Thursday, September 15, 2011

Starting a small business in Japan - visa status (part 1)

My current visa status is a 3-year renewable working visa with the catchy title of 'Specialist in Humanities and International Services' (or 人文知識・国際業務 in Japanese). This is the kind of visa applicable for a wide variety of professional reasons for being in Japan, from teaching English as a foreign language, to working in marketing.

To run a business in Japan you will generally need a 'Investor/Business Manager' visa (投資・経営 visa category in Japanese), although if you have a spouse visa or permanent residency those would do just as well.

Though I have heard of people being awarded investor visa status without meeting all of the requirements set forth by the Immigration Bureau of Japan, I'm operating on the assumption that the requirements do need to be met, including:
- Employing two or more full time Japanese citizens or permanent residents of Japan, or
- Annual investment in the company of at least 5 million yen. (About 39,000 GBP, or 64,000 USD).

The problem with planning to open a little shop is that neither of the above conditions are likely to be met given the small scale of the enterprise, particularly at the startup stage. Feeling that the requirements were a little forbidding, I had a look around to see how Japan compares to other countries in this respect. The UK is alleged to compare favourably with the US and other countries, but despite recent lowering of initial hurdles to non-UK resident entrepreneurs through a creation of a Prospective Entrepreneurs visa category, the requirements that need to be met are still higher than those of the Japanese Investor/Business Manager.

Not discouraged, and also not particularly interested in exploring the complexities and legal issues of the marriage of convenience route, I'm looking into the remaining option - becoming a permanent resident of Japan.

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