Japan Just Announced a New Digital Nomad Visa—Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’ve been dreaming of relocating to Japan and you make more than $68,300 per year, you might be in luck thanks to a new six-month visa program launching this spring.

A group of young women dressed in yukatas in front of a shrine in Kyoto

Japan’s new digital visa will allow visitors who are employed to stay in the country for up to six months.

Photo by Mai Hoang/Unsplash

With accommodating, flexible work visas and lower costs of living, places like Spain, Croatia, and Thailand are among the most popular destinations in the world for digital nomads. But there’s one place on many working travelers’ wish lists that has been off the table—until very recently: Japan. According to the Japan Times, the Japanese government has tentatively set a launch date of March 2024 to roll out a six-month visa for digital nomads.

Since Japan reopened to international visitors in October 2022, it has seen a steady increase in tourists, though the numbers are not quite at their pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, the country welcomed an average of a little more than 2 million visitors per month, an improvement over the 2022 monthly average of 140,000 people. (For comparison, an average of nearly 2.7 million visitors arrived to Japan each month in 2019.) The Japanese economy is currently suffering from a weak yen, and there are hopes that a revitalized, thriving tourism sector could help revive the economy.

Historically, it’s been difficult for foreigners to negotiate a long-term stay in Japan. Until the recent announcement of the six-month visa, the only two options available for digital nomads were the tourist visa (the standard “visa-free” 90-day pass that all American citizens qualify for without a special application, but that doesn’t allow them to work in Japan) and the working holiday visa, which offered citizens of 29 partner countries to live and work in Japan for up to a year—the United States, unfortunately, was not a part of the partner program. Now there’s finally an alternative.

An aerial view of Ginza's Tokyo Tower at night

As the nation’s capital, Tokyo is one of the most popular hubs for ex-pats living in Japan.

Photo by Louie Martinez/Unsplash

Who qualifies for Japan’s digital nomad visa?

To qualify for Japan’s digital nomad visa, applicants must meet these four requirements:

  • They must make a minimum of ¥10 million per year (USD$68,341 based on current conversion rates).
  • They must have private international health coverage—they will not be allowed to enjoy the benefits of Japan’s national health-care system.
  • People who are self-employed or considered independent contractors must show proof that they regularly work for an organization based outside of Japan.
  • Spouses and children will be allowed to live in Japan with the visa holder. They must be covered by private international insurance as well.

How to apply for Japan’s digital nomad visa

Details are still scant on how to apply for Japan’s digital nomad visa, though it’s likely the process will be much the same as Japan’s other long-term work visa for skilled professionals. Digital nomads hoping to work in Japan need to gather all the necessary documents and evidence of their employment and apply at a local Japanese embassy. Although no additional concrete details are currently available on the application process, we can expect more specifics to emerge in the coming weeks as the program gets closer to its official launch date this March.

A small shrine in the Japanese countryside

A visa that allows for long-term stays could potentially encourage visitors to explore less-touristed destinations in Japan’s countryside.

Photo by Victor Lu/Unsplash

Things to keep in mind about Japan’s digital nomad visa

The new visa aimed at international remote workers will allow people to work from anywhere in the country without being employed by a Japanese company. However, there are still a few factors travelers should consider before making the leap:

  • Japan’s digital nomad visa only allows for a relatively short stay (six months max) in comparison to other East Asian countries such as South Korea, which accommodates remote workers for up to two years.
  • Remote-worker visa holders will not be considered residents of Japan—that means they won’t be able to legally rent long-term accommodations such as an apartment or house. Travelers will have to opt for short-term housing like Airbnbs or hotels.
  • You can only reapply for the digital nomad visa after living outside of Japan for six months.
  • There’s no confirmation yet on whether the digital nomad visa can be stacked on to the standard 90-day tourist visa.

According to digital nomad resource A Brother Abroad, 35 million digital nomads are working across the world currently. Japan is surely set to be a popular option for remote workers.

Mae Hamilton is a former associate editor at AFAR. She covers all things related to arts, culture, and the beautiful things that make travel so special.
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