How To (Legally) Engage In Additional Work In Japan (FAQ)

If you live and work in Japan, you might find that your salary isn't always enough to make ends meet. Sure, you might be keeping the lights on every month, but perhaps there isn't much left over to save for a rainy day.

In these situations, a second (or third) job might seem to be the ideal solution: you have time; you need money; why not get do more work?

How do you engage in additional employment without running into trouble with the immigration office or your main place of work (and affecting your renewal chances)?

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

01. What Jobs Are You Allowed To Do?
02. Where Can You Find Your Status Of Residence?
03. Status Of Residence: Instructor
04. Status Of Residence: Engineer/Humanities
05. Do You Need Permission From Your Company?
06. What About Your "Visa Sponsorship"?
07. Should You Ask Your Company First?
08. Case Examples
09. The "Application For Permission" To Engage In Other Activities
10. Completing The Application Form
11. Should You Write The Application In Japanese?
12. What Happens Next?
13. And Then...?

line break01. WHAT JOBS ARE YOU ALLOWED TO DO?

The first thing that we need to discuss is your Status of Residence (aka "Visa Status").

There are 27 categories of residence status based upon the various types of employment that a foreign resident is likely to engage in.

From a visitor status such as "Temporary Visitor" or "Cultural Activities", to a worker status such as "Intra-Company Transferee" or "Journalist", your particular status of residence defines (and limits) the kind of paid work that you can do while in Japan.

In this article, we'll mostly be talking about the status of "Instructor" and "Engineer/Specialist In Humanities/International Services" status of residence, but the application that we'll cover later is the same for everyone.

There is one major exception: if you happen to have a "Dependent", "Spouse or Child of Japanese National", "Spouse or Child of Permanent Resident", "Long Term Resident", or "Permanent Resident" status of residence, you don't need to worry about the contents of this article at all.
line break02. WHERE CAN YOU FIND YOUR STATUS OF RESIDENCE?

You might be surprised by just how many people don't know what their status of residence actually is.

However, it's very easy to find - just look at your residence card.

It's there on the bottom left.
line break03. STATUS OF RESIDENCE: INSTRUCTOR

If you have an "Instructor" status of residence, you are only permitted to perform language instruction and/or other education at educational institutions such as public elementary schools, junior high schools, senior high schools, special education schools (i.e. schools for children with disabilities), and vocational schools.

You are not permitted to perform language instruction at colleges or kōtō senmon gakkō (高等専門学校; specialist colleges of technology).

In addition, even though you work in English education, you are not permitted to teach English privately, or work part-time at English Conversation Schools such as eikaiwa kyōshitsu ((英会話教室) or eikaiwa gakkō (英会話学校).

Surprisingly enough, you're also not permitted to work at nursery schools or kindergartens, even if they are publicly owned and operated by the city.
line break04. STATUS OF RESIDENCE: ENGINEER/HUMANITIES

If you have an "Engineer/Humanities" status of residence, you have a much broader selection in regards to what kinds of work-related activities you can engage in due to it essentially being three status categories rolled into one.

Aside from the classic humanities job of "English Conversation School Teacher" (aka eikaiwa), you can also engage in work such as business management, copy-writing, fashion design, interior design, interpretation, sales, and translation (among others).

While the category is broad, the type of work that an individual wishes to perform must still be (a) "require knowledge of jurisprudence, economics, sociology, or other human science fields" or (b) "require specific ways of thought or sensitivity based on experience with foreign culture" [source: www.japanvisa.com].

Note that side-jobs such as bar-tending, musician, or selling things on eBay (as a business), do not classify as acceptable types of work that one can perform with this status of residence.

In addition, the additional work that you wish to engage in must not "interfere with the activity permitted with [your] current status of residence".

This means that, if your main status of residence is "Instructor" and you want to teach at an English Conversation School in your free time, your additional work must not interfere with your main job.
line break05. DO YOU NEED PERMISSION FROM YOUR COMPANY?

One of the most intimidating things that people often find in their contracts is a "non-compete clause" (or several).

These kinds of clauses often sound very serious and explicitly state that any and all work that an employee may wish to do beyond that of the company with whom they signed a contract is strictly prohibit.

Simply put, companies say that you're not allowed to have another job unless you get written permission from them first.

Here's what such non-compete clauses look like:



7. A school education instructor shall not conclude any contract that binds him/her to perform work with any other company or entity, including organization, institution, or individual, regardless of their affiliation, and shall conduct his/her own business without the prior written approval of the Company.

8. (1) A school education instructor shall not conclude any contract that binds him/her to perform work with a competitor of the Company, or any other competitive entity, including organization, institution, or individual, regardless of affiliation, and shall not conduct his/her own work that may be in competition with that of the Company without the prior written approval of the Company.

8. (2) A school education instructor shall not engage in activities stated in 8(1) above for a period of two years after resignation from the Company. 


Such "non-compete" clauses are especially frustrating because, regardless of what your contract states, you don't need permission from your company at all, thanks to Article 22 of the Constitution of Japan:

Article 22
Every person shall have freedom to choose and change his residence and to choose his occupation to the extent that it does not interfere with the public welfare.


That "choose his occupation" part is generally considered to be the defacto right for a person to work for whatever company they like, thereby invalidating any and all non-compete clauses that companies might try to scare you with.

Of course, you still need permission from the Ministry of Justice via an immigration office to engage in paid work that falls outside the permit of your status of residence, but you're otherwise free to choose your own employer(s) as you see fit.

For a more detailed articled about this topic, please see the following link: "Non-Compete Clauses, The Law, And You"
line break06. WHAT ABOUT YOUR "VISA SPONSORSHIP"?

There is a belief that, because a company "sponsored your visa", your "visa" belongs to the company that "sponsored" it, and - as such - the company might take your visa away and have you deported should you somehow upset them (and some even threaten to do so!).

In reality, once you obtain a residence card from an immigration bureau, your residence card belongs to the Ministry of Justice.

We can't stress that point enough:

Your residence card belongs to the Ministry of Justice.


Only the Ministry of Justice has the power to take it away from you - it is not bound to the permission of a particular company or individual.

When a company "sponsors" your visa, all they are actually doing is acting as your legal representative and completing the paperwork for you on your behalf.

The act of compiling this paperwork and submitting it for you is actually very easy and, for the most part, costs absolutely nothing other than company time (if you are just renewing).

You can do the entire thing on your own as long as you can prove that a company is willing to (still) employ you.
line break07. SHOULD YOU ASK YOUR COMPANY FIRST?

That's entirely up to you, what kind of relationship you have with your company and/or its managers, and what the company's reputation is in regards to how it's likely to react if you don't tell them anything (and they still find out).

Some people would rather not let their company interfere in their private lives any more than is absolutely necessary, while other people are quite happy to blur the line between their work life and their private life.

Regardless, you don't have to tell them anything if you don't want to, and you shouldn't be intimidated by non-compete clauses.

Be that as it may: expect the best, but always prepare for the worst (by joining a union, for example).
line break08. CASE EXAMPLES

It should be noted that you only need to apply for "permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted" if you wish to be paid for the extra work that you want to do.

If you're not looking for payment (i.e. if you play in a band for fun) then you generally don't need special permission from immigration to do that kind of thing.

In any case, here are several scenarios for you to consider should you be thinking about additional work:


CASE A
"I work for a dispatch company and teach at public schools. I want to teach private lessons or at a conversation school for money in my free time."

You need to apply for "permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted" at an immigration office.


CASE B
"I work for a directly for a Board of Education. I want to teach private lessons or at a conversation school for money in my free time."

You also need to apply for "permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted" at an immigration office.


CASE C
"I work for the Board of Education as a JET. I want to teach private lessons at home or a conversation school for money in my free time."

"JET participants are only allowed to work for their contracting organizations. Violation of this policy could result in termination of the JET’s contract and deportation."


CASE D
"I work for an English conversation school chain and I want to work at a different private English conversation school for money in my free time."

Regardless of any non-compete clauses that may be in your contract, you are permitted to teach English at another conversation school or privately in your free time without any special permission.


CASE E
"I work for a dispatch company during the day and have permission from immigration to teach English at a conversation school in my free time. However, I also wish to do extra paid work as a DJ on weekends."

Even you though have special permission to work at an English conversation school in addition to the work that you're allowed to do under your Instructor status of residence, you will need to apply for "permission to engage in activity other than that permitted under the status of residence previously granted" again at an immigration office to be able to work as a DJ if you wish to be paid for it.


CASE F
"I work for a dispatch company during the day and have permission from immigration to teach English at a conversation school in my free time. However, I also wish to do voluntary work as a DJ on weekends."

For voluntary work in which no money changes hands, you generally don't need special permission to engage in that activity unless you're receiving compensation in place of financial gain (i.e. free lodging in exchange for work).


CASE G
"I am a permanent resident / family of a Japanese national and I want to..."

Say no more - you have zero limitations.
line break09. THE "APPLICATION FOR PERMISSION TO ENGAGE IN ACTIVITY OTHER THAN THAT PERMITTED UNDER THE STATUS OF RESIDENCE PREVIOUSLY GRANTED"

In the examples above, we mentioned the "Application For Permission To Engage In Activity Other Than That Permitted Under The Status Of Residence Previously Granted" - the document that you need to submit to your local immigration office if you want to do work that falls outside of the permit of your status of residence.

We'll let the Immigration Bureau of Japan take it from here (with a few edits for clarity):

 
APPLICANT
Foreign national intending to run business or engage in an activity that will [provide] remuneration that [is] not permitted [by] the applicant's current status of residence.

WHEN TO SUBMIT
When the foreign national intends to run [a] business or engage in an activity that will [yield] remuneration that [is] not permitted [by] the applicant's current status of residence.

HOW TO SUBMIT
Applicant [edit: or a legal representative] must fill in [the] necessary application forms, make ready [the] attached documents and submit [them to] a service counter at [a] regional immigration office.

FEE
Free of charge.


You can find the application form as a Microsoft Excel file at the following link: [MICROSOFT EXCEL APPLICATION FORM]

You can find the application form in Portable Document Format (PDF) at the following link: [PORTABLE DOCUMENT FORMAT APPLICATION FORM]

The application form must be printed on A4 size paper. Application forms printed on any other size of paper will not be accepted.

Please also note that this application form needs to be submitted and approved before you can engage in additional paid work.

Given that the Immigration Bureau of Japan's idea example of how to complete this form is "[r]efer to your regional immigration office or immigration information center", we've created our own example for you to look at.
line break10. COMPLETING THE APPLICATION FORM

In our example, we'll be filling out the application form on behalf of Elizabeth Turner, the fictional American student who features on the Immigration Bureau of Japan's residence card sample.

For the purpose of this example, Elizabeth decided to stay and work in Japan after she graduated from university.

She currently lives somewhere inside the General Union's Osaka office (!), works as an ALT, and earns ¥250,000 a month.

Her status of residence is "Instructor", which means that she can only work in public schools (as previously written), but isn't currently permitted to do anything other than that.

In her free time, Elizabeth has decided that she would like to do some translation work for the General Union in our Nagoya office.

This is what her completed "Application for Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted" form would look like (click the thumbnail for the full resolution image):

Note that Elizabeth doesn't need to complete section 14 because she'll be going to the immigration officer by herself.

If someone went to the immigration office on her behalf, then this section would need to be completed.

However, don't forget that either the applicant or their legal representative still needs to sign and date the document below section 14 of the form.

For the "present activity", she can just write "ALT" a second time.

People who work at English Conversation Schools (or in other professions) may need to write something slightly different than what they put as their "occupation".

As the form states, students must also write how many hours of lessons they have per week (school name; number of hours per week).
line break11. SHOULD YOU WRITE THE APPLICATION IN JAPANESE?

If you're capable of doing so, writing the application out in Japanese (where applicable) is a good idea, and this is much easier if you use the Microsoft Excel version of the application form.

However, keep in mind that the name on the application must match your name as written on your residence card (for example: "TURNER ELIZABETH" and not "ELIZABETH TURNER" or "ターナーエリザベス").

That being said, writing the application in English should also be okay.
line break12. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Once the application form is completed, all you have to do is go to your local immigration office along with the following documents:

• The completed application form
• A document that proves the intended activity as written on the application form
• Your passport
• Your residence card

In regards to the "document that proves the intended activity as written on the application form", this might be something like a job offer from a person or company with whom you wish to do additional work or a letter from the Board of Education indicating that they wish for you to be able to work at a kindergarten or community center.

Again, the kind of additional work that you want to engage in must not interfere with the work you do under the permit of your main status of residence.

To use the same example as before, if you work as an ALT and want to work at a Private School in your free time, your work at the Private School cannot interfere with your work as an ALT.

The job which your status of residence is based upon has to take priority.
line break13. AND THEN...?

Once everything is submitted, the application will take between two weeks to two months to be completed, and you will not be able to begin the additional work until it is done.

Should the immigration office reject the application, the rejection cannot be appealed.

Good luck!

※ The information provided in this article is made available for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice. The content on this posting is provided "as is;" no representations are made that the content is error-free, and there may be instances where interpretations of legal issues are inaccurate and may not reflect current legal developments. Only a professional legal consultant can provide assurances that the information contained herein is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation. The views expressed through this site are those of the individual authors writing in their individual capacities only. All liability with respect to actions taken (or not taken) based on the contents of this site are expressly disclaimed.


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