1. Business Startup Overview

Dec 17

1. Business Startup Overview

Japan Business Startup Series

The number of people who would like to start their business in a foreign market, including Japan, is increasing. Are you among those with an ambition to set up your business in Japan? If so, how well do you know the process of setting up a business in Japan?


For a long time, the Business Manager VISA has been the only VISA status that allowed foreigners to start a business in Japan. Unfortunately, the requirements for obtaining this VISA are difficult for foreigners living outside Japan. To provide more opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs to start their business in Japan, a new VISA system called a Startup VISA was introduced in 2019.


In this article, we discuss the steps involved in setting up a business in Japan and the VISA type you would need as a foreigner, focusing on the Startup VISA. This article also includes tips for finding a support office related to setting up a business in Japan.




1.         Entering Japan with a Startup VISA

2.         Preparing to run your business

3.         Obtaining a Business Manager VISA

4.         Starting your business

5.         Information



1. Entering Japan with a Startup VISA (Designated Activities VISA)


What is a Startup VISA?


A Startup VISA is the name of a unique VISA for foreigners that allows them to stay in Japan for up to a year in preparation for obtaining a Business Manager VISA. Although it is called a Startup VISA, the type of VISA and residential status you take in this system is technically a Designated Activities VISA.


You can obtain the Startup VISA only when your living schedule and business plan in Japan have been approved by the municipality certified by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.


Advantages of a Startup VISA


·      You can start preparation for your business without meeting the strict criteria required for obtaining a Business Manager VISA.

·      You have up to a year in preparation for obtaining the Business Manager VISA.

·      You can get useful support from municipal government.


To obtain a Startup VISA, you will need to:


·      Prepare to live in Japan for a year. (Find housing, secure living expenses, arrange banking and communication, etc.) which includes securing your living expenses, finding a place to live, etc.

·      Prepare the application documents.

·      Pass assessment of application and receive municipal government approval.

·      Use municipal approval to apply for a Designated Activities VISA with the Immigration Bureau of Japan.


We will explain the application process in detail in the next article!


2. Preparing to Run Your Business


After entering Japan with a Startup VISA, you will start business preparation activities with the support of your municipality. During this preparation period, you need to meet the requirements necessary to obtain a Business Manager VISA and switch your residential status before your Designated Activities VISA expires.


3. Obtaining a Business Manager(経営管理)VISA


What is a Business Manager VISA?


A Business Manager VISA is a type of VISA for managers and administrators of a business. The periods of stay specified for this VISA are five (5) years, three (3) years, one (1) year, four (4) months, and three (3) months.


How do you obtain a Business Manager VISA?


To obtain the Business Manager VISA, you need to meet the following requirements.


·      Acquire a business license (if necessary).

·      Establish a company.

·      Own an independent business office.

·      Hire at least two full-time employees living in Japan or have at least 5 million Japanese yen (\ 5,000,000) as start-up capital.

·      Certify the sustainability of your business with a business plan submitted to and approved by the Immigration Bureau.

·      If you are to work as the manager of the business, i.e., the director or a hired president, you are required to have a minimum of three years of experience in business administration and earn the same or higher salary as a Japanese citizen working in an equivalent position.


After meeting the above requirements, you can apply to the Immigration Bureau with documents necessary for a change in the VISA status to a Business Manager VISA.


4. Start Your Business


With a Business Manager VISA, at last, you can start your business in Japan independently of the municipality!


5. Information


So far, we have introduced the basic concept of the Startup VISA. However, the Startup VISA system is run by ten municipalities (as of December 2020) which are certified by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry.


Depending on the municipality, there are differences in application documents, support programs, types of industry that qualify for this system, and more.  Moreover, it is necessary to prepare for living in Japan before the application.


Stay tuned for further articles on foreign entrepreneurship in Japan! This series, “How to Start a Business in Japan,” will include:

·      Startup VISA Details (Focusing on Kobe City)

·      Preparing to Live in Japan

·      Business Manager VISA Details

·      Banking in Japan

·      Tax Systems in Japan

·      And more!


Notice: Immigration and customs in Japan during COVID-19


It is no news that some restrictions have been put in place around entering Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you plan to set up a business in Japan during this period, please check here for the requirements and the processes involved.


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Kyoko Itabashi

About Kyoko Itabashi

Kyoko Itabashi is a writer for Sugee Kansai, eftax Co., Ltd. We thank her for contributing to our series "How to Start a Business in Japan.