Japan – New Immigration Services Agency, Stricter Screening Process

Japan – New Immigration Services Agency, Stricter Scree

This report announces Japan’s new specified skilled worker visas and other changes to the immigration bureau.





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New Japanese immigration regulations went into effect on 1 April 2019.  The new regulations introduce two new work visas, “Specified Skilled Worker (i)”and “Specified Skilled Worker (ii).” They also upgrade the Immigration Bureau by creating the Immigration Services Agency to handle an anticipated influx of foreign workers.

The overall workforce of the new Immigration Services Agency has increased to more than 5,000 ministry staff and immigration officers, with the latter expected to help the country boost screening for inbound tourist and work visa applications ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.1 The new work visa statuses were introduced to open the door to blue-collar foreign workers, in addition to the currently accepted highly skilled foreigners, to address serious labor shortages in 14 industries including agriculture, construction, hospitality, nursing, and shipbuilding.

The government expects to grant specified skilled worker visas to as many as 340,000 blue-collar workers over the next five years.  In addition, they expect to grant technical trainee visas to more than 100,000 individuals per year. The recent government overhaul of immigration policy has already resulted in a surge of inbound visa applications in all resident visa statuses. The number of foreign employees in Japan reached more than 1.46 million in 2018, an increase of 14.2% from the previous year.2


Employers need to be aware of this historic immigration reform’s effect on existing residence status visas and plan accordingly. The large number of visa applications has resulted in stricter screening processes and delays and refusals of existing resident visa applications for categories such as “business manager,” “intra-company transferee,” and “engineer/specialist in humanities/international services,” which have been the standard work visa types for inbound international assignees.

Employers will need to account for the longer immigration timeline in their business plans. 

Screening Process Impacts

The level of screening for visa applications varies according to the size of the host company in Japan. In particular, visa applications for individuals working for companies with withholding tax on earned income of JPY 15 million (approx. USD140,000) or less in the previous fiscal year and/or newly established companies are subject to longer and tougher screening processes. Based on KPMG Japan’s recent experience, the processing time for a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) for a business manager visa application in a newly established company in Japan currently takes approximately 6 months or more from the date of filing at the Immigration Service Agency.

Recently, there has also been a striking number of permanent residency application refusals.   In the month of March 2019 alone, there were 35,533 total applications for permanent residency filed with the authorities throughout Japan but only 2,898 of those applications were approved and 2,152 were refused. The number of application refusal cases are increasing in all residency statuses according to the Japanese authorities.3

New Work Visa Status

  • Specified Skilled Worker (i): 
    • Applicants must have considerable knowledge or experience in the field of industry they are applying for and must immediately begin their employment within that industry;
    • Duration of stay is limited up to five years in total including an extension of an individual’s Japanese Residence Card;
    • Applicants are not allowed to bring their family members to Japan. 
  • Specified Skilled Worker (ii): 
    • Applicants may change their status from Specific Skilled Worker (i) to Specified Skilled Worker (ii) by passing an exam specified by the competent ministry concerned for each industry or have a proficient level of skills in the field of the applicable industry;
    • No limitation on the duration of stay;
    • Applicants may be able to bring their family members to Japan if they meet certain requirements. 


1  For news coverage, click here, and in Japanese, click here.

2  See “Record 1.46 Million Foreign Workers in Japan” on nippon.com website.

3  See the official statistics of Japan (in Japanese) on e-Stat website.  

4  Specified skilled worker flyer (PDF 1.64 MB) on Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website.   

JPY 1 = EUR .0082  

JPY 1 = USD .0092  

JPY 1 = GBP .0073

JPY 1 = TWD 0.29  

* Please note the KPMG International member firm in the United States does not provide immigration or labour law services. However, KPMG Law LLP in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.


The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Japan.

© 2023 KPMG Tax Corporation, a tax corporation incorporated under the Japanese CPTA Law and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

GMS Flash Alert is a Global Mobility Services publication of the KPMG LLP Washington National Tax practice. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organization. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee and does not provide services to clients. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.

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