Any foreign national wishing to enter Japan must have a valid passport with a visa corresponding to his/her purpose of entry into Japan. Upon landing in Japan, the foreign national must then be screened by, and receive a landing permission stamp from, an immigration officer at the port of entry, who will decide on the foreign national's status of residence and period of stay. However, within the context of entry and residence procedures, "visa" and "status of residence" are two terms easily and often confused.
"Visa" is a recommendation required for entry into Japan received in advance from a Japanese diplomatic mission abroad certifying that the passport is valid and that there are no impediments to allowing the passport holder to enter Japan within the scope of that visa. On the other hand, foreign nationals entering and residing in Japan must generally receive landing permission upon arriving at their port of entry, at which time their status of residence in Japan will be determined. This status of residence constitutes the grounds on which a foreign national is permitted to stay in Japan; it is a qualification enabling the foreign national to carry out the activities stipulated in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act and to reside in Japan for the purpose of carrying out those particular activities. The scope of activities in which a foreign national may engage during his/her stay in Japan is determined according to his/her status of residence. Except where a permit to engage in an activity other than that permitted by the status of residence is obtained, the foreign national must not engage in any activities generating an income other than those permitted by his/her status of residence.
As stated, visas are applied for and received at Japanese diplomatic missions abroad. However, Japanese diplomatic missions abroad may be unfamiliar with circumstances in Japan, leading to delays and other difficulties in screening applications for long-term stay visas such as those for foreign nationals seeking to work in Japan. In light of this, the Immigration Bureau in Japan often screens these applications to determine whether or not the activities intended by the foreign national wishing to enter and reside in Japan correspond to the conditions for the visa being sought; if it is determined that these activities do in fact meet the visa conditions, "Certificate of Eligibility"(CoE) is issued. If this CoE is presented to a Japanese diplomatic mission abroad together with a visa application, the conditions for entry/residence will ordinarily be deemed satisfied and a visa promptly issued. However, CoE is not applicable to temporary visitor visa.
Flowchart from application for Certificate of Eligibility to visa acquisition and entry into Japan:
1 Application for Certificate of Eligibility (submitted to Immigration Bureau in Japan) by his/her proxy such as administrative scriveners (gyoseishoshi lawyers) in Japan.
2 Issuance of Certificate of Eligibility (by Immigration Bureau in Japan) to above proxy in Japan
3 An applicant applies for visa accompanied by Certificate of Eligibility at Japanese diplomatic mission abroad
4 Visa issue at Japanese diplomatic mission abroad and enter Japan
In Japan, administrative scriveners (gyoseishoshi lawyers) are among the specialists who can provide advice on the immigration procedures described above. Administrative scriveners that have registered with the Immigration Bureau to serve as application agents are knowledgeable on immigration control procedures and can act as agents for the submission of applications to the Immigration Bureau for certificates of eligibility, extensions of period of stay, changes of status of residence, and re-entry permissions, etc. (As individual administrative scriveners work in distinct specialties within their broad-ranging profession, not all administrative scriveners are registered in this way to act as application agents). Administrative scriveners can also offer guidance on documents needed for applications, provide advice on preparing documents and, when necessary, can act as agent in preparing the documents. Use of these services exempts foreign applicants and companies employing foreigners from the need to appear personally at the Immigration Bureau and enable entry procedures to be proceeded accurately and promptly.
Temporary visitor status covers tourism, recuperation, sports, visits to relatives, field trips, participation in short courses or meetings, business liaison and similar activities undertaken staying temporarily in Japan. Holders of temporary visitor status may not engage in working activities. Some concrete examples of the type of person involved in business who would be covered by this status are as follows:
1 Persons staying in Japan for the purpose of field trips and inspections (e.g. plant tours and trade fair visits)
2 Persons participating in short courses and briefings organized by companies
3 Persons participating in conferences and other meetings
4 Persons sent to Japan for business liaison, business negotiations, contract signing, after-sales service, advertising or publicity, market research or other short-term business activities
A foreigner residing in Japan who wishes to cease the activities in which he/she is currently engaged and to engage exclusively in activities belonging to a status of residence other than that which he/she presently holds
must apply and receive permission for a change of status of residence. For example, a foreign national
dispatched from a parent company in a foreign country to a subsidiary in Japan and currently residing in Japan on an "Intra-company Transferee" status of residence who wishes to resign from the company to which he is dispatched and to invest in and operate his own company needs to apply and receive permission for a change to "Investor/Business Manager" status of residence. However, applications for a change in status of residence are not automatically approved, and permission will not be granted if the new activities do not correspond to the requirements and criteria of the status of residence sought.