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Travel around Japan with a Working Holiday Visa (With Tips to Pass The Selection!)

International tourists wearing kimono in Japan (Unsplash/Dynamic Wang)

The Working Holiday visa is the answer for those who want to explore Japan more than what a tourist visa allows. It was suspended for a while due to the pandemic, but Japan is open now. However, depending on the applicants and quota ratio, you may not get the visa on the first try.

This article will explain the Working Holiday Visa, eligible countries, requirements and tips to prepare necessary documents, and more insight about what to do and where to stay as a Working Holiday Visa holder.

What is a Working Holiday Visa?

Working holiday programs enable youths from other countries to stay in Japan to learn about the cultures and society while also being able to work if they need to fund their stay. Only the citizens of countries that have agreements with Japan can get this visa.

Working holiday visa holders can generally stay in Japan for up to a year. Some embassies give an a-year period of stay on one visa, but some give 6 months per visa and extendable to 1 year. Australian citizens, for instance, can only get 6 months per visa. However, they have the privilege to extend it twice, so in total, they can stay in Japan for a year and a half.

If you want to study the Japanese language or work full-time in Japan, this is not the proper visa for you. The primary purpose of a working holiday visa is to let people extend their vacation. Employment is not obligatory, especially if you have enough funds to last a year there.

Every country has different rules for WHV because it’s based on a bilateral arrangement with Japan. Some embassies allow you to apply all year, while others have a specific period. The selection process can be competitive or not, depending on how much quota the Japanese government agreed for each country.

Australia was the first to have a Working Holiday visa partnership with Japan in 1980. The partnerships grew even more lately when Japan eagerly added 1 to 3 new countries every year from 2015 to 2020. As of 2020, Japan has 26 partner countries/regions.

How to get a Japanese Working Holiday Visa?

Getting WHV is not complicated. You just have to send your application to the Japanese Embassy or Consulates-General. However, you should currently reside in your country of nationality when applying.

Here are the requirements and the documents you need (with explanation and tips):

  • Age limit

The program is intended for youths aged 18-30 during application. If you’re 30 years old, you can still apply until the day you turn 31. This is the general rule, but some countries have different regulations.

The limit for Iceland applicants is 26 years old. Applicants from Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Korea should be between 18 and 25 years old. However, under some circumstances, the Japanese government can extend the limit to 30 years old for these 3 nationalities.

  • Fund and flight ticket

WHV holders are allowed to work in Japan, but they should have sufficient funds for round-trip flight tickets and support their initial period of stay when applying. The Japanese government has to ensure you can afford life in Japan, and if something terrible happens, they can deport you immediately.

You should attach a bank statement and flight ticket to your application to prove it. You don’t have to buy a round-trip ticket at this stage. However, if you only booked a flight to Japan, you must show a larger amount in your bank account to prove that you can buy the return ticket.

The minimum amount deemed reasonable depends on each embassy or consulate-general of Japan in corresponding countries. For example, the minimum balance required for a French national is EUR 3,100 and for German nationals is EUR 2,000.

Countries like Australia and Canada have single and married couples schemes. In Australia, the embassy requires AUD 2,500 for a single applicant and AUD 3,500 for a married/de facto couple. The minimum in Canada is CAD 3,500 for a single and CAD 4,500 for a married couple.

  • Passport, visa application form, and Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Fill out all questions in the WHV application form. You must sign the form and attach your photo (45mm x 35mm or 2in x 1.4in; taken within the past 6 months) in the space provided. Submit your professional CV filled with your education and work experience. You can also use the CV to apply for work in Japan later.

Tips: The process from submitting documents to receiving the visa takes 1 week to 4 weeks. During this period, your passport will be held by the embassy. So make sure you have a copy in case you need it.

  • Proposed Schedule or Itinerary

When applying for WHV, you need to submit an outline of intended activities for your stay in Japan. It should be clear for each month with no ambiguous marks, such as unknown and as above. You can put where you want to stay, what activities you plan to do, and what kind of employment you are looking for.

People from various countries performing Yosakoi, a Japanese traditional dance (Unsplash/Tong Su)

Tips: the Japanese government prefers applicants who don’t live in the same city or prefecture for their whole stay. They want you to travel around, not to settle. Try to at least move to another place every three or four months.

Note that you won’t be forced to follow the schedule when you finally come to Japan. You are free to go to other cities to do spontaneous activities. The Japanese government just wants to see if the applicant intends to travel and has done some research about their Japanese interest.

  • Motivational Letter or Statement of Purpose

This is a unique document required for WHV. You have to write your reason and purpose why you want to get this visa. It should be at least one A4 page in length.

Tips: remember the main purpose of this visa is to let people explore the country, learn the culture, and promote exchange and understanding between two countries. Write things in line with those purposes. You can write your interest in manga or anime, but it isn’t quite enough.

For example, you can describe your interest in Japanese cuisine and how a WHV visa will benefit you. You plan to taste authentic Japanese food and discover more local dishes you never find abroad. You also want to work in a Japanese restaurant to learn how to make it and its value.

Common mistake people make is that their motivational letters don’t match their itinerary. If you want culinary exploration, you can include Osaka, Yokohama, and Fukuoka as your destination, along with its famous original food. You should write your proposed schedule and statement of purpose sincerely to secure your spot in the limited WHV quota.

What to do and where to stay?

There are a lot of activities you can do in Japan. WHV holders don’t have working hour restrictions. However, they're not permitted to work at “businesses that may impact public morals,” such as bars, nightclubs, and gambling establishments.

Tokyo seems like a safe option to live in, especially if your Japanese is not fluent. However, staying there for a whole year and working as an English teacher is not recommended. You will miss the chance to interact with locals in their native language, and Japan has so much more to offer outside Tokyo.

Take your time to research places in Japan’s 47 prefectures. Other than making your own, you can also pick pre-planned activities from sites like WWOOF, Worldpackers, and Workaway. They offer exciting programs in rural Japan and usually also include accommodations.

A farm in Yamanashi, Japan

Finding work in Japan is not hard if you have at least Japanese conversational skills. Part-time jobs salary is enough to support your daily necessities. You can look for more jobs online or through Hello Work, the government-affiliated agency. You will need a Japanese bank account to receive your salary unless your employer agrees to give it to you in cash (although it’s unlikely).

Exploring Japan with a Working Holiday Visa is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Moving to a different country seems scary, but it will be an unforgettable and priceless experience. If your country isn’t eligible yet, don’t be sad because it may change in the near future.


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