Visa and Immigration Procedures

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Visa and Immigration Procedures
How to Apply for a Student Visa to Study in Japan
December 19, 2016  |  By Mike Kozlowski

A student visa is one of the easiest to get, and our GaijinPot Student Placement Program will help you through the entire process.

Article updated: June 20, 2023

If you are planning to study in Japan for more than three months you’ll need to get a student visa. Just like any immigration procedure getting a visa involves a lot of form-filling, application processing and trips to an imposing-looking embassy building.

The good news is that the Japanese student visa is one of the easiest visas to get and the GaijinPot Student Placement Program will help you through the entire process. If you have any questions about getting a student visa in Japan, contact us at the GaijinPot Student Placement Program.

Apply for a Student Visa

  1. Choosing a school
  2. Understand the application process
  3. Prepare all the documents needed for the COE
  4. After you receive your COE

This information assumes that you are applying from outside of the country. If you have a current visa to live in Japan then you should be able to change it to a student visa although you may need to provide a motivation letter to immigration. However, we do not recommend trying to change your visa as a tourist, you will have to go back home and apply at the consulate.

Step 1

1. Choosing a school

Each Japanese language school has their own atmosphere and course structure, so you will want to find a school that fits your study style. At GaijinPot we work closely with all our partner schools to make sure that we find the right school for you based on your language level, study habits and which city you want to study in.

Step 2

2. Understand the application process

  1. Fill out the inquiry form at GaijinPot Student Placement Program.
  2. Complete the student visa application form that we send to you.
  3. Submit all the required documents (see below) to the GaijinPot Student Coordinator by the application deadline.
  4. Once we have received all the required documents, we will send everything to the school.
  5. The school will then submit the visa application to the Immigration Bureau in Japan on your behalf.
  6. Be patient as it takes 2-to-3 months for Immigration to approve a visa application and issue the COE.
  7. Once the Immigration Bureau approves your visa application, the school will send you the Certificate of Eligibility (COE).
  8. Once you receive the COE, take it and the visa application form (obtained from the Japanese embassy in your country), photos and valid passport to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your city.
  9. The Embassy will issue you the actual student visa which can take anywhere from 3 – 7 days.
  10. You are now in possession of a brand new Japanese student visa!
What is a COE and why do I need it? The Certificate of Eligibility (COE) is a document, issued by a regional immigration authority to show that the person applying meets the conditions for landing in Japan. Basically it’s a preliminary visa screening process; the step before the actual step of applying for a student visa to enter Japan. The Japanese government approves the COE, and the local consulate approves the visa.

Step 3

3. Prepare all the documents needed for the COE

Student Application Form

Once you apply to the GaijinPot Student Placement Program our Student Coordinator will send you the student application form.

To increase your odds of being accepted by the Japanese Immigration Bureau you should try to be as detailed as possible. Especially for sections explaining why you want to come to Japan. The more you write here the better!

Eight identical ID Photos (4cm high × 3cm wide)

Photos must show a clear and full front view of the student’s face from the bottom of the chin to the top of the hair against a plain background. Don’t wear sunglasses or hats, or have anyone else in the photo. The guidelines also say that your eyes and ears should be clearly visible.

Make sure the photo is in color, taken within 3 months prior to your application submission. Photos must be official passport photos, taken at a specialized ID photo booth and printed on photo paper. Paper-printed photos will not be accepted. (Sadly, Snapchat selfies are not accepted.)

Passport photocopy

Copy of the Photo/ID and Signature page of your passport. If you have been to Japan in the past, then you should also copy any previous entry and exit stamps.

Academic documents

Proof that you’ve graduated from school. Usually your diploma and official transcript are necessary.

Proof of financial viability

The Japanese Immigration Bureau requires all visa applicants to prove their ability to support themselves, including paying for tuition, living costs, school fees and other expenses while in Japan.

The amount varies depending on your school’s tuition fees, period of stay in Japan and your living circumstances after arriving in Japan, but it is recommended to show access to an average of ¥2,000,000 or more for the first few months of your stay.

The documents you submit should show where the money to pay for school and living expenses is coming from. If you’re supporting yourself, make sure that all documents you provide are under your name (as stated in your passport). If someone else is sponsoring your stay, a letter written and signed by them should be enclosed and all other financial documents should show their name.

You can use the following documents to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself.

  • Bank statements
  • Income statements
  • Financial Aid award letter
  • Scholarship award letters
  • Letter of sponsorship

Note: All documents must be in either Japanese or English.

If you want to self-sponsor, you should have around ¥3,000,000 in your bank account.

Step 4

4. After you receive your COE

As soon as you receive your COE, make an appointment at the nearest Japanese embassy or consulate in your area to apply for the actual visa.  If you are changing your current visa to a student, then your school will be able to assist you.  If you currently have a tourist visa, you will have to go back home and apply at the consulate. In general, you’ll need the following documents:

  1. Valid Passport
  2. Visa application form from the Japanese embassy or consulate
  3. One photograph taken within the past 3 months
  4. Certificate of Eligibility – the original document and one copy
  5. Certificate of Admission – given to you by the school
  6. Other additional documents the specific consulate may ask for, depending on the country.

Don’t forget to get your COE back after your visa has been issued –– you will need it upon landing in Japan.

How long can I stay in Japan with a student visa? A student visa will let you stay in Japan for a period from 3 months, to 4 years and 3 months. The amount of time goes up in increments, like this: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 1 year and 3 months, 2 years, etc. For language schools, the longest amount will be 1 year and 3 months, but the school will extend it when the time comes. The maximum amount of time someone can study at a language school is 2 years. This is on the condition that you’re enrolled at a Japanese educational institution. So if you decide school’s out, your visa will no longer be valid.

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