Japan Unveils Plans for New Digital Nomad Visa

Japan Unveils Plans for New Digital Nomad Visa

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Woman working from home - digital nomad visa story
Picture: Graphs / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
Japan has released initial plans for its digital nomad visa. How does it compare to what other countries offer?

Looking for an option to stay in Japan longer than a standard three-month visitor visa allows? Last year, Japanese government officials announced they were looking into creating a digital nomad visa. Now, we have the first details around exactly what that visa might look like – and when you’ll be able to get it.

A new option for long-term stays in Japan

Young man working remotely on laptop - digital nomad
Picture: zephyr18 / DepositPhotos

As I discussed in my last article, a digital nomad visa is a new visa type sponsored by some 46 countries around the world. It enables travelers to live in a country while working for clients or employers in other nations.

Digital nomad visas are time-limited, with an average duration being between one to two years. They also differ in terms of taxation status. Some countries require that digital nomads pay regular taxes on income. Others offer tax breaks or even income tax exemptions.

Digital nomad visas gained popularity during the pandemic when tourism was limited due to travel restrictions. They’ve remained popular as a way to encourage digital nomads to stick around and contribute some of their earnings to the local economy.

Japan’s digital nomad visa plans

Since re-opening for tourism, Japan has seen a huge increase in tourism and tourist spending. A digital nomad visa would not only encourage spending – it’d help promote tourism to Japan as longer-term sojourners reported on their positive experiences. It’d also give people who love Japan more time to explore this vast and culturally rich country.

This week, we got a peak at what a digital nomad visa might entail. Imaeda Soichiro, Deputy Minister at Japan’s Ministry of Education, Sports, Culture & Science (MEXT), revealed some details of the proposed new visa in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

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The proposed visa would allow those who receive it to stay up to six months in Japan. Imaeda says they based this rather short length on survey results from prospective recipients. The visa would be available to countries that have a tax treaty with Japan – an initial 46 countries.

Other details:

  • Applicants would need to show income of a minimum of 10 million yen a year (USD $68,341).
  • Visa holders would be expected to hold private health insurance. They would not be allowed to participate in Japan’s national health care system.
  • Digital nomad visa holders will not be considered residents. That means you won’t have a residency certificate (住民票; juuminhyou), which means you won’t be able to rent any sort of long-term residence such as an apartment or a house.
  • Those working as sole proprietors or individual contractors would need to provide proof of a contract with a public or private organization abroad.

In his tweet, Imaeda specifically called out these measures as designed “to avoid confusion of digital nomad visa holders with immigrants and prevent free-riding on our country’s health insurance and resources.”

The government is opening the plan to public comment this month (February 2024). Reports in local media say Japan is aiming to launch the visa by the end of March/early April 2024.

How Japan’s proposed digital nomad visa compare to other countries

How does the proposed Japan digital nomad visa compare to those offered by other countries? In a follow-up tweet, the group Japan Digital Nomad Association (JDNA) laid out the details in a table comparing Japan’s plans to South Korea and Taiwan.

JDNA 日本デジタルノマド協会 on Twitter: “【速報】待望の日本版デジタルノマドビザの情報が一部公開されました。JDNAでは独自に内容をまとめ、台湾・韓国の類似ビザ比較表を作成しました。2月中旬にはパブコメを実施予定とのこと。JDNAは、海外デジタルノマドが日本で滞在しやすい環境の整備に向けて、引き続き活動を行ってまいります。(続 https://t.co/fvEmbvVygs pic.twitter.com/yhLm893sIo / Twitter”

【速報】待望の日本版デジタルノマドビザの情報が一部公開されました。JDNAでは独自に内容をまとめ、台湾・韓国の類似ビザ比較表を作成しました。2月中旬にはパブコメを実施予定とのこと。JDNAは、海外デジタルノマドが日本で滞在しやすい環境の整備に向けて、引き続き活動を行ってまいります。(続 https://t.co/fvEmbvVygs pic.twitter.com/yhLm893sIo

South Korea officially launched its digital nomad visa on January 1st, 2024. Technically, Taiwan doesn’t have a digital nomad visa. However, digital nomads can take advantage of the country’s Employment Gold Card, which is how JDNA made this comparison.

JDNA notes the following differences:

ConditionJapanSouth KoreaTaiwan
Applicable countries46 countriesNot limitedNot limited except China, Hong Kong excluded
Length of stay6 months; renewable after 6 months out of country2 years (1 year with a 1-year extension)3 years (1 year with extensions; can convert into resident visa)
Income10 million yen/year or greater9.15 million yen/year or greater8.82 million yen/year or greater
Health insurance Private health plan requiredPrivate health plan required Visitors allowed to sign up for public health insurance
Residency rightsNoneNoneVisa holders counted as residents
Dependent visasUnknownAvailable for children under 18Available for spouse and children via the family reunion visa. Also available for parents and grandparents

Japan’s digital nomad visa compares favorably to South Korea’s, though Korea’s visa allows for a much longer stay. Neither country, however, holds a candle to Taiwan. Its rightly-named Employment Gold Card is a residency visa that opens an easy path to permanent residency.

What we still don’t know about Japan’s digital nomad visa

Digital nomad working from car
Picture: bee / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

All this said, there are still some things we don’t know about how Japan’s digital nomad visa will operate.

The big one is how it will stack with other visa types, such as the three-month visitor visa. Currently, you can get two three-month visitor visas to Japan, totaling 180 days in the country. After that, you need to remain out of the country for one year from the day of your first entry. In other words, if you entered on February 1st and stayed 180 days between February-April and then June-August, you wouldn’t be able to re-enter Japan on a visitor visa again until February 1st of the next year.

The current plans don’t specify whether you can bounce out of Japan on the digital nomad visa and then re-enter on a visitor visa. Given the restriction that you have to stay out of the country for six months before applying for another nomad visa, I’ll assume you won’t be able to stack them.

Another big question is family. Currently, there’s no word on whether Japan will allow spouses and children of digital nomad visa holders to also obtain a visa.

Is the Japan digital nomad visa right for you?

When I first heard the news about these plans, I expressed disappointment on X. The short duration of stay in particular seemed pretty stingy. But others pushed back, arguing that for most people who classify themselves as “digital nomads”, six months is a reasonable duration. And as Imaeda said, this was the most-requested duration in the government’s surveys.

On reflection, I’m less pessimistic. Japan’s digital nomad visa will still be a huge step forward for a country that doesn’t easily change its immigration laws. While the duration is short, nomads who want to spend significant time in Japan can continue to utilize the visa indefinitely over several years.

I would still love to see Japan extend the duration of this visa. And maybe they will, if it proves popular. My prediction is that enough people will want to leverage the visa that we’ll see it expand in duration and scope over the coming years, just as we’ve seen a relaxation in things like permanent residency requirements.

Bottom line: If you don’t qualify for any other type of visa in Japan and meet the income requirements, the digital nomad visa may be a good fit. It’s less onerous than doubling up on visitor visas and gives you more time to spend in different parts of the country.

Sources

Korea Officially Announces New Digital Nomad Visa. Forbes

Taiwan Digital Nomad Visa: Requirements and How To Apply. Freaking Nomads

「デジタルノマド」に在留資格 滞在6カ月、来月開始へ 政府. Jiji.com

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Jay Allen

Jay is a resident of Tokyo where he works as a reporter for Unseen Japan and as a technial writer. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and is fervently working on his Kanji Kentei Level 2 certification.

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