How to move to Japan without a degree

Japan has become increasingly popular in the past decade as more people have shown interest in its rich culture.

Japan is becoming a sought-after travel destination. This is all thanks to tourism, Japanese media, books by Japanese authors, and various cultural interests.

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However, many foreigners want to go to Japan for more than just travel. Moving to Japan can be a long and difficult with many restrictions and hoops.

Here, we can discuss some of these restrictions and how you can move to Japan without a university degree. 

Getting a Visa

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Getting a visa from a Japanese embassy is one of the first steps towards moving to and living in Japan. All countries have a range of visas with different requirements and Japan is no different.

The visa you get depends largely on your purpose for coming to Japan. The most straightforward route for many people is a work visa, which allows a foreign national to live and work in Japan.

However, the requirements for a work visa include a university bachelor’s degree (or equal).

This can be a difficult hurdle for some people, depending on university entrance requirements and the costs of their home country.

While this can seem like a stop to your living in Japan dreams, there are many other routes to the same destination.

Work Visa

As mentioned, a work visa usually requires a bachelor’s degree or an equal-level degree.

But, you can work in Japan without a degree by substituting it with 10 years of documented, full-time experience in the industry and profession relevant to your work in Japan.

If a company overseas hires you for your experience and is ready to sponsor your visa, you can still obtain a work visa.

Just gather documentation and references showing that your job positions in the past 10 years are relevant to your new position.

This is a solid choice for those making a mid-career move or already established in their industry.

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Specified Skilled Worker Visa

In 2019, Japan introduced the “specified skilled worker” visa. This is linked to the work visa, aiming to address hiring challenges in specific industries.

It focuses on semi-professional roles that may not demand a degree, covering 14 job areas.

Applicants must stick to the same industry during their stay. Doing so can help them secure a visa by passing a Japanese language and skills exam or an internship program test.

It’s a good fit for those qualified or interested in construction, food service, or accommodation industries.

However, it’s crucial to note that the visa is renewable for up to 5 years only. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has a guide to Specified Skilled Worker visas and occupations available. 

Working Holiday Visa

The working holiday visa is a top choice for those seeking to experience Japan as residents.

The working holiday program, initially set up with Australia, enables young people to move to another country for a year to travel, explore culture, and land a job in Japan.

This opportunity has expanded to many countries globally.

The ‘work’ aspect of the visa is designed to complement the ‘holiday’ part, imposing restrictions on the weekly working hours. Visa holders under the working holiday program can work up to 28 hours per week.

Before applying for this visa, individuals must have a substantial amount of savings. This is because, with this visa, it’s expected that they can support themselves even without work.

Also, you must submit travel plans to demonstrate that the application’s primary purpose is travel and holidaying.

The visa is 1 year long, with some countries’ partnerships allowing a 6-month extension.

Check out the MOFA website for more information on the eligible countries. You can also find the specific requirements for each country’s partnership.

Student Visa

A student visa offers a popular route for a longer stay in Japan. If you don’t have a degree, consider moving to Japan to get your diploma.

Many universities offer English classes, allowing you to obtain an accredited degree despite the language barrier.

If university isn’t your choice, language schools in Japan offer rapid language learning and cultural immersion.

While students can work part-time during university, like working holiday visas, student visa holders are limited to 28 hours per week.

Applicants are expected to have a specific amount of savings to study in Japan.

This visa doesn’t have a fixed time limit. It ends when your course finishes or when you leave the school, with details available on the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) website.

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Spouse/Dependent Visas

When discussing visas in Japan, mentioning the spousal visa is crucial. It has fewer restrictions and is one of the most stable visa types.

There is no restriction on the number of hours for work or what type of work.

However, it is only relevant to move to Japan if you are already married to a Japanese national.

If married to a Japanese citizen, your educational background is not a consideration when issuing a visa. You can get the full list of requirements on the Immigration Services Agency (ISA) of Japan website.

In a similar vein is the dependent visa. If you’re married to a non-Japanese citizen moving to Japan and have already been approved, you may be eligible for a dependent visa.

As long as your salary is enough to support both of you, there should be no problem.

Dependent visas carry the same working restrictions as a student and working holiday visas – 28 hours of work per week. You can find more information on this via the ISA.

Can Permanent Residency in Japan Be Revoked?

Cultural Activities Visa

Finally, one of the least used categories of visas is the cultural activities visa. This visa is a broad category surrounding activities focusing on studying and engaging in Japanese culture.

Suppose you want to study a particular cultural area in-depth with a cultural institution. In that case, it is possible to apply with a detailed study plan and the approval of an expert in cultural activity.

This visa is intended to be self-supported, so holders of this visa aren’t supposed to work.

You can get approval for a part-time work allowance, usually limited to 28 hours per week. While it may not be a long-term solution, it’s great for those deeply interested in a specific aspect of Japanese culture.

Check MOFA and other immigration assistance websites for more on the cultural activities visa.

Moving to Japan is a great way to have new experiences and become immersed in a culture well beyond what is possible from a standard holiday visit.

It can give you new friends, skills, and perspectives on life. However, it is a difficult process right from the very beginning.

One of the first hurdles is getting a visa, which can prove even more difficult if you don’t already have a university degree.

Unconventional Paths to Living the Dream

After telling you about the common ways folks do to move to Japan, I asked my friends there if there are other ways for folks to move to Japan without a degree.

Here’s the lowdown on some cool ways to do it, straight from a friend living the dream there:

  1. Teach English: Your Native Language Is a Gem

    If you speak English like a pro, you’re in luck! Japan loves native speakers to teach English. It’s a great way to dive into the local scene, earn a living, and have a blast doing it.

  2. Military Life, Japan Style!

    If you’re in the military, especially the US Army, and get deployed to Japan, consider it a golden ticket. Soak in the local culture, make new friends, and collect unique experiences during this special assignment.

  3. Be Your Own Boss: Start a Business

    Always dreamed of running your show? Japan is calling out to entrepreneurs! Starting a business in Japan is an exciting adventure whether it’s a cozy café, a tech startup, or something in between.

  4. Speak Japanese? You’re the Bridge

    If you’re a language whiz and pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (N2 or N1), doors open wide. Become an interpreter or a bridge person, connecting cultures and leaving your mark in this vibrant community.

My Two Cents

In my opinion, having a degree can tip the scales in your favor, especially if you’re eyeing more stable and regular employment.

Let’s face it – some big players often have this unspoken rule: a college degree is your golden ticket to certain positions.

If you’ve set your sights on these companies, having that degree in your arsenal is smart. It opens doors, enhances your credibility, and gives you a competitive edge in the job market.

While other ways are cool, having a degree can make a big difference in landing specific jobs in some companies.