Think of Japan and the chances are you’ll conjure up an iconic image. The bright lights of Tokyo. Delicate geishas in peaceful Kyoto. Speeding bullet trains. Or Mount Fuji shrouded in mist. For many of us, Japan looms large in the imagination. But if you’re tempted to get a little bit closer to the dream, now’s the time to consider looking for a job in Japan so you can work, live and explore the Land of the Rising Sun.
This guide covers the basics you’ll need. How to find a job, what visa you’ll need, and where to start with your tax obligations. We’ll also look at TransferWise as a smart way to minimise your international payment costs while you arrange your move. Japan’s not cheap, and TransferWise low cost payments and the TransferWise multi-currency borderless account can be great ways to make the most of your money, whether it’s in dollars or yen. More on that later.
Japan is a country of contrasts - and your experience there will be shaped by the area you head to. City life will be fast paced and demanding - but many people in the larger cities speak good English, making it easier to settle. In more rural areas you’ll find an authentic Japanese lifestyle, and lower costs - but you will probably need to learn the basics of the language to get by¹.
Japan’s culture is like no other, so wherever you decide to settle, expect unique experiences and continual surprises. Business is done based on relationships - so finding the right job for you might be easiest if you can create a local network wherever you’re headed. Once you’re part of a company, expect long hours, a strong hierarchy where group agreement is prized above individual initiative, and an extremely loyal workforce who will drop everything when needed in the office.
To work in Japan you’ll need to get your paperwork in order. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan lists many different visa types, based on your profession. You can choose a Highly Skilled Professional Visa, a regular Working Visa, or a specialist visa type if you’re training, starting a business or undertaking an internship².
Most roles will be covered by the regular class of Working Visa, which can be issued for durations from 3 months to 5 years, depending on the circumstances. You’ll need to provide documents to support your application including³:
- Completed applications form
- Recent passport type photos
- A Certificate of Eligibility, issued by a regional immigration authority.
You can learn more and get your application started by visiting the website for the Japanese Embassy or High Commission nearest to you - choose from Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth or Sydney⁴.
There’s no published age limit when it comes to working in Japan as an expat. However, if you’re aged between 18 and 30, you’ll have an additional visa option - the Working Holiday Visa. This allows younger Australians to travel to Japan to mix casual work and travel. There are restrictions on the type of work you can do which you’ll need to check out before you decide if this is the right route for you⁵.
Tax is a complex area, and you’ll probably need specialist advice and support to make sure you’re not paying too much or too little when you move to Japan. The good news is that Japan and Australia have a double taxation treaty. This means that citizens of the two countries shouldn’t be charged tax twice on the same income. Instead, the obligations you have in one country can be offset against those in the other⁶.
If you’re a resident in Japan for tax purposes, you’ll usually have to pay tax there on your worldwide income. The Japanese tax system works on a sliding scale, meaning you’ll pay a progressive rate running from 5% up to 45% for the highest earners. You may also have to pay additional surtaxes and local income taxes, depending on the circumstance⁷.
The Japanese government provides support for foreigners with appropriate visas who are looking for work, in the cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. There are links to each of these services on the website of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare,. You’ll find all you need to know about how to get help in your job hunt here⁸.
You’ll also be able to look for jobs online before you travel to Japan. Check out sites like Gaijin Pot⁹ and Jobs in Japan¹⁰ , which specifically list jobs which may be suited to foreigners who might not have Japanese language skills.
Japan has a demand for Enlgish speakers to take on roles such as translation and English teaching in schools and language centres. If you want to work in these areas, you’ll be able to find a range of jobs all over the country.
However, if you’re in a different professional field, you might be better off making some local connections as part of your job hunt. Use your existing network to find people you know in Japan, connect with people in your industry online, and keep up with the local news in your area through industry webpages and social media sites. By getting to know some fellow professionals in Japan. you may get recommendations for positions, which is a great way to get started.
Once you’re in Japan you can open yourself a local bank account to make managing your money easier day to day. Try a large institution like Shinsei Bank¹¹, which offers English language support and services online. Alternatively, try Japan Post Bank¹², or MUFG¹³, which is the biggest bank in the country.
You’ll usually need to visit a local bank branch with your passport and residence permit, to get your account set up. Complete the paperwork and then your cash card and other necessary documents will be sent by mail later. Before you decide which bank will work for you, be sure to check out the account products available and the working hours of your local branch. Some banks keep relatively short hours compared to Australia.
You might find it difficult to get a bank account in Japan before you’ve actually moved there. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be bills to pay long before you head over for good. If you need to make a payment to Japan from your Australian bank account it’s worth choosing your service provider carefully. Some banks and international payment companies add a markup to the exchange rate they use, and charge high admin fees. This can mean you pay more than you have to.
Check out the low cost international payments available with TransferWise to see if you can get a better deal compared with your regular bank.
You can also open a borderless account with TransferWise before you head to Japan to have instant access to your funds and a linked debit card to make it easier to spend your yen when you arrive. With a borderless account you can hold money in over 40 currencies, and you can get local account details for AUD, USD, NZD, GBP and EUR, to receive money for free in these currencies via local payment methods.
You just pay dollars into your account from your normal bank, and switch to yen using the Google exchange rate for just a low fee. With yen in your account you can spend using your card, make ATM withdrawals or send money online to cover your costs.
Moving to Japan for work is both exciting and a little daunting. It’s also not cheap. Make sure you get a great job lined up so you can make the most of your time there. And of course, cut out unnecessary bank fees by choosing to send money overseas with TransferWise and the online multi-currency borderless account.
All sources accurate as of September 23 2019
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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