they'll see the benefit to having a software startup open shop on their shores.
 
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My error for not reading the pink text carefully:

(ii) The size of the business pertaining to the application shall fulfill one of the following requirements.
(a) The business concerned shall have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan (except for foreign nationals residing in Japan with a status of residence listed in the left-hand column of Appended Table I of the Immigration Control Act) in addition to those who operate or manage the business.
(b) The amount of the stated capital or the total amount of the contribution shall be at least 5 million yen.
(c) The size of the business shall be recognized to be equivalent to the size set forth in (a) or (b).


The obvious answer here is that it says one of the three has to be met, and my business met option (b). So the whole capacity discussion is moot from my standpoint, though I agree it's rather vaguely worded.

As to why you're getting some negativity, it's likely because you don't qualify and yet you seem to think there's some way around that. Whether or not you spending money or, possibly, creating a successful business in the future is beneficial to Japan is not really the point. My experience with Japanese immigration is that they don't really care about any of that, they care that you fulfill the requirements because those requirements are seen as the way of separating a serious business from the dalliance of a moderately wealthy person looking to experience Japan.

I think anyone who shows up on this forum trying to figure out how to get a visa for which they do not qualify will likely get the same response. Say, for example, if a person wanted to teach here and had no degree.

In the end, quite frankly, unless there's a damned good reason to open a business in Japan, it's a bad idea as an American. The taxes tend to be higher and more complicated, especially if your product or service is subject to Japan's VAT whereas it wouldn't be in the USA, and you still have to file your US taxes regardless. You have to comply with the NHI and pension schemes. You need to get your banking figured out. You need to handle office leasing. You need to handle working with a bookkeeper so your salary, expenses, etc. are correctly ledgered (also, even if you do not actually pay yourself the salary, you have to book it and pay taxes on it). Etc., etc., etc. Some of these processes are more streamlined in one place or the other, but all are easier in your native language.

You got some really good advice in this thread, even if it seemed negative. That advice, succinctly, was to go to a language school here. They exist and are probably less expensive than doing the business if you consider all the costs. That will get you here for up to 2 years and fulfill the learn Japanese part of your wishes. Alternatively, you could spend a few months here a couple times a year while spending the other time in other places, of which there are many lovely ones in Asia.
 
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